Niche orders / callings

ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
edited March 3 in Ecclesiantics
Perhaps I've been living under a rock, but until I read this story on a consecrated virgin I did not know they existed. Or did and completely forgot.

If like me you did not know about consecrated virgins, Pope Paul VI reintroduced the rite in 1970 and "allowed it to be used for virgin women living in the secular world". There are believed to be 5,000 around the world.

Any callings, orders, rites, etc that you know about that others may not?

Comments

  • The first ever Catholic prison chaplain I worked alongside some 15 years ago was one of the 5,000.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Sister Wendy Beckett (art historian on TV, who died recently) was a consecrated virgin. There is also anchorite and hermit, which are similar, but anchorites stay in one place.
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    I think being a consecrated virgin is something only women can do in the RCC. Men can become celibate priests or celibate members of religious orders, and women can also join religious orders, but only women can become consecrated virgins.

    The https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consecrated_virgin wikipedia article says that the Vatican recently clarified that a woman does not necessarily have to be a physical virgin in order to become a consecrated virgin (but she needs to have "never married or lived in open violation of chastity." The US Association of Consecrated Virgins was upset at this, saying, "The entire tradition of the Church has firmly upheld that a woman must have received the gift of virginity – that is, both material and formal (physical and spiritual) – in order to receive the consecration of virgins."

    I really wish men could become consecrated virgins too (whether or not being a consecrated virgin requires being a physical virgin). If there is something spiritually good about committing to be a physical or spiritual virgin or both and being recognized with the title of virgin, it should not be implied that female virginity is more worth recognizing than male virginity. Doing so reinforces the notion that a society's morals (and the sexual morality of men in particular) is largely dependent on the chastity of women - and all the ugliness that results from that notion.

    I think it's great for there to be a spiritual vocation for single lay women who do not want to marry or join a religious order. I'm not even opposed to having some opportunities in the church open to women that are not open to men, as long as no gender has levels of authority open to it that the other does not. (Although a similar opportunity for single lay men doesn't sound like a bad idea.) I just think that if the name of this group is going to be tied to sexuality, it is wrong to limit such terminology to women only.

    Men should also be able to be listed as virgins in the calendar of saints, for similar reasons.

    Those female martyrs that are remembered as virgins should be called so because they chose to assert their God-given right to autonomy over their bodies (okay, everyone's body belongs to God, but it remains true that no person, even a spouse who is one flesh with the other spouse, can take away one's autonomy over one's body). They also asserted their right to marry someone of their own faith. I don't think the physical "intactness" of their virginity plays into their reason for sainthood.

    Finally, I think that the reason we constantly mention Mary's virginity in her title should not be because there is something superior about being a virgin (or that virginity is necessary in order to be the Mother of God) but should be in recognition of the incarnation that resulted in a miraculous virgin birth. And the reason some Christians believe in the perpetual (ie, post-virgin birth) virginity of Mary should be because they simply believe it is a fact (and maybe to honor Mary's autonomy to have chosen this) and not because it is somehow not fitting that the Mother of God would ever have sex. (Yeah, you could argue that both Jesus and Mary belong to us all and we all belong to them - although in different ways because only Jesus is God - and that this means that they aren't bodily/spiritually joined to any one person in marriage/sex, but if that's the reason for giving Mary these titles, why aren't we going on about the perpetual virginity of Jesus?)
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Plenty of people are stuck living lives without particularity, but is actually committing oneself to a life without it a good thing if one is not at the same time committing oneself to living in a community of some sort, whether a conventional one or some looser version like a Beguine?

    Perhaps I'm wrong but I'm also under the impression in recent centuries people have normally been been discouraged from becoming hermits, solitaries or anchorites until they have lived in community first. And don't they usually remain attached to a community that keeps a benevolent eye on them and they are associated with?
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    The US Association of Consecrated Virgins quotes the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity:

    "The consecrated virgin's time is spent in works of penance and of mercy, in apostolic activity, and in prayer, in accord with her state of life and spiritual gifts."

    This is done under the direction of the diocesan bishop. (I know, she's under a man's control, ugh.) So it appears at least some tabs are being kept on how she is putting her vocation into action.

    I think the idea of a vocation of committed, prayerful, service living as a single person in mainstream society and in the mainstream workforce rather than in a communal or eremitic setting could be a good thing for those who want it. So rather than living in community with fellow consecrated virgins, being in community with them in mutual support might be more important. However, there are so few of them that this is difficult.
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    I think the whole purpose of the vocation, rather than just being a single layperson like any other, is that it tells other people right away, "I want to be single my whole life. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't want to become a nun either." It's pretty liberating to not have to deal with the constant questions from friends and family about when they will get a partner.

    I wonder if consecrated virgins are allowed to have platonic relationships? What about platonic cohabitation? That defeats the purpose I outlined above but I think it's worth asking.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Do they actually tell people they are Consecrated Virgins?
    Is it not just a fairly private agreement with the Bishop and perhaps the Parish Council? So that everyone in their local congregation might not know. I mean does everyone need to know? Do you have to shout it from the rooftops? I think that would be dangerous as there would be men who would see that as a challenge. (In the same way as there are men who see feminists as a challenge)
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    You are aware that even more niche are the Anglicans who participate in the Single Consecrated Life.
  • I have a friend who’s a consecrated virgin. I wouldn’t say she shouts it from the rooftops, but it’s not a secret.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 21
    I discovered recently that there are still hermits in the Church of England. Currently there are three of them. You have to get the permission of a bishop. And you either have to have a patron or prove that you can be self supporting. I was surprised as I thought that hermits belonged to past ages. I didn't know it was a current vocation.

    I once visited a church which had a vestry with a cross painted on the outside wall. The church warden told me that in the C 13th it had been the cell of an anchoress. She was led into the cell, the door was walled up and the rite of burial was read aloud. And then she remained in her cell until the day she died. Julian of Norwich was the most famous English anchoress in C14th. But after that it went out of fashion.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    What really surprised me was when I met someone who basically follows the Desert Fathers' hermit regime only her version of the Sinai Dessert is wild camping in Scotland in Winter. In summer she decides to seek gentler climes and earn some money to support herself in North East England. Very few possessions, I think, a camper van and not much else.
  • Rublev wrote: »
    I discovered recently that there are still hermits in the Church of England. Currently there are three of them. You have to get the permission of a bishop. And you either have to have a patron or prove that you can be self supporting. I was surprised as I thought that hermits belonged to past ages. I didn't know it was a current vocation.

    I once visited a church which had a vestry with a cross painted on the outside wall. The church warden told me that in the C 13th it had been the cell of an anchoress. She was led into the cell, the door was walled up and the rite of burial was read aloud. And then she remained in her cell until the day she died. Julian of Norwich was the most famous English anchoress in C14th. But after that it went out of fashion.

    Were the anchoresses given food and water, possibly through a hole in the wall? Or did they die of thirst or starvation?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 22
    They had a squint which was a slot in the wall. Usually it looked towards the altar so they could observe holy communion taking place during the services. And some anchoresses like Julian of Norwich had an active ministry of spiritual direction. They were very highly regarded as wise women and visitors would travel long distances to hear their advice. You can still go to visit Julian's hermit cell in the little church in Norwich.

    Some old medieval churches also had a squint in the porch where lepers were allowed to gather to watch the service taking place.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    Julian's original cell was destroyed by Puritans (who else?), but the church was rebuilt after bombing in World War II. It is still a touching and special place to visit.

  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited March 24
    Anchoresses and anchorites were indeed fed and watered, via their Windows on the Outside World, through which they dispensed Ghostly Counsel, and also through which their....er.....bodily waste was removed.

    The angled 'squint', through which they observed the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is often a surviving clue, in ancient churches, to a former cell.

    Perhaps it's pertinent to add that many people find Julian of Norwich's cell (and church) one of the Holiest Places in England. The veil between Earth and Heaven is sometimes very thin indeed....
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Rublev wrote: »
    I discovered recently that there are still hermits in the Church of England. Currently there are three of them.

    Only three? Where did that number come from? I have met two of them, and know of two others, which makes four, and there must surely be more than those I happen to know of.
  • Hazarding a (very unlikely) guess, would such people be somehow listed in Diocesan directories?

    Given the very personal nature of such a calling, I would think not, but however is any figure arrived at?

    Or, to put it another way, what business is it of ANYONE, other than that of the hermit him/herself and his/her priest or spiritual director?
    :angry:
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    What an interesting thread and topic! For some people, I imagine such a calling could be an affirming and positive thing, give a sense of value and purpose for one's intrinsic self.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Yes, I wouldn't think there is a public listing of hermits, because it is a very private and hidden life. The ones I know/know of are from visiting convents. Sometimes nuns feel a calling to the hermit life after being a nun for several years. I imagine the same applies to monks, but I only know of female hermits as I was visiting convents, which are for women.
  • So how does @Rublev know how many there are in the C of E?

    Even if one were to know them personally, I should still have expected the knowledge to be kept to oneself, as @fineline clearly does.

    Sorry to seem to harp on a bit about this, but.....
    :grimace:
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    So how does @Rublev know how many there are in the C of E?

    That's what I was asking her. I was thinking maybe a simple misunderstanding - maybe at some point someone said they knew three C of E hermits, and this got passed on as 'Only three C of E hermits exist.' I'm pretty sure there are more than three. Unless there are technicalities that stop most hermits being officially hermits or something.

  • Yes, I see. Chinese Whispers!!
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I read an article about Anglican hermits in a newspaper. It surprised me because it is not a vocation which is talked about much. Two of them had patrons who supported them and one of them supported themselves by weaving.
  • Ah well - best not to take what one reads in newspapers as being actually true....hardened cynic that I am....
    :grimace:
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Maybe it was talking about a particular diocese. Just a quick google shows a variety of articles about different C of E hermits, and one article says there are are several thousand of them.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    I did a quick search. I found nothing more recent than 2013; at that time, it was estimated that there were fewer than 200 hermits in the Church of England. That's still pretty impressive.

  • I knew there were still hermits among the RCs and Orthodox and in churches like the Maronites in Lebanon. I didn't know there were Anglican ones other than Brother Ramon who died in 2000, I think.

    He was a South Walian Baptist minister who became an Anglican Franciscan monk.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 25
    There was one anchoress who changed her mind about it. She was a young woman named Christine Carpenter and in 1329 she asked permission of the Bishop of Winchester to be perpetually enclosed in a cell attached to St James' Church in Shere.

    But after 3 years she had had enough of seclusion and left her cell and was seen 'gadding about' in the countryside. This put her at risk of excommunication and in 1333 she asked to be re-enclosed because she 'had left her cell inconstantly and returned to the world. Now, with God's help changed in heart wishing to return to her former abode and calling.'

    She was granted permission on condition that she served a penance and be kept more securely. It is thought that the wooden door of her cell was then walled in.
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    There was one anchoress who changed her mind about it. She was a young woman named Christine Carpenter

    She was granted permission on condition that she served a penance and be kept more securely. It is thought that the wooden door of her cell was then walled in.

    Sheesh. Some people would go to any lengths to avoid attending a PCC meeting!
  • :lol:

    On a more serious note, I wonder how many - in these post-Christian days - would be prepared to go so far for their faith?

    And (perhaps more pointedly) what might it achieve for them, and/or the wider Church?
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    I imagine the ruling on a need for physical virginity in Consecrated Virgins is to include those who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Having to be quizzed on how much of a virgin one physically is would be distressing. Being able to affirm that you have never married and have never lived in flagrant unchastity is much easier in this scenario. I had heard an order of Consecrated Widows was being considered. It reminds me of The Grail Community which is an RC women's lay community (celibate but not nuns and can have day jobs), only dispersed (not living together).

    The Anglican Single Consecrated Life is open to widows and divorcees of all genders, and all single people with no dependent children. You make a vow to the Bishop as you would for entering the religious life generally. The Anglican hermits are I think all part of it - Brother Philip in Northampton is the Anglican hermit I am familiar with and he has a leadership role within the dispersed community.

    I know Cliff College has some poustinias but I don't think anyone ever lives there - but I think poustinias have become quite fashionable among Protestants.
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