Consecrated Virgins in Vogue

Vogue. Not the magazine, but vogue as in something popular, and in this case … hidden. Ancient, yet new.

Once upon a time, a few hundred centuries ago, women who did not want or could not join a Roman Catholic religious order (think nun) had another option. They could become consecrated virgins. I’ll explain in a minute. But first, in my book The Legend of the Kneeling Nun, the main character spends a lot of time with beatas — women who do not marry, nor join an order of nuns, but continue to live in the world while taking a vow of chastity.

Beata is a Spanish term that describes "A single woman, usually a widow, who led a form of religious life without belonging to any order, often wearing distinctive garb and engaged in charitable works."

This definition is supplied by the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research, Compilation of Colonial Spanish Terms and Document Related Phrases, Ophelia Marquez and Lillian Ramos Wold, 2nd Edition, 1998.

Notice “usually a widow.” Which means not always. As was the case of Sister María de Santo Domingo, the beata (or holy woman) of Piedrahita, Spain. She was a “tertiary” or third order religious.

The Number is Significant

First Order religious are those who take full vows of an Order, such as the Franciscans or Dominicans.

Second Order are contemplatives of who associate with one of the first Orders.

Third Order religious may or may not live in a community, wear a habit or not wear a habit, work in secular employment and privately practice austerity, and more …

This is an extremely abbreviated definition of a complex subject. My interest in the beatas of Colonial Mexico resulted in no small amount of research, but the study of the Orders and religious Orders in general opens an understanding of how widespread are Catholic systems while the religion as a whole maintains a singular belief, as explained in the Nicene Creed.

Consecrated Virgins

Certainly, these women decide on one husband to concentrate all their affections. They are brides of Christ.

For a more complete definition, I defer to EWTN (Click HERE). If you’re interested in personal reflections on  being a Consecrated Virgin, I suggest a blog authored by Jenna M. Cooper (click on her name, but guess what? She has another site that eloquently describes Consecrated Virgins.)

As I think about chastity, or any choice to deny the body certain pleasures or needs, such as fasting, the decision in itself means nothing unless the point is to focus on something so good that the act will clear the mind’s eye for an unclouded vision of truth.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” ~ Matthew 5:8

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