Someone’s praying for you

By | June 30, 2010

At a ceremony old in the church and new in our diocese, Shirley Farrell was consecrated as “a virgin living in the world” by Bishop David Ricken on June 26.

This ancient rite sets aside a woman as a “bride of Christ” who still lives in the world, just like the rest of us – going to work every day, paying bills, providing for her retirement. The role of consecrated virgins fell into lesser use over the centuries, but, as Bishop Ricken noted, has been revitalized since the Second Vatican Council.  Farrell became the first woman consecrated as “a virgin living in the world” in the Green Bay Diocese.

A consecrated virgin’s main role is to pray.

“You’re a diocesan pray-er,” the bishop told Farrell and about 250 people gathered at the cathedral for the Mass and consecration.  The bishop asked Farrell to pray for evangelization, for unity, for the church, for the welfare of marriage, for vocations to priesthood and religious life, for the Norbertines, and for “those who have forgotten about God.”

“That’s a lot of homework here,” quipped Bishop Ricken.

A consecrated virgin reminds us, he added, that the most important thing in life is prayer, that “we are called to holiness and union with God.”

But why would someone commit herself to perpetual virginity, especially in a world that scoffs at sexual restraint?  Just look at the popularity of movies like “Sex in the City.” 

Talk about being a sign of contradiction.  Alone for the rest of your life?  Many today wouldn’t be able to imagine not “being in a relationship?”

Yet a consecrated virgin is in a relationship. She stands, the bishop noted, with one foot in each world.  She lives in our world with all its cares and pettiness – and its beauty, however transient. But she also lives in the world to come – and lives there in a very permanent relationship. 

For a consecrated virgin, there is no one else but Christ.  She marries Christ and places him at the center of her world.  

Like any spouse, Farrell received a wedding ring.  Like any bride, she wore a veil to symbolize that she was giving herself only to her spouse. But unlike other bride, she went home alone.  Again, that is a powerful sign of contradiction.

“This consecration reminds us that all of us will die alone,” Bishop Ricken said.  And, he added, it reminds us that we are “preparing for the next life, every day of this life” because “we are all called to holiness and union with God.”

Shirley Farrell will be praying for us – as all consecrated virgins pray for the salvation of souls, especially in their own dioceses. And she will be helping us, in her vocation’s unique way, to prepare for that next life.  Her life here will remind us that there, we too will arrive home – not alone, but to the One who loves us most: Christ.


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