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Monday, August 18, 2008

"Woman is first consecrated virgin in Richmond diocese"

From the Virginia-Pilot

By Steven G. Vegh
Photo by Dolores Johnson

RICHMOND, Va. - Fresh-faced and vivacious, Bernadette Snyder says she grew up in Virginia assuming Catholic girls like her either became nuns or found a man.

At 29, she is still single, and assuredly not a nun.

"I mean, do you see this in a convent?" Snyder said, glancing at her flowered skirt, peasant blouse and jewelry. "It just doesn't happen. I mean, really!"

Instead, Snyder chose a little-known third path with a long tradition in Catholicism: She became a consecrated, perpetual virgin - the first in the 188-year history of the Richmond diocese, which includes Hampton Roads.

Wearing a white sundress and big pink earrings, Snyder knelt in May as Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo laid hands on hers in the rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity of Women Living in the World.

He also slipped onto her ring finger a gold band - a symbol of her spousal relationship with Jesus Christ.

"He completes me," Snyder said. "I don't even know if marriage is the proper term; I feel like he's my husband."

To the Catholic Church, Snyder's calling is as much a formal vocation as the priesthood or religious orders of nuns.

Christian celibacy extends to the church's earliest years. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul spoke approvingly of virginity. "The unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so they may be holy in body and spirit," he said. "The married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband."

The early church regularly consecrated virgins who didn't lead monastic lives, but the rite fell into disuse by the eighth or ninth century. The Vatican restored it in 1970.

In a 1996 treatise, "Consecrated Life," Pope John Paul II wrote that celibacy manifests the virginal life of Jesus Christ and his mother, Mary.

Constant celibacy, he said, reflected "dedication to God with an undivided heart," while virginity was a source of "mysterious spiritual fruitfulness."

The pope called it "a source of joy and hope to witness in our time a new flowering of the ancient Order of Virgins."

The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, which formed in 1996, estimates there are 200 consecrated virgins nationwide. Most of those consecrations have come in the last 10 years, said Judith Stegman, the group's president.

She was among 500 consecrated virgins from 52 countries who met in Vatican City in May to discuss how to promote the order, and how virgins should live out their vocation.

Pope Benedict XVI told the gathering their chastity benefited all people, even though the world may consider it "unintelligible and useless."

Read the rest of the article HERE.

H/T Deacon's Bench

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