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PREFACE OF HOLY VIRGINS AND RELIGIOUS
This preface is used for commemorating those holy souls who consecrated their lives to God in a special way.
The sign of a life consecrated to God
The Church on earth is often thought of as the Pilgrim Church, evoking the Old Testament image of the People of God on pilgrimage toward the Promised Land. It’s not uncommon in a pilgrimage to have people carrying banners or standards to rally those on the march, reminders and rallying points for moments of uncertainty. Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, taught that the consecrated life belongs to the life and holiness of the Church (cf. n. 44). Through the profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience consecrated persons become “a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation” (n. 44). Religious make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and become standard-bearers for everyone in the Church on pilgrimage toward the Promised Land of Heaven.
“For in the Saints who consecrated themselves to Christ for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, it is right to celebrate the wonders of your providence, by which you call human nature back to its original holiness and bring it to experience on this earth the gifts you promise in the new world to come.”
If a life consecrated to God is meant to be a sign, it is a sign of the spiritual goods that await the holy at the end of their earthly lives. It reminds us that this world doesn’t have the last word. In Saint John Paul II’s post-synodal exhortation on the consecrated life, Vita Consecrata, he described consecrated souls as an “eschatological sign”: a sign of the heavenly things to come (see n. 26).
It’s no coincidence that the first form of consecrated life was consecrated virginity: “[Consecrated life] does this above all by means of the vow of virginity, which tradition has always understood as an anticipation of the world to come, already at work for the total transformation of man. Those who have dedicated their lives to Christ cannot fail to live in the hope of meeting him, in order to be with him forever” (n. 26). In eternity, as Our Lord reminded us, we’ll no longer give or be given in marriage (see Mark 12:25; Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:34-35). Consecrated persons live that state in advance through a special spiritual gift of Our Lord and encourage everyone to live chastity according to their state of life (single, married, etc.) with Heaven in mind.
The consecrated life is a foreshadowing of the future kingdom of Heaven. Through consecrated life, we’re all helped to put material possessions, talents, plans, and relationships in their proper perspective. If the Christian life seems hard consecrated persons remind us that with God’s help we can accomplish much more than we think. It’s no coincidence that the evangelical counsels are called “counsels”: they are Our Lord’s advice for holiness, and consecrated persons remind us that this advice is not only good for them but for us, even though we don’t all apply that advice in the same way.
Let’s all consider the example of the consecrated souls now in Heaven who can help us put the things of this world into perspective in order to gain the good things of the world to come.