Have you ever read a short Associated Press news report and then said to yourself, "Ah come on, there has to be more to this story than that." That's how I felt after reading the wire service story about the decision by 42-year-old Lori Rose Cannizzaro to take vows to become a "consecrated virgin." It seems that 116 or so newspapers printed this short report (and that's just the Google News stat).
It isn't a bad story. In fact, for such a short report, it manages to answer quite a few questions about what it means for a woman to take this rare liturgical step. Here's the heart of the story:
Fewer than 200 women in the United States and 2,000 worldwide have declared their perpetual virginity this way, according to U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins.
"There are people who think I'm nuts," Cannizzaro said.
The ceremony was a revival of one of the church's oldest rituals. The rite is available only to virgins, who agree to abstain from sex so they can dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ in what the association describes as a mystical marriage and a profound spiritual blessing. Each woman wears a band on her left ring finger as a symbol, much like a wedding band.
Cannizzaro, who is not a nun, will continue to live on her own and work as a cook at Christ the King Seminary in a Buffalo suburb. She said she has plenty of support from family and friends.
Cannizzaro explains that dating just wasn't working for her. So she took two years of seminary classes to get ready to take her vows and that was that.
Like I said, the article tells us a bit about what a "consecrated virgin" is. What it does not do is tell us much about what she is not. I found myself wanting to know the answer to this simple question: In an age in which most Roman Catholic religious orders for women are aging and often fading, why didn't this woman help out by becoming a nun?
In other words, what are the unique advantages of being a solitary "consecrated virgin," as opposed to a sister who is part of a religious community, whether a trendy liberal one or a traditionalist Catholic order?
A visit to the Consecrated Virginity website answers a few questions, but not, unless I missed it, this question that is bugging me. One will find this information:
The consecrated virgin living in the world embodies a definitive vocation in itself. She is not a quasi-Religious, nor is she in a vocation that is in the process of becoming a Religious institute or congregation. Nevertheless, she is a consecrated person, with her bishop as her guide. By virtue of the Consecration, she is responsible to pray for her diocese and clergy. At no time is her diocese responsible for her financial support.
The consecrated virgin living in the world, as expressed in Canon 604, is irrevocably "consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan bishop consecrates [her] according to the approved liturgical rite." The consecrated virgin attends Mass daily, prays the Divine Office, and spends much time in private prayer. She can choose the Church-approved spirituality she prefers to follow.
Well, that helps a little. But I am still curious and I predict that other readers will be as well.
I think that I'll ship this URL over to the omnipresent Amy Welborn and see what she knows.