On May 31 of this year, 50 years of the renewal of the rite of consecration of the Ordo virginum, an Order born within the first Christian communities, are celebrated. After a period of decline, Pope Paul VI wanted to relaunch this form of consecration and to date there have been 5000 consecrated women in the world. Chiara’s testimony to our microphones
Praise and thank the Lord, reflect together, enrich yourself through the exchange of experiences, witness to the Church and the world the beauty of your vocation and be confirmed in it by the Successor of Peter. All this was among the objectives of the 4th International Meeting to which the members of the Ordo virginum were invited. It was to be held in Rome from 28 to 31 May and the event had been promoted by the Congregation for consecrated life, to solemnize the rebirth of this form of consecration, which took place 50 years ago. Postponed due to the pandemic from Covid-19, over 700 consecrated women, with different bishops and delegates from 61 different nations, were registered for the meeting. All postponed to another date, therefore, but there will be other proposals for prayer and online meeting for them. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the Rite, on May 31, for example, the Italian consecrated women – in communion with the consecrated women of the whole world – will live a remote prayer Vigil.
An Order already present in the first Christian communities
It was May 31, 1970, when, on the mandate of Paul VI, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship promulgated the new Rite of Consecration of Virgins, reviving the ancient Order of Virgins, witnessed in Christian communities since apostolic times. A vocation that has grown over time, so much so that from 1970 to today there are about 5000 consecrated women present in all continents. The women who receive this consecration remain rooted in the diocese in which they live, in which they have matured their choice and where they have completed their formative path.
A vocation immersed in the world alongside the last
The life of the consecrated women of the Ordo has no external sign, except a ring delivered during the consecration rite, which indicates the spousal covenant with Christ, and wants to express the love and fidelity of God towards humanity. A concrete love, down to earth, rooted in the historical context and in the territory, lived in proximity to others. In particular, consecrated women share, according to their own possibilities and talents, the Church’s predilection for the poor, the suffering, the marginalized. They support themselves economically with their work and live it as a collaboration with the creative and redemptive work of God, striving to achieve a high level of professionalism. They are present in all areas of life, from health to politics, from socializing to teaching and journalism. Many nurses and medical staff have worked hard alongside coronavirus patients in recent months.
Chiara: a messenger of God’s mercy
Chiara D’Onofrio it should have been consecrated on June 6 in Rome, but due to the pandemic, it will have to wait another moment to become a full member of the Ordo virginum. With the support of other sisters, Chiara started a family home for ex-prisoners. We asked her to tell us her story briefly and first of all to tell us how this lack of consecration lives:
R. – Let’s say that I live it in hospitality, in the reality of life because I believe that faith is just that, isn’t it? So more than a missed date, I want to see it as an invitation to continue to entrust and hand over life to God, to the Father, in total trust, also remembering the final part of the Gospel of the ten virgins when he says “watch over why not you know neither the day nor the hour. ” In this case it sounds very true …
Can you tell us how you got to know this particular form of consecration?
R. – I got there after a long journey and then, more consciously, at the end of a discernment and a journey made of various passages that lasted years until I was invited to introduce myself to my bishop and I found myself ‘for happened to speak with him about the Ordo virginum and I understood that this was the house that the Lord had prepared for me and that there was a place in the Church for me too.
But what has fascinated you most in this lifestyle choice, what in particular have you been attracted to?
R.- In the first place, this element of sponsorship, of nuptiality resounded within me, then this life completely given in union with Christ. So not only a life as a daughter, but a life just returned, returned in full union with him who however lived an embodied life therefore something that is expressed in concrete reality. The other aspect is the fact proper to ecclesiality or in any case of diocesanity and the fact that there is a mother Church that welcomes you and recognizes the specific charism that is in each consecrated virgin, welcomes it, blesses it and sends it into the world. . Here is the fact that it is something that leaves you deeply rooted in the world, indeed even more to manifest His face in the world, it is something important and beautiful. And finally also this aspect of ‘sorority’ because in any case we consecrated virgins are not islands, monads, each on their own, but in any case there is a fabric, being precisely woven into this body which is the Church, which is humanity, with the strong support of the sisters, each valued in the specific charism.
In fact, members of the Ordo virginum put their talents at the service of others, especially the most needy, and she is also committed to former prisoners. What is it about?
R. – This is something that was born from the many years spent as a volunteer in the women’s prison in Rebibbia and in any case, being a little listening, the more time passed the more it was unbearable to resist the cry of many women that I actually met there and who really then acquired the desire for a new life, for a rebirth, and embarked on a path with the drama then of not having outside the prison the concrete possibility of continuing it or at least not in a simple way. So, after a long discernment and a long search, because finding new places and ways was not easy, a home was born for these women who are sent to us because under house arrest or thanks to alternative measures, or women just free, which in fact do not have a social fabric, positive relationships that can help them truly insert you into society. The possibility of healthy, positive relationships in which the other is valued and loved as a free son of God, instead allows rebirth.
Going back to the Ordo virginum, I imagine there is a path of formation, but then how do you keep yourself connected, given that each one lives in his or her own home?
R. – This is a beautiful time, which may seem difficult, but beautiful because it is the time of the Holy Spirit and also on the Ordo Virginum the Holy Spirit is blowing a lot to bring a bit of novelty and clarity also in this sense. And therefore the more you go on, the more opportunities are born to live, to experience this concrete communion that also becomes a little nourishment and then each go on its own mission. So there is however a constant attendance of meetings, training and then we are invited to meet and share and it is up to us to be creative, the creativity of communion, to put together the charisms of each one at the service of the other.
From your experience, but also from the history of other women like you, do you think that people understand your choice, admire it or criticize it?
R. – I must say that first of all there is wonder, and also a little ignorance, not in the negative sense, but I also ignored it before getting there, so it is a form of consecration that is unknown, very often we are identified as ‘lay nuns’. Let’s say that when someone knows a person, one of us, when he sees a label applied to a name, then there is a positive amazement. In short, the fact of seeing embodied lives that concretely live something beautiful, then this means that this choice is accepted in a different, positive way.
If you were to define yourself in this choice, what could you say?
R. – First of all I would share the amazement, for all this, because I would never have imagined. Then if I had to define myself, I would say that I am a person who has experienced the mercy of God, who came close to me, took me, saved me and subsequently called me. So it was natural for me, in welcoming this mercy, to let it flow as one’s messenger of mercy. And therefore consecrated virginity for me is nothing but one of the different forms to which each baptized person is called, that is, the vocation to love, that one lives someone in a married state, someone in the consecrated life, someone in the ministerial priesthood and therefore is one of the beautiful shapes, of the beautiful colors that the Church has to manifest the face of God to the world.