Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 20, 2010
Prof pens book on consecrated life
Nolan of Newman college tries to offer resource for people discerning religious vocations
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Even before the days of nuns, the Catholic Church had consecrated virgins.
Today, women like Dr. Caroline Nolan are choosing and reviving this largely forgotten vocation. They are walking down the aisle and betrothing themselves to God.
Nolan is an associate professor of Sacred Scripture at Newman Theological College. Her recently published book, Ever Ancient Ever New, offers a comprehensive overview of consecrated life and the Ordo Virginum.
"I have written the book as a theologian/Scripture scholar on the topic of consecrated life.
"It is an introductory book that should be of interest and applicable to anyone discerning any form of religious life as a formal vocation within the Church or for anyone who wishes to understand what consecrated life is and how it has evolved historically, scripturally, theologically, liturgically and its relevance within contemporary society today," Nolan said in an email.
The 136-page book, published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, includes a step-by-step guide through the discernment process as well as a presentation of the realities and challenges of living the consecrated life in the modern world.
She recommends the book as a resource for those needing help discerning their religious vocation or in understanding the meaning of consecrated life.
The idea of consecrated virgins faded in the ninth century, but Pope Paul VI restored the rite in 1970. Ordo Virginum is a vocational state for Catholics that dates back to apostolic times for women who wish to be formally consecrated to serve Christ and the people of God.
Nolan, and the few others in the women's order, does this by leading a life of celibacy, prayer and pastoral ministry that is lived publicly under the guidance of her local bishop.
Women who join the order are called to Christ, as are priests and members of religious orders. As with priests and nuns, the Church recognizes consecrated virginity as a distinct vocation. Unlike sisters, virgins do not belong to a structured religious community and live in their own homes. They support themselves by working in jobs outside of the Church.
However, Nolan emphasized that the book's focus is not on the vocation of a consecrated virgin. The book examines the consecrated life in general, she said.
"Unfortunately, I have found that people only focus on the consecrated virgin bit as a popular, novel and strange idea - the book is about discerning a call from God and living a good life in service to others and the Church," Nolan told the WCR.
The consecrated life is all about following Christ more closely, totally dedicating oneself to God, the building of the Church, and striving for the perfection of charity in service to God.
The book also serves as a diocesan resource with its inclusion of a model of preparation and formation that can be readily adopted and adapted by dioceses interested in supporting this vocation.
Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins wrote the foreword to the book. Among the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, through which the Holy Spirit has richly blessed the Church, Collins cites the reestablishment of the Ordo Virginum as the most significant one.
"The mission of consecrated virgins, so much a part of the life of the early Church, once more enriches the communities of faith.
"Like the reestablished order of the permanent diaconate, also a gift of Vatican II, the order of the consecrated virgins contributes greatly to the vibrant life of faith of many dioceses," Collins said in the book's foreword.
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