New forms of consecrated life

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 919 states:

 Bishops will always strive to discern new gifts of consecrated life granted to the Church by the Holy Spirit; the approval of new forms of consecrated life is reserverd to the Apostolic See.     

Please explain about new forms of consecrated life.

I thought this was meaning the new societies and religious communities founded and formed by members of a diocese?

Okay so basically consecrated life consists of the following:

  • Diocesan eremitical life (that is, hermits)
  • Consecrated Virginity
  • Institutes of Consecrated Life (that is, Religious Orders)
  • Monasticsm (monasteries)
  • Secular Institutes (so basically like third orders)
  • Societies of Apostolic Life (like the Columbans or Oratorians)

What I understand this paragraph to be saying is that only the Holy See can add to this list - that is, recognise other forms of consecrated life.

Secular Orders are NOT like third orders. Members of secular orders are consecrated and make the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They live in the secular world, usually alone and support themselves.

Members of third orders usually are lay associations of an existing religious community. Third order members do not make vows of poverty, chastity or obedience-instead they seek to work the charism of the religious community they are affiliated with. Members of third orders are free to get married and do not make the evangelical vows.

The following was stated by Fr Hardon (credited with writing the CCC and as being one of the most important theologians of his time - he is now deceased) prior to our new Code of Canon Law now in effect. Whether The Church still has it under consideration is not known. It refers to those women who choose to remain in the lay celibate state of life either with private vows or not - and for “the sake of The Kingdom” (to serve in The Church and secular life in some special way Gospel related)

If The Church should include such women in consecrated life, it would be a new form of consecrated life in The Church.
But as the Church developed, there appeared three types of Christian perfection which have not only survived to the present day but will continue until the end of time. In general, they are, first, the strictly monastic. It may be heremetical, but that is rare; there are very few hermits in the Roman Catholic Church. The monastic form has many variants. The cloistered communities would qualify under that general rubric. Second, apostolic communities, where they engage in some kind of apostolic work which carries their efforts, even if not the persons, outside of their own community life. And third, secular institutes.

[quote]There is a fourth category contemplated

by the Holy See in anticipation of the new Code of Canon Law, so that something may be done for the thousands of women who seem not to want religious life yet seem to want to live especially dedicated lives in the Church. The secular institutes are a recent development of the Catholic Church. If there would be a fourth category, it would be some form of what we now call “secular institutes,” but the implications still have to be worked out.

The fourth as-yet-to-be-defined form of consecrated life for single women may well re-visit the institution of the “Beguines”, :byzsoc: which you can look up in the on-line New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. I think this is a great old idea which can be updated and adapted for the 21st century, especially suited for older single women without families to care for them in old age.

The concept of “Beguines” has some interesting points and some worrying ones. Firstly, I think that a common rule of life with vows and a central government or leadership might circumnavigate what happened later with the Beguines in that many of them went off into quite weird directions doctrinally and back then there was no common rule of life nor central government/leadership.
As I would envisage such an organization, on a property of ‘communal’ living each would have their own independent quarters with free access to the streets and with some shared prayer times whenever possible and in a common oratory and also shared recreation if possible. On Feastdays, shared meal times. The local parish Church would be their place of worship. They would pool incomes, with sufficient allowances allotted to cover their individual expenses determined by an internal leadership council. Whatever income was left over, if any, then by common agreement decisions would be made as to where to allocate it. They would have an investment in secular life and move out into the general community either in the general workforce employment or voluntary work for charities. Some may wish to lead a more contemplative life and if such were to evolve it could be incorporated into the above without making any distinguishing of class within the community whatsoever. For those wishing to live a contemplative life, there would be means of earning income including by taking in washing and ironing and this work function could be shared by non contemplative members as well if they choose.

It also seems very important to me that the common rule of life is approved by some wiser Church authority. And if such an organization was to be embraced by consecrated life, then I think that leadership should report to their diocesan bishop or delegate on a regular basis as well as the diocesan bishop or delegate visiting individual members at least once yearly or bi-yearly.
Formation would take place in a contemplative type living situation until after temporary vows.

I have my own well forumulated and definite ideas about such a community although before I knew about beguines. These are in the hands of my previous (retired) archbishop and for quite some years now - and with considerable detail including a layout of a proposed live-in community in individual self contained quarters including contemplatives and those choosing to become involved in secular life in various ways, or active members. His Grace is well aware that it is a ‘dream’ or ‘vision’ and nothing that I intend at this point to set about creating…and at 69yrs time runs short:) I have never set about creating it.
Active members with individual quarters and access onto the streets would have both a habit and secular clothing for appropriate venues and reasons as would those living the contemplative life without papal enclosure.;

I did forget to mention that the community oratory would be set up like an Adoration Chapel and would be open onto the streets, and with perpetual prayer by contemplative members as in perpetual Adoration in a convent chapel. The local parish Church would be their usual place of worship and Mass Attendance etc.
Such communities would be established in large cities.

My edit window timed out.
During formation in a contemplative setting until after temporary vows, the person making final vows makes a decision to either live a contemplative or an active life involved in secular life in some way. At any point after careful and prayerful discerning and spiritual advice, an active can choose the contemplative life and vv.
At the point of making temporary vows and deciding prior to final vows to live the active life, and after quite a few years living contemplatively, the person would share an accommodation with an established active sister for three years prior to being allocated her own independent living quarters.
I cannot see why such a way of life cannot be lived under strictly private vows if never incorporated by The Church into consecrated life - and this is the way The Church usually moves anyway i.e. private vows and what I think is called a private association of the faithful which may or may not hope to one day be incorporated into consecrated life if The Church so discerns.
If The Lord wishes it it will happen one day, if not the ‘dream’ and ‘vision’ with gather dust somewhere until it disintegrates completely and is forgotten.

You make good points and give much food for thought. :newidea:
We can learn much from the failure of the Beguine movement, and insure that it accords with the mind of the Church, if the Holy Spirit wishes the Church to update this concept. :byzsoc:
If so, the Holy Spirit will raise up a saint to make it happen. :angel1:

— When you mentioned “consecrated virginity” it is sadly significant that you forgot-- or never thought of – the earliest form of consecrated life, mentioned in the "Acts of the Apostles: Consecrated Widows.

I should think that it would be a great witness to the sanctity of Marriage that those who have faithfully lived their marriage vows “till death do them part” finish their lives as Our Lady did after the Ascension and before the Assumption: as consecrated widows devoting their declining years praying for the Church.

Let the Consecrated Widow’s veil be held in as much honor as the bridal veil, or the nun’s veil. :thumbsup:

So if there were a decision to approve the consecration of the state of widowhood, it had to come from The Holy See?
My husband is considerably older than I am and now has a terminal disease, so there’s a real possibility I will be starting a life on my own in a few years and I’m close, but not 50 yet. I pray for his healing and a miracle cure every day but I also know that sorrow like this is the norm in life, not the exception. And sacred, beautiful moments can come from it. I have experienced a boatload already. I’m talking enough fish to break the net.
I will not remarry. I love The Church, she is my mother!. The widowed women in my area that devote their time to prayer and parish life are my heroes. Mary, living out her years on earth thinking about all that happened in her life…my hero!:love:
I have been looking at the various secular orders, third orders, a little confusing there, looking at Carmelite spirituality.
This is a gift from God, it’s a calling to be caring for my husband of 23 years in the end of his life and the calling after that is to be a widow with no intention to remarry.
I love the idea of some kind of Order of Consecrated Widow. I also love seeing the countless widows already living out this life as a natural progression.
Has it not been taken up because perhaps widowhood is just part of life? I mean, ultimately, forgoing a circumstance where both spouses die at the same time, there is one or the other left behind. My pragmatic widowed parish members might not like the idea of drawing attention to their state in life in the form of a consecration.
Thanks for the topic. Sorry for the long winded reply. It has been a quiet, snowy day here, lots of time for ruminating!:coffeeread:


From things I have read, I think that The Church is very much aware of the status of widowhood and the potential for a consecrated widowhood in consecrated life. The Church indeed moves very slowly most often - desiring to follow the leading of The Holy Spirit and this does ask prayerful discernment.
It will be interesting to see what subjects do arise during The Year of Consecrated Life.

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