Why don't consecrated virgins become nuns?


I am having difficulty understand the role of consecrated virgins. Since they live the consecrated life, why do they not choose to become nuns? Why would someone choose this specific vocation?


I think it’s because not everybody is called to enter into the religious life. Everybody has different states of life they are called to: some are called to be priests, religious, lay brothers, married, perhaps consecrated virgins. Perhaps they are called to do something by living in the secular world as a consecrated virgin that perhaps they might not have been able to do in a monastery or convent.




The best answer is that you should look at these things as ‘callings’. Not every consecrated v virgin is called to religious life, and not every person in religious life is a virgin. There are men who have been called to religious life to be brothers, but not priests. Some single men have been called to be permanent deacons, but not priests.

Tradition tells us that at a very young age Mary was consecrated a virgin. It’s a beautiful thing, and pleasing to God.


Thanks for both responses so far.

But I thought everyone in the religious life takes the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.


Yes, that’s true. But consecrated virgins who are not nuns do not make any vows. The grace of consecration descends upon them via the ministry of the bishop. Think of it like confirmation or ordination.


I think that a good analogy in this regard is that a nun is to a consecrated virgin as a regular priest (religious) is to a secular priest (diocesan). The religious state is, as we know a disavowal of the world in order to live the Gospel more fully, and is considered the state most oriented to sanctification on this earth. Many, however, do not have the wherewithal or capacity to enter it, yet still feel called to a particular consecration or duty while remaining in the world.

We need priests, and not all priests can be religious, and thus we have secular priests who assist the bishops in their ministry. Likewise, we need holy women, and not all are able to enter even those religious states with the mildest of rules. Thus, Holy Church, in reflection of God’s infinite love, allows women to consecrate their virginity to Christ, living in spousal union with him while in the midst of the world.


CVs don’t consecrate their virginity to Christ. They are consecrated by their bishop. Just like men don’t ordain themselves. Religious do dedicate themselves to Christ by vows and are consecrated by God in exchange.

Sacred virginity is not a fallback position from religious life. We would not consider Our Lady to be in a fallback vocation and she was our first consecrated virgin (not a religious). Religious are no more consecrated than consecrated virgins. Both are equally in the consecrated state but their consecrations differ. Religious are consecrated AS disciples, virgins are consecrated AS virgin brides, and hermits are consecrated AS disciples/hermits.


I knew a consecrated virgin who died some years ago. Her sister was a Poor Clair Abbess and she was a teacher in a Catholic school. She told me that she thought her calling was to a single celibate life teaching Catholic youth and not to the cloistered life. She was a saintly humble woman full of good works and just before she died I petitioned Rome for a blessing from the Holy Father Pope John XXIII which was duly sent and received in a beautifully scripted document. The dear old lady was quite overcome at the thought that the Holy Father should send her a benediction.


One thing I know from my experience of actively discerning a religious vocation for a time is that Religious Sisters live a very strong community life. Their day is structured around this community. Not everyone is called to live such a life. One of the other main reasons is that the consecrated virgins are able to go to places and witness to people in places where a Religious sister cannot because of their community life, prayers etc. God calls each of us in ways that are unique to each of us. :slight_smile:


Numerically speaking, a fair proportion of CVs whom I’ve met/spoken to would have liked to enter religious life, but were ineligible for one reason or another (often physical or mental health issues).

However, that’s not the only reason. As someone said above, a calling to the religious life is usually a very definite calling to live in community. Not everyone has that desire/calling.

It is their chastity, in the form of lifelong virginity, which is consecrated. CVs are not called to vows of poverty and obedience (although some do choose to take vows to this effect, they are not integral to the state of CV), which is a major difference from religious sisters.

There are a number of reasons but it does basically boil down to that state (CV) being what they’re called to, not the religious life.


To TheAdvocate: Not everyone in religious life is a virgin. And I’m not even talking about those who may have had conversion experiences from lives where they were sexually active in problematic ways. Widows and even divorcees are eligible to become religious, and many foundresses (Jane de Chantal, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Marguerite D’Youville, countless others) were married earlier in their lives. But religious do take vows of chastity, which refers to FUTURE activity (or lack of same).

Would it surprise you to know that at least 4 foundresses of American religious communities were divorced? And at least 2 I can think of were unwed mothers before becoming religious? Anyway, the point is that not all are virgins.


mother cornelia connolly is one divorcee i can think of.

who are the others?

i know of one cv who entered a visitation monastery, and another who became a diocesan hermit.



The founder of the La Crosse, WI, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, the founder of the Religious of Divine Compassion, and Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (Dominicans for Relief of Incurable Cancer). Not sure if she actually divorced legally, but she and her husband were definitely separated…

The two unwed mothers were the founder of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary and the Philadelphia (Glen Riddle) Franciscans (she later married him, and then he died).


Please meet me on the new thread.



I have often asked this question myself. Why do Males who become brothers not take IMAO the next step to priesthood. One is prayer the other is prayer and sacraments. I have been told many a times why they are theologically different and why someone would chose the brotherly life. But I just don’t understand it I don’t think I ever will,


To Phx,
Ordination is NOT the “next step” to someone called to be a brother–nor is being a brother “less than” to soemone called to that way of life. Just as not all men called to ordination are called to religious life (most priests, in fact, are not–they aer diocesan or secular priests), so not all men called to be religious are called to priesthood. The two are distinct calls–though a few men (those called to be religious order priests) receive both calls.
Some orders are called “mixed” because they contain priests and brothers, but all members are equally religious. In fact, the founders of two of the “great” religious orders (Francis of Assisi and Benedict) were never ordained priests–though eventually Francis reluctantly agreed to be ordained a deacon so that he could preach. Other orders consist only of brothers. Jean Baptiste de la Salle, the founder of the Christian Brothers, was already a priest, and thus could not join his own order, because it was very explicitly NOT to contained ordained–two classes–of members.
I hope this helps to answer your question.


bump sorry for the delay.

Sorry that came out totally wrong. I didn’t mean to imply that brothers and others were less of a vocation. I am sorry if I offended anyone with that. I simply meant that Brothers live a communal life of and for service to God, priests do the same but also have the added service of the sacraments.


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