What are the duties of consecrated singles in the Catholic Church, and are these individuals allowed to choose another vocation later on in life?
Alby Karingada, McAllen, USA
I hope some clarity on consecrated life in the Church in general would be of advantage in answering this question.
Consecrated individuals are publicly set apart by the Church to follow Jesus more closely in one way or another. Consecrated people are not allowed to get married in the Church because their whole lives have been consecrated to God. This consecration comes through a public rite (usually included within a liturgy). Consecrated people do not make private vows, they are public.
“The life consecrated to God is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in a stable state of life recognized by the Church” (CCC 944). The Church Law clearly defines Consecrated life as follows: “The life consecrated through the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title, to His honor, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God, and having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory” (CIC 573).
Religious life is a branch of consecrated life and the most well-known of all consecrated life. All religious are consecrated, yet not all consecrated are religious. There are five main subsets of consecrated life: consecrated hermits, religious life, those consecrated through a secular institute, societies of apostolic life and consecrated virgins and widows (CCC 914 -933). From this it should be clear that there is no category called ‘consecrated singles’ in CCC. Yet, consecrated hermits and consecrated virgins (CIC 603 & 604), and many a times members of secular institutes could be considered ‘consecrated singles’, as they live mostly alone, faithful to their particular call.
The Catechism clearly speaks of the duties of those who embrace consecrated life: “In the Church …the consecrated life is seen as a special sign of the mystery of redemption. To follow and imitate Christ more nearly and to manifest more clearly his self- emptying is to be more deeply present to one’s contemporaries, in the heart of Christ. For, those who are on this “narrower” path encourage their brethren by their example, and bear striking witness “that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes” (CCC 932).
Though there are lay faithful who make ‘private vows or consecration’ in the Church, they do not come under the purview of the current question as they are not bound by a public profession of their consecration. This would mean that their duties and the state of life could change in accordance with the nature of their ‘private vows or consecration’.
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