Consecrated virgin calls being bride of Christ a ‘wonderful fit’

| June 1, 2015 | 0 Comments
Linda Long likes the life of a consecrated virgin, which includes time spent in a prayer chapel in her Woodbury home. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Linda Long likes the life of a consecrated virgin, which includes time spent in a prayer chapel in her Woodbury home. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

After taking a vacation in June 1995, Dr. Linda Long returned to her job as a cardiologist at Regions Hospital in St. Paul with a ring on her finger.

A patient noticed the jewelry and made a comment.

“She was so excited for me,” Long said. “She said, ‘Oh, Dr. Long, you got married.’ And, I said, ‘Well, yes I did, but not in the usual way.’”

In this case, the groom was not merely a man, but Christ himself. Long had gone to Rome to become what is called in the Church a consecrated virgin.

Long took a few moments to explain this to her elderly patient, who felt a particular joy that her doctor would finally find a spouse at age 50. But, the excitement soon vanished.

“Her face fell because that was not what she had [expected],” Long said.

But, it was precisely what Long desired at that time in her life. She was scheduled to celebrate her 20th anniversary on June 3 with a special Mass at St. Agnes in St. Paul celebrated by Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth, a longtime friend.

Although consecrated virgins were common in the early Church, the practice discontinued outside of monastic life in the Middle Ages. The vocation was restored after the Second Vatican Council.

Long was the first consecrated virgin in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Today, there are10. Two others who were consecrated virgins in the archdiocese have died, including one May 27 — Julia Taube, 67, a parishioner of St. Paul in Ham Lake and a pastoral associate at Mary Mother of the Church in Burnsville. The Vatican does not track consecrated virgins in its annual collection of ecclesiastical statistics, but, according to the Michigan-based U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, there are about 3,000 consecrated virgins in the world, with 215 in the U.S.

Long said she feels that her entire life preceding her concentration was pointing to that vocation all along, even though she was not raised Catholic and came to the Church as an adult.

“For me, it’s been a wonderful fit,” said Long, now 70 and retired. “Consecrated virgin living in the world is an active life. It’s not a primarily contemplative life, although very deeply prayer based. It’s not like being a Poor Clare or a hermit. It’s an active life involved in the world.”

This vocation allowed Long to have a cardiology career that spanned more than four decades, plus offer additional service to the medical community. The primary element of her life as a consecrated virgin is prayer. She prays the divine office every day, plus offers daily prayers for Archbishop John Nienstedt, plus other bishops in the Church.

One thing that helps her pray now are the physical infirmities she endures, she said.

“I started with inflammatory arthritis at age 42,” she said, noting that it has gotten progressively worse over the years and has decreased her level of energy and stamina. “It’s a life of offering my pain and also having more time for reflecting.”

Long said that she gets together with the other consecrated virgins at least once a year, and corresponds with them regularly. Every year, she attends a national convocation for consecrated virgins. This year’s event will be in August, and she plans to attend.

Another way she connects with the other women is to be a presenter, which she has done several times. During the rite, canon law requires that two women, either members of religious communities or consecrated virgins, act as presenters.

Long’s consecration rite in 1995 took place in Rome, with Cardinal Paul Mayer officiating. She calls her short journey into consecrated life almost a miracle, in that the time from first bringing it up with her bishop to the rite took only a matter of a few months, versus the normal waiting time of one to three years.

During the initial meeting with Archbishop Harry Flynn in April 1995, “I figured most of my interview would be explaining what [a consecrated virgin] is,” she said. “[But] the Holy Spirit was right there because Archbishop Flynn had been asked by his bishop in Albany when he was Father Flynn to be the spiritual director for the first consecrated virgin of the Diocese of Albany. So, he knew all about it, and I didn’t have to explain anything.”

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Category: Featured, Year of Consecrated Life