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On the 25th day of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Church in Jerusalem welcomed a new consecrated member into its fold. María Ruiz Rodríguez made her consecration in the Ordo Virginum on Nov. 1, permanently rooting herself in the local ecclesiastical community.

“A thought crossed my mind, a temptation: ‘What purpose does this step serve in the midst of current events? Doesn’t the Church have more urgent matters to attend to than to stop and celebrate the consecration of a humble woman like me?’” Ruiz shared with CNA a few days later. But she said she was immediately aware of something else. “I told myself: I cannot delay this commitment… In fact, uniting my life with the Church in a time of suffering is even more meaningful,” she said.

Ruiz, now 42, is originally from Spain and arrived in Jerusalem in 2018 for a period of discernment. At that time, she was a member of the “Monastic Family of Bethlehem, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and St. Bruno,” an institute of consecrated life established in France in 1950. It was Ruiz’s first time in the Holy Land, even though the desire to visit the sacred places in the Holy Land had long been a dream in her heart. 

“For two years, I set aside my savings to make a pilgrimage in 2000, the year of the Great Jubilee. However, in that very year, I entered the convent, so I gave up. I felt that Jesus was saying to me: ‘I am your Holy Land.’ In a way, I had already arrived in Jerusalem,” Ruiz said. It was in the Holy Land that Ruiz first came into contact with some consecrated women of the Ordo Virginum. “I was looking for my place and I felt called,” she said. 

The Ordo Virginum, Ruiz continued, “is the oldest form of consecration in the Church”. Abandoned over the centuries in favor of the religious life, it was rediscovered with the Second Vatican Council as a form of life that, “in a radically transformed historical context” possesses “a surprising force of attraction” and is “capable of responding not only to the desires of many women to dedicate themselves totally to the Lord and to their neighbors, but also to the concurrent rediscovery by the particular Church of its own identity in communion with the one Body of Christ” (cf. Instruction “Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago” on the “Ordo Virginum”).

Consecrated women in the Ordo Virginum choose to live a life of virginity “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” in a lay form of life. They do not wear religious habits, do not live in communities, have no common statutes or rules, or even superiors. Instead, they maintain a personal reference to the local bishop — in this case, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa — who acts as guarantor of their journey of discernment and presides over their consecration.

The sole commitment these consecrated women make is the “resolution of chastity,” which they express during the Rite of Consecration. The only symbol they wear is a ring, emphasizing the spousal character of this vocation, which reflects the mystery of the Church as “Bride of Christ.” Engraved in Ruiz’s ring is an inscription in Hebrew meaning “O my life,” referring to Christ, and the date of her consecration.

Women who consecrate themselves in the Ordo Virginum support themselves through their jobs. Ruiz is an iconographer and has been working for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem for about four years. She was drawn into a project aimed at renewing liturgical books — the Missal and the Evangeliary — with her artwork.

“I first approached iconographic art when I was a nun. It was first of all a spiritual journey, a path of prayer. More than an artistic expression, an icon is a profession of faith. Before beginning the work, I invoke the Holy Spirit and ask for forgiveness for my own sins and for those who will venerate these images. I was interested in this dimension of relationship,” Ruiz shared. She spent a year researching the style and colors.

By Marinella Bandini

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