PHOENIX- On Saturday August 26th the faithful of the Diocese of Phoenix were taken back in time to the first centuries of Christianity to witness the consecration of Miara Cash as a bride of Jesus Christ to a life of virginity lived in the world.

Bishop John P. Dolan celebrated the Mass of Solemn Consecration at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, during which Cash was received as the third virgin to be consecrated for the Diocese of Phoenix. The Office of Consecrated Life and the Office of Worship extended an open invitation to all the priests, religious and faithful to join in the celebration of this rare liturgy.

The vocation of consecrated virginity was the Church’s first form of consecrated life. Having fallen out of existence around the 11th century, the Order of Virgins was restored as a form of consecrated life in 1970. Recent years have seen a steady rise in interest and attraction to this vocation.

Cash, a campus minister at Bourgade Catholic High School, recalled the journey that led her to this point. From an early age she felt called to dedicate her life to Jesus by belonging to Him as His Bride. During and after college she looked at many ways to live out this love for her Heavenly Bridegroom, but struggled to find her place.

“For several years I kept visiting religious communities,” Cash shared, “I felt so welcomed by the sisters and received so many graces. I was even offered papers at one point, but something seemed to be missing.”

As the years passed, an angst grew within her: “If I had been searching so long, why had I never found the place Jesus was calling me? A priest I was meeting with at the time for spiritual direction kept getting the word ‘passive’ when he prayed for me. Why was I so passive?”

Finally, the chaplain of Bourgade Catholic High School, Fr. David Loeffler, suggested Consecrated Virginity.

“I asked him what he meant—I had heard of virgins like St. Agnes and St. Cecilia; I didn’t know of it as a vocation today,” Cash recalled.

“So, of course, I googled it. There was a table [describing the] major distinctions between religious life and consecrated virginity. The first distinction it made was ‘This vocation is, by nature, passive because it is entirely received…’ Wow!”

Consecrated virgins living in the world are also distinct from religious sisters because they do not wear a habit or go by the title “Sister.” Living independently, they support themselves through a personal career while presenting to the world an image of Christ’s Church who is virgin, bride, and mother.

As the liturgy began, Cash—visibly beaming with joy—processed up the aisle clothed in a long white wedding dress. The oil lamp in her hand was reminiscent of Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins awaiting the return of their bridegroom.

After the reading of the Holy Gospel, Bishop Dolan, representing Christ the Bridegroom, took his seat in front of the altar and called Cash. Approaching with her lighted lamp in hand, she entered the sanctuary and sat to listen to his homily.

“Today the Church consecrates this candidate to a life of virginity,” Dolan began.

“She comes from God’s holy people, from among us… God has called her to be more closely united to himself and to be dedicated to the service of the Church and of humanity.”

Speaking directly to Cash, he said:

“Miara, today we celebrate…the wonderful gift of your name. You are [God’s] altar—that’s what your name means”

He continued: “What a perfect image, because an altar is that which stands between humanity and God. Wedded to Christ, you are called to live a life of fidelity… offering sacrifices on behalf of humanity. So, I invite you to continue to be the spouse of Christ, to be that altar hidden in plain sight, an altar of thanksgiving.”

Cash then prostrated herself as the Litany of Saints was sung by the congregation. Placing her hands between Bishop Dolan’s, she made her profession:

“Father, receive my resolution to follow Christ in a life of perfect chastity which, with God’s help, I here profess before you and God’s holy people.”

Extending his hands over her, Bishop Dolan prayed and offered her a veil, a wedding ring, and the Liturgy of the Hours as insignia of her consecration.

At the conclusion of Mass, Cash was acknowledged with a jubilant round of applause as a “Bride of Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church.” She is a sign to us in this life of the spousal relationship that we will all one day share with the Trinity in the communion of the saints in heaven.