Practicing the Order of Widows: A New Call for an Old Vocation
This essay argues for a renewed institution of an ancient Christian practice, the Order of Widows. Drawing on the Roman Catholic tradition's recent writings on the elderly, particularly the 1998 document from the Pontifical Council for the Laity entitled “The Dignity of Older People and their Mission in the Church and in the World,” I argue that we find within the Roman Catholic tradition advocacy for a renewed understanding of the vocation of the elderly within the Church. Building on this, I then trace in the broadest of outlines some elements of what a renewal of the Order of Widows might look like. In doing so, it becomes clear how this new ecclesial practice addresses health issues of older women (devaluation, marginalization, loss of voice, impoverishment, debilitation, loneliness, isolation, and euthanasia). More importantly, such a practice moves beyond principles to demonstrate a concrete alternative. As such it would provide a powerful witness to the very culture the Church seeks to transform.