VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the rest of the world may think chastity is something "unintelligible and useless," the order of consecrated virgins is a charism that can be fruitful and beneficial to all people, Pope Benedict XVI said.
"With your righteous life, you can be the stars that guide the journey of the world," he said in a May 15 private audience with about 500 consecrated virgins from across the globe.
He said he wished to encourage them in their vocations and hoped they would grow daily in their awareness that this charism is "as bright and fertile in the eyes of faith as it is unintelligible and useless (in the eyes) of the world."
The women were in Rome as part of a May 14-17 international congress of consecrated virgins discussing how to foster the order and how it is lived in the world.
Consecrated by her local bishop, a consecrated virgin makes a promise of perpetual virginity, prayer and service to the church while living independently in society.
The order of virgins is one of the oldest forms of consecration in the church.
Pope Benedict said the desire to live as a consecrated virgin is linked to the desire to mirror Mary and her "loving, free choice" to do the will of God.
The pope asked that the soul of Mary be in each one of them. Quoting St. Ambrose, he said Mary "is the one mother of Christ according to the flesh, yet according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all."
"Every soul receives the Word of God, provided that, immaculate and immune to vice, it guards its chastity with inviolate modesty," he said, quoting the saint.