Cambridge University Press
Religious life has taken many forms. It arose within 60 years of the Crucifixion in response to Jesus' resurrection. Some Christians, predominantly women, convinced of the active presence of the risen Jesus in their lives, and liberated by faith in the resurrection from the fear of personal or social extinction through death, felt personally called to express the totality and exclusiveness of their relationship to Christ by lifelong consecrated virginity*, characteristically interpreted as espousal to him.
The Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity
Schneiders, Sandra Marie “Religious Orders, Roman Catholic: Forms of Religious Life.” The Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity, 1067-1068. Edited by Daniel Patte. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.