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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Consecrated Life: the vows - what is the point?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

According to the law given by God to the Israelites, the making and keeping of vows is subject to strict regulations. 

Among other things, the Lord said to Moses: “when anyone offers a sacrifice of well-being to the Lord, in fulfilment of a vow or as freewill offering, from the herd or from the flock, to be acceptable it must be perfect” (Lev 22:11). Or, “when a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears on oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth” (Num 30:2). Making a vow should not be taken lightly. This is actually a strong commitment that should not be broken. As the animal offered in sacrifice for a vow should be perfect, the vow should be perfectly fulfilled, in order to be acceptable to God. But it is no secret that we are all still a long way from perfection. Does this mean that making vows is pointless?

Well, God delights in perfection above all because he himself is perfect. And He is the first one who perfectly fulfilled the vow he made to us, which has been proclaimed by the prophets: “Hear then O House of David (…) The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel”, this means God with us (Is 7:14). God makes the vow to live among us and to share his perfection with us, this meaning his infinite love. When Jesus calls us to follow him, he asks nothing more of us than to welcome the gift God offers to us by his vow: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).

This call is addressed to all people. And particularly, through the sacrament of baptism, we receive God's gift to be called his child and the promise of sharing in his treasure. But this gift needs an answer, for God cannot force us to welcome him. He wants us to freely follow and imitate his Son, through which he lavishes his love upon us.

It has been a long tradition in the Church that men and women consecrate themselves to the following of Christ by making vows. As God bound to our humanity by Jesus Christ, they bind themselves to God by a profession of obedience to a particular religious order. They imitate Christ in a special manner, Christ who always obeyed his Father.

The constitutions of the brothers of the Order of Preachers, that is, the rule of the Dominicans, state: “to ensure that by following Christ in this way we would perfect our love of God and of our neighbour, we consecrate ourselves entirely to God by profession”. In other words, we don't need to be perfect to make vows. The only one who is perfect is Jesus Christ. But, by profession, we endeavour to imitate Christ and follow great saints such as St Dominic or other founders of religious orders and hope that, by God's grace, our life be made perfect, that is, in the image of God.

Br Jean-Baptiste Régis O.P.

Br Jean-Baptiste Régis O.P.

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