Pope John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: “The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. (…) In every age there have been men and women who, obedient to the Father's call and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, in order to devote themselves to him with an "undivided" heart. Like the Apostles, they too have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put themselves, as he did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters. In this way, through the many charisms of spiritual and apostolic life bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, they have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society”.
To be a consecrated religious person means solemnly dedicate oneself to Christ with undivided heart through religious vows.
What is a vow?
A vow is a total and sacrificial commitment to Christ that is binding forever. It is an expression of great love that allows the person who takes on the commitment and responsibility of the vows an opportunity of incredible freedom from the ties of this world, so that they can grow closer to the joy of the next world.
The vows most commonly used in religious communities are known as the evangelical counsels. These are vows of chastity in celibacy, poverty, and obedience.
We should be chaste in our family and in public life. Chastity for the laity means celibacy before marriage and respect for one's spouse in marriage. Chastity for the clergy or for religious means celibacy for life. The vow of chastity is something religious profess. By it they sacrifice the freedom the laity have to marry and raise children.
We should obey all legitimate authority, in our family, in our nation, and most importantly in the Church. A promise made to God to obey an ecclesiastical superior in a religious community is called a vow of obedience. By it one makes himself a subject of the superior and promises to obey him in accord with the Rule of the community.
We should love God above all things and love other things only insofar as they help us love God. No one should be greedy, or make wealth the purpose of his life. Religious, by the vow of poverty, promise to live as a family, with all goods owned by the community and each member owning nothing personally.
Not everyone is ready do follow Christ in consecrated, religious life, but there are many who are called by God to know him, love him and serve him in a special and unique way. For many people these vows could be difficult to understand, but for those who fall in love with God and have heard God’s call to religious life these vows are expressions of personal love to God and others in religious community.
As Salvatorians we are fulfilling God’s call in our consecrated life with those vows in apostolic life.