“The evangelical counsels are above all a gift of the Holy Trinity. The consecrated life proclaims what the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, brings about by his love, his goodness and his beauty. The consecrated life thus becomes one of the tangible seals which the Trinity impresses upon history, so that people can sense with longing the attraction of divine beauty.” (Vita Consecrata, 20)
What is a Vow?
A vow is a free and deliberate promise made to God concerning a possible and better good which must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion (Can. 1191 §1.).
Benedictine monastic orders take three vows: Stability, Conversatio morum (continuing conversion), and Obedience. This is different to religious orders who take the more commonly known vows of: Chastity, Poverty and Obedience. However the vows of chastity and poverty are included in the monastic vow of Conversatio morum.
A free and deliberate promise:
In professing our vows, we freely embrace a life of stability, conversatio morum and obedience. Contrary to worldly wisdom, we are not running away from the world or ourselves but passionately seeking God whom we love above all things. After five years of formation and prayerful discernment, the Junior Monk freely lays down his life as a holocaust to become an essential part of the Holy Church.
Made to God:
We make our vows not to the community or to the Church but to God. The Church and community receive our vows to God on His behalf. We are not making these vows to some abstract entity or institution, but a living and active person, our Creator and Redeemer.
Concerning a possible or better good:
Yes, it is possible to live a life of stability, conversatio morum and obedience. If it were not possible, the Church as a loving mother would not allow her monks to do so. Often people in our contemporary society look at our vocation and wonder how it is possible, or even healthy, to live as we do. Yet on closer inspection, there is no denying the joy of those consecrated to Christ. This is because our vocation is not natural; it is supernatural. We can only live this vocation if God has truly given us the gift of an undivided heart that cannot be truly satisfied unless we give ourselves to Him. This does not mean that monastic life is easy, but that it is only possible by His grace. With God, nothing is impossible.
Which must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion:
The virtue of religion is the act of giving worship to God. By reason of our vows, our whole lives become an offering of praise, glory and honour to God.
Stability of Place:
By the vow of stability within his community a brother obliges himself to make constant use of the means of the spiritual craft there, trusting in the providence of God who has called him to this place and to this group of brothers.
By the vow of conversatio morum or fidelity to monastic life a brother who, in the simplicity of his heart, seeks God by the following of the Gospel, binds himself to the practice of Cistercian discipline. He retains nothing at all for himself… He renounces the capacity of acquiring and possessing goods for himself. For the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, he makes profession of perfect continence and celibacy.
By the vow of obedience a brother desiring to live under a rule and an abbot promises to fulfil all that lawful superiors command in accordance with these Constitutions. In thus renouncing his own will he follows the example of Christ who was obedient until death, and commits himself to the school of the Lord’s service.
From the Constitutions and Statutes of the Cistercian Order, C. 9, 10 & 11