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Questions About Private Vows.


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Praised be Jesus Christ! And Happy Christmastide! :)

 

I was just searching through some threads and a few times I saw that there are some that have made private vows. I was wondering if anyone could share information on what these mean and how one goes about making them?

 

I know this is something to be discerned. For one living in the world and desiring to give myself only to Our Lord and to be united to Him as close as I can be out here, I am very interested to learn more. I would love to find my place in the religious life, but for right now I need to wait before contacting communities.

 

I'm very thankful for the help!

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Dear Barbara Therese and all:   Thank you so much for the above post. I do not wish to Hijack this thread but only give some small witness which I pray will bear some fruit. I thought to wait longer

Just adding my two cents here...  Many people, myself included, do not think it is advisable to make private vows of obedience or poverty outside of a group context.  Chastity is the "hinge" of consec

This weekend I plan on asking Father about this as this is something I would love to do. I had in mind that I would like to make the private vow of virginity/chastity at the same time as my Total Cons

I have made private vows.  One can either make them quite privately between self and The Lord, or with the agreement of the celebrant, before or after Mass (according to SponsaChristi - see below).  I have chosen not to do so. When I first made private vows (yearly basis) I found that trying to explain to non Catholics (but also Catholics rather regularly) about private vows confused me with some sort of religious sister, or worse, some sort of radical crazy person - although a theologian I consulted termed me "a type of religious sister".  I have simply never taken up that definition since I quite adamantly insist that I am not any sort of religious sister.  To my mind a religious sister lives communally and belongs to a religious community.  Theirs is a particular and quite unique call (amongst many) in The Church for The Kingdom. 

 I am not in the consecrated state of life and therefore have no claim nor aspiration for any sort of title nor distinction from the lay state as an ordinary dedicated lay person.  I have known many quite ordinary married Catholics with children who have lived outstanding dedicated lives to their Faith, to The Kingdom.  My quite Joyful decision was happy acceptance to remain in the lay state.  Jesus is God and in becoming fully human, stripped Himself absolutely everything that was His and His entitlement as God.  He chose to life His Life poor, obedient and chaste and lived amongst the poor.

I also had quite practical reasons permitted by Divine Providence why I chose to remain in the lay state.

 

Paul to Phillipians Ch2: (Jesus) emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,

 

 

Paul to the Hebrews: [33] And on the one hand indeed, by reproaches and tribulations, were made a gazingstock; and on the other, became companions of them that were used in such sort. [34] For you both had compassion on them that were in bands, and took with joy the being stripped of your own goods, knowing that you have a better and a lasting substance.  [35] Do not therefore lose your confidence, which hath a great reward.

 

Having said the above, no one charism or 'charism' inside or outside of the consecrated state to my mind can fully embrace the Whole that is Jesus.  Some may reflect and quite overtly in a public manner witness to His Poverty, some His Compassion and Mercy, some others His seeking to be alone in Prayer with His Father - and etc. etc.  The Lord calls each and every person quite personally to a particular way of life.

 

If The Church was to allow a person to live under the terms of my own call from The Lord as a consecrated person, then I would apply to be consecrated.  However, prior to doing so, I would again be asking questions of experts personally to ensure I understood what exactly "consecration" means.  The value of seeking out experts, and in my case it was priests and theologians prior to life vows, is that one can freely ask questions on a face to face personal basis.  Since members of The Leaven secular institute can keep their consecration secret if they wish, do not live communally, nor have habits or titles, it seems to me that public consecration can be kept secret under Canon Law; however, I have never ever invesigated this matter in any way.

I very much doubt such a consecration would be permitted in my lifetime and hence do not anticipate it in any way.  However, miracles can occur.

 

 I have my own 'rule of life' and a spiritual director on an ongoing basis.  My advice is always as part of the discerning process to seek spiritual direction.  It is a very serious matter to make a vow to God even quite privately between self and God.  I made the vows for quite a few years on a yearly basis (renewed yearly) prior to seeking advice from a few experts re vowing privately the evangelical counsels for life (my original priest theologian director and confessor was deceased)

If one is making vows to the evangelical counsels, how one is going to live out the vows may need to be determined and best done with a spiritual director.

One can make a private vow or vows to God on other matters besides the evangelical counsels i.e. to pray the Rosary every................ for example.

You will probably find answers to all your questions in the following links, if not - ask away. I would state, however, that if one is discerning religious life but cannot enter for a period of time, there is absolultely no necessity to make vows, while one can if one feels called to do so of course.  Seek spiritual direction.

If one does make private vows, Canon Law spells out the terms of the vows.  An explanation can be found here:

 

http://www.catholicdoors.com/faq/qu238.htm

 

Sr Lauren O'Neal who is a member of Phatmass and a Diocesan Hermite has a very informative blog not specifically on private vows but in some entries about them:  http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

 

Sponsa Christi is also a member of Phatmass and a Consecrated Virgin.  According to her website, private vows are made immediately prior to or after a Mass (with agreement of celebrant) but not during Mass : http://sponsa-christi.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/how-do-i-make-private-vow.html

 

One can always PM either of the above two Phatmass members.  I am confident they will be happy to respond.

 

My "Search" on Phatmass does not work, here are some threads from Catholic Answers on the subject of private vows.

http://forums.catholic.com/search.php?searchid=12959703

 

 

Edited by BarbaraTherese
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Here is another good resource from a canon lawyer and consecrated virgin

 

http://doihaveavocation.com/blog/archives/82

 

 

Private Vows Of Poverty, Chastity, And Obedience

 

 


 

 


by Therese Ivers

For centuries people have been embracing the evangelical counsels and binding themselves to observe them by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The most common example we have of persons making these vows are the men and women who make their profession of vows as religious. These religious make what is known as public vows. Not all people, however, are called to make public vows, but instead elect to follow the evangelical counsels through private vows.

 

There is one primary difference between a public vow of poverty, chastity, or obedience and a private vow of poverty, chastity, or obedience. Public vows are made in a religious profession, or profession in the hands of the bishop of a diocesan hermit and have the effect of placing the individual in the consecrated state in the Church. Private vows are made outside of this context of Ecclesiastical acceptance and they do not change the canonical status of the individual making them within the Church.

 

Concretely, this means that if Mark would like to dedicate his life to Christ but does not feel called to enter religious life, join a secular institute (by making semi-public vows), become a diocesan hermit, or receive Holy Orders, he may consider whether he is called to make private vows. Making private vows, especially those of the evangelical counsels, is not something to undertake lightly and ought to be done only after careful consideration, prayer, and consultation with a spiritual director.

 

Vows made by members of Secular Institutes are what some people term “semi-public” vows. That means that they are not public vows which would place them in the consecrated state, but they are not totally private vows either because the Church recognizes these vows. Vowed members of Secular Institutes remain lay if they were lay and ordained if ordained, but they are in the world and are not in the consecrated state. You could call the lay members the true “consecrated lay people” of our Church.

 

One final thought. Vows can remain private even when made in a Church ceremony. An example of this can be when a priest receives private vows of an individual during Mass. Vows are also private (meaning they don’t put you in the consecrated state) if they are made in a Public Association of the Faithful, or a Society of Apostolic Life. The mere fact that a vow is made in front of other people does not make it public in the eyes of the Church. Members of any group that is not recognized in the Church as a religious institute who make vows in a ceremony or Mass in their community are not to consider themselves in the consecrated state because their vows are essentially private. Hence to call themselves consecrated men or women is misleading as they are not officially recognized in the Church as belonging to the consecrated state.

 

 

 

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This is a beginning resource for those in the US interested in secualr insitutes

 

http://www.secularinstitutes.org/secularinstitutes.htm

 

http://www.secularinstitutes.org/directory.htm

 

 

And in Australia  http://www.catholicozvocations.org.au/Home/Catholic-Life/Secular-Institutes

 

 

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A Secular Institute is certainly an option for discernment for those considering private vows as their vocation.  A Secular Institute, however, is a vocation in its own right and never a chosen transition period prior to entering religious life.

 

Edited by BarbaraTherese
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A Secular Institute is certainly an option for discernment for those considering private vows as their vocation.  A Secular Institute, however, is a vocation in its own right and never a chosen transition period prior to entering religious life.

 

I'm not sure we can ever be too dogmatic about these things. Life is a series of transitions. I don't mean that one should join a secular insitute with the intention of leaving later for a religious insitute but we have seen many people enter one form of life and then later transition into another because it was the right thing for them to do. Some nuns later request permissioin to become hermits, some women who choose marriage may later end up in religious insitutes when that marriage ends through widowhood or annulment, some monks decide later to become diocesan priests or vice versa.

 

All I mean to say is that while one should not enter one state of life with the conscious intention of changing it later, transitions are a natural part of life, even within one's vocation.

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I'm not sure we can ever be too dogmatic about these things. Life is a series of transitions. I don't mean that one should join a secular insitute with the intention of leaving later for a religious insitute but we have seen many people enter one form of life and then later transition into another because it was the right thing for them to do. Some nuns later request permissioin to become hermits, some women who choose marriage may later end up in religious insitutes when that marriage ends through widowhood or annulment, some monks decide later to become diocesan priests or vice versa.

 

All I mean to say is that while one should not enter one state of life with the conscious intention of changing it later, transitions are a natural part of life, even within one's vocation.

 

 

I agree of course, nunsense.  Certainly many are those who have chosen one way of life and later to have changed direction into another, some even after perpetual vows. Nor can any sort of judgement ever be passed under any circumstances whatsoever, since for His Mysterious Reasons, it may have been The Lord's intention from the start. "My Ways are not your ways" 

I only meant to clarify that one could not choose a Secular Institute as a transition period prior to entering religious life and I certainly realized that you would have understood this.  It was meant to clarify this in view of the opening poster's comments.  Private vows are always open to a further call from God to a greater good, but not a lesser good.  Dispensation from private vows are covered by Canon Law under "Vows".   But one would be most wise and advised to seek spiritual direction prior to making private vows while aspiring to religious life.  To seek spiritual direction even when private vows were intended by the person to conclude with the greater good of religious life and canonical vows.

Just to clarify another point, dispensation from private vows (as I understand things) is not necessary if one actually enters religious life since religious life is the greater good.

My understandings are always open to correction.

Edited by BarbaraTherese
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Praised be Jesus Christ! And Happy Christmastide! :)

 

I was just searching through some threads and a few times I saw that there are some that have made private vows. I was wondering if anyone could share information on what these mean and how one goes about making them?

 

I know this is something to be discerned. For one living in the world and desiring to give myself only to Our Lord and to be united to Him as close as I can be out here, I am very interested to learn more. I would love to find my place in the religious life, but for right now I need to wait before contacting communities.

 

I'm very thankful for the help!

 

 

 

I think private vows are a wonderful step if one has already discerned that they wish to consecrate themselves themselves to God in some way. Here is what canon law says about vows in general and about private vows specifically:  (emphasis is mine to highlight sections relating to private vows)

 

 

TITLE V: VOWS AND OATHS (Cann. 1191 - 1204)

 

 

CHAPTER I : VOWS

 

Can. 1191 §1 A vow is a deliberate and free promise made to God, concerning some good which is possible and better. The virtue of religion requires that it be fulfilled.

 

§2 Unless they are prohibited by law, all who have an appropriate use of reason are capable of making a vow.

 

§3 A vow made as a result of grave and unjust fear or of deceit is by virtue of the law itself invalid.

 

 

Can. 1192 §1 A vow is public if it is accepted in the name of the Church by a lawful Superior; otherwise, it is private.

 

§2 It is solemn if it is recognised by the Church as such; otherwise, it is simple.

 

§3 It is personal if it promises an action by the person making the vow; real, if it promises some thing; mixed, if it has both a personal and a real aspect.

 

 

Can. 1193 Of its nature a vow obliges only the person who makes it.

 

 

Can. 1194 A vow ceases by lapse of the time specified for the fulfilment of the obligation, or by a substantial change in the matter promised, or by cessation of a condition upon which the vow depended or of the purpose of the vow, or by dispensation, or by commutation.

 

 

Can. 1195 A person who has power over the matter of a vow can suspend the obligation of the vow for such time as the fulfilment of the vow would affect that person adversely.

 

 

Can. 1196 Besides the Roman Pontiff, the following can dispense from private vows, provided the dispensation does not injure the acquired rights of others;

 

1° the local Ordinary and the parish priest, in respect of all their own subjects and also of peregrini;

 

2° the Superior of a religious institute or of a society of apostolic life, if these are clerical and of pontifical right, in respect of members, novices and those who reside day and night in a house of the institute or society;

 

3° those to whom the faculty of dispensing has been delegated by the Apostolic See or by the local Ordinary.

 

 

 

Can. 1197 What has been promised by private vow can be commuted into something better or equally good by the person who made the vow. It can be commuted into something less good by one who has authority to dispense in accordance with Can. 1196.

 

 

Can. 1198 Vows taken before religious profession are suspended as long as the person who made the vow remains in the religious institute.

 

 

http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_P4C.HTM

 

 

 

 

As for myself, when I started discerning religious life, I had the help of a spiritual director. At a certain point I knew that I wanted to commit the rest of my life to God in some form or another, even if I never found a religious community that would accept me so I made private vows. There are different forms of doing this, mine are personal so I won't disclose them here, only recommend that one who wishes to do this discuss the possibilities with a priest. I had my private vows ring blessed by a priest, who also gave me his priestly blessing on my private vows. According to canon 1198 these vows will be suspended when I make my profession of vows in Carmel, and as long as I remain in Carmel.

 

It is a signifcant step and not one to be taken lightly but certainly a very beautiful and fulfilling experience, especially if one hopes to enter a consecrated state in life and is not able to do so for some reason, or must delay this until a future time.

Edited by nunsense
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Just adding my two cents here...  Many people, myself included, do not think it is advisable to make private vows of obedience or poverty outside of a group context.  Chastity is the "hinge" of consecrated life (Vita Consecrata) and it is usually more prudent to make a vow of chastity and LIVE poverty and a spirit of obedience.

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Just adding my two cents here...  Many people, myself included, do not think it is advisable to make private vows of obedience or poverty outside of a group context.  Chastity is the "hinge" of consecrated life (Vita Consecrata) and it is usually more prudent to make a vow of chastity and LIVE poverty and a spirit of obedience.

 

 

 

The person who makes the vow, makes the decision what to promise to God. It can be to do something or not to do something or to live life in a certain way. It is between the person and God alone. It doesn't need common consent - it just must be according to canon 1191 '... a deliberate and free promise made to God, concerning some good which is possible and better.

 

and

 

§3 It is personal if it promises an action by the person making the vow; real, if it promises some thing; mixed, if it has both a personal and a real aspect.

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I was writing my post as nunsense posted and I certainly agree with her. 

Private vows to obedience and poverty may not be quite as radical as in religious life, or they just might be as radical or even moreso. But surely a person can spell out the terms of one's obedience and poverty and make private vows to live in that manner?  Again, spiritual direction and advice is the wise way to go and to be guided by spiritual direction and advice. 

I am curious why poverty and obedience should be thought of by some as prudent only if undertaken by private vow in a group context.

 

___________

Had a brief power blackout.  In my case it is a fait accompli and with advice from two theologians at different points in my journey as well as spiritual direction.  I also have a letter on diocesan letterhead from our Archbishop congratulating me on perpetual private vows with his blessing on the vows and my way of life - and he specifically stated "a wise choice".  I knew His Grace quite well from the time he was "Father" and we exchanged letters from time to time.  He certainly had intimate knowledge of my way of life and 'where I was coming from' or why I had chosen private vows and for life.  I know he would not have called it a "wise choice" if it was in any way at all imprudent or unwise.

Edited by BarbaraTherese
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I was writing my post as nunsense posted and I certainly agree with her. 

Private vows to obedience and poverty may not be quite as radical as in religious life, or they just might be as radical or even moreso. But surely a person can spell out the terms of one's obedience and poverty and make private vows to live in that manner?  Again, spiritual direction and advice is the wise way to go and to be guided by spiritual direction and advice. 

I am curious why poverty and obedience should be thought of by some as prudent only if undertaken by private vow in a group context.

 

Good point Barb. I also think that poverty is often misunderstood. Many monasteries are not 'poor' as the world is poor. I have been richer in 'things' in a monastery than I was in the world, especially when I lived as a hermit and often did without food or heat or other things that monasteries have in abundance. Nuns in most developed countries are usually provided with clothes, food, shelter, medical care and an abundance of things that 'the poor' don't have. The vow of poverty in community means that one owns nothing and has no personal claim on anything. A nun in Carmel must ask permission for many things - and that requires poverty of spirit. Yes, there is an attitude of poverty in not wasting things and in not choosing unnecessary things, but it doesn't necessarily mean that one is physically poor. A person in the world would have to work out what they personally meant by a vow of poverty.

 

As for obedience, we are all called to be faithful and obedient to Church teachings.  A person in the world is not usually under a vow of obedience to a superior, although one might agree with a spiritual director to obey them in spiritual matters as part of a vow to God (I would not personally make such a vow but St Teresa of Avila made a personal one to Father Gracian). There are different expressions of obedience to God's will however that can be discerned and perhaps even expressed in a vow.

 

Chastity doesn't require much explanation of course, and poverty and/or obedience might need to be expressed in a different way than it is in community but that doesn't mean they aren't possible. The vows of poverty and obedience can be lived out in different ways by different people, and there is no reason why these conditions can not be included in one's vows but they are not necessary and there might also be other vows that a person wants to make that have nothing to do with these ones - but that is what makes them private and personal.

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I guess my question would be whether those eager to make private vows of obedience and poverty know the theology behind the vows and how much they wish to individualize them.  If it takes religious several years of formation on the theology of vows before making them plus an established set of rules and parameters built in, do we really feel comfortable in encouraging people to make vowed commitments to these two evangelical counsels without some serious preparation and thought to the practicalities?  Why did Teresa of Avila's vow of obedience to her spiritual director work out and St. Jane Chantal's not?  On a related note, do we really value lay life or do we pay lip service to it?  Many people I know who wish to make private vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience do not know what it means to be holy as a layperson and esteem the lay state as it should be esteemed.  That's not to say people shouldn't or can't make private vows, but that there has to be serious discernment, searching of motives, and a sound working theology.  Volumes have been written on the different vows.  How many who make private vows actually read them?  Yes, if I sound a bit cautious, it is because I've seen the aftermath of the havoc wreaked on enthusiastic but not well informed persons who made vows and their odd interpretations of said vows.

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If The Church offered me any sort of (free) education in the theology of the evangelical counsels, built in parameters etc. etc. I would certainly take them up.  But The Church does not. 

I tend to think that probably the call to vow privately the evangelical counsels and for life is not at all a common vocation as vocation per se.  Certainly spiritual direction re a call from The Lord, a vocation, would take a period of time not one appointment.  And as I always advise from my personal point of view never to be done without spiritual direction and on an ongoing basis.  I lived the vows for many years before deciding to investigate perpetual private vows.

It is not a matter of anyone encouraging anyone, I dont think.  Rather of discerning one's vocation and call from The Lord for their life or for a certain term.

I dont think that religious life has the sole right to the evangelical counsels at all, no way - and because one vows them privately is not, of course, an indication of devaluing lay life, quite to the contrary very often.  It can be a witness to the very real value of the laity and for one, the freedom to move most anywhere at any time and in any place - for the sake of The Kingdom.  The living of the evangelical counsels is a journey and a journey is just what it states and hopefully in the Love of God and neighbour.  One starts at A and moves through B, C etc. until the goal and Heaven is reached.  Who can ever state they have arrived at perfection of Charity in this life?

 I think other comments are covered in previous posts.  I hope so.

 

 

Catholic Catechism:

1973 Besides its precepts, the New Law also includes the evangelical counsels. The traditional distinction between God's commandments and the evangelical counsels is drawn in relation to charity, the perfection of Christian life. The precepts are intended to remove whatever is incompatible with charity. The aim of the counsels is to remove whatever might hinder the development of charity, even if it is not contrary to it.32

1974 The evangelical counsels manifest the living fullness of charity, which is never satisfied with not giving more. They attest its vitality and call forth our spiritual readiness. The perfection of the New Law consists essentially in the precepts of love of God and neighbor. The counsels point out the more direct ways, the readier means, and are to be practiced in keeping with the vocation of each:

 

  • [God] does not want each person to keep all the counsels, but only those appropriate to the diversity of persons, times, opportunities, and strengths, as charity requires; for it is charity, as queen of all virtues, all commandments, all counsels, and, in short, of all laws and all Christian actions that gives to all of them their rank, order, time, and value.33

 

 

Edited by BarbaraTherese
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