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What is it about Religious Life?

January 24th, 2013by Wayne Topp

As an Associate Vocation Director, I have seen my share of vocation related YouTube videos. Many of them have been sent to me and many I have gone out and found in my searching for other things. Some of my favorite videos are those of consecrated religious taking their first vows. Part of this, I think is simply because I don’t have any experience with these ceremonies and I love the many ceremonies of the Church (especially that of an Ordination – if you’ve never witnessed an Ordination Mass, please make it a point to get there, this year’s priestly ordinations are happening on Saturday, May 18th), but the other part that makes me love these videos so much is the words.


In the video below, at about the 1:00 mark, you’ll hear the Bishop asking the sister if she commits to the following vows: chastity, poverty and obedience. These are known as the three evangelical counsels and every consecrated religious takes these vows publically in the presence of many witnesses. It is beautiful in and of itself that men and women of varying ages take these vows and live according to them for the rest of their natural lives, but what makes them all the more beautiful is the words they use in order to do so.



Listen closely to the questions the Bishop asks the sister taking her vows:

  1. Are you resolved to unite yourself more closely to God by a new consecration of religious profession?
  2. In your desire to follow Christ more perfectly, do you resolve to live chastity?
  3. To choose the life of poverty?
  4. To offer the sacrifice of obedience?

These are not questions of expectation. They are questions of commitment on behalf of the one answering the question. The first of these questions acknowledges that it is in following God’s will and responding generously to his plan for our lives that we are ultimately drawn more closely to Him. In the next three, she is not asked simply, “Will you live chastely, in poverty and obediently?” She is asked if she RESOLVEs herself to live chastely (recognizing the struggle that this promise brings with it), to CHOOSE a life of poverty (recognizing the many options available in the everyday life), and to OFFER A SACRIFICE of obedience (recognizing it is our human nature to desire to lead others and to be served by others). These questions come also from an acknowledgement of the need for God’s grace to help to keep these vows and they require a response and active participation on behalf of the woman making the vows. Beautiful!


Finally, if you have the time to watch to the end, when the sister receives her new habit, the look of Joy that comes across her face and the Joy that is expressed by those witnessing this celebration are unmistakable and contagious.  If you’ve ever wondered why or how a woman or man could choose to enter the religious life, this might just be the beginning of that answer. Joy!

Wayne Topp

Wayne Topp is the Associate Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He is married with 4 beautiful children and is a parishioner at Our Lady of Victory in Delhi Township.