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INTRODUCTION TO THE VOWS

Fr. Lavigne, O.P.

Theme: Vows as Path to Integration

ASPECTS OF THE VOWS

I. VOWS AS ALLIANCE
- It is integration in the body, the body as Congregation; the Congregation integrated in
the Church.

Two Models of Integration:

1. The vows on the dimension of :

World

Church

Congre
gation

Personal

2. The vows in relation to:

Church

Vows

Congre
Person
gation
The vows are always seen in relationship with different aspects.

Using the second model ---

The vows are always seen in relationship with different aspects.

Church

First, the Church recognizes the Congregation as a group of women living the vows or not
faithful in living the vows.

An important element to consider is that we receive the Vows not just from the Congregation
but from the Church. Vows are received from the Church and are not specific only for the
Congregation. We are asked to have a receiving heart. The Vows integrate us in the Church.
Vows are not secret, but something public.

Before, we associated religious life as a new baptism, but new theology tells us that this is not so,

The Church is the witness of our commitment. The vows integrate us publicly in the church. The
vows are done in the Church, of the Church, and for the Church. This makes us in solidarity with
the position of the Church.

Therefore, the Vows are received, they are public commitment that integrate us in the
Church, and make us in solidarity with the journey of the Church.

We have obedience to the Pope.

Person

We are persons. A person is not an individual. A person is in relationship with the Catholic
Church. The one committing oneself is a person who has relationships. A person making vows
asks the Church and Congregation to help her become more a human person in the process of
becoming. Making the vows is a process, a personal process of becoming.

Power, money and sexuality our vows touch the totality of our humanity.

The vows will integrate us into history. The human person has her own history joys, pains, etc.

By making the vows, the person wants to graft herself. (Symbol of grating)

The vows are a way of grafting ourselves into a tradition with our sisters without losing our
identity. The vows not only associate us but link us with our sisters where the new person will
come out.

The vows speak of a path, a journey.


To pronounce the vows means to go beyond what is immediate, like immediacy of feelings. We
commit ourselves until death and definitively.

The person through the vows become more human, grafting oneself with tradition and with
others, we make the vows till death and definitive.

Congregation

We do not choose the vows; it is the Church that gives it. We say yes to the alliance/covenant.
We say yes to the sisters to be part of the group. We say YES truly to this group and tradition. It
is Covenant that ratifies the past, present and future. We say YES to sisters that we do not know.
To make the vows, we say yes to whatever evolution there is in the Congregation past, present
and future, till death. It is self gift to the Congregation and at the same time the Congregation
will help me to be faithful. Obedience is important.

The vows are not just about me it is relationship.

You joined this Congregation because you believed that the best of yourself will be able to live
the Gospel and will blossom. This Congregation will help you become more and more a witness,
to live a holy life.

The Congregation will also question you if you are not faithful to your desire to give the best of
yourself to God and to the Congregation, the Church and the World.

In the vows, there is a link between the sisters and myself. I commit myself whether I am pleased
with the sisters or not.

The vows are the journey towards holiness.

Religious Profession makes us in a strong alliance, which is one of the strong foundations of
fraternity/community. To pronounce ones vows means I say I trust a risk for the present and
the future of the Congregation. To make vows is to say friendship to a certain kind of life
community; mission; prayer, etc.

To make vows is not a sacrifice but to say I love you.

If I live a double life with the vows I betray the friendship. The vows propose a path to return
again in case I cheat in the friendship.

Truth is important in living the vows.

To pronounce VOWS is to say I love you and Ill try to be true in this affection.

Vows commit ones word publicly.


Friendship will function if we are true with our vows. The vows are a call to mercy and affection
so that when we fail we can remember to help and be remembered to be helped.

Help me to be faithful. Help me to remember my desire.

The vows are a way of saying, I commit myself in the body of Christ (Church); I give best,
and with my sisters.

Leads to FRATERNITY
Church

COVENANT
Vows

Congre
Person
gation

Take Religious Life as a path/journey, not of perfection.

Religious Life is not a state of life but a path of life. Vows are movement toward a path of
integration and holiness.

When we are questioned by our sisters we have opportunities to grow. There is a certain
humanization that happens because of the life we chose no children, no wealth, etc.

Approach Religious Life as a movement, do not box anyone. Change is always possible.

Vows are not commands but calls for help.

Comparison and jealousy are worst in Religious Life. The invitation is to pass from comparison
to the positive appreciation of differences.

II. VOWS AS LIVING METAPHOR

Metaphor is a global image that draws us, questions us, and a synthesis that projects us forward.
(Paul Recoeur)

Vows as metaphor represent the totality of human existence.

Religious Life is wholistic life, global life.

Vows are not the whole of Religious Life but they are symbolic aspects of religious Life.
Vows as living metaphor, we say that Religious Life is not just an association of women, but
binds them. Vows are a way of being in the world. Religious Life is for existence and not just a
behavior, it is a way of being.

St. Thomas Aquinas was the one who formalized the three vows. It was in the Middle Ages,
from their Anthropological understanding, that the vows were formalized. Before this time,
Religious did not make the 3 vows. Thus, we need to reflect on these vows in our world today.

UNDERSTANDING OF THE VOWS

Period Poverty Chastity Obedience


Medieval Ages No possession No sexual To obey the chief.
relationships No personal opinion

After Medieval In relation to money What to do with sex Not obedience but
Times freedom. What we do
Vows less of a norm with our freedom
but question of what
we do

Vatican II Question of work About the Body, not Political aspect


1960s To live like the people only the sexual of obedience
aspects. Anything Democracy
about seduction Participation

Modern World Social links The question of the Relationship with


80s Question about our Me (Desire) others
links with the poor / Question of not Obedience is how I
miserable having children but of situate myself in
the conscious and relation with the
unconscious body others
Who is the other?
Other becomes a
fundamental question
Question about the
place I put on the
other

Present ? ? ?
DIALOGUE New metaphor? New metaphor? New metaphor?

Whatever the history, the vows speak of pain, the pain of an anthropological understanding.
Listen to the cry.
Whatever the way, it designates the wound of the human existence. To make the vows is not to
forget there where the humanity is wounded.

If our vows integrate us to something, it is through the danger. Not to forget the frailty and
fragility of the human person. We carry a stigma, marks of memory, weaknesses and frailties of
humanity, to integrate in our prayer and in everything we do, not to forget those who are broken.
Vows are living memory of the wounded of life. To make vows is to be attentive to those who
attack humanity and the wounded. This will commit ourselves. Vows propose alliance.

The vows are living metaphor.

The way we interpret the vows should make us attentive to the cry of the wounded men or
women because our God is crucified.

The work is to understand the cries in our world today. The vows are the way of decoding the
cries. The vows are recognition of my cries and the cries in the world.

We cannot turn the Word of God according to our life because before the 4th century, there was
no Religious Life. We should not look on the Word of God for justification of our Religious
Life, but yes if it is about Christian life.

The call is to integrate through dialogue among our different concepts of the Gospel, Rule of
Life, Religious Life, our sisters. We have to enter the space of dialogue. It is not a matter of
looking at the common denominator or what separate us, but to dialogue, seek for understanding.
Never break the possibility of speaking with one another, exchange of points of view. It is a
matter of speaking together word shared, points of view shared. It is not a matter of coming to
a consensus.

Vows understood in a world not in itself, it is an evolving world. Vows are analyzed and
renewed because the world is evolving. Vows are a pact, pact of a person in the Congregation
and in the Church.
SOCIOLOGICAL CONTEXT

Church
(Holy Spirit)

PACT

Alliance

I VOWS
Congregation
(Me becomes I) (I - We becomes Us )

The I is a person, complex because of education, experiences, world, etc.

The Congregation sends you somewhere, to people. The covenant is the I We becomes US
(symbol of grafted).

The vows help in the process of integration acquire new values and behavior. The vows should
change both the I and the Congregation.

The element of gratitude is important to recognize in the vows.

Three elements of Recognition in the Vows:


1. Recognize ones rights and duties
2. Capacity to intervene into history each one brings a stone in the building
3. Loveable and capable of loving (I and the Congregation)

It is important that the vows participate in the process of recognition.

In the dynamics of interaction of the I and the Congregation, both should become more
evangelical.

The I sent by the Congregation to People


3 kinds of Pains / Sufferings: (Here we find the three vows) People who are non-entities
Unloved
Powerless
Those without a future
Vows:
Chastity put the concern of these unloved. It is sensibility to listen to the cry of the unloved.
Obedience the love that will allow us to hear the powerless unheard.
Poverty will make us hear the cry of those who have no future. Poverty is not only a problem
of no income. Poverty is someone who cannot think of tomorrow, they are taken up by the
concerns of daily needs.

The Congregation sends me to situations where humans are no longer humans. (Note: Not as a
Messiah) Each Congregation gives specificity to these situations of people unloved, powerless
and without a future.

The Congregation does the sending because it was created for that. Coming closer to this sending
to the people of non-entity is the path to holiness.

STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS OF THE VOWS

Church
(Holy Spirit)

I Congregation
(Me becomes I) (I - We becomes Us )

1
vows 4
5
6
3
2

I - Congregation LIFE

1 The Congregation sends I Congregation to the unloved, powerless, no future (CROSS).


It is important to live the vows to be able to hear the people where you are sent.

2 Movement to life: transform the poor, unloved, powerless; experience failures in the process;
but it is a movement from the Cross to Resurrection.

Life = Resurrection: Vows call us to commit to life giving love; giving power; giving
future, Evangelic Project
3 Life feedbacks to I, in the process I change

4 Congregation is enriched and grows. There is a dynamic experience of the Congregation


increase of life, transformed, celebrates the triumph of life in our Liturgy.

5 Transformation of the I the non-entity in my being because of my history, experiences,


etc.

6 Integration of Life through the vows, in the triumph of Life.

Religious Life is a life of integration. The vows are a movement from death to life.

How do I say I today?

NOTE: It is also good to use the diagram in reading the dangers in living Religious Life.
Example, if life is changed to death, or if we are sent not to the cries, and so on

Personal Work / Group Work

1. What does this diagram tell you? What does this say about your own religious life? Give
an account of your experience?

2. Photo-language
Situate the vows in relation to the photos. What do the photos tell you on your vows?

Vows are shaped and lived in the world.

The Vows are there to inscribe our comparison, even on the times when we dont want it. The
vows are a means to liberate myself, they are beyond emotions, moments without zeal, they are
until death.

Our vows lead us to the reality of the world. They are realistic. They lead us to constant
rereading, in doing so, we see ourselves being scarred.

The Vows question: What have you done to give life?

III. VOWS AS FERTILE GAP

As vowed people / Religious, we are separated, living in the world in a different way. We are in
the world and not of the world.

Our vows help us to take distance movement, being apart, take distance.
Religious Life is not easy because of the pressure to be like the rest. It is important to keep the
distance, the gap. This gap is not a heroic task but a response to the Gospel. It is a way of being
in the world, a work of the Holy Spirit.

The vows are the distance. This dynamic of distance / difference should be kept.

Scripture Text: Lk. 10:33 The Good Samaritan


Our vows help us to become good neighbors to others.

FERTILE GAP

It is to take distance so that others may have life, and be at the service of life.

Our vows are not meant to make us superwomen.

Our vows make us take distance to come closer to those who are suffering or in pain in order to
lead / bring them to life.

All the vows are meant to be immensely rich and powerful, for the more and the magis,
different from what the world proposes.

The vows allow us to be met, without bags, sandals, etc., in order to be met by others.

Our vows are key for our vitality.

Our freedom allows us to say YES or NO.

Our vows are opportunities for fertile encounter, but for that I have to leave the values of the
world.

Our vows are for greater life.

Paradox of the Vows:


Poverty Riches
Chastity (No children) More children but not physical
Obedience Freedom

ACTIVITY
Using Photolanguage, write letters to:
The person represented by the photo (This is meant to meet myself I)
The President of the Country (This is meant to meet LIFE)
The Provincial Superior (This is meant to meet the CONGREGATION)
God (This is meant to meet the CHURCH)
For each vow, there is a dimension to act and to celebrate.

Our vows call us to listen.


Vows are also projects moved to action, they are not only heard, and they have to give life.

Obedience is to hear/listen, to allow the voice to be heard but at the same time to give word.

Our vows make us sensitive so that our Congregation becomes life-giving.

Our vows should help us pray, lead us to encounter, and to celebrate struggles and life.

Vows are the totality of our life, they are not compartmentalized.

NEW METAPHOR FERTILE GAP / DISTANCE so that we come closer to those in pain.
The New Understanding is that Vows are for MORE (riches, children, freedom) and not like the
Middle Ages Understanding of NO (possession, sex, voice).

Let us allow ourselves be met and to also commit ourselves completely so that there will be
greater life.

IV PROPHETIC DIMENSION OF THE VOWS

Vows are instruments of Evangelic Prophecy, to live Religious Life as CONTRADICTION.

How do our Vows make us Prophets?


A prophet traverses the whole Bible. We admire them. They are seized by the Word.

Who are the prophetesses? Anna; Sulda; etc. who are the others???

The life of the prophet is invaded by the Word of God, speaks the Word of God and in
Contradiction with those who claim that they can live their lives alone.

A Prophet gives priority to the Word of God. He receives a mission that put him in danger. He
receives the mission to find words to make the message of God be understood by the people. He
lives the Word received (e.g. Hosea, etc.). He feels incapable, like Jeremiah, etc

A prophet does not call himself a prophet; it is God who calls the Prophet.

Jesus, Himself, will be a Prophet, and more than a prophet. He will have the act, the act on the
Cross.

Religious Life is deeply rooted in this prophetic function.


Cf. Vita Consecrata # 84
It is in the tradition of the Church that we are prophets.
A prophet is someone who has passion for the Word of God. It is born from a friendship with the
Word of God. Our vows should lead us to a friendship with God. We have to have a heart
available and the time to scrutinize the Word of God. Our vows are at the service of prophecy.

We are called to become modest little prophets. We are poor and weak, not better than the
others, thus we are called to a communitarian prophecy. We are prophets with ordinary people.
We are not heroes or stars, but we joined a congregation that is prophetic. Our congregation
should help us assume our prophetism. If the congregation is prophetic, our vows are instruments
of collective prophecy.

Jesus chose a collective form. We become true prophets if we say WE. We are able to talk
together. Our vows have meaning only if they will speak the Word. Collectively, we are prophets
and each one can take up her role. The vows always have a collective dimension.

In our Religious Life, we need a sister to tell us do not forget, \be faithful to your desire. One
has to talk. It is important among us not to be afraid but to support one another.

To be a prophet is to SPEAK, to find the Word to say something.

The call is to Collective Prophecy. Collectively speak the Gospel.

What is our collective prophecy?

Prophecy has 3 Dimensions:

1. Denunciation A prophet denounces. Our vows have the dimension of denunciation in


order to give life.

It is important to understand the structures of sin and denounce, fight against evil. It is
good to ask ourselves: What good does my action do to God?

2. Annunciation Our vows are the prophetic provocation for ourselves and the world. The
vows also announce a life in another way, another world is possible. Our prophetic life
connected with others will have a great impact.

Our vows announce come and see, our common life.

3. Visitation A prophet who receives the Word, like the Virgin Mary, is not afraid to go
in haste. Prophetism of urgency.

Meditate on the vows with Mary.

Elizabeth is a symbol of No Life non-identity. Mary prepared efficacious gestures for


Elizabeth to give life.
The encounter of Jesus and John at the Visitation speak to us of our encounter with others
that make the vibration of life within persons.

By the vows, make life be born in chastity; visit the poor in poverty; tell people that they can
speak in obedience.

Prophets denounce in order to be more; announce life in another way; visit those that life
has broken and allow life inside to be born. Our vows make this happen.

Challenge: Find the Words

PROPHETIC LIFE POVERTY CHASTITY OBEDIENCE


Denunciation
Annunciation
Visitation

What are the cries that we hear and find ourselves responding to?

References:

John Claude, S.J. Religious Life, Evangelic Memory of the Church.


Timothy Radcliffe
Emmanuel Levinas
Albert Nolan
A. Greinas
N. Frazer