“Hold back nothing of yourself for yourself, so that He who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
The vows a religious takes are essentially a deepening of their Baptismal promises. The vows are the response to God’s invitation of love to each person, to be consecrated totally for His glory and the salvation of souls. The vows are a radical living out of the Christian life by committing to live as Jesus Himself lived: poor, chaste and obedient.
Poverty frees each person from the goods and anxieties of the world to live totally for God. Detachment and dependence on one’s community are essential. A spirit of poverty is not enough. As Franciscans, we take very seriously living the vow of poverty both in fact and in spirit. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of poverty on the Cross.
Chastity frees each person to love God above all things, and in turn to love each person one encounters in a holy, wholesome and detached way. It entails giving a total gift of oneself to God through a celibate life. It also has an eschatological (pointing to our final goal) value: by saying that God is enough, the religious remind all people that our home is not here, but hereafter, to be united totally to God in His Kingdom that will have no end.
Obedience is the free renunciation of the will, allowing the friar or sister to be conformed to the will of God the Father, just like Jesus was obedient unto death. Obedience also entails trust–trust in God’s providence, and that His will is what fulfills the deepest desires of the human heart. In religious life, obedience in practice includes submitting to the direction of one’s superior, who acts as God’s representative in the community. (Source: See Perfectae Caritatis, #s 12-14 also Directives on Formation, #s 13-15)