The Vows and Exodus

Recently, between class at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) and other formation events, a lot of talk has been happening about the vows (poverty, celibate chastity, obedience).  I am also in an introductory class on the Old Testament at CTU.  The invitation of this year is not simply to gain brain knowledge about what we study, but to develop the life long skill of reflecting on what stands out to us, what challenges us, how topics are related, etc.  As I reflect on dinner table and class discussions, and about the readings from this week, it is the connection between the vows and Exodus that I’m currently reflecting on.

Antonio M. Peria, SVD, says, “The mystical dimension of the evangelical counsels refers to the profession by consecrated persons of God as their only treasure (poverty), their only love (chastity), and their only freedom (obedience).” [1]  But, what the heck does this have to do with Exodus?  Well, in class, we’ve been learning about how the Book of Exodus answers the question “Who is God?” and the above quote, to me anyway, is a very clear answer to “Who is God for those called to religious life?”

In the lessons on the Book of Exodus, I have learned about a powerful, faithful God who is always there; who is always ready to guide His children to safety; and who will not abandon them, no matter the cost.  These all stem from the central fact that God loves us (God is love after all!) and wants to be in relationship with us.  This reality is true for every single person to ever be born, but what does this look like in my life now that I have entered the formation process and am learning what it means to live out the vows?

Part of our study involves looking at what the constitutions of our individual congregations say about the vows.

Before I entered, I had a relationship with God; now that I am in formation, I still have a relationship with God.  God hasn’t changed, and never will, but my state of life clearly has.  With this new state of life (well, state of life trial package since I am still in discernment), my relationship with God should shift, right?  To those in religious life, please correct me if I’m wrong, but the above quote sure seems like a key understanding to the way I am called to understand God’s love, faithfulness, and protection from the viewpoint of a woman religious.  This shift will not take away from what Exodus teaches us about God, or what my relationship with God is currently like, but if I allow it to this shift will help me experience how God takes care of those called to religious life.  Different state = different needs, right?

What exactly will this care, and this growth in my relationship with God, look like?  Only time will tell, but I’m excited to experience it unfolding one grace at a time.


[1] Antonio M. Pernia, SVD, “Interculturality and Leadership in Consecrated Life,” in Engaging Our Diversity: Interculturality and Consecrated Life Today (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2020), 47–61 (54)