Benedictines profess the three monastic vows of conversion, obedience, and stability. These are distinct from the more familiar religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Although there is a difference in emphasis, all of the vows are implied in the monastic vows. Read more below for a summary of each vow.
In professing stability, each sister is to live in the practices, traditions, and rituals of her particular monastery until death, and to persevere each day in her spiritual journey by staying at the table of the altar and of the common prayer and common life. By remaining steadfast in relationship with her prioress and community, each sister becomes more rooted in the monastic life, enabling her to withstand the chaos and distractions of the world, and so continue to progress in our journey to God with Christ.
Conversion (fidelity to the monastic way of life)
The vow of conversion calls us to continual renewal in Christ, becoming the person that God wants us to be. This is a cyclic process which begins with a change in our perceptions of our world, which then changes our values. Once our values shift, then behavior changes follow. Finally, we experience a change (or softening) of the heart. Then the cycle begins anew to lead us on our life’s journey to God.
By professing fidelity to the monastic way of life, a sister also implicitly promises poverty and celibacy. Each sister renounces the accumulation and attachment to material goods. All goods, talents, energy and time of the community are held in common, to be shared with each other and with those in need. In living celibately, a sister frees herself to love Christ within community, and to love and serve others without distinction.
The word obedience comes from the Latin obedere, which means “to listen intently”. Thus, in professing obedience, each sister commits herself to listen and respond eagerly to the will of God as revealed in all aspects of her life. Furthermore, the vow of obedience calls each sister to accept the authority of her prioress, to discern with the prioress and with the community, and to trust in decisions made by the prioress and community.