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Why do priests take vows?

September 22, 2021

by Father Eduardo Rivera, CSB

Before we can answer the question above, we first must know that all priests make promises, but only some priests take vows. Are you surprised? There are actually two kinds of priests in the Catholic Church. At their ordination, diocesan priests make promises to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, to be obedient to their bishop, and to live a celibate life. Religious priests make these same promises as diocesan priests, but they additionally take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Promises and vows are a crucial part of the priesthood. But why? What is the reason for these vows and promises?

In any kind of relationship, there are spoken and unspoken promises made between different people. Friends implicitly promise to help and support each other. When our friends are depressed or anxious, we try to lift up their spirits; we can be there for them. Married couples profess their vows aloud, promising to be faithful to each other until death. If we work, we are implicitly promising our employers and clients that we will fulfill our job responsibilities, get to work on time, and act in a professional manner. Even teachers and students make unsaid promises. Teachers promise to educate their students, sharing their knowledge, and supporting students when they need help in the classroom. Students promise to be ready for class, and open to learning. Promises and vows are an essential part of our relationships as human beings.

Priests make promises and take vows because they enter into a special relationship with God and the Church, the people that they serve. St. Paul says, “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). In this verse, St. Paul is speaking to the priests at Miletus. He is reminding them of their relationships with the Church, the people of God. Christ calls priests to watch over their flocks. A priest’s promises and vows are not only made to his bishop and religious superior; they are meant to connect him with God and the people entrusted to his care.

 

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