A religious brother or sister has committed themselves to service of God and the Church, and been consecrated to this purpose through vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They belong to a particular religious community, and respond to God’s invitation of love through their work and prayer in that community.
Every religious community carries out their work through their charism. It is their particular form of service to God, the Church, and the community that the Holy Spirit calls them to. A charism encompasses all aspects of a community’s life, from their rule of life to their spirituality and prayer to their daily work. This means that every community is unique, and more than simply discerning a particular order (Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican, Cistercian) one must discern what particular religious institute they are called to carry out their vocation within.
“Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.” – CCC #915
Poverty is not a call to live in destitution. Instead it is a call to live simply, from ones 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. Each community must live the vow of poverty both in fact and in spirit. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of poverty on the Cross.
Chastity is not simply giving up being married. It is a call to enter into an intimate union with God more fully. Through an active prayer life, a religious grows in knowledge and love of God, and comes to understand intimacy beyond society’s focus on merely sexual intimacy. As with any relationship, it is a gift of self, but through a commitment of one’s life to Jesus Christ.
is not blindly doing what you are told. Instead it is allowing Jesus Christ to direct one’s life, as we are called to in Matthew -“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:24-25
) It is complete trust in God to lead you to a life of total fulfillment and joy. This is done not only through obeying one’s superior, but by constantly discerning God’s will for your life.
Some monastic communities profess a fourth vow of stability by which the monastery they enter remains their home for life unless they are called to be part of a new foundation. Other communities take a fourth vow of hospitality or service to the poor.
Some information taken from USCCB Vocations page here.
Light of Love