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The Vowed Life

As Dominicans, we live a vowed life.

On the day when a Dominican friar makes his first profession (at the end of the novitiate year) he promises obedience to God. Although only one vow is made, that of obedience, the obligation to observe poverty and chastity are implied by the vow of obedience.

Often, these vows are seen in a negative way – and it is true that we give up part of our lives when we place them in God’s hands and those of our superiors. However, in our tradition, we begin to see the living of the vowed life more in terms of freedom – being able to be free to serve the people entrusted to our care without the limitations that society and the world can place upon us.

Timothy Radcliffe OP, former Master General of the Order (1992-2001), speaks of these three vows in a liberating way.

He speaks of poverty as ‘freedom of heart and mind’, making the distinction that material wealth is not the most essential part of our lives, allowing us to identify with those who are poor materially and indeed poor in spirit. On obedience, he prefers to think of this vow as being closely linked to dialogue and fraternity – in order that each friar is acting responsibly in the pursuit and good of the mission of the Order.

Finally, on chastity Timothy explains that the vow of chastity ‘witnesses to the deep love that is friendship’.

In living out our vow of chastity, it is our hope that we are witnesses to the God who is love – all the time acknowledging that other people in different ways show the single mystery of love, by being married, single and as members of a religious order such as the Dominicans. On chastity, Timothy concludes ‘I am convinced that what is the hardest aspect of chastity is not the lack of sexual activity but, much more, the lack of intimacy – knowing that you have a unique importance for one person who has that same importance for you.’

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