What vows does a nun take
and what do they mean?

SpacerBefore answering your question, here's some background.

SpacerOver the centuries, some Christians, women and men, led by a grace of the Holy Spirit, have sought to follow Jesus in a stable form of life that helps them imitate him who was poor, chaste, and obedient unto death. The church describes them as leading a consecrated life. They may belong to a number of groups in the church that differ according to the graces given them. Some follow Jesus in his prayer, some as he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and did good to people, some as he taught others. In a special way they seek to serve God, to build up the church, and work for the salvation of the world.

SpacerTo answer your specific question, nuns are women who may belong to one of these groups. They take the three vows--poverty, chastity and obedience--which flow from the evangelical counsels of Jesus Christ.


SpacerThe vow of poverty leads a nun to imitate Jesus who for our sake became poor, although he was rich. It helps her to be poor in spirit as well as in fact, and to live a life of labor and moderation. By the vow of poverty , she gives up the right to control or benefit from personal property and commits herself to live interdependently within a community, according to its constitutions. The purpose of this vow is to free her from being fascinated by material things so that she may be free to serve others.


SpacerThe vow of chastity leads a nun to imitate Jesus who was chaste. This vow frees her from the demands of an exclusive human relationship so that she can give all her love to God, and through God to all people. By the vow she promises not to marry or to engage in romantic behavior or sexual acts.


SpacerThe vow of obedience leads the nun to imitate the obedience of Jesus Christ. by seeking God's will for her and obeying her lawful superiors according to the constitutions of her particular group. As a member of her religious community, she searches for the will of God, not in arbitrary commands, but in prayerful reflection and dialogue with others.

This "Ask a Catholic" response written by Mary Ann Strain, C.P.

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