The Gift of Benedictine Vows

I recently was on a writing retreat on one of the Aran Islands of Ireland. When you step onto the island, you can feel the years of prayer steeped into the ruins of the monasteries.

On our first day, one of our teachers gave us some wise instruction. She recommended that we relax and let the “island do its work.” (We all had traveled a great distance to attend the retreat and were spiritually hungry. We wanted to get everything we could and not waste one moment of our time there.) It was so comforting to trust that the “island” was there for us, and had the power to touch those places in us that needed healing and renewal!

I was amazed throughout the rest of the retreat to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me, especially when I remembered to, “let the island do its work.” These words kept coming back to me, and I began to think that our life is like an island. If we can let go of control and trust the Lord to take charge, He will do the work. I began to consider the vows that I have taken as a member of a monastic community, and their part in my journey let go and trust.

The vow of Conversion- When there is a struggle going on in my life, I feel I must do something to both make sure the outcome is what I want it to be, and also to make sure the change I want to happen in me occurs. (This is where the vow of conversion comes in. Only God can change me!)

The Vow of Obedience- If I am obedient to the small things that I know are important to help keep me close to Jesus, life will stay in focus It’s when I don’t want to give up those things that seem so precious that I decide it doesn’t really matter if I’m not exactly obedient. Being obedient brings blessing, and it also brings grace, so conversion can happen much easier and faster.

The Vow of Stability- If I will put my roots down, and choose to stay stable in Jesus, right here in my call with these people, that is more than half the battle. I will remain present and face the things in me that are not like Jesus. What a blessing to have that light to know when I’ve wandered a bit! If I am part of the problem, I can allow the Lord to change my heart after I acknowledge there may need to be a change.

Vows are gifts made out of love and deepen our love. If you ever question God’s love for you, search for the promises He has made to you in the Bible. If you want to increase your love for Him, consider what vow you can make in your heart that may strengthen your relationship. One example from the New Testament is James, who vowed to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

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