Making and breaking promises to God?

This is going to sound extremely stupid. It honestly embarrasses me to admit that I used to be this way. I used to make promises without giving much thought to what I was promising. Before becoming Catholic. Before even starting RCIA. I made a promise to God. I made a promise to stay a virgin, to stay single, and to stay childless for the rest of my life. So I would have more time to serve God. I made this promise without praying or even thinking about it. Because I was feeling close to God in the moment. I also happened to be an emotional person. I do not know whether or not this was even God’s will for my life. I never thought about whether or not it could be. At least not until I believe recently. Because I made this promise without thinking or praying about it first. I also do not believe I am being very open to God’s will trying to keep this promise. Again I don’t even know whether or not this promise was God’s will for my life. But I feel like I’m stuck with keeping his promise. Because breaking a promise in the Catholic Church is a mortal sin. And I personally believe it is an even bigger sin to break a promise if it is made to God. But I don’t even know that this promise is what God wanted. I have tried praying for God’s will in my life to really be done. But I have heard three different things regarding His will for me. Which is why I don’t think I can tell His voice, apart from my voice, apart from others. Some advice and prayer will be greatly appreciated.

Bring it up in confession, where your confessor or pastor will be able to determine if you indeed made a vow and he will be able to release you from it.

That’s not what confession is for though. I was told that it is for Mortal Sins.

If you feel uncomfortable bringing it up in confession, then make an appointment with your pastor to see him in office hours.

We get questions like this on a regular basis, so it seems like a lot of people have this problem at some point.

You made a rash promise without thinking it through and properly discerning. It’s okay to just acknowledge it was a silly thing to do, probably motivated by emotion, and that you’re still not sure what God wills for your life. It wasn’t some type of a formal vow or commitment, and God understands if you set it aside.

Let this be a lesson to you not to make such “promises” to God without careful discernment.

Uh, no it’s not a mortal sin. Doesn’t sound to me like it would be a sin at all. Where are you getting this from, anyway?

There are formal commitments in the Catholic Church, such as a member of a religious order taking final vows, or a couple marrying each other, that would be a serious matter to just set aside, and might or might not be a sin to set aside, depending on the circumstances. However, you making some informal promise to God hardly falls in that category. If you still have concerns, talk to your priest.


Confession is required when you have a mortal sin to confess, so that you can get back into a state of grace.
However, devout Catholics go to confession on a regular basis whether they think they have committed a mortal sin or not. I’ve been to confession many times when I only have had venial sins to confess. (We commit venial sins every day, so we always have venial sins to confess.) One receives grace from confession that helps prevent falling into mortal sin.

In addition, from your post it sounds like you thought you would be committing a mortal sin if you set this promise aside. The priest could clarify and explain to you about this matter. It is an issue concerning sin, so most Catholics would typically bring it up in confession. However, if you’re not comfortable doing that, you can make an appointment to discuss with a priest outside confession.


Confession is for all sins. Venial sins can be forgiven during mass but confession gives you additional graces to help avoid those same sins again. Confession also gives you a penance to work off the temporal damage caused by your sins. While venial sins can be forgiven during mass, there aren’t the additional graces and penance for them given that you get in confession.

Not to mention the advice from the priest.

In terms of the promise - a priest could help you best on this one but my opinion would be that it’s not a mortal sin since it wasn’t done knowingly of the seriousness of it. A priest could help more on this.

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