Secular Institutes Consecration...and Poverty


I’ve been trying to understand the vows of poverty that those who are consecrated in the Secular Institutes take. I understand the vows of poverty for religious, but this one is taking longer to get through my thick head :stuck_out_tongue:

The confusion for me is that these people sometimes do not live in community and need to take care of themselves in the present and for their future retirement. I’ll use myself as an example. I live in a city where a 1 bedroom apartment (around 500-1000 sq ft) generally runs 2500-3500/month, more if the apartment is quite nice or in one of the better neighborhoods. Maybe a little less if you get lucky or there’s something awful about it. With real estate so high other things like groceries are inflated. Anyhow, add in retirement, insurances, tithe, utilities, transit cards, etc. and the salary is pretty much gone. So we’re not talking luxuries being thrown around, at least not in my world. So if I took a vow of poverty what would be different? What I think it is, is not so much the money you spend, but rather the relationship to money. So paying for heat and a transit card is okay, buying 20 pairs of shoes is unnecessary and therefore not okay. Maybe one or two pairs, depending on one’s needs and work. Am I getting closer to understanding?


With some rare exceptions, members of secular institutes do not take vows, they make promises. A vow is made directly to God and is generally more serious, harder to be released from, and usually entails a greater degree of sacrifice. A promise is made to a person or community, and is generally not as demanding. I qualify these things as general, because a priest’s promises of obedience and chastity are very serious and demanding indeed, and these things are required of him in a special way anyway.

As you have noted, those who follow the evangelical counsels in the world do not follow them as radically as those in religious houses. It would be imprudent for them to do so, especially if they are raising families or otherwise responsible for others. They follow them according to their state in life. Where the line is drawn would depend, I suppose, on the situation. The community in question should be able to provide guidelines in this regard.


Interesting. Well first off thank you for the information. I’m not looking at any particular communities, as I am not discerning this vocation. Rather I’m trying to understand vocations in general. I’m still a little confused, but I suppose the more I read the more I will understand it.


You may want to get yourself a copy of St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata (or read it online).


Thank you.


I think I’d be looking for a cheaper place to live. My son has a fairly large 1 bedroom apt for $490 a month.

Yes, you’re closer to understanding. Needs, not wants. ‘Patience’ means ‘attention to the moment’. The Rule of St. Columban says to ‘be always naked in imitation of Christ and the apostles.’ He’s not talking about actual full-on physical nekkidity, he’s talking about simplicity.

Clothes and food are the two major basics in life. You obviously have a job, so your hands are occupied, and you’re working for your keep. A Franciscan Tertiary with whom I used to room had something like five to seven outfits, and she rotated them, not necessarily on a schedule. I personally have the days color coded–with white for summer–and wear distinctive garb to church. I have one particular kind of shoe that I wear, and have one or two pairs on hand. In the closet, I have one formal, and one semi-formal with matching shoes.

Secular Institutes may have different forms of commitment. The ones I’ve heard of have their members consecrated to God.




It may help you to think of living “simply”.
There is no need for 20 pairs of shoes, eating out at restaurants, etc.


Yeah, it’s expensive, but it’s my home town and while I can afford it I’d like to be here. I’ve tried leaving and I’d like some time home. I do share the 1 bedroom with my sister with one of us a in the living room so that helps.

Thanks for your help. So basically one would have the things they need-- they might mean suits for work, but you don’t need a dozen of them or 50 shoes. It’s just the basics for what you need and nothing beyond.

That makes sense. What about retirement, though? They say you’re supposed to have something like 1 million for retirement and given my genes I may live quite a while. How does one save for that and still be living simply?


For many religious the concept of “retirement” is not on their radar — meaning, they don’t retire. They continue working until they are physically incapacitated and unable to do so.

Diocesan priests (who do not make promises/vows of poverty, only of celibacy and obedience) must set aside funds to support themselves IF they wish to retire or in the event of becoming physically incapacitated to carry on their ministry.

Setting aside some funds is prudent; amassing a small fortune to fund a life of leisure is not compatible with the concept of religious poverty, in my personal opinion.


I’m not considering this vocation currently, but I’m trying to understand it and other vocations. But I’m applying the concept to myself as an example. So, let’s say I live to the average age of my grandparents and their siblings-- 97 yrs old. Realistically am I really going to be able to hold a job in my 80s and 90s (even if someone would employ me)? That seems unlikely. So if I retired at 70 or 75 (a little more realistic) , I’d need to fund around 20 years of healthcare, food, transportation of some kind, utilities…general basics. That adds up, especially if I were to need some kind of major healthcare or tests. So would I work with a financial adviser and try to save whatever they project for the basics? I know this is rather specific, but I’m really just trying to understand the concept.


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