Vows of Monastics, and Sanctification

Well, firstly, I’m posting this here because I need the insights of people who are very familiar with monastic life, and maybe even some first hand views of monks or third orders.

So… one of the sins that I am undoubtedly guilty of is occasionally swearing things to God for whatever reasons. Like, if one of my friends is getting more annoying/ bothersome in whatever they’re doing in a joke I’ll say “hey if you don’t stop I swear to God that I’ll do ______”. The easiest way to explain it is that basically when a joke turns into picking on someone or bullying them, I have a tendency to sometimes react by swearing something to God… which I readily admit is a sin.

Anyways, these Protestant friends of mine find the passage in James against swearing or taking oaths in the name of the Lord… James 5:12. And I took some exception to their view that no oaths should EVER be taken bc they’re wrong… certainly what I do is wrong, but I had a gut feeling that this verse can’t possibly apply to the oaths which monks/ nuns/ priests make to God.

Today searching these forums a bit, I realized that no one ever calls them “oaths” but that religious people take VOWS of chastity, obedience, poverty, etc… and not swears or oaths.

So, my post is twofold here:

  1. I don’t think me just saying “oh no, monks take vows, not oaths” will change my friends minds any- that clearly monks sin by making their vows. So, how would you explain that to some bible- thumping Protestants?

  2. Obviously the Church teaches that its possible to sanctify your life. I checked the wikipedia page on “Sanctification”, and this belief is apparently common to most other mainstream Christian denominations. I would highly appreciate opinions of monks or nuns, or ppl who know a lot about this. Don’t monks live a certain way to approach spiritual perfection? Obviously both Christ and works are necessary for salvation… but my friends basically don’t believe that a person can become a saint through the Holy Spirit, which is basically a rejection of what the Holy Spirit can do.

All insights to this would be greatly appreciated,

And, I’m only so interested in the doctrine of monks because Its fully plausible that I could become a monk sometime in my life. I’ve always left that door open since like 7th or 8th grade. I really don’t know if thats some sign of a calling or not (and its not serious to enough to really discuss here).


I’m not a monk, but a friar. I’ll do my best, however. :o

I think there is a difference between oaths and vows, and I don’t just mean in canonical or legal terms. A vow is an undertaking, not an achievement. I doubt your friends would say that it is wrong to take marriage vows, for instance; but marriage vows are not indicative of a fait accomplit, and are instead an undertaking to attempt to do something with God’s help. They are not a presumptuous oath which guarantees success in that attempt.

Religious vows are. likewise, a statement of intent, not a statement of achievement. If they were the former, then entering religious life would mean that spiritual perfection had been reached, and the life to be lived itself would be meaningless. Instead the vows are an undertaking to strive for perfection through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience (and in some religious traditions, other virtues as well). Just as there are no perfect spouses, there are no perfect religious, and occasional failure (at least) is inevitable. Nevertheless, for the religious the vows are a guide as they try to walk the same path that Jesus did in his earthly ministry.

Hope that helps. Best wishes.

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