The man who makes a vow
makes an appointment with himself
at some distant time or place.
— G. K. Chesterton—
To make a vow is nothing but to try to embrace in a single instant the entire time and space of a life… it is to be willing to meet with one’s self in the present and in the future at the same time. It is to attempt to have a little of the same life of God… of that possession of life which is simultaneously total and perfect. It is the desire to encounter one’s self always and in every place being the same self, willing the same and thinking the same… as God does with Himself. Or as the tree which by remaining the same, rooted in the same site, changes not of place or posture but of leaves and flowers.
Chesterton was right: it is to agree in convening with one’s self at wherever, whenever and with whomsoever may be… having the same resolution: unchangeable, fixed, permanent.
«The man who makes a vow makes an appointment with himself at some distant time or place. The danger of it is that himself should not keep the appointment. And in modern times this terror of one’s self, of the weakness and mutability of one’s self, has perilously increased… ».
But still, even in these modern times, there are men who make appointments with their selves at distant places and times, which are unknown and altogether hazardous.
Religious vows are certainty like this: «for ever…». The one who profess the religious vow of living in chastity, poverty and especially obedience, wants nothing but to encounter with his own self at any moment, even at the most untoward and especially at the hour of death, being the same one, namely, living that which he promised: obedience and strive for holiness. It is to perpetually oblige oneself to attain perfection.
Hence the profession of the vow is a great moment… totally particularly: it is the beginning of a new life:
«This date separates two lives, two worlds, two slopes completely different. It is not just one of the many events of a single life. It is the starting point of a new era, which gives a new meaning to one’s existence, by channeling it in a rule, in a different way of life and shaping it for ever within a state of perfection. The entire religious life is the growth in daily life of the seed of the act of profession».
The moment of the profession is an instant of immortality in which the religious who makes the vows can truly declaim the verses of Horace:
Exegi monumentum aere perennius,
I have built a monument more lasting than bronze,
Sempiternal monuments are the vows… who can destroy them without destroying himself? Because, who can change the course of a star unless it is annihilated? What winds can collapse them? Caprices? Ignorance? Inadvertence? What ambiguity can undermine them?
Nothing can destroy the seriousness of a vow, nothing can lessen it, because the vow is essentially that which stands against this, against the volatility of our behavior, eliminating all possible subterfuge or pretext… the vow is exactly to say: nothing justifies me, nothing will do so… I would not change my decision for anything in the world.
Last October 22, five of our seminarians of our Institute in Lipá, made an appointment to their selves at a place and time far away, unknown: they professed the vow to live perpetually, for ever, obedient, chaste and poor. That is, they tied themselves with golden ropes to the column of the imitation of Christ, so as not to move from there any more… more lasting than the bronze, more royal than the pyramids, more unscathed that the foundation of the earth, because the earth will pass, but the vows will still remain.
And it was also in that Mass, that eight novices of our Institute received their holy habit, which is, certainty, a preparation and a sensible sign of the vow that they one day will profess.
We thank God the grace of allowing us to follow Him in the royal school of the evangelical counsels for ever, and we ask all members of our Religious Family to pray for us so that we may never, never reject that which we promised.
Bro. Bernardo Ibarra