• Jean-Marie HYACINTHE QUENUM, SJ.
• Those who are keenly interested in religious life in the Roman Catholic Church may want to understand the exciting experiences
behind the religious vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience.
• The vowed life in the Roman Catholic Church is a response to God’s call to follow Christ poor, celibate and obedient.
• It bears witness to the Kingdom of God preached and lived by Jesus of Nazareth who rejected for human authentic fulfillment
wealth, pleasure, prestige and power.
• By living poor, celibate and obedient, religious, male and female, share the life of the poor, open their heart to the plight of the
needy and serve God’s people in friendship and in communion with all.
• In which historical and theological contexts, emerged the religious vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience?
• What are the human and biblical foundations of the religious vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience?
• How do we understand in our postmodern and multicultural world the religious vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience?
• We will explore the values of the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience by reflecting about the manners in which they are lived
according to the Church’s statutes concerning religious life and to the various religious communities’ Constitutions.
• Jean-Marie HYACINTHE QUENUM is Doctor in Theology and Jesuit Novices Master in BAFOUSSAM-Cameroon.
• The aim of this reflection has a practical purpose. It relates the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience to
the radical following of Christ in order to build up the Kingdom of God.
• The vowed life is also a concrete and privileged expression of religious project of life.
• The religious project of life is a lifestyle that frees the vowed person for God’s service in a community
involved in Christ’s mission.
1. The story of the religious vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience in the Roman Catholic Church
• The best approach to understand the religious vows in the Roman Catholic Church is to study the historical and theological context
s in which they emerged.
• In the fourth century, some followers of Jesus Christ inspired by the Holy Spirit took the initiative to advocate for a new life style in
the Church closer to the spontaneous inspiration of the Gospel.
• They wanted to follow closely the example of Jesus and his first disciples.
• By protesting against the established Church of the Constantine era, Spirit-filled people gave birth to Christian religious life.
• The spirit of the Gospel has led men and women to consecrate themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ in religious communities in
order to search and find God’s will in fraternal communion.
• Religious life in the beginning required an interior attitude of total availability to God in obedience, in celibacy and in the spirit of
poverty lived in fraternal communion.
• Before being a public profession of vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, religious life was the self-donation of the consecrated
person to the Lord Jesus Christ in the line of baptism in communion with the members of a specific religious community either
contemplative or active.
• The vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience are exterior expressions of the project of religious life.
• The project of religious life implies total self-donation and radical availability excluding marriage, any human
exclusive relationship and genital expression of sexuality.
• The project of religious life frees for intimacy with God and deepens the fellowship that enables to be at the service
of the Church and society.
• The project of religious life is based on God’s grace of imitating Christ lived in a fraternal community.
• Like any human project, the project of religious life is a risky adventure of faith requiring courage, hope and interior
• A religious vowed life is radical following of Christ in a particular community where the members choose to have an
expansive love for whoever they minister to instead of being involved in an exclusive relationship of love.
• To live poor, celibate and obedient is to choose to be like Jesus Christ, the revealed Son of God, out of love for him.