Religious Life and the Life to Come

There is nothing unfortunate about the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience!

Religious often receive many questions and sentiments from well-intentioned people that imply something unfortunate about professing vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. There is something peculiar about these vows which religious make, the life they live, the concrete and natural things they must give up. It all seems rather disconnected from the lives of ordinary people…but that is exactly the point. This dimension of otherness appears because the life of a religious is prophetic—it points to the life beyond this one, life in heaven.

With the dawn of the Christian dispensation, we know that the temporal order will one day pass away. Life as we know it will be perfected and renewed. It is only with this revelation that religious life makes sense and is desirable. Thus, a religious does not embrace the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience for their own sake, but for the sake of the Kingdom. The counsels are an intense, radical following of Christ for the sake of being with Him in His Kingdom which is to come. For this reason, consecrated religious live the life that is to come in the here and now. Writing to a group of consecrated virgins, St. Cyprian says, “That which we shall be, you have already begun to be. You possess already in this world the glory of the resurrection” (On the Dress of Virgins, 22). Indeed, in God’s Kingdom, we would have no need for wealth, marriage, nor any of our own desires. God Himself will satisfy us in an unimaginable way. 

Gustave Doré, “Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest heaven, the Empyrean”

When we see this prophetic dimension of the religious vocation, we can also see the connection with the “ordinary” lives of those in marriage. Religious are witnessing this supernatural reality to the men and women in holy matrimony. As Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa puts it, the witness of consecrated life “reminds [married couples] that marriage is holy, beautiful, and redeemed by Christ…but it is not everything. It is a reality that is linked to this world and therefore transitory” (Virginity, 10). In no way is this a disparagement of marriage, but it is a witness that marriage is not the be-all and end-all in God’s eternal plan. Rather, even those who live the marital vocation are called to pursue holiness, to pursue the Kingdom. Marriage, too, is a means; a sanctified means to achieve union with God in the life to come.

Let us pray, then, for many more young people to courageously embrace this prophetic witness of the reality that is to come. Insofar as our present times are said to have forgotten God, the joyful witness of the religious vocation is a beacon that ultimately speaks to the deepest recesses of the human heart, saying that God is enough – that in fact, He alone can satisfy us.

Br. Peter Pius Chu, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE