Dear Father Angelo Bellon
I came across your name on the website “Amici Domenicani” (“Dominican Friends”). I see that you already answered some questions regarding private vows.
I would like to take a vow of personal and private silence, at first for a specific length of time (for example, until the end of this pandemic), later turning it into a permanent vow.
The matter of the vow would cover all frivolous topics, gossip, slanders, and some other things I would like to keep undisclosed, but it would exclude daily needs such as work, prayer, and normal courteous interactions.
People around me would not notice anything; in short, I would be the only one knowing about this vow.
I wanted to make this vow for a long time, but the priest never agreed to it; therefore, my question is the following: in this terrible time of quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic, since we are allowed to confess to God directly, would be also possible to make my vow directly to God or the priest’s consent would still be necessary?
Thank you very much for your attention, I give you my warmest greetings.
The priest’s answer
1. Your one is a beautiful vow.
It helps you to go beyond yourself, and transforms many small sacrifices into as many acts of praise and love for the Lord.
2. However, I must tell you two things.
First thing: obey the confessor, because this is the Lord’s will.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that in oboedientia perficitur omnis religio. Translating it maybe not literally, but certainly in its meaning, it means that our worship of God finds perfection in obedience.
Sacrificing our will to conform to the Lord’s will is the most beautiful act of love we can do for Him.
My words should come as no surprise to you. In fact, doesn’t this also happen in people’s everyday life? When you love another person intensely, you are willing to gladly give up your ideas to pursue the ones of the person you love.
Isn’t this perhaps the most beautiful gesture of love, which enlivens a mutual union even more?
3. Again, with regard to your confessor, think about how hurt he would be if, after he said no to you, he discovers that you did it your own way instead.
You can be certain that you will be more pleasing to the Lord if you act in conformity with His will, therefore by complying with that of your confessor.
4. The second thing I want to tell you is: why don’t you begin to practice the matter of the vow now, without taking the vow until your confessor will give you, eventually, his consent?
Even more considering that a big part of this vow consists of matter to which you are already bound by virtue of Charity: refrain from “frivolous arguments, or gossip, or slanders”.
5. In general, I behave the following way every time people come to me saying that they want to make a vow: I give my consent only when they have performed sufficiently in certain practices, and they will not reverse to wrong behaviours, so that they can confirm through their vow or promise what, in practice, they have already been doing.
Being strengthened by the vow, their actions acquire a new perfection before God: that of obedience, which pushes them to transform their actions or practices into as many acts of praise for the Lord.
The meaning of the vow is precisely this: to give oneself a rule, or an obedience, to transform our actions into an act of praise for the Lord.
6. Something similar happens for clergy, who are consecrated persons: with the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they commit themselves to transform their life into as many acts of praise for the Lord, continually saying through their actions that the Lord is their only asset.
7. Perhaps, the reason why the confessor does not allow you to take this vow is that he does not think you are ready yet.
Especially with personal vows (a vow is said personal when it engages the person in his own acts of virtue), one does not become capable of complying with the matter of the vow right after having made it.
It is necessary to practice first in such a way that, at the moment of taking the vow, the practice of the virtues has become natural.
8. Therefore, start immediately, from today March 24th, on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation!
Saint Catherine of Siena used to call the 25th of March the day of graces. Immediately after she would explain why: I know, Mary, that today no grace is denied to you. It’s the day of Mary’s great yes!, she said —according to St. Thomas— loco totius Ecclesiae (i.e. on behalf of the whole Church). God cannot answer such a generous yes with a no.
9. Start at this very moment living the matter of your vow.
Join your many yeses, in overcoming the various temptations, to the great yes of Mary.
May tomorrow be filled with as many graces as your yeses have been generous and full of love.
10. When you meet with the confessor, you will be able to tell him that, without having taken the vow yet, you already exercised the matter of it without failing even once.
He will be happy.
Do not force him to give you his consent. Always remember that in oboedientia perficitur omnis religio.
Remember also what God said through the prophet Samuel: “Does the LORD so delight in holocausts and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the LORD? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams. ”(1 Sam 15:22).
I wish you well, I will remember you to the Lord, and I bless you.
Translated by Riccardo Mugnaini
Proof edited by Sara Bellei