The culmination of the time spent at the Novitiate is the day of profession. On this happy day, the brother novice pronounces his first vows, those of poverty, chastity, and obedience for the period of one year. If he desires, and is faithful, he can renew these temporary vows yearly or triennially until the day he is allowed to take perpetual vows.
A short explanation of the three religious vows is necessary to know the spirit of a soul consecrated to God in religion. These three vows are concerned with very specific things; yet they are meant to include and represent everything that can belong to a man. The vows are not the end of religious life, they are rather excellent means of growing more perfect in charity. For it is always charity which is the goal – “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole mind, heart, soul, and strength.” The three vows make it easier to do this.
Now a short glance at each vow:
By this vow, the brother renounces his right to do with his possessions as he wants. Henceforth he can only dispose of material things with permission from his superior. The vow is meant to eliminate, as much as possible, the preoccupation with material worries which weigh so heavily on many souls in the world, especially men.
By the vow of chastity, a brother gives up the possibility of having a family in order to pursue a greater good – complete dedication to God. This vow also frees the soul from the cares and worries of family life, as well as from the demands of the flesh. No one can be totally free from such desires of course, without a special grace, but the vow of chastity renounces all such things for the highest goal – that of close union with God. The faithful keeping of this vow gives a strength and supernatural beauty to the soul, as well as giving it a real influence over others, especially the young.
The vow of obedience is the highest and most powerful of the vows because it renounces the thing most precious to man – his own will. By vowing to follow the will of another (his religious superior) the brother does the greatest thing he can to free himself from disordered self-love and egotistic tendencies. Growth in all the virtues, and especially charity, is the normal result of a life of obedience lived generously. God is never out-done in generosity.