Do friars really vow OBEDIENCE to someone?
“Obedience means that we are available to our brothers . . . But most of all, the vow of obedience is about trust.” Fr. Jack Tierney, O.S.A.
Fr. Jack made his first vows to the Order in 2015
As men committed to the religious Order of Saint Augustine, we take 3 vows. We profess the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Each vow calls us to follow Christ – to grow in virtue and holiness.
Poverty is the vow that call us to live simply. We depend on the generosity of our benefactors and commit to living in a community that provides for our material and financial support. The vow of poverty is an invitation to follow Jesus by renouncing earthly goods for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Chastity is a personal virtue – to love others appropriately as a single, celibate male. Chastity is an invitation to renounce marriage and sexual activity. It is also a deeply rewarding form of love. It’s not all sacrifice…. Augustinians share in the intimate and chaste love of family, friends, and those we serve in ministry.
Obedience is the vow to give respect and deference to our legitimate superiors. Our local superior is called a Prior, and he holds responsibility for the local community. Local communities are organized into Provinces, headed by a Provincial. The Provincial serves as the Ordinary, which means that the Provincial can assign where a friar lives and works.
Lastly, all the Provinces of the Order are united together by the Prior General in Rome. Through the vow of obedience, we owe reverence and respect to the will of God that comes through our superiors. Our vows are professed to the Prior General in Rome, meaning that he is the sign of unity between all the Provinces across the Order and all the local communities throughout the world.
All three of our religious vows are experienced personally and lived out individually. However, all three vows enhance our community life and our experience of mendicant vitality.
In particular, the vow of Obedience means that we are available to our brothers in our community. Our Brothers in Augustine depend on us for friendship, support, and yes… even household chores! Obedience means that we are expected to fulfill the obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and participate in the shared Apostolate. But most of all, the vow of obedience is about trust. Trusting that the Holy Spirit works through the superiors of the Order – and that their assignments reflect the will of God in my life.
In many ways the vow of obedience is the most difficult. It calls for the submission of intellect and will. Unlike a typical family, Augustinian Friars don’t get to choose where they live or where they work. They don’t select the kind of car that they drive. They have to ask permission before making a purchase or taking a trip. However, the Holy Spirit works through the community and directs our life. Living the vows encourages us to put others first and surrender the different dimensions of our human life to God.
Obedience can be challenging… but it is also freeing. We do not depend on ourselves, but rely on the community for dialogue, support, and collaboration. Through the vow of obedience, we learn to listen and to trust one another.