If you're a very devoted Catholic, you've probably heard of vows.
A vow is a solemn commitment to the divinity to perform a specific action, either as a counterpart to a benefit received from it or, without any counterpart. It is a small sacrifice, a commitment or a resolution that is usually offered to the Blessed Mother, Jesus or a saint(s) of whom one is devoted, in the same way in which a flower is given.
But why are vows so important? How can a vow help us?
Answer your questions by reading the following paragraphs.
Why are vows so important for Christians?
A vow means unflinching determination. Making a vow usually helps us against temptations, strengthening our faith. The only things that could move our will to make a vow are love and faith only. Usually, someone makes a vow to obtain a benefit, one's own or one's loved one. When someone of our loved ones is going through a difficult moment, as well as praying, what we can do is make a vow to the Holy Virgin Mary, or to a Saint in particular that could protect and be of inspiration for our loved ones.
To make a vow working, what we need to do is to renounce to something we really love and enjoy, for the good of someone else.
A few examples of Vows
In order to make it easier, here you have some examples of vows to the Blessed Mother, the Lord and the Saints:
- Vow of Chastity (or Virginity) to the Holy Virgin: not only nuns and priests make this vow but even many Christians who are strongly devoted to the Mother of God.
- Vow of Poverty: many Christians make vow of poverty to St. Francis of Assisi, as he lived in poverty during all his life.
- Vow of Silence: it is usually associated with monks and it, obviously, consists in maintaining silence along the day.
- Vow of Obedience: it is one of the three vows of professing to live according to the evangelical counsels and it is part of the religious vows that are made both by members of the religious institutes and diocesan hermits.
- Vow of Abstinence: it is quite similar to the vow of Chastity, with the difference that abstinence does not refer to priests and nuns but married faithful who are no longer virgin.
- Vow of Fealty: it is an oath of allegiance, a pledge of one person's loyalty to another. Typically, the oath is taken upon a religious object, such as a Bible or upon a holy relic, often contained within an altar, binding the oath as taken before God.
EX Voto: How to thank God for his graces
Anytime that our vows and sacrifices are heard, special thanks are due to God, the Holy Virgin and the Catholic Saints. Are you wondering how to say thanks to God for his greatness and his graces? Through prayer and Ex Votos, of course!
An Ex Voto is usually an object that the faithful give to God as a symbol of thankfulness. This locution is Latin and it literally means “from the vow made” and consists in a concrete votive offering. Ex-votos are usually placed in churches or chapels where the worshiper seeks grace or wishes to give thanks. The destinations of pilgrims often include shrines decorated with ex-votos.
Image 1: Ex Voto Wall and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mosaic, Rome (Italy)
Probably the most iconic shape of an Ex Voto is the heart, represented down here, but it can have many different versions and shapes, as shown in image 1.
If you have been touched by the immense grace of God, you can express your gratitude with this beautiful golden metal Ex Voto or by wearing this Ex Voto cameo jewel down here.
What vow can I make for Lent?
Lent is the perfect period to make vows, since it is the time of reflection, penance and repentance. Catholics are not required to make vows that are very difficult to keep, as it is human to err and fall into temptation.
However, there are small sacrifices you can make each day, especially during Lent, to draw you closer to God and cleanse your spirit. We have collected some of them just for you:
- Take a few days off from social networks and spend more time with your family;
- Do not eat sweets, candies or meat (remember the long fasting of Jesus in the desert);
- Do not answer badly to someone (wrath is one of the seven deadly sins!);
- Always be helpful with others, when they need it;
- Do not drink alcohol to help a dear one who has problems with addictions;
- Pray more along the day.