During the Mass of Religious Profession, we profess by public vow the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Though all baptized persons are called to live these counsels according to their particular state in life, consecrated persons are called to live them in a more radical way. As religious, we are invited by God to live out our baptismal consecration more fully, dedicating ourselves wholly to God. Certainly material possessions, marital love and personal freedom are wonderful goods, given by God; but He calls some persons, for the sake of the whole Church, to surrender these goods to Him in an act of worship so that we may love and serve Him alone.
This gift of self is made possible only because God has given first. We dedicate ourselves to Him through the vows because He has first consecrated us; that is, He has set us apart to be wholly His. This consecration begins in the Sacrament of Baptism, in which we are given, along with sanctifying grace, the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Through our religious profession of the three vows, we return to God each of these gifts given to us in Baptism.
In Baptism we are given the theological virtue of faith. By faith we believe all that God has revealed and all that the Church teaches, based on the authority of the One who reveals truth to us. As religious we profess the vow of obedience. Through obedience we extend this faith even to the authority of lawful superiors because we believe they have been given to us by the action of the Holy Spirit.
In Baptism we are given the theological virtue of hope. By hope we trust that God will give us everything that we will need to achieve salvation, so that we might live eternally with Him. As religious we profess the vow of poverty. In poverty we strive to renounce all attachments to possessions, trusting simply in God’s providential care.
In Baptism we are given the theological virtue of charity. In charity we love God purely for His goodness and our neighbors because they are His beloved sons and daughters. As religious we profess the vow of chastity. By chastity we deny ourselves the exclusive love of an earthly spouse in order that our love might be inclusive of every soul given to our care by our Heavenly Spouse.