Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”


For the benefit of members of the Order we post below a short interview with a monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Sainte Madeleine at Le Barroux in southern France, in which he explains the three evangelical cousels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience which constitute the vows of life of most of the religious orders and societies in the Catholic Church.  They are called 'evangelical counsels' or the 'counsels of Perfection' as these precepts come from our Our Lord's own teaching in the Gospels.

We should not forget that all Christians are called by Him to this way of living as often as they can, not just those formally set apart as 'religious'. Each counsel opposes one of the three great hindrances to the spiritual life: the love of material goods, the pleasures of the flesh, and the desire for worldly honour and power.  These counsels are not of merit or virtue in themselves, but only when they are practiced for the love of God, and in perfect submission to His will for us.

Within the Order of Malta, the professed knights (knights of Justice) take these three vows, in common with all the ancient religious orders, for whom they form a perpetual obligation.

As in the modern age knights live within the material world, and not in community as once they did, it is helpful to understand the Order's interpretation of the vow of Poverty in this context, which differs from that of  the enclosed monk or priest in community who literally owns neither his clothes nor his books. By ancient tradition it is also known as the vow of 'perfect Charity', and it is in this understanding that it is best understood for the knight of Malta. It is fulfilled by using only that minimum which is necessarily to maintaining our life in the world, without causing scandal of ostentatious denial or of excessive consumption, and submitting obediently to one's superior's will for the use of the surplus for charitable purposes. Each knight will determine the balance with his superior and his spiritual director. Canonically, regardless of how this may be interpreted in practice of local fiscal laws, all the goods of the solemnly professed knight are the property of his priory for his lifetime. 

The other two vows of Chastity and Obedience are much more clearly understood for the knight within their context in the monastic life, and are very beautifully expounded by the monk in this video.

For those not living in a life of celibacy, the life of Chastity is still required of all of us. Especially for those of us living in Marriage, we should not forget that if forms part of the marriage vows. Secular priests too take the vows of Chasity and Obedience, but not of Poverty. It is wrong, as is so often done, to see these three states of life as being somehow in opposition, but rather they are different ways for us each to follow the same goal of personal sanctification, within fidelity to our chosen life. Christian Charity requires us to support and pray for each other's vocation.

Obedience, as we know, has a very special, and indeed unusual, place within the life of the Order of Malta, and our monk's explanation cannot be bettered for the knight in Obedience, uncomfortable as it may sound to many ears.

This video will be of benefit to all Christians in all walks of life.  They are not easy paths, but their rewards are beyond our imagination.

Please pray for this monk and his community.

(H/T : NLM)

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