Monks take three vows: obedience, stability and conversatio morum. These are solemn promises, made in the presence, not only of the Abbot and community, but - as St Benedict reminds us - of God and his Saints. The vows are the monk’s way to God; when a monk embraces the vows and seeks to make them his own, we believe that they work as channels for grace so that, over a lifetime of monastic observance, the monk is - with the help of God - transformed into the image of Christ.
Obedience is a key virtue, for a monk as for any Christian. We embrace the vow of obedience so that we can become like Christ, who came not to do his own will but the will of the Father who sent him. In preferring to seek the good of others before our own good, we aim to share in the love of Christ, who gave himself up as a ransom for many. Our vow of obedience binds us in the first place to accept the tasks the Abbot assigns to us, but, as St Benedict reminds us, our obedience will be perfect when we freely choose to obey not merely the Abbot or other superiors, but all of our brethren, for the love of Christ.
The vow of stability is a characteristically monastic vow. Unlike some other religious, Benedictine monks generally do not join an Order; rather, they join a particular community. By their vow of stability, they promise to remain in the community they join for the rest of their lives. The monastic life consists principally in getting to know God more and more, but, in the process, we also come to know ourselves better. This can be hard, especially as the life is designed to reveal the truth about ourselves. The monastic tradition teaches us that the most fruitful response to difficulties involves staying with them, and trying to work through them in the battle line of the brethren; it is by our perseverance that we win our lives. This vow expresses our faith in the God who, we believe, has called us to be monks.