Did you know Religious Vows are NOT a sacrament?
When a man gets ordained, people often talk about his “vows.” He makes promises of celibacy (in the Latin Church), and of respect and obedience to his Bishop or Major Superior, but what makes him a Deacon or a Priest is not this commitment, but the Sacrament of Holy Orders – conferred by the laying on of hands and consecratory prayer by a Bishop.
Holy Orders and Marriage are the two sacraments of service in the Church. They “confer a particular mission in the Church to serve and build up the People of God.” The sacraments are visible rites that make present the graces they signify, that is, the liturgy of Heaven. But those who are in Heaven, “now celebrate [the heavenly liturgy] without signs.” In other words, there are no sacraments in Heaven, no efficacious signs that make present the Heavenly reality, because the reality is here!
Sometimes people are confused by today’s Gospel – is Jesus saying I won’t recognize my husband or wife in Heaven? Not at all. In Heaven, we will continue to enjoy the relationships we had with people in this life, but the sacrament of marriage – the sacramental experience of the love God has for us and the love Christ has for the Church – will give way to its full reality. As one author put it, “to have sacraments in heaven would be like looking at a roadmap when one has already arrived at the destination!”1
Some people are called by God to show the world the love God has for us, the love Christ has for the Church, through the sacrament of marriage. Some, however, are called by God to choose to forego this great sacrament, and instead witness to the reality of Heaven – of which marriage is a sacrament. They do this by beginning to live the life of Heaven – though in a limited way – here and now, through a life of celibate chastity lived in service to others. Religious Vows are not a sacrament because they are not a sign, but the beginning here in this life of the kind of life we will all enjoy in Heaven.
1 Bishop, John. “Theology of the Body – Chapter 4 – Celibacy and the Resurrection of the Body.” Accessed November 1, 2022. https://focusequip.org/theology-of-the-body-chapter-4-celibacy-and-the-resurrection-of-the-body/.