Why do nuns lay on the floor when taking vows? (how do nuns take their vows?)   

At theology school, I developed a significant interest in monasticism and how an individual decides to renounce worldly possessions and pursuit to commit fully to ministry. I decided to learn more about the topic and researched about nuns. I visited different catholic churches and learned all about nuns from the sisters and nuns. Last month, we had an interesting topic regarding women religious and their vows. One student asked me to explain why nuns lay on the floor when taking vows. Based on my significant research as a theologian, I answered this question in a detailed manner. So, why do nuns lay on the floor when taking vows?

Nuns lay on the floor when taking vows as a symbol of death, the death of oneself that comes before their rebirth into the priestly service. Lying on the floor is a rare sight, and it can also be a show of the nuns’ significant humility before the call to service. 

Join me in this article as I answer questions about nuns, such as where, how, and when they take their vows. The article will also look into courses of action after a nun breaks her vows. Keep reading!

Where do nuns take their vows? 

Nuns take their vows in a public setting in the presence of people. Nuns take solemn vows as required by the catholic canon law. According to Catholic canon law, Solemn vows are intentional and free words of honor made to God about a better good that the church has acknowledged as such. Solemn vows are unending, everlasting, and not temporary; thus, they are taken in a public setting. Different people attended the mass of Solemn Consecration, including the community, family members, and church clergy.

How do nuns take their vows? 

how do nuns take their vows?
How do nuns take their vows? Image source: Pinterest

Nuns take their vows by giving up all worldly things, including estates, property, inheritances, and endowments. They take vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, the three counsels of perfection or guidelines for those who wish to become perfect.

Nuns take the vow of poverty first, meaning they have given up any benefit from or control of personal possessions. They commit themselves to live interdependently within society and live a life of moderation as Jesus did. The vow of chastity means that a nun will not marry or engage in sexual behavior to free herself from the demands of human relationships so that she can dedicate herself entirely to God. Lastly, the vow of obedience ensures the nuns obey their superiors.

After the vow of obedience, nuns may lay on the floor as a symbol of death, the death of oneself that comes before their rebirth into the priestly service, and to show humility before the call to service.

When do nuns take their vows? 

Rome was not built in a single day, and nuns are most definitely not made overnight. Nuns take their vows after a lengthy process that takes nine to twelve years. During that time, the individual is tested in different ways as to the proof of her calling and her capacity to live a religious and communal life. As her acceptance of God’s grace strengthens her love for God and people, she gets to the point of publicly and strongly making her vows.

The process is divided into different stages, beginning with being an inquirer. This includes when one starts to ask questions and engages in initial contact with relevant organizations. Aspirant is the second stage and takes one to two years when one is dedicated to human and spiritual formation. In the next step of the postulate, one engages with the community for one to two years to assimilate the elements of monastic life. The next stage is a novice, and it takes two years to continue discernment of the calling. One then becomes a junior sister for at least five years and finally becomes a solemnly professed nun.

What happens when a nun takes her vows? Penance 

Why do nuns lay on the floor when taking vows?
What happens when a nun takes her vows? Image source: Freepik

After a nun takes her vows, there is acceptance of perpetual vows by the bishop or whoever is leading the mass. The bishop receives the vows, commends the nun to God, and prays that the gift of self-made may get to perfection. And by the perpetual profession, the nun is acknowledged definitively and fully as a nun and is incorporated into the congregation with all the favors, rights, and privileges.

After that, nuns take their role in the community as given by their superiors to serve God and people. One of the misconceptions about nuns has to do with their lives of self-denial and penance. Although some people think that nuns suffer after taking vows and live in deprivation, it is far from the truth since nuns are satisfied with their lives as an expression of their joyful love of Christ.

What happens when a nun breaks her vows? 

While you rarely meet ex-nuns, nuns sometimes break their vows. When this happens, they forfeit their right to be a nun. Additionally, one may be encouraged to leave the community she was serving. Thus, after breaking her vows, a nun leaves all her religious duties and community.

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