[UPDATE with important links below]
Many readers have made much of the fact that the 3gf's now take vows, when previously they were careful to separate their [lay] promises from the vows [associated with Religious life]. But we need not have worried, because the words are almost the same and the intentions indistinguishable:
Since the General Assembly for the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi that took place in late 2013, the renewal of statutes and the establishment of a government for the consecrated women, there have been some changes made in the understanding of these women’s Rule of Life.
One of the changes has been to refer to the promises made by the consecrated women as private “vows.”
“We refer to our promises as vows now for the very simple fact that in the theological sense a solemn promise made to God is called a vow,” said Nancy Nohrden, North American Territorial Director for the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi. “We actually have always made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as consecrated women, because they were promises we made to God. Before, we called them promises, and in the General Assembly decided to align our terms with our reality…hence, vow.”
Nancy said the change was discussed in the December 19, 2013 letter sent out to the consecrated women at the completion of the General Assembly in Rome. The letter discusses the most important aspects in understanding their consecrated vocation, including certain terminology.
The letter points out the segment of the consecrated women’s statutes explaining the “Nature, Purpose and Spirit” of the group as an “association of the faithful” and the way the association assumes these “evangelical counsels” or private vows.
“The private vows we make as lay consecrated women are to live according to the Regnum Christi statutes for our state in life,” Nancy explained.
The letter from the General Assembly explains:
“It was defined that the evangelical counsels we have assumed are by means of private vows as this term is equivalent to what we have lived and what has been expressed in the formula used in pronouncing the promises. It is a vow, referring to the fact that bond and commitment that we take on is contracted with God himself. This commitment is lived out within the association of the consecrated women of Regnum Christi and according to its specific charism. [which is...?]”
“It is important to clarify that the members (who have already professed their vows as promises) are not required to profess their vows again. What was professed at the moment of the consecration was a vow. What has been stated in the Statute is just the correct term for what is lived out.”
To that end, I would like to sell you my car, well, not really my car, but it's a picture of my car, and it's very similar -- the colours came out great in the photo. But if I intend to sell you the car, and show you the picture, you know you'll really get the car, right? Would $6K be about right? I'll put it in a really nice frame...
[Soliciting better analogies, readers. I know you're clever!]
UPDATE: The Anchoress gives us an important tutorial on what the words actually mean in Religious life. And don't miss her link on all the growth in authentic Religious communities (those who clearly fit into the canonical categories and have all the necessary protections.)