States of Christian Life and Vocation, According to the Doctors and Theologians of the Church/Part 1/Section 2/ARTICLE I. The State of Tendency to Perfection, or the Religious State/Chapter 1
CHAPTER I. ORIGIN OF THE RELIGIOUS STATE.Edit
" ALTHOUGH," says Suarez, "we find in the Old Law a shadow and, as it were, a rough sketch of the religious state, however, its perfection and complete formation are the work of the law of grace. It was fitting that Jesus Christ, when coming from heaven to earth in order to bring mankind a new law and more copious graces, should teach and set up in his Church a new mode of life calculated to lead men more efficaciously to perfection. And this is what he has done. The religious state, in its essential elements, was given to men and instituted directly by Christ himself; so that it is of divine right, not in the sense that God makes it imperative, but that he gives it as a counsel. This is the view of all Catholics whose views are correct and sound.
This truth is supported by the fathers. Their common teaching is that Jesus Christ has divided the lives of Christians into two classes. In the one, are those who follow the common road of the commandments; and in the other, those who profess a higher and an almost angelic life, that is, the religious state. For instance, St. Basil says that, by the words, "Come to me all ye that labor," Christ calls us to the religious life. But the chief basis of the doctrine is the Gospel. In it Christ, indeed, exhorts men to practise the three evangelical counsels, and to take and keep perpetual vows. And as these three vows constitute the substance of the religious, life, this manner of living has therefore been, established by Christ himself.
To bring the point into fuller light, let us, following St. Thomas and Suarez, speak of the evangelical counsels, which, considered in their object, are three in number : that is, the counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience. They are called evangelical counsels, because Jesus Christ was the first to give them. They are also called counsels of perfection, or simply counsels. They are proper to the religious state.
It is true, as Suarez teaches, that they may be practised and vowed outside of convents ; still they form, as we shall soon see, the essence of the religious life properly so called.
- Suar., lib. 3, c. i, nn. 5, 6 ; et c. ii, nn. 3, 4.
- Suar., lib. 3, c. ii, n. 4.
- lbid., n, 5.
- Ibid., lib. I, c. via.
- Ibid., nn. 3, 6.
God calls us to be lay or religious