A modern dictionary of Catholic terms, both common and obscure. Find accurate definitions of words and phrases.
A free, deliberate promise made to God to do something that is good and that is more pelasing to God than its ommission would be. The one vowing must realize that a special sin is committed by violating the promise. A vow binds under pain of sin (grave or slight) according to the intention of the one taking the vow. If one vows with regard to grave matter, one is presumed to intend to bind oneself under pain of serious sin. Vows enhance the moral value of human actions on several counts. They unite the soul to God by a new bond of religion, and so the acts included under the vow become also acts of religion. Hence they are more meritorious. By taking a vow, a person surrenders to God the moral freedom of acting otherwise, like the one who not only gives at times the fruit of the tree, but gives up the tree itself. And vows forestall human weakness, since they do not leave matters to the indecision or caprice of the moment. Their very purpose is to invoke divine grace to sustain one's resolution until the vow expires or, in the case of perpetual vows, even until death. (Etym. Latin vovere, to pledge, promise.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.