Here at the Society Of Prayer, members, after being Associates for six months, have the option to say vows to God, privately, vows of obedience to God, simplicity of life, and chastity. Some of our members are married, and some are not. Some of us are celibate. And sometimes, I get this question about vows. What are private vows?
Private vows are just that...private. They are vows between you and God. They are promises between you and God. You are not vowed to an institution or religion, but to God. And this is important, and it does not minimize the commitment whatsoever. No person can force you to commit an act against your conscience. Your relationship between God is a private matter. That being said, there is an element of "public" about private vows. Just because you make private vows to God, does not mean you are privately a Christian or privately a vowed or dedicated Christian. People will notice the change, which will invite questions, sometimes, even evangelization. Your family will notice the difference as well.
The other day, while at a grocery store, a cashier, noticing my wedding ring and a tired look in my eyes from a cold that I had, told me, "I'm sure your husband is proud of you shopping even though it's late and you had a hard day." I responded, "I hope he is." Of course, I didn't explain that my husband was God and that I was vowed, although the blue cross against my blue shirt was evident.
But seriously, people notice not just a blue cross or any other emblem...people notice if you are a person of prayer. Your attitude is contemplative. Your mannerism is different. Private vows does not mean that in public you don't have to be religious or hide your faith. And yes, sometimes, if employment demands it, we have to confirm to rules, and yet...there is a difference in us...a difference that people see.
Public vows, according to most religions, differ in that they are said formally before an organization and its leaders. But make no mistake, God holds the private vows, promises made to Him, as firm oaths to God. Just because you are not making the promises to a church does not negate the importance whatsoever.
All that being said, this does not negate the honor of those making public vows and entering convents. May God richly bless those making that sacrifice. But here, at the Society of Prayer, we have an option for those that cannot, for whatever reason, enter those institutions, whether because of age or marital status or whatever reason. Here we honor the private vows and offer a place to belong.
May God guide you as you decide how best to service Him in the future.