Monastic vows have been a source of religious controversy at least since the Reformation. Today, new monastic movements recover many elements of the tradition (e.g., community life and prayer, material solidarity and poverty), but vows—understood as a lifelong or binding commitment to obedience, stability and conversion to the monastic way of life—do not appear to capture much enthusiasm. Even the Benedictine tradition in the Catholic Church appears, at least in certain regions, to struggle to attract young men and women to give themselves away through vows. In this context, I ask whether vows should belong to the “future of Christian monasticisms”. I will look at Anselm of Canterbury for inspiration regarding their meaning. For him, monastic vows enact the “total” gift of self or the “total” belonging to God. I will suggest, following Anselm, that such vows enable an existential commitment that is in a unique way morally and intellectually enlivening, and that such vows should remain an element in any future monasticism wanting to stand in continuity with the “Christian monasticism” of the past. During my conclusion, I acknowledge that our imagination regarding the concrete forms the total gift could take may develop.
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