Aquinas on Vocation and Love

Texts of St. Thomas Aquinas cited in Paths of Love

Here you will find a compilation of texts of St. Thomas Aquinas on love, vocation, and perfection. All of the texts cited or mentioned in the book Paths of Love: The Discernment of Vocation, may be found here, often with expanded contexts.

  • The need to desire growth in love of God

    • All are bound to tend to the perfection [that consists in the love of God and neighbor], since if someone did not want to love God more, he would not be doing what charity demands. (Commentary on the Letter to the Hebrews, Ch. 6, Lec. 1).
  • Giving attention to many things weakens the focus on any one thing

    • Every power dispersed among many things becomes less; hence, conversely, when a power is applied intensely to one thing, it can be less dispersed among other things. Moreover, a certain attention is required in the soul’s works, so that when it is powerfully focused on one thing, it cannot powerfully attend to another. (Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 77, 1)
    • Sinceall the powers of the soul are rooted in the one essence of the soul, when the soul's attention is drawn violently to the activity of one power, it is necessarily withdrawn from the activity of another, for of one soul there can only be one attention. And for this reason, if something draws to it the soul's whole attention, or a great part of it, it will be incompatible with something else that requires great attention. Now it is manifest that sensible pain above all draws the soul's attention to it, since everything naturally tends with its whole attention to repel what is contrary to it, as is evident even in natural things. It is similarly manifest that learning new requires study and effort with a great attention, as is evident from Prov. 2, "if you seek wisdom as though money, and dig for it as for treasure, than you will understand learning." And therefore, if pain is intense, it prevents man from learning anything new. And it can become so intense that so long as the pain is present a man cannot even consider what he already knows. Yet in this there is a difference among men according to the differences of love they have for learning or considering; the more one loves it, the more one retains the mind's attention, not letting it be entirely drawn to the pain.( Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 37, a. 1)
  • And therefore the counsels help us to focus on God, by withdrawing our attention from other things

    • Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 108, a. 4 (The Evangelical Counsels)

      Proceeding thus to the fourth. It seems that unfittingly were certain determinate counsels given in the new law.
          1. For counsels are given about things expedient for an end, as was said above, when counsel was treated. But the same things are not expedient for all. Therefore no determinate counsels should have been given.
          2. Further, counsels are given in regard to a better good. But there are not determinate degrees of better goods. Therefore no determinate counsels should have been given.
          3. Further, counsels pertain to the perfection of life. But obedience pertains to the perfection of life. Therefore unfittingly was a counsel not given in the Gospel in regard to it.
          4. Further, many things pertaining to the perfection of life are put among the precepts, as the saying, love your enemies, and also the precepts which the Lord gave the apostles in Mt. 10. Therefore counsels are given unfittingly in the new law, both because not all are given, and because they are not distinguished from precepts.
          But against this, the counsels of a wise friend bring great benefit, according to Prov. 27, the heart delights in ointment and various odors, and the soul is gladdened by the good counsels of a friend. But Christ is most of all a wise man and a friend. Therefore his counsels hold great benefit, and are fitting.

          I respond, it is to be said that the difference between counsel and precept is that a precept brings necessity, while a counsel is placed in the choice of the one to whom it is given. And therefore fittingly in the new law, which is the law of liberty, counsels were added beyond the precepts, while they were not in the old law, which was the law of slavery. Therefore the precepts of the new law must be understood to be given in regard to those things which are necessary for obtaining eternal happiness, the end to which the new law immediately leads. But counsels must be about those things through which man can better and more expeditiously obtain the aforesaid end.
          Now man is set between the things of this world and spiritual goods, in which eternal happiness consists, in such a way that to the degree that he adheres more to one of them, he withdraws more from the other, and conversely. Therefore he who entirely adheres to the things of this world, so that he places his end in them, holding them as the accounts and rules for all his works, entirely falls away from spiritual goods. And therefore disorder of this kind is taken away by precepts. But for man to entirely cast aside the things of this world is not necessary for reaching the aforesaid end, because man can reach eternal happiness while using the things of this world, as long as he does not place his end in them. But he reaches it more expeditiously by entirely casting aside the goods of this world. And therefore the counsels of the gospel are given about this.
          The goods of this world, which pertain to the use of human life, consist in three things, namely in the wealth of exterior goods, which pertain to the lust of the eyes, in the delights of the flesh, which pertain to the lust of the flesh, and in honors, which pertain to the pride of life, as is evident from 1 John 2. Now to leave these things entirely behind, insofar as this is possible, pertains to the evangelical counsels. In these three is founded all religious life, which professes a state of perfection; for riches are given up by poverty, the delights of the flesh by perpetual chastity, the pride of life by the servitude of obedience. These observed simply pertain to the counsels given simply. But the observation of any particular one of them in some special case, pertains to the counsel in some regard, namely in that case. For example, when a man gives alms to a poor man which he is not bound to give, he follows the counsel with respect to that deed. Likewise when he abstains for some determinate time from the delights of the flesh in order to devote himself to prayer, he follows the counsel for that time. Likewise when someone does not follow his own will in some deed which he could licitly do, he follows the counsel in that case, as for example if someone does good to his enemies when he is not bound to do so, or forgives an offense for which he could justly exact punishment. And thus all particular counsels are taken back to those three general and perfect counsels.

          To the first, therefore, it is to be said that the aforesaid counsels according to themselves are expedient for all, but by the indisposition of some it happens that they are not expedient for someone, because their affections are not inclined to them. And therefore the Lord, giving the evangelical counsels, always mentions the suitability of men for observing the counsels. For giving the counsel of perpetual poverty in Mt. 19, he first says, if you wish to be perfect, and then adds, go and sell all that you have. Likewise, giving the counsel of perpetual chastity, after he says, there are eunuchs who have castrated themselves for kingdom of the heaven, he immediately adds, he who can accept it, let him accept it. And similarly the Apostle in 1 Cor. 7, having given the counsel of virginity, says, again I say this for your benefit, not that I may cast a snare for you.
          To the second it is to be said that goods better in a particular case in individuals are indeterminate. But those things which are simply and absolutely better goods in the universal, are determinate. And to these all those particular goods are taken back, as was said.
          To the third it is to be said that the Lord is understood to have given the counsel of obedience when he said, “and follow me,” whom we follow not only by imitating his works, but also by obeying his commands, according to Jn. 10, “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.”
          To the fourth it is to be said that those things which the Lord teaches in Mt. V and Lk. 6 about true love of enemies, and similar things, if they are referred to the preparation of the soul, are of necessity for salvation, namely that man is prepared to do good to his enemies, and to do other things of this kind, when necessity requires this. And therefore they are put among the precepts.
          But that someone actually shows this to this enemies promptly, where there is not a special necessity, pertains to particular counsels, as was said. And those things which are given in Mt. 10 and Lk. 9 and 10, were certain precepts of discipline for that time, or certain concessions, as was said above. And therefore they are not brought in as counsels.

    • Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 184, a. 3
    • It seems that the perfection of a wayfarer does not consist in keeping the commandments, but the counsels...
      2. For all are bound to the observance of the commandments, since this is necessary for salvation. Therefore, if the perfection of the Christian life consists in keeping the commandments, it follows that perfection is necessary for salvation, and that all are bound to it; and this is evidently false.
      On the contrary, It is said: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart,” (Dt. 6:5) and: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”; (Lev. 19:18) and these are the commandments of which our Lord said: “On these two commandments depends the whole law and the prophets.” (Mt. 22:40) Now the perfection of charity, on the basis of which Christian life is said to be perfect, is found in our loving God with our whole heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore it seems that perfection consists in the observance of the commandments.
    • I respond, it should be said that perfection is said to consist in a thing in two ways: in one way, directly and essentially; in another, indirectly and accidentally. Directly and essentially the perfection of the Christian life consists in charity, principally as love of God, secondarily as love of our neighbor; and the principal commandments of the divine Law are given about these loves, as was said above. Now the love of God and of our neighbor is not commanded according to a measure, so that what is in excess of the measure would be a matter of counsel. This is evident from the very form of the commandment, pointing, as it does, to perfection—as in the words, “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart”: since “whole” is the same as “perfect,” according to the Philosopher, and in the words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” since every one loves himself most. The reason for this is that “the end of the commandment is charity,” according to the Apostle (1 Tim. 1:5); and the end is not subject to a measure, but only such things as are directed to the end, as the Philosopher observes (Polit. i, 3); thus a physician does not measure the amount of his healing, but how much medicine or diet he shall employ for the purpose of healing. Thus it is evident that perfection consists essentially in keeping the commandments. Hence Augustine says: “Why then should not this perfection be commanded to man, although no man has it in this life?”
      Secondarily and instrumentally, however, perfection consists in the counsels, all of which, like the commandments, are ordered to charity; yet not in the same way. For the commandments, other than the commandments of charity, are ordered to the removal of things contrary to charity, i.e., things with which charity is incompatible, whereas the counsels are ordered to the removal of things that hinder the act of charity, and yet are not contrary to charity, such as marriage, the occupation of worldly business, and so forth... Hence it is that in the Conferences of the Fathers the abbot Moses says: “Fastings, watchings, meditating on the Scriptures, penury and loss of all one's wealth, are not perfection but means to perfection, since the end of that training does not consist in them, but through them one achieves the end.”
    • To the second objection it should be said that as Augustine says, “the perfection of charity is commanded to man in this life, because one does not run rightly unless one knows where to run. And how shall we know this if no commandment declares it to us?” And since that which is commanded can be fulfilled in various ways, one does not break a commandment by not fulfilling it in the best way, but it is enough to fulfill it in any way whatever. Now the perfection of divine love is commanded without any limitation, so that even the perfection of the fatherland is not excepted from this commandment, as Augustine says; but he who in any way attains to the perfection of divine love, avoids breaking the commandment. The lowest degree of divine love is to love nothing more than God, or contrary to God, or equally with God, and whoever falls short of this degree of perfection in no way fulfils the precept. There is another degree of divine love, which cannot be fulfilled so long as we are wayfarers, as was said above, and it is evident that to fail from this is not to break the commandment; and in like manner one does not break the commandment, if one does not attain to the intermediate degrees of perfection, provided one attain to the lowest.

    • It is manifest that the human heart is given over more intensely to one thing to the extent that it is withdrawn from a multiplicity of things. Thus man’s mind is given over more perfectly to loving God to the extent that it is removed from love for temporal things... Therefore all the counsels, by which we are invited to perfection, have as their aim the turning away of man’s mind from love for temporal things, so that his mind may tend more freely to God, by contemplating, loving, and fulfilling his will. (On the Perfection of the Spiritual Life, ch. 7).
    • "Do all things for the glory of God" [This can be understood to mean]: whatever you do, it is better if you actually refer it to God; and in this sense it is a counsel. (In II Sent., d. 40, q. 1, a. 5, ad 7)
    • See also St. Thomas Aquinas’s discussions of the counsels in Quodlibetal 4, q. 12, a. 12, and Quodlibetal 5, q. 10, a. 1; Contra Doctrinam Retrahentium, Ch. 6. Read more texts of Aquinas on the Counsels from the Commentary on the Sentences, the Summa Contra Gentiles, and the Summa Theologiae
  • The necessity for the counsels in order to attain perfection

    • The second way to perfection, by which a man may be more free to devote himself to God, and to cling more perfectly to him, is the observance of perpetual chastity... The way of continence is most necessary for attaining perfection... Abraham had so great spiritual perfection in virtue that his spirit did not fall short of perfect love for God on account either of temporal possessions or of married life. But if another man who does not have the same spiritual virtue strives to attain perfection while retaining riches and entering into marriage, his error in presuming to treat Our Lord’s words as of small account will soon be demonstrated. (On the Perfection of the Spiritual Life, Ch. 9).
  • Yet one has to be disposed to use the counsels well, otherwise they are not helpful

    • Insofar as it takes away the anxiety which arises from wealth, poverty is useful for some, namely those who are disposed so as to be occupied with better things, while harmful to those, who, freed from this anxiety, fall into worse occupations. (Summa Contra Gentiles III, ch. 133).
    • Though it may be said in general that for an individual man it is better to practice continence than to enter into marriage, nothing prevents marriage from being better for a particular person.( Summa Contra Gentiles III, ch. 136).
  • It is not necessary to deliberate for a long time before choosing religious life

    • Summa Theologiae II-II 189:10 (On Entrance into Religious Life)

      Whether it is praiseworthy for someone to enter religious life without the advice of many people or without long deliberation

      It seems that it is not praiseworthy for someone to enter religious life without the counsel of many people and without long deliberation.

      1. For it is said, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God.” (1 John 4:1) But sometimes the intention to enter religious life is not from God, since it is frequently dissolved by leaving religious life. For it is said: “If this counsel is from God you will not be able to dissolve it.” (Acts 5:38) Therefore it seems that one should enter religious life only after great deliberation.

      2. Further, it is said, “Discuss your affair with your friend.” (in Prov. 25:9) But what pertains to a change of state, seems most of all to be a man’s affair. Therefore it seems that one should not enter religious life unless he first discusses it with his friends.

      3. Further, the Lord gives a likeness of “a man who wishes to build a tower, that first sitting down he calculates the means which are necessary, whether he has enough to complete it”; lest he should be mocked: “This man began to build, and could not finish.” (Lk. 14:28) Now the means for building the tower, as Augustine says in the letter to Laetus, “is nothing other than that each man renounce all that is his.” But it sometimes happens that many cannot do this, and similarly cannot bear the other observances of religious life. In a figure of this it is said that “David could not walk in Saul’s weapons, because he was not used to them.” (1 Sam. 17:39) Therefore it seems that one should not enter religious life except after long deliberation and having gotten counsel from many people.

      But against this is what is said in Matthew, that at the Lord’s calling, Peter and Andrew, leaving their nets, followed him immediately; (Mat 4:21-22) Chrysostom says about this, “Christ seeks such obedience from us that we should not delay for a moment.”

      I respond, it is to be said that long deliberation and the counsel of many people are required in great and doubtful things, as the Philosopher says in Ethics III, but in things which are certain and determinate, counsel is not required. Now three things can be considered concerning the entrance into religious life. First of all the entrance into religious life considered in itself. And in this way it is certain that entrance into religious life is the better good, and he who doubts about this superiority that it has in itself, disparages Christ, who gave this counsel. Hence Augustine says in On the Words of the Lord, “The East calls you,” that is Christ, “And you look to the West,” that is to mortal man, who is able to err. Entrance into religious life can also be considered in another way, in relation to the strength of the one who is to enter it. And thus also there is not a place for doubt about the entrance into religious life, since those who enter religious life do not trust that they can stand by their own power, but with the help of the divine power, according to Isaiah, “They who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will take wings as eagles, they will run and not toil, they will walk and not faint.” (Isa 40:31) Nevertheless if there is some specific impediment, such as bodily weakness or the burden of debts, or something similar, then deliberation is required, and counsel with those whom one hopes will help and not hinder one. Hence it is said in Sir. 37:12, “Treat with an irreligious man about holiness, and with an unjust man about justice”; as though it were to say: Do not. Hence follows, “Do not attend to these in any counsel, but be constantly with a holy man.” Nevertheless long deliberation is not to be made about these things. Hence Jerome says in his letter to Paulinus, “Hurry, I beseech you, and cut rather than untie the rope that holds the boat to shore.” Thirdly the way of entering religious life can be considered, and which religious order one should enter. And also about such things counsel can be taken with those who will not hinder one.

      1. To the first, therefore, it should be said that the saying, “Test whether the spirits are from God,” applies to things about which there is some doubt as to whether it is the Spirit of God [that is at work]. Thus those who are in religious life can have doubt as to whether he who offers himself for the religious life is led by the Spirit of God, or is merely pretending. But for him who seeks religious life, there can be no doubt as to whether the will to enter religious life that has arisen in his heart is from the Spirit of God, to whom it belongs to lead man to the right land (cf. Ps 143:10)

      Nor does the fact that some go back show that it is not from God. For not everything which is from God is imperishable; otherwise perishable creatures would not be from God, as the Manicheans say, nor would those who have grace from God be able to lose it, which is also heretical. But God’s counsel by which he makes perishable and changeable things is indissoluble, according to Is. 46:10, “My counsel shall stand, and my every will shall come to be.” And therefore the will to enter religious life does not need to be tested to see whether it is from God; for “things that are certain do not need discussion,” as the Gloss says about the precept, “Test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21).

      2. To the second it is to be said, that as “the flesh lusts against the spirit,” (Gal. 5:18) so also fleshly friends are frequently opposed to spiritual progress: “A man’s enemies are those of his household.” (Mic 7:6) Hence Cyril, explaining the passage in Luke, “Let me take leave of those who are at my home,” (Lk 9:61) says: “Seeking to take leave of those who are at home, he shows that he was in some way divided: for to communicate with his neighbors, and to consult those unwilling to relish like things, indicates that he is in some way still weakening and going back. On account of this, he hears from the Lord: ‘No one who has put his hand to the plow and looked back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ For he looks back who seeks delay for a chance to return home and confer with kinsfolk.”

      3. To the third it is to be said that by the building of the tower the perfection of the Christian life is signified. And the renunciation of what belongs to one is the means for building the tower. Now no one doubts or deliberates about whether he wants to have the means, or whether he can build the tower if he has the means, but what one deliberates about, is whether one has the means. Likewise one need not deliberate about whether someone should renounce all the things he possesses, or whether by doing this he could reach perfection. But one may deliberate about whether what he is doing is the renunciation of all the things which he possesses, since unless he renounces them, which is to have the means, he cannot, as is added in the same place, be a disciple of Christ, which is to build the tower.

      And the fear of those who are afraid as to whether by entering religious life they can reach perfection, is unreasonable, and is refuted by the example of many people. Hence Augustine says in Confessions VIII, “there appeared to me in the direction in which I had turned my face, and towards which I was afraid to go, the chaste dignity of continence, honourably urging me to come and not to doubt, and extending to receive me pious hands full of flocks of good examples: there so many boys and girls, there so much youth and every age, and grave widows and elderly virgins. She smiled at me with an encouraging smile, as if to say, ‘Can you not do what these men and women have done? Think you that these are able in themselves, and not in the Lord their God? Why do you stand in yourself, and do not stand? Cast yourself on him. Do not fear, he will not withdraw himself, so that you fall. Cast yourself on him, secure, and he will catch and heal you.’”

      And the example which is brought up of David is not to the point. For Saul’s weapons, as the Gloss says, are “the sacraments of the [old] law as though burdensome,” while religious life is the sweet yoke of Christ, since, as Gregory says in Moralia IV, “What heavy yoke does he put upon our minds, who commands us to avoid every desire which perturbs us, who advises us to turn away from the laborious journeys of this world?” To those taking this yoke upon themselves he promises the refreshment of the divine enjoyment, and the eternal rest of souls. May he bring us to this, he who has promised, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who is God over all things blessed for ever. Amen.

    • Our opponents say that the aforesaid certainty has place if someone is called by the words of the Lord himself; for then they admit that one should not delay, nor seek additional advice. But when a man is moved interiorly to enter religious life, then there is need of great deliberation and the advice of many people, so that he can discern whether this movement comes from God.
      But this response is quite wrong. For we should take Christ’s words written in Sacred Scripture, as though we heard them from the mouth of the Lord himself. For he himself says, “What I say to you, I say to all: be watchful’; and in Romans it is said that “whatever was written, was written for our instruction.” And Chrysostom says, “If they had been said only for the sake of those men, they would not have been written; now however they have indeed been said for their sake, but they have been written for our sake.”...
      Let us see specifically whether the advice that the Lord gave to the young man, “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all that you have, and give to the poor” (Mt. 19:21), was given to him alone, or also to all. We can find the answer from what follows; for when Peter said to him, “Behold we have left all things and have followed you,” he assigns a reward universally for all: “Everyone who leaves house or brothers etc...., for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will possess eternal life.” Therefore this advice should be followed by any particular person no less than if it were given personally to him by the mouth of our Lord himself. (Against the teaching of those who withdraw men from entering religious life, ch. 9)
    • ...
    • The saying which is brought forward in the third place, “Test whether the spirits are from God,” does not prove the point. For testing is necessary where there is not certainty; hence on the text “test all things,” the Gloss says, “Things that are certain do not need discussion.” Now to those who are in a position of accepting others into religious life, there may be doubt about in what spirit these persons come to religious life, namely whether they come out of a desire for spiritual progress, or as is sometimes happens, they come for investigating or evildoing; or there may be doubt about whether those who come are fit for religious life. And therefore a testing of those who are to be received, is appointed both by the Church’s ordinance and by the religious rule. But to those who pursue the intention of taking up religious life, there can be no doubt regarding with what intention they do it. Hence no necessity of deliberating lies upon them, especially if they are confident about their bodily strength, for examining which a year of testing is granted to those who enter religious life.
    • What is proposed fourthly, that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, and many times suggests good things with the intention of deceiving, is true. But as the Gloss on that passage says, “when the devil deceives the bodily sense, but does not move the mind from true and right judgment, by which each one leads a faithful life, there is no danger in religious life; or when pretending to be good, he either does or says those things that are fitting to good angels, even if he is believed to be a good angel, it is not a dangerous or unhealthy error.”... Therefore given that the devil incited someone to enter religious life, this would be a good work, and fitting to the good angels. Hence there would not be a danger if someone consented to him in this; but he would have to be watchful to resist him when he began to [try to] lead him to pride or to other vices. For it frequently happens that God uses the malice of demons for the good of the saints... Yet it should be known that if the devil suggests to someone that he enter religious life, or if another man suggests this to him, this suggestion has no efficacy unless he is drawn interiorly by God; for by entering religious life, one sets out to follow Christ, [and no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him]. (Against the teaching of those who withdraw men from entering religious life, ch. 10)
  • On the need to enter religious life without delay

    • In ST II-II 189:3, St. Thomas says that a person “is bound to enter as soon as possible.”
  • God speaks interiorly to man, through the Holy Spirit

    • There is also another way in which God speaks interiorly to man, as the Psalm says, “I will hear what the Lord God speaks within me,” and this speaking is superior to any external speaking.... Therefore if one should immediately obey the voice of the Creator uttered externally, as they themselves say, much more should no one resist the interior speaking, by which the Holy Spirit moves the mind, but should obey without hesitation. As is said by the mouth of the prophet, or rather of Christ himself, “the Lord God opened an ear to me,” namely by inspiring him interiorly, “and I did not contradict, I did not go back,” as though “forgetting what lies behind, stretching forward to what lies ahead” (Phil 3:13). The Apostle also says that “they who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14), on which Augustine’s Gloss says, “not because they do nothing, but because they are led by the impulse of grace.” But he who resists or delays is not led by the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is characteristic of the sons of God to be led by the impulse of grace to better things, without awaiting advice.... The Apostle teaches that this impulse should be followed: “Walk by the Spirit”; and again, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”... He also says: “Do not extinguish the Spirit” (1 Thess 5:19), on which the Gloss says, “If the Holy Spirit reveals something to someone at the present moment, do not prevent him from speaking.” Now the Holy Spirit reveals not only by teaching what a man should say, but also by suggesting what a man should do, as is said in John 14. Therefore when a man is moved by the impulse of the Spirit to enter religious life, he should not put it off for the sake of seeking human counsel, but should immediately follow the impulse of the Holy Spirit.( Against the teaching of those who withdraw men from entering religious life, ch. 9)
    • It is therefore not praiseworthy, but rather blameworthy, after an internal or external calling, made either in words or in the Scriptures, to put it off and to seek counsel as though about a doubtful matter. (ibid.)
  • One should not deter someone else from entering religious life

    • Quodlibetal III, q. 5, a. 4

    • Whether it is sinful to make someone take an oath not to enter religious life

      It seems that one can without sin oblige someone to take an oath not to enter religious life.
      1. For when one can do something licitly, one can licitly take an oath to do it. But it is licit for a person in the world never to enter religious life. Therefore he can licitly take an oath for this. Therefore he who obliges someone to such an oath does not sin, since he does not make him do something illicit.
    • But against this, the will to enter religious life is from the Holy Spirit. But to resist the impulse of the Holy Spirit is a grave sin, for which Stephen reprehends the Jews, saying: "You always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51). Therefore he who obliges someone by oath not to enter religious life, sins gravely.
    • I respond, it should be said that as was said above, in human acts something is not be simply speaking judged illicit on account of something that may occur in a particular case, but on account of what is true for the most part, as also in natural things one considers what is true for the most part. Now it may happen in a particular case that one can without sin bind someone by oath not to enter religious life; e.g., if he were bound in matrimony, and wanted to enter religious life without the consent of his wife, or in other similar cases. But simple speaking, to induce someone to take an oath not to enter religious life is a grave sin. For if someone wanted to enter religious life, and the right temporal opportunity were present, and all the circumstances were fitting, he would prevented him from entering religious life would sin gravely; hence the Lord gives a severe warning to the Pharisees, "who neither themselves entered the kingdom of heaven, nor allowed others to one." But when one makes someone take an oath not to enter religious life, he prevents him, so far as he can, from entering religious life according to any time and any opportune circumstance, since all particulars are included in the universal. Hence it is manifest that he sins gravely.
    • To the contrary objection it should be said that although it is licit to refrain from a good work, it is illicit to make an obstacle for oneself or for another so that one cannot proceed to that good work, as it is licit not to give alms to some poor man, yet it is illicit to oblige oneself or another by oath not to give alms to anyone. The reason for this is that to omit an act of virtue can be without sin, because affirmative precepts, as are those which concern acts of virtue, do not oblige one to act at all times, but an obstacle to a good work is directly contrary to virtue, and therefore falls under the prohibition of a negative precept, which obliges for all times. Hence all such oaths are illicit, nor should they be kept. And those who take such oaths, are guilty of perjury, since an oath cannot oblige a man contrary to love of God and neighbor. Hence although it is licit for someone not to enter religious life, it is illicit to make an obstacle for oneself or for others, for it is contrary to the perfection of life, and contrary to Christ's counsel.
  • The religious life is related to the way of life that does not include the counsels, as special to general

    • There are two ways of proceeding in the active life: the common way, by means of the commandments; and a specific way, by means of the counsels. (Commentary on the Psalms, psalm 24, n. 4).
    • The commandments taken absolutely, stand to the observance of the commandments with the counsels and the observance of the commandments without the counsels, as a genus to species, just as not-committing adultery stands to not-committing adultery in virginity and not-committing adultery in marriage; and going is common to going by horse and going on foot. (Quodlibetal V, q. 10, a. 1)
  • Vocation most frequently refers to the vocation to conversion and Christian life

    • See, for example, In I Sent. d. 41, q. 1, a. 2, ad 3; In IV Sent. d. 17, q. 1, a. 1, qa. 2; De Veritate 6:1; Super Ep. Ad Romanos, Cap. 8, Lec. 6; Cap. 11, Lec. 4; Super Evangelium Johannis, Cap. 1, Lec. 6; Cap. 20, Lec. 3; Super ad Galatas, Cap. 1, Lec. 4.
  • But vocation also refers to the more perfect following of Christ by means of the evangelical counsels

    • Besides the texts where St. Thomas treats of Christ’s calling of the disciples: ST II-II 189:10; Contra Doctrinam Retrahentium, Ch. 9; Contra Impugnantes, Part 2, Ch. 6, ad 13.
  • The nature of vocation

    • Vocation or calling implies a certain leading to something.
    • There is “a certain calling into existence through creation.”
    • “There is a temporal calling to grace.”
    • This calling is either interior, by means of the influx of grace, or is exterior, by means of a preacher’s words.
    •  (In I Sent. d. 41, q. 1, a. 2, ad 3.)
  • Love of God implies obedience to him
    • Since to love someone is to will him good and to desire what he wills, he does not seem truly to love, who does not do the will of his beloved, and does not perform the things he knows that he wills. Therefore he who does not do the will of God, does not seem truly to love him; and therefore Christ says, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, is he who loves me” (Joh 14:21), that is, is he who has true love for me. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, Ch. 14, Lec. 5).
  • On making a decision by means of chance

    • [If the outcome of lots] is expected from God... then using lots in this way is not evil in itself, as Augustine says. Nevertheless this may be sinful in four ways. First, if one have recourse to lots without any necessity, for this seems to be a way of putting God to the test....
      Secondly, even when there is a necessity, if someone uses lots without reverence. Hence Bede says, “If compelled by some necessity, people think that God should be consulted by means of lots, following the example of the Apostles, let them note that the Apostles did not do this except after gathering together the assembly of the brethren and pouring out prayers to God” (Super Act. Apost. i).
      Thirdly, if divine oracles are used for earthly affairs...
      Fourthly, if people use lots in ecclesiastical elections, which should be made by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Hence, as Bede says, “before Pentecost, Matthias was chosen by lot to be ordained,” namely because the fullness of the Holy Spirit was not yet poured out in the Church, “while the seven deacons were afterwards ordained not by lot, but by the choice of the disciples.”... But if necessity presses, then it is licit to implore the divine judgment with lots, keeping due reverence.

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