Which carries more weight for you, “I promise” or “I will try my best”?

Once someone utters the words “I promise,” I believe that these words are etched in their heart. I can remember when my mom or sister would promise to take me with them on an errand or do something just with me and then something came up and that promise was broken. More than that, my trust in either one of them was broken and took time to repair.

The words “I promise” continue to be important to me. Using these words with my own children and working as a teacher with students, I only made a promise when I knew I could follow through. I’ve also come to understand that a promise comes with a greater commitment, a lasting agreement that is more than just a cursory thought in time.

The promises we make to our children, our families and friends show our commitment and fidelity leading to trusting relationships. The same can be said of promises we make to God, our Father, when we show our respect to the divine majesty and love for our faithful God. As Christians initiated in the Catholic faith with vows taken in the Sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony and Holy Orders, we make a promise to God which must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion, notes the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our words declare our devotion, and we dedicate ourselves to God promising Him some good work.  Living out our vocation, be it single or married, lay or clergy, we answer God’s call by carefully listening and discerning daily, supporting one another on this temporary earthly journey.

The support and trust we build within our families, that first “privileged community” is where parents as spouses are called to respect each other. Our first relationships develop with the feelings, affections and interests that evolve from the respect shared with one another and the promises we make there.

New parents are very careful with their children, in their scheduling of sleep, nourishment, care and love. The trust that is first established, that respect for the life, can been seen from others outside of this privileged community. Raising children, with the lack of sleep, the constant need to nourish the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being is never ending – it takes the larger community, that village to provide reinforcement.

We can be nourished daily emotionally and physically, but is this nourishment grounded in the spiritual nourishment we can only receive through the life-giving love of the Holy Trinity? I can get in my car or go for a walk to find the nourishment I believe I need for my emotional and physical wellbeing, but without the spiritual nourishment of worshipping God I become stunted in my growth with words of hatred and defiance, blasphemy, disrespect and misuse of God’s name.

Distorted nourishment defiles my spiritual life, which in turn does not respect the life God has given me. I fail in my promise, in my sacramental vows, to live the vocation that God calls me to. Fortunately, God calls me to Him constantly. So great is His love, He calls each one of us constantly. We are all called to respect life, our own and the lives of others.

God is life giving. God respects and loves each one of us, even when we stumble. He has promised, vowed and dedicated Himself to each of us through His son sent to redeem us. This promise is witnessed in our communities. The more time I spend with God, intentionally finding time to show my gratitude, the more opportunities I am given to witness God’s love in others.

Each of us needs to be nourished – physically, emotionally and spiritually.  There is a balance which includes God and the promises we make to Him. We can choose to be nourished spiritually with the promises we have made with God in daily worship and be fed with the devotion to the Creator in whose image we are made. The more time we spend with God, the greater the peace that is instilled in our hearts and the promise God brings to enlighten and nourish us.

—Terri McCormack is marriage and family life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.