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Joe wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am aware of the canons related to vows.

  • How about promises made to Saints?
  • Are they supposed to be considered vows and, if so,
  • Shouldn't there be dispensations made by the local bishop?


  { Are promises made to Saints supposed to be considered vows? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Joe —

This is what canon law has to say. I hope it helps. It seems to indicate that a vow is made to God, not to any saint. I'd consult your pastor for more information.

Canon 1191

§1. A vow, that is, a deliberate and free promise made to God about a possible and better good, must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion.

§2. Unless they are prohibited by law, all who possess suitable use of reason are capable of making a vow.

§3. A vow made out of grave and unjust fear or malice is null by the law itself.

Canon 1192

§1. A vow is public if a legitimate superior accepts it in the name of the Church; otherwise, it is private.

§2. A vow is solemn if the Church has recognized it as such; otherwise, it is simple.

§3. A vow is personal if the person making the vow promises an action; real if the person making the vow promises some thing; mixed if it shares the nature of a personal and a real vow.

Canon 1193 By its nature a vow obliges only the person who makes it.

Canon 1194 A vow ceases by the lapse of the time designated to fulfill the obligation, by a substantial change of the matter promised, by the absence of a condition on which the vow depends, by the absence of the purpose of the vow,
by dispensation, or by commutation.

Canon 1195 The person who has power over the matter of the vow can suspend the obligation of the vow for as long a time as the fulfillment of the vow brings disadvantage to that person.

Canon 1196 In addition to the Roman Pontiff, the following can dispense from private vows for a just cause provided that a dispensation does not injure a right acquired by others:

  1. the local ordinary and the pastor with regard to all their subjects and even travelers;

  2. the superior of a religious institute or society of apostolic life if it is clerical and of pontifical right with regard to members, novices, and persons who live day and night in a house of the institute or society;

  3. those to whom the Apostolic See or the local ordinary has delegated the power of dispensing.

Canon 1197 The person who makes a private vow can commute the work promised by the vow into a better or equal good; however, one who has the power of dispensing according to the norm of (See Canon 1196) can commute it into a lesser good.

Canon 1198 Vows made before religious profession are suspended while the person who made the vow remains in the religious institute.

Hope this helps,


Mike replied:

Hi, Joe —

  • Can you clarify what you mean?

I don't know about my colleagues, but I don't understand what you are referring to.

  • Can you clarify your question for us?



Joe replied:

Hi, Mike.

I can clarify my question further by using examples:

  • If someone were to promise a Saint a pilgrimage to their hometown are they bound to it? e.g. promising St. Bernadette a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
  • What about promising a deceased loved one an honorable action?

Thank you


Mike replied:

Thanks Joe,

Remember to Reply All, so Eric, who answered your initial question, will receive your reply too.

To my knowledge the answer to both questions below would be No, you are not bound.
If I'm incorrect on this, I'm sure my colleague Eric will chime in, if he wishes.


Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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