What are the ʻEvangelical Counsels'?

Those who enter the consecrated life (Religious brothers and sisters) make a public religious vow declaring their desire to seek a ʻmore intimate' consecration to Christ. This vow includes the profession of the ʻEvangelical Counsels' (cf. CCC 914 - 916)

The ʻEvangelical Counsels', or Counsels of the Gospel, are three:"Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. They have been recommended by Christ in particular as means of perfection. By voluntary poverty, the right of possession and free disposal of property is renounced. Perfect chastity, which voluntarily renounces not only unlawful pleasures but even the married life, is recommended by our Lord in the following words: “There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it” (Matt. 19:12). Perfect obedienceunder a spiritual superior has for its object the perfect regulation of such actions as of themselves are not prescribed and regulated by any law. By such obedience our will is not only preserved from transgressions and forced to the performance of many acts of self-sacrifice, but also, by the fact of being subjected to the will of God’s representative on earth, it is wholly conformed with the divine will." (Thein, J. (1900). In Ecclesiastical Dictionary)

St. Thomas Aquinas explains how these councils, though not necessary for salvation, are means to perfection

"Secondarily and instrumentally, however, perfection consists in the observance of the counsels, all of which, like the commandments, are directed to charity; yet not in the same way. For the commandments, other than the precepts of charity, are directed to the removal of things contrary to charity, with which, namely, charity is incompatible, whereas the counsels are directed 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 Augustine says (Enchir. cxxi.): Whatever things God commands, for instance, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ and whatever are not commanded, yet suggested by a special counsel, for instance, ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman,’ are then done aright when they are referred to the love of God, and of our neighbour for God’s sake, both in this world and in the world to come. Hence it is that in the Conferences of the Fathers (Coll.i., cap. vii.) the abbot Moses says: Fastings, watchings, meditating on the Scriptures, penury and loss of all one’s wealth, these are not perfection but means to perfection, since not in them does the school of perfection find its end, but through them it achieves its end, and he had already said that we endeavour to ascend by these steps to the perfection of charity." (STh., II-II q.184 a.3)

image via wikipaintings in the Public Domain. Nuns convent of the Sacred Heart in Rome