Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation

 

COMMENTARY ON THE
RITUAL OF MONASTIC PROFESSION (1984)

 

CHAPTER II
RITE OF TEMPORARY PROFESSION

1. Temporary Profession


Saint Benedict legislated for a single profession occurring at the end of the novitiate and understood to be perpetual. This discipline remained in force until modern times when the Holy See stipulated that no religious may make final profession unless he had spent at least three years in temporary vows. The Instruction Renovationis Causam of 6 January 1969 modified this statute. While maintaining that a period of continuing formation must elapse between the completion of novitiate and final profession, it allowed temporary vows to be replaced "with some other kind of commitment as, for example, a promise made to the Institute.8 Consequently the Rite of Religious Profession distinguished between the Rite of Temporary Profession and the Rite of a Promise.

The new Code of Canon Law in 1983, however, eliminated the possibility of commitment, saying: "On the completion of the novitiate, a novice, if judged suitable, is to be admitted to temporary profession; otherwise the novice is to be dismissed" (Can. 653, 2).

Temporary profession may be made at Mass (RRP Intro., 5). But this is not required. Some abbeys may prefer to have it at Vespers. Since the Rite of Religious Profession declares that "the celebration of several rites in the same liturgical action is to be avoided completely" (Intro., 8), if a community wanted to have temporary and perpetual profession on the same day, a convenient arrangement would be to have perpetual profession at Mass and temporary profession at Vespers.

The rite of temporary profession follows the structure of perpetual profession in that it includes the traditional interrogative promise and reading of the profession document. It is distinct in so far as it omits the suscipe, community intercession, prayer of consecration and mystical burial.

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2.    Gathering of Candidates (no. 12)

After the Gospel or homily at Mass, or after the reading at Vespers (see no. 26) the novices may either gather before the abbot or else be presented to him with an appropriate word from the novicemaster (no. 12). They should not be summoned by name, since this is a feature of ordination liturgy, and monastic profession is not an ecclesiastical call. The chanting of "Come, my sons" (no. 27) is reserved for final profession.

3.    Request (nos. 13 -14)

The dialog proposed here (no. 13) is the same as that given for admittance to the novitiate (no. 2). This is to emphasize that the novices persevere in their purpose and persist in their petition (see RB 58: 3,9,13)

4.    Admonition (nos. 15-17)

Benedict ordered the Rule to be read three times during the year of novitiate, at the end of which a promise of obedience was elicited (RB 58: 14). The abbot's reading of the opening words of the Prolog at the rite of admittance (no. 7), followed by his reading of Chapter 72 at temporary profession (no. 15) recalls this discipline. The gesture of showing the Rule to
the novices (no. 16) -- taken from the ritual of Beuron9 -- indicates that the moment of decision has now arrived. "The accompanying formula is that which Benedict expected to be addressed to a postulant at the end of two months in the guest house (RB 58:10). Though succinct, it conveys all that need be said at this point. Obviously this action acquires its full strength when, as has been suggested, a copy of the Rule has been confided to the candidates at the beginning of novitiate (see no. 8).

5.    Promise (no. 18)

The promise in our rite (no. 18) is an ancient formula of Monte Cassino,10 to which has been appended a fourth question based on that found in the Beuronese ritual.'1 It stresses the negative aspect of

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renunciation as well as the positive aspect of dedication to monastic life,. both of which will be signified later by the exchange of clothing (see nos. 22-23).

At this point the Roman rite provides a Prayer for God's Grace (RRP II, 29). It is the counterpart of the Litany of the Saints at perpetual profession. since, as we will explain later, nothing should be interposed between the making of the promise and the reading of the document, we have eliminated this prayer from our ritual.11

6. Reading Of Profession Document (nos. 19-20)

The Constitutions of our Federation, according to which profession is made, define the nature and scope of temporary profession. Communities which desire to make these matters more explicit in the text of the profession document may do so.
The novice may read and display the document in whatever way is customary in the community (no. 19). The signed document, however, should be given to the abbot at temporary profession, and placed on the altar only at perpetual profession as is stipulated in the Rule. An economical way of accomplishing this at temporary profession would be for the novices to sign the document on the Rule or Gospel book placed on the abbot's knees. Once it is signed, an assisting minister or witness could remove both the book and the document.

In the ritual of Beuron the suscipe follows the reading of the document.12 However: it is sung only once. We will point out later that at perpetual profession the suscipe is the prayer which begins the intercessory and consecratory sections of the rite. Since the rite of temporary profession contains neither community intercession nor a prayer of consecration, it seems reasonable to omit the suscipe here and reserve it as one of the distinguishing elements of perpetual profession.

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7. Sign of Temporary Profession (nos. 2 1-23)

Practically all monasteries of the Federation confer either the long scapular or the entire habit at temporary profession. When the cuculla is given as a sign of final profession, the long scapular or habit will ordinarily be blessed at temporary profession. The prayer provided for this purpose (no. 22), rich in theological content, was used in almost every medieval ritual and was adopted by Beuron.13

The formula of investiture (no. 23) occurs with equal unanimity: in rituals of the Middle Ages. The words are appropriated from
Eph. 4:21-24; but the main verbs of the Latin text, exuat .•. induat, are also found in Benedict'ss sentence: "He is to be stripped of everything that he is wearing ( exuatur rebus propriis) and clothed in what belongs to the monastery (et induatur rebus monasterii )" (RB 58: 26). since Saint Benedict envisaged a change of clothing, it is important that novices, when making profession, wear the short scapular or coat and tie. At the moment of investiture the abbot should remove these garments from the newly professed and replace them by the long scapular or the entire monastic habit. The taking off of the old clothes and the putting on of the new ones. brings out the two aspects mentioned earlier in the promise: renunciation of one'ss former way of life, and dedication to monastic conversatio.

To avoid tedious repetition when several novices have made profession, the abbot may recite the formula once at the beginning of investiture. Of course, those abbeys which do not use the cuculla, and choose to bless the habit as a sign of perpetual profession (see no. 50), may still employ the formula of investiture at first profession even though the habit itself is not blessed.

8. Kiss of Peace (no. 24)

Although in many monasteries the abbot and community give the kiss of peace to the newly professed, neither the ritual of Beuron nor the Rite of Religious Profession provides for it. We recommend that it be reserved for perpetual profession.

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9. Conclusion (no. 25)

In the ritual of Beuron the rite concluded with Kyrie, Pater, versicles, and three orations. But temporary profession took place in the Chapter Room,14 not at Mass. When it takes place at Mass, the rite concludes with the general intercessions (no. 25, see RRP II, 36), in which the newly professed may be mentioned. When it takes place at Vespers, the Canticle of Mary follows the rite but the newly professed may be included in intercessory prayers at the conclusion of the hour (no. 26).

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Chapter 3

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