Directory of Consecrated Life
Profession may be considered either as a declaration openly made, or as a state of life publicly embraced. The origins of religious profession date from the time when Christians were recognized in the Church as followers after perfection in the practice of religious life. We meet them in the third century, under the name of ascetics, called in Greek asketai, and in Latin confessores. Eusebius(Church History III.37) numbers among the ascetics the most illustrious pontiffs of the first ages, St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, and others. After these, in the fourth century, come the hermits and monks, followed in the eleventh century by the canons regular, in the thirteenth century by the mendicant orders, in the sixteenth by the clerks regular, and lastly by the members of religious congregations. Profession for a long time was made by clothing with the religious habit: the aspirant could personally put on the habit or receive it, with or withoutceremony, from the abbot or from the bishop. This clothing laid upon him the obligation of poverty and chastity more as a natural consequence of a donation or consecration to God than as arising from formal vows, which did not exist at that time (cf. St. Basil, Regulæ fusius tractatæ resp. ad 14 interrogat. in P.G., XXXI, 949-52).
The community life, established under Schenoudi, the great disciple of St. Pachomius, added an explicit promise of fidelity to certain precepts. St. Benedict added an express promise of stability, and obedience to the superior. These last promises denoted obligations created in addition to those implied by taking the habit. The first formula, which expressly mentions poverty and chastity, is that of the Constitutions of Narbonne, promulgated in 1260 by St. Bonaventure for the Friars Minor; then the constitutions of the Minims and clerks regular expressly mention the three essentialvows of the religious life, as well as those which were superadded on account of the special ends of their orders. This discipline is common to religious orders and congregations. Finally the regulations (Normæ) of 1901, published in explanation of the present practice of the Holy See, do not permit in new congregations any but the three essential vows of poverty, chastity, andobedience.
In the Decretal, "Quod votum," unic. De veto et voti redemptione (iii, 15) in 6°, Boniface VIII declared authoritatively that the vow of chastity, consecrated by the reception of major orders, or byreligious profession in an approved institute, created a diriment impediment to marriage. Some communities of tertiaries not belonging to an approved order were the first to introduce profession accompanied by simple vows, which is now the ordinary practice in the more recent congregations.