Professio ad hostiam – Solemn Perpetual Vows of Fathers Alvin Ng, SJ and Francis Lim, SJ

On July 31, 2021 which was the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19, a limited number of persons attended the Mass of the Solemn Perpetual Vows of Jesuit Fathers, Alvin Ng and Francis Lim. A large number of viewers however, participated in the live stream Mass.

Aug 02, 2021

Fr Alvin pronouncing his vows as Fr Stanley, who stood in for the Regional Superior, held up the Eucharistic host just before communion.


KUCHING:
On July 31, 2021 which was the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19, a limited number of persons attended the Mass of the Solemn Perpetual Vows of Jesuit Fathers, Alvin Ng and Francis Lim. A large number of viewers however, participated in the live stream Mass.

The presider, Fr Stanley Goh, SJ received the vows. He was delegated by the Regional Superior of Malaysia-Singapore Region (MAS), Fr Chris Soh, SJ who in turn represented Father General of the Society of Jesus. Fr Chris Soh was not able to be in Kuching due to the travel restrictions of the current pandemic.

As with all Jesuit vow profession, it was done professio ad hostiam (profession before the Eucharistic host). The vows were made by Fr Alvin and Fr Francis, one after the other, after the showing of the host by the presider just before he took communion. Then only they received communion.

Professio ad hostiam
When Ignatius and his companions made their final profession in the Basilica of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls on 22 April 1541, they used a completely different rite which later passed into the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. This rite is used for both the profession of first vows and final vows. The rite was contrary to the customary vow ceremonies of that time until even today. It is not the professio super altare or professio in manus, but professio ad hostiam to signify it is neither a stable monastic order nor a mendicant one. It is an apostolic order with a contemplative aspect.

Professio super altare
The profession on the altar is the monastic rite. During the offertory, the novice first pronounces verbally his promise by committing himself to monastic stability, to reform of life and to the observance of obedience, then he places on the altar his request which is a document written in his own hand which would serve as proof of his promise and of his desire to enter and form part of that monastery. At the end of Mass, the abbot picks up the request from the altar and carries it away with him as a sign of accepting the promise of the newly-professed.

Professio in manus
The profession into the hands was inspired by the offering of the homage of a vassal to his lord in early feudal Europe. It was adopted by the mendicant orders in the thirteenth century, for example the Dominicans and the Franciscans. The profession on the altar is abandoned by the mendicants because they do not vow to monastic stability. Instead, they are known as mendicants, that is, religious who go about begging.

Kneeling before the superior, the novice joins his hands and the superior takes them between his own. In this posture of submission, he pronounces the words of profession and then the superior gives him the kiss of peace.

The central element here is the joining of the subject’s hands with that of the superior, signifying commitment of personal submission to the master general.

Significance of professio ad hostiam
From a mystical and spiritual point of view, the Jesuit professing the vows makes his vows to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesuits are called to follow Jesus Christ closely and their company is known by his holy name. Therefore, Jesuits make their vows in front of him whose name they bear.

Communion follows with the value of a confirmation, a ratification, a sacred seal set by Christ on the commitment that the professed has made to him. With this communion a sort of covenant is made between God in the Blessed Sacrament, the Society through the representation of the superior holding the host and the professed. For by administering the Eucharist to the professed the superior shows that he accepts his profession and receives him into communion with himself and the Society. By the gift of himself, Christ promises the professed his strength so that he can keep the commitment that he has just made. By receiving Christ, the professed presents and offers himself to God.

Solemn Perpetual Vows or Final Vows
For Jesuits, the first vows which are made at the end of novitiate are already perpetual; for there is no need for periodical renewal. So what are the final vows that Fathers Alvin and Francis took recently?

For first vows (also called simple perpetual vows), the Jesuit gives himself unconditionally to the Society of Jesus whereas the Society accepts him conditionally. This means a Jesuit before final vows can be easily dismissed.

As for final vows for Brothers or Spiritual Coadjutor, or solemn perpetual vows for the fully professed, the Jesuit who has given himself unconditionally to the Society of Jesus is accepted unconditionally as well by the Society. This is the reason why final vows happen many years after ordination for Jesuit priests. After many years of probations, the superior can go to sleep in peace with the opinion that he can leave the Society of Jesus in good hands when a particular Jesuit is accepted into final vows.

Fr Alvin is thankful for his final vows; he says, “I am humbled and grateful for the gift of final vows in the Society of Jesus.” For Fr Francis, he is contented that “final vows are the natural progression of my life within the Society of Jesus.”--Today's Catholic

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