Understanding Religious Profession
Religious Profession – What is it?
First, I’d like to clarify the meaning of the term “religious profession.” It refers to an event, not a job. The reference is to making or “professing” vows as a way of committing to a religious community. This usually occurs in a formal ceremony. It may also include the giving of a new name. Think of it like marriage. The couple professes vows in a public ceremony. Then their family and friends recognize them as in a way being different people. They will celebrate the anniversary of this event as long as they both live.
The most common vows for Catholic religious are chastity, poverty, and obedience. However, as Benedictine monks, our explicit vows are a bit different. We profess obedience to the abbot, stability in the community,
and fidelity to the monastic way of life. The way of life includes chastity and personal poverty by implication (and according to our Constitution).
As further clarification, “religious” is used as a noun to refer to someone who has made the religious vows. “Profession” is used in this context as a noun referring to the event. To be explicit one could say “profession of vows.” In most uses, however, “profession” implies the vows just like “marrying” does.
Profession vs. Ordination
Furthermore, religious profession is not the same as ordination. In fact, we consider them two separate yet compatible vocations. Men as well as women profess religious vows. Men who do this are “brothers.” Professed women are “sisters.” If a male religious is also ordained a priest, the usual form of address is “Father” instead. Priests usually have pastoral and sacramental ministries. Brothers and sisters, on the other hand, are devoted to non-sacramental work and prayer. Both are vital to the life of the Church.