Yesterday, the feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux, two monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz in Austria made their solemn vows. Our good friend Sancrucensis has some very nice pictures of the ceremony, and the following explanation of the ceremony. Click over to him for more photos.
The ceremony for solemn vows follows more or less the outline described by St Benedict in the Rule, and is marked by St Benedict’s Roman sobriety. After the Gospel the candidates prostrate themselves before the Abbot, who asks: Quid pétitis? (What do you ask for?) They respond Misericórdiam Dei et Ordinis. (The mercy of God and of the Order.) The abbot then tells them to arise and preaches a sermon, sitting on the faldstool with the candidates standing in front of him. Then comes the feudal “homagium,” in which the candidates lay their hands in the abbot’s and promise him and his successors obedience according to the Rule of St Benedict “usque ad mortem.” Then every one kneels down and the Veni Creator Spiritus is sung. Then come the actual vows. The candidates read out the vows of stability, conversion of morals and obedience, which they have written by hand on parchment. They then sign the vow charts on the altar. The charts remain on the altar and are offered to God together with the gifts of the Mass. After signing the vows they sing Súscipe me, Dómine, secúndum elóquium tuum et vívam; † et non confúndas me ab exspectatióne mea three times. (Psalm 118, 116. In Benedictine breviaries, this verse, which is sung at Terce of Monday, is printed in small caps or otherwise distinguished as a weekly reminder of the day of one’s profession.) They then kneel down in front of each and every monk in the community, saying Ora pro me Pater, (Pray for me, Father) to which the monks reply Dóminus custódiat intróitum tuum et éxitum tuum. (The Lord keep thy entering and thy going forth.) While this is going on cantors sing the Miserere. Then the newly professed monks are then blessed with an extraordinary three part prayer, addressed to each of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in turn. They are then clothed in the cowl and the Mass proceeds.