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Suarez conjectures that the Jesuit ceremony began with the Order itself. Yet it seems that certain forerunners of it may be discovered. In the early 14th century a form of profession of the Franciscans at Perpignan in 1331 orders that the candidate recite the Confiteor after the priest's Communion, and then read his vows which he then lays on the altar. It does not appear that the priest faces the candidate; nor does the candidate put his copy into the hands of the celebrant. Until other sources give more light on the matter it seems that the Jesuits first introduced the ceremonial. It was followed at the profession in Saint Paul's outside the W a l k on April 22, 1541; this was the first official reading of vows after the foundation of the Order on September 27, 1540. But on this day St. Ignatius and his companions followed the ceremony which had been used on Montmartre in Paris on August 15, 1534.
Where did St. Ignatius and his companions find the ceremony? Apparently it is to be traced to the medieval custom of enforcing an oath by swearing by the Blessed Sacrament and also to the promises which were made by the Crusaders. Indeed we have a notice in a letter of St. Ignatius of 1542 where he swore an oath by the Blessed Sacrament on an important matter which came up between him and an embassy from the Portuguese King.
The custom derived from the emphasis put on oaths when they were sworn by some corporeal thing. It is noticeable in the various medieval ordeals, for some of which there are Church blessings; again the hilt of the Crusader's sword formed with the blade a cross; at the cross-piece there was a slot for relics, and thus an oath by the sword was an oath by a holy thing. The most sacred corporeal object by which one could swear was the Body of Christ in the Host. T r u t h, fidelity, constancy, stability, and the like virtues of service and obedience were thus emphasized.
Such an origin and signification do not therefore argue that even in the days of St.
Ignatius the symbolism of an exchange of gifts between man and God was not admitted.
Through the vows one gives oneself entirely to God; in the Communion one receives the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. In more recent times the ceremony has been thought to emphasize this exchange. We have no direct information on the thoughts of the early Jesuits; the presumption, therefore, is that the older symbolism prevailed. Father Zeiger notes that both symbolic features are profitably included in the ceremony of the Society, since both have their solemn lessons for the candidate and for