When a person who is already baptized is received into the Catholic Church now, the ordinary profession of faith used is quite simple. The person states (without having to put his or her hand on a book of the gospels or otherwise in the position of taking an oath), “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” That’s how they juridically and formally enter the Catholic Church.
I recently came across the older form of the profession of faith for converts. The difference is rather remarkable. It could, in a certain sense, be a standard against which an RCIA program is judged: do all these things really get taught? Here it is — it speaks for itself:
I, NAME, ___ years of age, born outside the Catholic Church, have held and believed errors contrary to her teaching. Now, enlightened by divine grace, I kneel before you, Reverend Father NAME, having before my eyes and touching with my hand the holy Gospels. And with firm faith I believe and profess each and all the articles contained in the Apostles’ Creed, that is: I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into hell, the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and life everlasting. Amen.
Most firmly I admit and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all the other constitutions and ordinances of the Church.
I admit the Sacred Scriptures in the sense which has been held and is still held by Holy Mother Church, whose duty it is to judge the true sense and interpretation of Sacred Scripture, and I shall never accept or interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.
I profess that the sacraments of the New Law are truly and precisely seven in number, instituted for the salvation of mankind, though all are not necessary for each individual: baptism, confirmation, Holy Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, holy orders, and matrimony. I profess that all confer grace, and that baptism, confirmation, and holy orders cannot be repeated without sacrilege. I also accept and admit the ritual of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of all the sacraments mentioned above.
I accept and hold in each and every part all that has been defined and declared by the Sacred Council of Trent concerning Original Sin and Justification. I profess that in the Mass is offered to God a true, real, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; that in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist the Body and Blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ is really, truly, and substantially present, and that there takes place in the Mass what the Church calls transubstantiation, which is the change of all the substance of wine into His Blood. I confess also that in receiving under either of these species one receives Jesus Christ whole and entire.
I firmly hold that Purgatory exists and that the souls detained therein can be helped by the prayers of the faithful.
Likewise I hold that the saints, who reign with Jesus Christ, should be venerated and invoked, that they offer prayers to God for us, and that their relics are to venerated.
I firmly profess that the images of Jesus Christ and of the Mother of God, ever Virgin, as well as of all the saints should be given due honor and veneration. I also affirm that Jesus Christ left to the Church the faculty to grant indulgences, and that their use is most salutary to the Christian people. I recognize the Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the mother and teacher of all the churches, and I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pontiff, successor of St. Peter, the prince of the Apostles and vicar of Jesus Christ.
Moreover, without hesitation I accept and profess all that has been handed down, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and by the general councils, especially by the Sacred Council of Trent and by the Vatican General Council, and in special manner all that concerns the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. At the same time I condemn and reprove all that the Church has condemned and reproved. This same Catholic faith, outside of which none can be saved, I now freely profess and to it I truly adhere. With the help of God, this faith I promise and swear to maintain and profess entirely, inviolately, and with firm constancy until the last breath of life. And I shall strive, so far as possible, that this same faith shall be held, taught, and publicly professed by all who depend on me and over whom I shall have charge.
So help me God and these holy Gospels.
There is a short form, which was to be used in grave necessity only. This is much closer to what we now use:
I, NAME, reared in the Protestant religion [or other religion as the case may be], but now, by the grace of God, brought to the knowledge of the truth, do sincerely and solemnly declare that I firmly believe and profess all that the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church believes and teaches, and I reject and condemn whatever she rejects and condemns.
I am reminded of a dear priest friend who died, and who, before expiring, was able to recite a profession of faith (not the one for converts printed above). I posted a few months back about how I hoped to be able to have the use of my faculties till the end so that I might be able to offer my soul to God; I now add to that intention that I hope to be able to renew my profession of faith as well! What a beautiful way to die, if God so grants it.