Monday, March 25, 2013


Don't expect to see this style of vestment, albs or otherwise, anytime soon again at the Vatican. To be honest with you, there is something about this photo that I think the world could misunderstand, not to mention, many loving, practicing, orthodox Catholics who love Liturgy that is more traditional than novel!

Palm Sunday last year and this year, what a difference a year makes in style!

When I was Master of Ceremonies for Bishop Raymond Lessard, I tried to move him from very simple, blah vestments to something that I thought was more fitting for the high priest of the diocese, I mean, the bishop. Having been ordained a bishop in 1974, he tended to have the 1970's mentality about vestments and liturgy. I tried mightily hard to move him into the 1980's. It was only that the High Church part of me awoke once I was transferred to the Cathedral and starting reading books about what the Cathedral liturgy should be (meaning the bishop's liturgy) and that our Cathedral at that time was far, far away from that template for not only the bishop but also the other non-bishop liturgies. So I went about "re-enchanting" the liturgy of the Cathedral, but in a 1980's sort of way that was eclectic. If I were the MC today, I would take what I began (which is still somewhat in place there as the religious brother who somewhat succeeded me is still there!)and start the chanting of the propers and not use "progressive solemnity" which I was into in the 1980's, but have a consistent "High" Mass each Sunday at the principal Mass with or without the bishop.

Like me, Bishop Lessard liked some modern vestments with the stole on the outside. So I bought a few very nice ones of that nature. But his criteria wasn't beauty, but simplicity and in Savannah's sultry, hot, and extremely humid climate, he wanted lightweight! Nothing lined would do.

But simplicity was the order of the day, supposedly noble simplicity. No brocade, no silk, no foo-foo sort of stuff! The cathedral had one set of very Baroque, Roman gold vestments in a drawer saved from yesteryear. I had never seen any of these in person and was amused by them and tempted to ask him to wear them at Easter or Christmas. There was also a deacon and sub-deacon tunic/dalmatic with real gold thread. He would have none of it and I thought these were also anachronistic.

Pope Benedict when he was first pope, in his first year or so, wore modern vestments. Only gradually then did he change from that to the Baroque and archaic. I think this would have been after he allowed broad use of the 1962 Roman Missal. I don't know how much Msgr. Marini influenced him in this, but make no mistake a good MC can have a great deal of influence!

To say that some of the cardinals, bishops and priests of the Church, not to mention some of the laity thought this was an an unfortunate turn of events, not only the pre-Vatican II looking vestments but the return of the pre-Vatican II Mass on an almost equal footing with the modern Mass, is an understatement.

The overnight abandonment (thus far anyway) by Pope Francis of these sorts of externals is telling. He took the name Francis to identify the Church with the poor and that possessions are less important than who one is and that when we die, a traditional shroud (how odd he would use this archaic term) has no pockets to bring our possessions with us.

I suspect that in the discussions the cardinals had in the conclave there were strong objections to the papacy returning to the things that the more progressive bishops would have thought Vatican II asked to simplify. This doesn't mean they are progressives in terms of Orthodoxy of teaching on faith and morals, but they wanted a pope who was more pastoral than academic and aloof and wore vestments that were less haughty and archaic.

I don't know that for sure, but I think this is a mandate for this particular pope. Another pope may bring the pendulum back to center or in the other direction.

Let me make clear, I am also somewhat uncomfortable with the lace and frilly looking stuff that we saw under Benedict's reign. It is not my cup of tea, although there is enough Italian in me that I can be duplicitous in this. There is a part of me that thinks it is cool. But then their is the stoic Canadian in me that thinks this stuff is a bit over the top!

I would also suggest with all the homosexual scandals in the Church that the more feminine looking lace and stuff is a put off to Cardinals and bishops trying to clean house and avoid making the Vatican and Church look like a gay cabal. Let's face it the lace is gay! I'm not saying that those who wear this are gay. In fact it takes (_alls)to wear this stuff. You have to be secure in your manhood in other words, but for some, maybe there is an untoward side to this.

Enjoy the pictures:

Yes, Virginia, this is Pope Benedict!

Appears to be a bit too heavy in many ways?:

Alright, I'm guilty, I had no problem parading around like this even if flamboyant. I don't know who the other is!

The question for the future: Will the next rector of Saint Joseph Cathedral, I mean, the next pastor of Saint Joseph Church, be so bold to wear this or will he be like Pope Francis and go "Back to the Future?


Joseph Johnson said...

It always struck me as a paradox that the same cardinals who wouldn't be caught dead in a lace-trimmed alb would still wear the (I forget the correct name) lace-trimmed surplice-like garment under their red mozettas when wearing their red cassocks and birettas.

I'm married with two daughters and like to wear old-fashioned dress hats and mechanic on antique cars and tractors. I won't wear a pink or pastel dress shirt (only white, blue or conservative stripes or small checks) but I have no problem with lace-trimmed albs and surplices (and have worn such surplices serving Mass). Is that a paradox, too?

Anonymous said...

Over at pray cry they love this. But apparently many of the "simple" vestments were new creations. So my thought is, which is more simple and humble--to use something already paid for or to buy new stuff of a different style. Is it really more humble to ditch a perfectly good mercedes that runs fine and is paid for to purchase a brand new Honda?

Pater Ignotus said...

Some seem to equate "highly ornamented" with "noble." I would not share this opinion.

There can be great nobility in that which is simple and unadorned. A cloudless, shimmering Wyoming blue sky, a hillside covered in a pristine blanket of new snow, a single boy-soprano voice singing the opening lines of "Once in Royal David's City" at the start of Kings College celebration of Nine Lessons and Carols.

Personally, I prefer for liturgical use vestments that, by their shape and color, evoke a sense of simplicity while at the same time announce clearly the liturgical season. According to my taste, the addition of galloons, braided gold threads, iconographic appliques, fringes, and especially, embroidered words, detract from the message of the vestment itself.

This is, most certainly, a matter of personal taste. But when "adornment" becomes the measure by which we begin to measure a pope or a bishop, I would suggest we are far from hitting the mark.

Templar said...

I am far more "put out" by Francis' use of a "chair" instead of a "throne"; or his lowering said "chair" to the same level as everyone else in the room; and of his failure to Genuflect before the consecrated Sacrament, than I am about his choice of modern polyester garments, although they are akin they are not on the same level. The things which upset me are evoking a laying aside of the Office of the Petrine Ministry. he is Christ's Vicar and not just another Bishop. Symbols have meaning and weight, and are as much used to teach as to represent.

Gregorian Mass said...

I don't see why a Pope should not use both as pictured above, thus avoiding the painful divisions that occur over these things. The Pope is supposed to be the umbrella which we can ALL find refuge under. Picking one "style" to make a particular statement does not seem that pastoral to me. My 2 cents.

WSquared said...

I don't consider the lace alb "absolutely necessary," but I don't mind them, and even like them to some extent. The priest at my EF-on-Sundays parish wears one under his Gothic chasubule even for the OF. For one, I'm quite aware that the world will often point to "other cultures" and "tolerance" thereof in order to make its points. But that sort of "tolerance" and understanding something for its own sake cuts both ways. I'm not sure I have much sympathy for the kind of outlook or worldview that will point out that men in other parts of the world hold hands and that that's perfectly manly for "their" culture, but as soon as someone at the Vatican wears a lace alb for Mass, then that's "gay" or "looks gay," and that anyone who is wearing a cassock is actually wearing a dress.

In general, I appreciate it whenever any priest wears his cassock, and when appropriate, his surplice. Linen albs with just a bit of detail are a-okay with me. I just can't stand the sloppy pillow-case-looking ones.

"Pope Benedict when he was first pope, in his first year or so, wore modern vestments."

Just so long as Pope Francis doesn't think that tie-dyed vestments are okay, I'm fine with his noble simplicity. The Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia did a wonderful job with the Palm Sunday liturgy. The deacon did wear a dalmatic, but it wasn't heavily embroidered or ornate.

"You have to be secure in your manhood in other words, but for some, maybe there is an untoward side to this."

Maybe that's part of the point, in a sense. We live in an entire culture that isn't secure in its manhood, period, for all of its constant aggressiveness, such that it so often focuses on externals and extremes, at that (I could say the same about examples of womanhood). But then, what else can I say about ideas of manhood that can be all about machismo and man caves, but which nonetheless have no *alls to back up the braggadocio? This is the kind of culture that encourages us to tell our sons and nephews that they're "too smart and good looking" to be priests, and that, by the way, Catholic priests don't get to have sex (and all this for a culture that talks a great deal about sex but curiously doesn't seem to know what it's even for). Go figure.

Gene said...

WSquared, Yes, the "man cave" is one of the more unfortunate developments resulting from our feminist dominated, fag infested culture. *sigh*

Joseph Johnson said...

Today I watched a nice short video of the Swiss Guard on Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog. They looked really "cool" and it has a lot to do with the fact that their uniforms have changed very little over the years to the point that they are now anachronistic and, therefore, now unique. I would be deeply disappointed if it was ever decided to put them in purely functional modern "fatigue," or battle dress, uniforms with boots and berets (ugh!). Their unique historical uniforms are a part of what makes them special.

Since liturgical vestments are not purely functional garments why shouldn't they also, by design, be deliberately "unmodern"? Again, I ask, why is it acceptable for the current vesture of some of the Eastern rites (and Orthodox) to be of elegant brocades and gallooned while "modern" Latin rite vestments should be so much plainer than they were in the not so distant past?

Is this difference in the vestment styles of East and West justified by the different cultural backgrounds that surround each rite? Frankly, I don't see my culture as being so different than that of my grandfather so why should the vestments in the Latin rite of my time be so different (plainer and less beautiful) than they were when he was my age in "pre-Conciliar" times?

ytc said...

Poor taste:

polyester albs (unless the parish is poor)

those ENORMOUS "Gothic" chasubles that swallow the wearer

fussy matchy-matchiness that some bishops do with their chasuble-mitre coordination

It doesn't take much to satisfy me. As long as you cover up your Roman collar completely, wear vestments that fit, and don't wear chasubles that scream 1970s, I'm good.

I must say, one of the worst pontifical outfits I've ever seen is what Bishop Sample wore to ordain deacons (or subdeacons maybe) in Italy. That salmon colored chasuble was atrocious, and that mitre was about three feet too tall for his skinny face.

Simple is fine, as long as it doesn't turn in to iconoclasm. Ornate is also fine, as long as it doesn't turn in to looking like you've been slapped in the face with a Catholic goods store catalogue.

As long as you don't dress like a slob with an agenda, you'll probably look great.

Pater Ignotus said...

Polyester albs are sensible and can be beautiful. They are sensible in that they pack without wrinkling, wash easily, require no ironing, and wear like iron. I owned only one alb for the first 19years of my priesthood.

They can be beautiful. The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (great name, that) of Boston have made both my albs from a polyester fabric that is quite beautiful, with a very subdued pattern in the cloth. It is a custom made garment, so it fits properly. The alb has a collar that covers the shirt collar, as it should.

My own preference is for a full chasuble with collar. The collar, if nothing else, provides a good base for attaching the clip on microphone most places use.

Gene said...

Ignotus, polyester fits your theology quite well. You should be completely comfortable with it...

WSquared said...

Gene, those who are gay are made in God's image with a God-given dignity, whatever their worst sins, just like the rest of us are. One does not condone or excuse their sins, just like our own are not to be condoned or excused, but repented. God loves them also, and the invitation that He extends to us is the same one that He extends to them. Please don't call them "fags."

As for polyester chasubules, Pater Ignotus does have a point when it comes to practicality-- they don't crease. And they can be made beautiful and dignified with just a little care and attention-- you can still have one with nice embroidery (I should know; I can do a bit of sewing and some embroidery).

...nobody said anything, however, of a big, ugly-looking, 70s-style motif of the Holy Spirit on the front, though!

Gene said...

WSquared, I will call them what they are. Have you listened to the things they say about the Church and us? Part of the problem is all this walking on eggs around these people and their supporters, being careful not to say anything that might offend them. They need to be offended. They have cast off their God-given dignity. This rather modern notion of separating the behavior from the person ("it is the sin, not the sinner") is used by the Left as a means of excusing their behavior. We need to re-stigmatize this and other abominations before any serious recovery of the dignity and morality of our culture can happen. Once again, there is a cultural and theological war going is not wise to be sweet when ideological guns are aimed in your direction. So, I will continue to tell gay jokes and make fun of the enemy.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Gene, if Jesus Christ is our role model and I don't classify him as Milquetoast by any stretch of the imagination, I hardly think he would use degrading humor to get his point across to us who are sinners, all of us. We all have our peccadilloes and for Catholics called to imitate Christ even slurring the enemy seems untoward and anti-Catholic. We don't need to join the enemy in being anti-Catholic in our techniques of spiritual warfare.

Gene said...

Well, count me as one who believes it is time to do real battle with the Church's enemies. When one goes to war to destroy enemies, it is normal to attack them verbally, ideologically, and in every other way. We are not Jesus, and must use what we have and make judgements regarding how best to fight the battle with the means and beliefs we have. There are those who believe it would be best to let the Church just disappear and assume a passive role, accepting the Church's demise as God's will and judgement upon her. I am not of that camp. So, I suppose we must be what we must be and do what we must do and God will be the judge of us all. I am willing to submit my passion for the faith and love of the Church before His righteous judgement. Christ have mercy!

WSquared said...

Gene, yes, I am more than aware of what gay activists say about Catholics and the Catholic Church, and what they do to shut down Christian businesses who won't bend to their agenda. I also know how easy it is to try to bend over backwards to not offend anyone but God.

"it is not wise to be sweet when ideological guns are aimed in your direction."

Who the heck said anything about being "sweet"? Do you really presume that loving and forgiving, period, and not just loving and forgiving those who persecute us is "sweet"?

No, a lot of that is rather visceral and painful, actually, just as truth in charity and charity in truth always is, because it takes patience and fortitude that does not come all at once. Patience and fortitude that one knows that one often lacks, but prays for persistently to have and to want. That much is especially true when it is hardest.

"We are not Jesus, and must use what we have and make judgements regarding how best to fight the battle with the means and beliefs we have."

No, we are not Jesus, but we are members of His Body, and are commanded to conduct ourselves accordingly. Therefore using what we have and making judgments are highly contingent upon remaining in Him and being in Communion with Him. It means allowing Him to have his say. As for fighting battles, it also therefore behooves us to know the correct terrain, to identify the true enemy (which is sin), and to therefore fight with the right weapons. That we are not Jesus is precisely why He tells us that "my grace is sufficient for you," and "without Me, you can do nothing."

Somebody may try their darnedest to cast off their God-given dignity, but until they drop dead trying repeatedly, they still have a chance. That dignity is there from conception, no matter what they do; what Catholics do is to recognize as a simple matter of justice and acknowledgment of God's gifts what is there that cannot be taken or thrown away by themselves or us. This is what the Church can and does offer.

God is patient with them, just as He is patient with us, though ultimately, He will judge, and they, like us all, must choose Him or not. Furthermore, I would also be careful not to forget about those with same-sex tendencies who try to be and want to be faithful to the Church and her Magisterium in everything. They need to be encouraged and supported, and to know that they are not alone-- one finds love not primarily or exclusively in another person, but through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus. By the way, that's important for heterosexuals to understand, also, and if the larger culture is anything to go by, a good many don't, including far too many Catholics. It's important, because that's the kind of love that will be there for you when the chips are truly down, and when you feel as though you have nothing.

"I am willing to submit my passion for the faith and love of the Church before His righteous judgement."

A burning passion for the faith and for the Church such as yours is a very beautiful and noble thing. But it ceases to be beautiful and noble at those times when it threatens to burn others to a crisp for want of charity. Remember that when we do not have love, we have nothing.

John Nolan said...

Gene has a point. Half a century of dealing with lefties has convinced me that they have no understanding of irony and no sense of humour. It has got worse in the last 20 years thanks to a culture of so-called 'political correctness' which began in north America and has infected the English-speaking world like a bacillus.

These people need to be exposed for the sanctimonious hypocrites they are. They need the satire of Jonathan Swift or Alexander Pope poured over their miserable heads in buckets of ordure.

Heretics all, whoever you be,
In Tarbes, or Nimes, or over the sea,
You never will have good words from me.
Caritas non conturbat me.
(Hilaire Belloc)

Templar said...

Christ also kicked ass and upturned tables to get his points across. Why do we always have to reduce Christ to the modernist political correct version?

And lest we forget, Sodomy isn't just "another sin" it's a sin which "cries out to heaven". It's the last type of sin which should be soft soaped.

Finally, any sin, and any sinner, requires contrition before absolution. We may all have our skeletons, but we're not dressed as some transgendered nuns, walking down the street in a parade, shouting I'm loud and I'm proud, and oh by the way, don't call me name and be respectful to me. That's BS. If a gay person was fighting their sins, even if failing and getting back up time after time, but would acknowledge both the weakness and the wrongness of it, then respect is warranted and proper. Otherwise they're the enemy and should be painted as such at every opportunity.

WSquared said...

"There are those who believe it would be best to let the Church just disappear and assume a passive role, accepting the Church's demise as God's will and judgement upon her. I am not of that camp."

P.S., Gene, I know exactly what you're saying here, and I'm not in that camp, either. Only that there are better ways of presenting what the Church teaches and why she teaches what she teaches, and without compromise. One can be passionate, firm, and steadfast in defending the Catholic faith without calling people names. And it is not God's will that the Church be destroyed and disappear.

One may apologize for one's sins and one's tone of voice at times, but one need never apologize for the Incarnation and the existence of the Body of Christ. And by the way, I experience relativism combined with the usual prejudices against the Church up close and personal (and among those who profess to be Catholic at that), and it isn't easy to be patient with what I have to remind myself is muddle-headed at best and intellectually dishonest at worst.

The first thing is to know what love is, and to live it, else we won't be able to show how it is that the Church presents people with a better option. And I mean love as an act of the will, willing the best for the other as other, and not love as some sentimental emotion. Namely, that without the supposedly "mean" and hard stuff that the Church teaches that people say they "don't like," the stuff that people "like" will actually fall down.

I am also in the camp that believes Jesus when He says, "you are Peter, and upon this rock, I shall build My Church." I don't forget about the bit that goes, "and the gates of Hell will not prevail against her." The Church is not contingent on me and what I do to fight for her, and thank God-- especially if and when I go about it the wrong way. The Church is contingent upon and conformed to Christ, and I can either cooperate with Him, or get in His way.

So we should have hope. Not sun-shining-out-my-nether-regions naive optimism, which is not the same thing, but a sober hope that tries not to presume to know the form that the gates of Hell not prevailing against the Church will take.

Templar said...

Here's the fruits of political correctness:

Seems a very high profile Muslim convert to Catholicism has chnaged his mind thanks in no small part to Pope Franics.

Gene said...

WSquared, I do not ned to be lectured on charity and all that jazz. I am sure you and I agree on many things. I think we mainly disagree about when enough is enough.

WSquared said...

I think Peter Kreeft said it best: "The Catholic Church is the best friend of homosexuals: she teaches that they are made in the image of God, and that there are moral absolutes. So when homosexuals sin against themselves and others, as heterosexuals do, she says 'no.' But when others sin against them, she says 'no' also."

So there is no dumbing Jesus down to condone a sin that cries out to Heaven, but there is also no gay-bashing in the name of Jesus, either.

All men and women need and seek love. But since we're all capable of looking for it in the wrong places, the Church has such an opportunity for evangelization here: she clearly has what the secular culture cannot give.

What homosexuals fear as much as anyone else when it comes to "religion" is that someone is trying to deprive them of love and loving relationships (we can, after all, extend this observation to fornicators and those who use contraception). This is not the case with Jesus Christ. God is Love, but in no way is that love namby-pamby and sentimental. It's a love that is infinitely merciful, but that mercy also does not obliterate and trample truth and justice. What everybody else thinks are "just a buncha rules" is what Catholics know makes that love more concrete and tangible.

That transcendent love is a love that goes for everybody, which is what I will say again that many, many people in general and married couples tend to forget. They often forget that love goes beyond their romantic relationships, their children, and their spouses. And Catholicism has something very real to say here in its respect for celibacy and what it points to beyond this world.

The love of God is a love that is stronger than death, and it's way broader and deeper, and more permanent, than the kind that's all about "finding your special someone to grow old with" (that's a good thing; it's just that it's not "it"). The Lord seeks such a relationship with all men so that He can draw them unto Himself.

Gay people deserve to know that. They also deserve to know that this kind of love seeks them out tirelessly, and that the life that it offers them, no more or less than the rest of us, is liveable-- and that "hard" is not impossible, but actually exhilarating.