Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I don't know how typical it is, but ever since the 1970's (I have no idea what the practice was prior to Vatican II, if you do please chime in) the ordination of priests and bishops has become more triumphalist. With the diminished use of Gregorian Chant and its derivatives, more "festive" in style music for ordinations was chosen with increased used of instruments associated with triumphalism, brass in particular, with trumpet flairs.

But of particular concern was the development of lavish receptions for individual bishops and priests, some of which included bands and dancing. I can remember when I was in the seminary in Baltimore toward the late 1970's that there was a bit of controversy concerning a priest's ordination party where the newly ordained joined in dancing at his reception (either after the ordination or his first Mass, I can't remember.) It was noted that the very progressive Archbishop of Baltimore, William Borders was not pleased to hear about this.

I can remember attending a priest's ordination reception later in Baltimore and being shocked by a Baltimore priest dressed in a very nice suit and tie, completely unrecognizable as a priest, dancing up a storm with a variety of women and quite the dancer. It was known by most he was a priest, but it was quite shocking to me at the time and still is.

Compare what has transpired since the 1970's and has found some acceleration in subsequent decades, especially for episcopal ordinations, but also priestly ones, with what Archbishop Bergoglio suggested (at the reporting of Rocco Palma of Whispers in the Loggia) for his parishioners and friends when he was named a cardinal:

On his own call to the College in 2001, Jorge Bergoglio was typically circumspect – so the story goes in Buenos Aires, the cardinal-designate didn't order a new set of scarlet for himself, but just had the robes of his rotund predecessor, the late Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, taken in to fit him. And in a move he'd repeat on his election as Pope, the future Francis – who continued to ride the city buses, cook his meals and do his own laundry – likewise nixed a Consistory pilgrimage, urging anyone who sought to make the trip to donate whatever they would've spent to the poor.

And this is what Palma reports concerning Pope Francis' letter to the newly designated cardinals concerning sobriety of celebrations:

In a "personal letter" to his 19 picks that was made public by the Holy See this morning, Francis urged the cardinals-designate to an "evangelical spirit of austerity, sobriety and poverty" in their acceptance of the red hat as they began their preparations for the 22 February ceremonies.

So these would be my suggestions for those to be ordained priests or bishops for both their ordinations (and first Mass) and receptions:

1. Use Gregorian Chant, either in Latin or the vernacular, for the Entrance Chant and avoid music accompanied by trumpet fanfares and choir flairs. Could you imagine the sobriety of tone set for the liturgy if the Introit was chanted, with perhaps a common refrain for the congregation, in a chant tone of some kind.

2. For the reception immediately following an ordination Mass, let the it be held in a church hall and catered by the various parishes of the diocese where the laity are assigned what to bring. 

3. For priestly first Masses, Gregorian chant as suggested for the Ordination Mass also should  be used and the parish itself should provide the reception in the Church hall with parishioners providing food as in a covered-dish and there should be no bands or dancing.

What do you think and what has been your experience of ordination Masses and receptions, as well as first Masses and receptions?


Gene said...

Hey, Dude, just like the NO, it's a party! Let the good times roll!

Rood Screen said...

I didn't know there were Fr. Ted and Dougal costumes available!

Joseph Johnson said...

I presume that the new priest in Baltimore was not dressed in a black suit, black long tie and white shirt (which is, apparently, an accepted form of clerical dress in Germany and, possibly, Austria). It was kind of shocking to me the first time I saw pictures of Cardinal Ratzinger dressed this way. We are so used to the idea that priests never wear ties but should wear Roman collars instead.

However, prior to the invention and later universal popularity of the detachable shirt collar after the first third of the nineteenth century, priests did not have the reversed (Roman) collar as a distinctive article of clerical dress as we know it today. They wore the same full-cut attached collared shirts (a la "Pride and Prejudice" era) that most men wore. They may have worn either white or black cravats or neckstocks (an early form of necktie) with a dark (preferably black) suit maybe with a form of clerical vest or clerical frock coat both of which may (or may not)have had a standing collar like a cassock.

In some European countries, priests wore a clerical dress referred to as the "abito corto" (court dress) which consisted of a black tricorn hat and a black frock coat with large sleeve cuffs and knee breeches, which was a holdover from the eighteenth century. This outfit continued to be worn by some European priests into the twentieth century.

The cassock, which long predates the present form of Roman (rabat style) collar, seems to be the oldest surviving and most universally recognized form of clerical dress.

The tab insert collar clerical shirt was invented around 1960 and was first sold by a manufacturer named Gleason (not Jackie!).

Anonymous said...

Not just priests. I went to a 25th anniversary party for a sister celebrating her anniversary. It was like a wedding reception( we jokingly called her the show Bridezilla). She came in a! Never seen anything like it. I'm opposed to ridiculously expensive wedding parties as well.

Gregorian Chant is sobering. It's humbles you and lifts your heart and mind to the eternal. There's a science to the way they were written. There's nothing like the look on the face of a priest who is jocose and is used to being the center if attention celebrating a mass sung in plainchant.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

YIKES and yes what you describe is what Pope Francis condemns in the priesthood and religious life and that is worldliness. I can remember going to a major fundraiser for a Catholic hospital at a very nice hotel and the sisters who owned and operated the hospital arrived at the ball-like affair wearing evening gowns. Yes, I was scandalized and I suspect others were too.

Anonymous said...

Did some of the evening gowns not go well with your pink blazer?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In that city there isn't a Cherry Blossom festival so I am a bit befuddled by your statement as I couldn't tell if it matched or not since I didn't have it on seeing it wasn't a city with a Cherry Blossom Festival.