Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Vestment

Update: Liturgical Literacy and the Deacon’s Dalmatic

So, I posed a few questions to Fr. Z at What Does the Prayer Really Say? blog.  He was very generous to turn the answer around in under a day, THANKS!  Here is his reply:

QUAERITUR: Of subdeacons and tunics

From a deacon reader:

I was in the middle of some research last night and discovered some new tidbits on vestments. More precisely, the difference between a dalmatic and a tunicle. I captured a number of my thoughts on my blog ( Anyway, here are my questions:

* When celebrating the Extraordinary Form (EF) are the Subdeacons wearing tunicles or dalmatics? [Tunicles or tunics]
* Since the tunicle was abrogated in 1969, presumably because of the suppression of the minor orders, is it still the appropriate vestment for a Subdeacon in the present EF? [Tunicle is the vestment of the subdeacon.  If there is a man serving as a subdeacon in a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form, he puts on a tunic.]
* With the ever-growing popularity of the EF, do you think that there is a need to ensure that Deacons are only wearing dalmatics and not tunicles (they seem to have become one and the same)? [Once in a while you can’t tell them apart.]

Sometimes you will see that classy vestments having sleeves with slightly different decoration.  For example, one will have two “stripes”, and the other just one.  This distinguishes the dalmatic and the tunic.  Most older sets will have some distinguishing sign.

Here is a more modern set of solemn Mass vestments.  You can see that the dalmatic has two stripes and the tunic one.

Another example:

Which is which?  Easy.

But some sets don’t distinguish, perhaps because pieces were lost or the makers, designers didn’t make a tunic, and the garments are identical.  Some more modern sets may have just two dalmatics (both with two stripes)

In that case, as soon as the deacon puts on his garment he is putting on his dalmatic and when the subdeacon puts on his his is putting on his tunic… even though they are identical.

In this shot the vestments are the same, but clearly the guy on right is wearing a dalmatic by the fact that he is the deacon, and the guy on the left is wearing a tunic by the fact that he is subdeacon.  It becomes a matter of pure coincidence that the garments are the same.

So too here.  If this is a Solemn Mass with the 1962 Missal, one of these guys is wearing a tunic that looks like a dalmatic.  If it Novus Ordo… well… if they are both deacons, then I guess they are both dalamtics.

Here you can see which one is the deacon.  He’s got more stuff on him.

When a bishop puts on his pontifical vestments, the first one he puts on is the tunic, even though there isn’t any difference between it and the next one he puts on.

Preserved Killick would be able to explain this:  “Which when he put’s it on, it’s a tunic, ain’t it, ya grass-combing lubber?”

Think of it this way.  When Jack Aubrey, of the celebrated series, while still just a commander took command of a brig-rigged vessel, that vessel became a sloop, by the fact of his being in command.


Anyway… the tunic was “suppressed” in 1969?  Pah!  Piffle, I say!

Let tunic abound.  Where ever there be Solemn Masses and, therefore, the role of subdeacon, let that subdeacon wear his tunic with distinction and pride!

And as far as the question of the suppression of the subdeacon is concerned, sure, let’s all read together Paul VI’s Ministeria quaedam.

Having read that, I have to ask, when the Holy See gives permission to the Fraternity of St. Peter to ordain subdeacons… what happens?  Are they subdeacons or aren’t they?  If they are, then I think they should put on the tunic they were ordained in.  If they aren’t subdeacons… what are they doing?  Pretending to ordain?  Would the Holy See sanction a pretend ordination?  Unlikely.  We have the use of the 1962 Missal.  Someone has to fill the role of the subdeacon.  When someone does that, he wears the tunic.

This isn’t hard.

Liturgical Literacy and the Deacon’s Dalmatic

I am always amazed at what I discover when I am not looking for what I find. I know, that sounds ridiculous but these precious nuggets of information are what fill my simple mind with joy. Since ordination, I have been given a few dalmatics (Thanks everyone!)…or what I thought were dalmatics. Turns out, to my delight, I discovered I also own tunicles. Never heard of a tunicle, read on!

Establishing a Lexicon of Vesture


The dalmatic takes its name from its territory of origin, Dalmatia. If it sounds familiar, you probably are recalling those lovely dogs, dalmatians. And, you would be correct. Dalmatics and dalmatians both are from Dalmatia, which is a historic region of Croatia along the Adriatic Sea. In antiquity, the dalmatic was the clothing of rank and prestige worn by only the most privileged and outstanding members in society.


Related to the dalmatic is the tunicle which was

developed in the same design in ancient Rome, where it is was worn within the villa, never to be seen outdoors. Ancient graffiti illustrate the tunicle as something akin to a lounging suit or caftan, showing it being worn during meals.[1]

The tunicle and dalmatic were almost identical save the difference in weight and “later on, in degree of ornamentation.”[2]

From Secular to the Sacred

Both garments entered the Church liturgy, though the dalmatic was first adopted five centuries earlier during the fourth century. Most historians agree that Pope St. Sylvester in A.D. 332 committed the dalmatic to the Sacred Order of Deacons. Some historians argue that Pope Symmachus of Sardo granted the privilege in A.D. 506, but it is impossible to verify the truth with certainty. Regardless, what is important is that the dalmatic was universally accepted by the early Church as a distinct vestment of importance for the Church.

The tunicle on the other hand, was not as a liturgical vestment until A.D. 829. It was assigned to the rank of Subdeacon once the minor orders were uniformly established. It is to Pope Gregory IV that the firm establishment of the tunicle is credited.

Bishops used the dalmatic and tunicle as part of their required vesture underneath the chasuble from the thirteenth to the twentieth century. With the 1969 liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, came a change in vesture. The tunicle was abolished for Bishops and the minor orders were suppressed; therefore, the tunicle was abandoned to liturgical history books. Bishops may, to this day, wear the dalmatic under the chasuble. It has become something of a tradition for many of them to wear the dalmatic during diaconal ordinations. Thus, the Bishop illustrates the relationship of the Deacon to the Bishop – close to his heart.


As previously mentioned, the dalamatic and tunicle are of similar design. So, what is the essential difference between the two?

The dalmatic is a vestment open on each side with wide sleeves and marked with two stripes. It is rich in ornamentation and during the liturgy always matches the color of the celebrant’s chasuble in color.[3]

Additionally, the tunicle was always lightweight and of little ornamentation. Since the Order of Subdeacon has been suppressed, it is no longer used except during the Extraordinary Rite of the Divine Liturgy.

Interestingly enough, most deacons today actually wear a tunicle and not a dalmatic. In fact, among the gifts I received for ordination, I actually only received three dalmatics while the other three are properly tunicles. I would have never known the difference but for the research I was committed to last night.

For the most part, at least on the diocesan level, Priests and Deacons neither know the difference nor do they care. As a rule, probably more by way of local custom, the tunicle and dalmatic have become one and the same in liturgical use. Most clergy define a dalmatic in the most general sense, sleeves and open on the sides.

Rubrics and Usage

When is the dalmatic to be worn? The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) in paragraph 338 instructs:

The vestment proper to the deacon is the dalmatic, worn over the alb and stole. The dalmatic may, however, be omitted out of necessity or on account of a lesser degree of solemnity.[4]

To date, many Deacons use the alb and stole as their primary vesture during the Divine Liturgy. Others use the Principal of Progressive Solemnity in accordance with GIRM 119b as their rule of thumb for usage of the dalmatic. Practically speaking, this means that the dalmatic is used (if one owns one or the parish provides it) on Sundays and Solemnities. And, this is a noble and worthy practice.

New Considerations

While I am not opposed to the Principle of Progressive Solemnity, I have begun to rethink it after re-reading the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament 19 March 2004 Instruction: Remptionis Sacramentum. In particular, paragraph 125 which instructs:

The proper vestment of the Deacon is the dalmatic, to be worn over an alb and stole. In order that the beautiful tradition of the Church may be preserved, it is praiseworthy to refrain from exercising the option of omitting the dalmatic.[5]

This instruction was a follow-up to Servant of God Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia that aimed at correcting abuses and fostering a greater understating of the Blessed Sacrament’s essential centrality in the life of the Church. The instruction is also linked to his Apostolic Letter Spiritus et Sponsa where in paragraph 16, he earnestly desires that a

“liturgical spirituality” be developed that makes people conscious that Christ is the first “liturgist” who never ceases to act in the Church and in the world through the Paschal Mystery continuously celebrated, and who associates the Church with himself, in praise of the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

This new instruction (six years old at this point) seems to indicate, when possible, that the Deacon is to always wear the dalmatic during the Divine Liturgy. I believe as the Western Church continues to reflect and deepens its theology of the Deacon, we will see that just as the chasuble is to the Priest and Bishop, the dalmatic is to the Deacon.


For a number of really good reasons, I would venture to guess that most churches in my diocese do not have a full set of dalmatics for Deacons to wear. Transitional deacons are ordained usually a year after ordination to the diaconate making the cost prohibitive. And let’s be honest, not every church gets a Transitional deacon for their pastoral year. Why should they make such expensive purchases during a recession (I wouldn’t)?

Additionally, in our diocese, the first Permanent deacons in twenty-two years were just ordained. It is less likely that they will be buying a full set of dalmatics. Why? Well, simply because they have families and cannot afford to purchase a full set in the array of liturgical colors. Also, let’s be honest. Pastors realize that clergy are picky about their vestments. On the other hand, beggars cannot be choosers.

Noble Simplicity

After my research, I am convinced that Deacons should be in a dalmatic at every liturgy. That being said, we really need to raise the bar on our vestments (I will only speak to my brothers). The liturgy is our chief catechetical tool and it should engage the entire human person. We are designed to desire the good, true and beautiful.

I think that some have confused noble simplicity with simply ugly. The New Liturgical Movement blog dispels erroneous ideas of noble simplicity by quoting Liturgiologist Edmund Bishop who says,

Ritus nobili simplicitate fulgeant…” Nobili simplicitate. Noble simplicity. It is a concept that, like participatio actuosa, is oft quoted, but it is also one that often comes laden with certain assumptions as to its meaning and expression; assumptions which are sometimes expressed by a kind of rigid minimalism, or other times misunderstood in a rupturous sense of a rejection of the past and past expressions, and still again often equated with a kind of sterility, as though being bereft of ceremony, colour, warmth or ornament was of necessity for its pursuit.

On the contrary, Shawn Tribe in the same article entitled, Noble Simplicity and the Liturgiologist Edmund Bishop, reminds us that noble simplicity should be understood in the context of how Sacrosanctum Concilum speaks of the “sacred arts being characterized by a ‘noble beauty’.” We are Catholics not Quakers. Our understanding of simplicity is that it is not ostentatious but of ornamental beauty in fabric and design that befits the dignity and beauty of the Sacred Liturgy.

Final Thought(s)

The Western Church is still adjusting to the re-instituted order of Permanent Deacons. We are also still recovering from an ecumenical council. Change is never easy but the Lord continues to bend our wills that they may be united to the heart of the Church.

And lastly, we also might consider purchasing dalmatics and not tunicles. The Extraordinary Rite is here to stay and is becoming more and more popular. Let’s try not to confuse the faithful with our vestments as well, we owe them noble simplicity without having to think hard.

[1] James-Charles Noonan, The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church (New York: Viking Adult, 1996), 343-44.

[2] Ibid.

[3] John Walsh, Mass and Vestments of the Catholic Church, Reprint ed. (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1916), page 343

[4] cf. 119b, 336

[5] Cf. Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 338

Rose-ish Pink?

Every year during Advent and Lent, there is a chuckle from the congregation. On Gaudete and Laetare Sundays, the celebrant explains why his vestments are Rose in accordance with the solemnity of the liturgical celebration. The truth is that most of the vestments are pink. Yesterday, it was that pinkish time of year. The New Liturgical Movement blog provided pictures of vestments from readers who sent local examples in. Here are some beautiful vestments:

News Media and Cardinal-designates

The Washington Post just does not get it. Yesterday, Archbishop Wuerl made the front page in an article entitled, D.C.’s Wuerl among 24 new cardinals named by Pope Benedict. I know I should not be surprised. Call me crazy, I thought that might learn by now.

After several niceties, the article then speculates on two “hot topics” that just bug me. The first topic it recycles is the controversy last year concerning the closing of the 80-year Catholic Charities Foster Child program in his Archdiocese. His reason? The District of Columbia’s City Council opened up adoptions for same-sex marriage/partners. Now, I am a little dismayed at the Councils surprise when he did this -then and now. It is not like Church had to discuss this. Neither our Lord nor His Church’s Magisterium has changed in 2,000 years. Hint: It is not going to in the future either.

The second topic – politics. Why must everything be political? Don’t get me wrong! I am well-aware of the fact that the selection of the Cardinal-designates shape the next conclave and thus the election of Pope Benedict XVI’s successor. But a Cardinal is not a  politician but someone who is an elite adviser to the Holy Father in current issues. They are also leaders in catechetics and Archbishop Wuerl is the consummate Catechist. if you really want to get technical and historical, cardinals wear red because they were the ones red to take the bullet for the Pope. That’s right, you were elevated to be the first slain. Imagine that, Rome chose your clerical colors based on the ancient tradition of your service.

There seemed also to be a comparison between Archbishop Burke and Wuerl in the article as if the Holy Father was attempting to “balance” theologies when it comes to reception of the Eucharist by pro-abortion politicians. Sorry, doesn’t work that way. While a very important topic, one where Archbishop Wuerl finds himself at odds with Archbishop Burke and Pope Benedict, in theory, Archbishop Wuerl is right. When asked last year by reports he said,

he cannot deny the sacrament to a willing participant, because he cannot know what is inside a person’s heart when he or she shares private worship with God.

While I disagree with the Archbishop, he is the Archbishop. Episcopal colleges tend to take care of their own. Just a point of clarification. As the Church has always taught, we are embodied spirits. Our bodies give expression to who we are. Our intentions are manifested by our actions or lack thereof.  To say that one’s heart or beliefs are at odds with our actions is to say we lack integrity. Or, in colloquial terms, we are lying. Not only to others but most grievously (outside the offense towards God) ourselves. St. James is clear:

A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:8)

For the moment though, let’s rejoice in the selection of Archbishops Burke and Wuerl. There will be plenty of time for us to “eat our own.” Both have much to offer the global Church and their commitment to truth, liturgy and pastoral ministry will serve us all well in the next conclave. Congrats Cardinal-designates!

ABP Thomas Wenski Receiving the Pallium

Found a short video showing the Holy Father conferring the pallium upon Metropolitan Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, fourth Archbishop of Miami and Metropolitan of the Province of Miami (which includes the seven dioceses of the State of Florida). Enjoy!

Servants of the Servant of the Servants of God

Today the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.  These two great Apostles of the Church represent the two missionary efforts to the Jews and the Gentiles. Today is also a reminder of the Primacy of Peter (see Scripture Catholic).

L'Osservatore Romano Pope Benedict XVI gives U. S. Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, right, the pallium, a woolen shawl symbolizing his bond to the Pope. June 29, 2009

A great Roman tradition for this solemnity is the conferral pallium on Metropolitan Archbishops, Primates and the Latin Rite Patriarch of Jerusalem by the Holy Father. Prior to a Motu Proprio promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1978, some bishops were also permitted to use the pallium.[i]

What is the pallium?  The pallium is an ecclesiastical vestment originally only worn by the Pope. When worn by the Holy Father it symbolizes the plenitudo pontificalis officii (i.e., the “plenitude of pontifical office”). Its conferral upon Archbishops signifies their participation in the supreme pastoral power of the Pope by way of delegation for their particular church provinces.[ii] Until an Archbishop receives a pallium, he may not exercise metropolitan jurisdiction over the territory delegated to him. Once an Archbishop no longer holds that office, he may not use the pallium. If he is transferred and takes possession of a different Metropolitan See, he must petition the Holy Father for a new pallium. Archbishops are buried with their pallium. Ultimately, the pallium since the ninth century signifies the “union with the Apostolic See, and was an ornament symbolizing the virtue and rank of its wearer.”[iii]

The pallium hangs over the head and drapes in the shape of a “Y” down the front and back of the chasuble. It is typically worn for ceremonial liturgies and solemn events. A Metropolitan Archbishop may wear his pallium as a mark of his jurisdiction not only in his own Archdiocese but anywhere in his ecclesiastical province whenever he celebrates Mass (Canon 437, Code of Canon Law, 1983). The pallium is made of pure lamb’s wool with a total of six embroidered crosses on the front and back that are weighted.

The collection of the wool for the pallia is steeped in a rich tradition:

The Feast of St. Agnes is marked every year in Rome with a custom rich in symbolism and tradition. Two very young lambs from the sheepfold belonging to the Trappist fathers of the monastery of Tre Fontane near St. Paul’s Basilica are crowned and placed in straw baskets, which have been carefully decorated with red and white flowers and streamers: red standing for Agnes’ martyrdom, and white for her purity. They are then taken to the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls. There, at the end of the solemn feast day Mass, a procession composed of young girls in white dresses and veils, as well as carabinieri in red and blue uniforms and hats, who bear the lambs on their shoulders, proceeds down the center aisle. The lambs are ceremoniously incensed and blessed. They are then shown to the Pope at the Vatican and finally placed in the care of the Benedictine nuns of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, who rear them until Maundy Thursday, when they are sheared. From the lambs’ wool are woven approximately 12 pallia a year.  The pallia are made by the Oblates of St. Frances of Rome.[iv]

Once solemnly blessed following Second Vespers on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the pallia are kept in a special silver-gilt casket near the tomb of St. Peter. Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the pallium conferral rite is to take place at the beginning of the Mass in which the archbishop takes possession of his See. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have changed the conferral practice and summon all new Metropolitans to Rome to receive the pallium directly from the hands of the Holy Father.

This year Pope Benedict XVI conferred the following 38 Metropolitan Archbishops with the pallium[v]:

South and Central America (6)

Luis Cabrera Herrera of Cuenca, Ecuador
Fernando Saburido of Olinda e Recife, Brazil
Alberto Taveira Corrêa of Belem do Para, Brazil

Ricardo Tobón Restrepo of Medellin, Colombia
José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama, Panama
Luis Madrid Merlano of Nueva Pamplona, Colombia

Africa (8)

Alex Kaliyanil of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Gerard Tlali Lerotholi of Maseru, Lesotho
Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, Angola

Samuel Kleda of Douala, Cameroon
Joseph Atanga of Bertoua, Cameroon
Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa

Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar
Matthias Kobena Nketsiah of Cape Coast, Ghana

North America (6)

Albert Legatt of Saint-Boniface, Canada
Constancio Miranda Wechmann of Chihuahua, Mexico
Carlos Garfias Merlos of Acapulco, Mexico

Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, Ohio
Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida

Europe (14)

Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, Italy
Andrea Bruno Mazzocato of Udine, Italy
Antonio Lanfranchi of Modena-Nonantola, Italy
Luigi Moretti of Salerno-Campagna-Acerno, Italy

Juan José Asenjo Pelegrina of Seville, Spain
Jesús Sanz Montes of Oviedo, Spain
Ricardo Blázquez Pérez of Valladolid, Spain

Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England
Peter David Smith of Southwark, England
Anton Stres of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Andre-Joseph (Mutien) Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
Dominik Duka of Prague, Czech Republic
Jozef Kowalczyk of Gniezno, Poland
Bernard Bober of Kosice, Slovakia

Asia (4)

Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines
Francis Kallarakal of Verapoly, India
Hyginus Kim Hee-jong of Kwangju, Korea
Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, Vietnam.

[i] Motu Propio On The Conferring Of The Sacred Pallium (June 29, 2010)

[ii] Canon 437 §1, CIC 1983 (June 29, 2010)

[iii] (June 29, 2010)

[iv] (June 29, 2010)

[v] (June 29, 2010)

Beauty Frozen in Time

Beauty was unveiled once again yesterday at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with the Pontifical Liturgy of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.  Below is the link to hear Bishop Slattery’s  homily in a podcast:

Bishop Slattery’s Homily

Additionally, Jeff Stevens of Northern Virginia was gracious enough to share his pictures with us.  Here are a few:

Archbishop Slattery arriving

Notice the cappa magna (literally, “great cape”) or train that Archbishop Slattery wears as processes toward the sanctuary.  The Cappa Magna is a voluminous ecclesiastical garment with a long train, proper to cardinals, bishops, and certain other honorary prelates. It is not mandatory but is certainly not seen very much anymore. Sometimes it is seen used in the Ceremonial of Bishops. Cardinals wear scarlet and purple for bishops.  This vestment is found in use during the first 1000 years.  The train has varied in length over over the past millennium.

Archbishop Slattery Arriving in the Sanctuary


Singing of the Epistle

Incensing the Book of the Gospels

More to come…

Beauty Unveiled

I thought of everyone who participated in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite today.  I wish I could have been with you but could only make a spiritual communion.  I am hoping to get more pictures and discuss the liturgy.  Until then, Shawn Tribe at the New Liturgical Movement provided some stills of the liturgy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Solemn Pontifical Mass from the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC

by Shawn Tribe

As many of our readers will already be familiar, EWTN is providing live coverage of the Solemn Pontifical Mass being celebrated by Bishop Edward Slattery in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.

The Mass is being offered in celebration of the anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.

Here are some stills from that to give you a sense of the occasion…

To see some great pictures just hop over to his site.  I also encourage you to read more and subscribe to his site.  Fantastic information posted every week.

Creation and Worship through Covenant

Yesterday’s post entitled, The Final Word was Jesus…he needed no other one, spoke to the truth that the whole universe was created with Christ in mind.  The covenant preceded creation in order to, in a certain sense, be the soul and form of creation, thus design a cosmic temple where the Son of God could dwell.

The Israelite understood that the Solomonic temple was a microcosm of creation. Even Solomon’s consecration mimicked the Lord’s pattern of creating the world (1 Kings 5-9).  Creation thus being the temple in macro-form would also need a sanctuary and High Priest.  This original sanctuary we call the Garden of Eden – and the High Priest, none other than Adam.  Even later in the temple era(s), we see remnants of the Garden of Eden in the vessels and vestments such as the menorah. The menorah is a stylized version of the Tree of Life – the most important feature in the garden as Scripture describes in Exodus 25:31-40. Why create in such a way?  The Holy Father answer in this way:

Creation is oriented to the Sabbath, which is the sign of the covenant between God and humankind…As a first step, we can draw this conclusion: Creation is designed in such a way that it is oriented to worship.  It fulfills its purpose and assumes its significance when it is lived, ever new, with a view to worship. Creation exists for the sake of worship.  As St. Benedict said in his Rule: Opus Dei nihil praepnatur--“Nothing must be put before the service of God.” This is not an expression of an otherworldly piety but a clear and sober translation of the creation account and of the message that it bears for our lives. The true center, the power that moves and shapes from within the rhythm of the stars and of our lives , is worship…The universe exists for worship and for the glorification of God.

Everything in creation is made for worship…whether we believe it or not.  All things that detract from that worship is considered a perversion or skew of the covenants original purpose.  How is this worship to be accomplished?  By liturgy.  Stick around and see how that liturgy plays out in Scripture, history and our lives.

Passionate Vesting

The vestments of the clergy are meant to catechize and remind us of our Lord and His passion.  The Bishop and the Priest are ordained for sacrifice and minister in persona Christi capitas.  This means that all the Sacraments related to sacrifice and/or the forgiveness of sins are oriented and ministered by them alone.

The vestments of our ministers also teach us about their ministry and serve to draw us deeper into the Paschal Mystery of the Christ.  In particular, the stole and cincture stand out when thinking about the Passion of our Lord.

As we know, the stole is the symbol of a priest/bishop’s authority.  A kind of kerchief or neck-piece, it was a daily piece of clothing donned by the upper class in Rome.  Gradually, it was adopted and reinterpreted by the Church to represent the spiritual authority of the clergy.  The bishop and priest wear the stole over their shoulders while the deacon wears it draping over his left shoulder to his right hip.  This vestment also has a secondary meaning that is steeped in centuries of tradition.

Our tradition tells us that the stole is also to remind us of the cords with which Jesus was tied.  It too invokes images of the cross our Lord carried and, particularly with the bishop and priest, the yoke upon their shoulders.  For the bishop and priest it is a constant symbol of the heavy burden they carry which is made light and sweet by the love of the Christ.

The cincture was used out of necessity during walking and activities requiring exertion to gird up a long garment.  It’s spiritual significance is that of the cords that bound our Lord to the pillar during the scourging.  It is also a symbol of modesty and the readiness to work in God’s service.

Consider the two prayers that the clergy pray as they are vesting:


“Restore to me, O Lord , the state of immortality which I lost through the sin of my first parents and, although unworthy to approach these Sacred Mysteries, may I deserve nevertheless eternal joy.”


“Gird me, O Lord , with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me.”

I would love to hear what your favorite vestment is and why…