From a reader:
I’ve noticed that there seems to be a trend where priests don’t cross their stole anymore. If some do, they are ridiculed. Why has this happened?
Where to begin.
Really? Ridiculed? I have never heard or seen that happen. If someone should be such a rube as to do that, he should be gently kicked or, alternatively, ejected from the sacristy using a firehose.
Yet, it is true that priests in general aren’t crossing their stoles when vesting for Mass or in cope. And, given what I will include below, it seems as if they have a justification for wearing them uncrossed when using the Novus Ordo. The Roman tradition, however, is that priests cross their stoles, right over left. This has been the custom since about the 7th century.
Priests cross the stole. Bishops or abbots do not. They, instead, wear a pectoral cross and wear the stole hanging straight without crossing.
In the older form of ordination of a priest the ordaining bishop takes the stole, which till now has been worn on the left shoulder as befits a (former) deacon, draws it over the new priest’s right shoulder, and arranges it in the form of a cross over his chest, his heart (in the manner of a priest), saying: Take the yoke of the Lord, for His yoke is sweet and His burden light.
For the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form, the General Instruction/Institution of the Roman Missal 340 says:
340. The stole is worn by the priest around his neck and hanging down in front. It is worn by the deacon over his left shoulder and drawn diagonally across the chest to the right side, where it is fastened.
That suggests that the priest is not to cross the stole, as he was directed to do before the reforms. However, the paragraph is a bit vague. When the priest crosses the stole, it still hangs down in front. It doesn’t hang down the side, as a deacon wears it. So, priests can still cross the stole in harmony with this paragraph. And in doing so they maintain a tradition over a millennium old. Also, in reading that paragraph, there is not indication that the deacon crosses the stole at his side.
I recommend, as a matter of fact, that when wearing the pianeta, the Roman chasuble, that priests cross the stole. The crossed stole serves also to “fill in” part of the square opening in front. That is a practical reason, an aesthetic reason, but a good reason nonetheless.
That said, if we are to interpret that GIRM 340 as to mean that the priest is to wear the stole in the traditional manner of a bishop, then we have to ask why. Off the top of my head, the reason could be to symbolize the difference between, on the one hand, deacons and, on the other sacerdotes (priests and bishops). Deacons cross their stoles, but the cross is not over their hearts. Rather, they cross the stole on their side. But it is nevertheless crossed. If I am right, then the idea is that the straight uncrossed stole may be intended as the power to offer the Sacrifice. I am theorizing.