A priest I spoke with yesterday mentioned how clerics should properly use their birettas (hat, not Beretta… which is another post).
I call proper use of the biretta “birettiquette”.
Once upon a time I actually had made a little pamphlet on this… but I can’t find it. I wonder if there is still a copy in the biretta cupboard back at St. Agnes in St. Paul.
Look, Fathers. Military personnel need to know what to do with their hats. This varies with the services. The Navy handle covers differently than the Army, for example, when it comes to indoors and outdoors.
The same goes for clergy in choir dress or as sacred ministers, inside or outside.
Here are some rapid notes I sent some time ago to a priest friend who was going to be attending a TLM in choro for the first time and wanted to know what to do. I think they apply also to the Ordinary Form.
- Carry the biretta in procession.
- Only the sacred ministers wear it when walking.
- Wear it when seated.
- Remove it BEFORE standing and recover only when seated again.
- Do not wear it kneeling.
- Uncover at the Holy Name by removing the biretta and lowering it to your right knee.
- When covering, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t use both hands. It ain’t a motorcycle helmet. Right hand only.
- Tip it in return if ministers bow to your direction as they pass before you or if they are heading to point X across the sanctuary and make the usual honorific bows.
- When wearing the biretta in choir, it is removed at any point where one would bow the head, e.g. at the Holy Name, or when all three Persons of the Trinity are mentioned together. It should also be removed at the name of the Blessed Virgin and of the Saint of the Day or Titular.
- Preachers can wear the biretta when preaching.
- Put it on correctly! If it is a three-horned biretta, what Italians call a “tricorno”, the middle “horn” goes to the right side of your head so you remove and cover using your right hand. Don’t look like a rube, gentlemen. Spanish, five-horned? Deal with it.
- Servers and sacred ministers, such as deacons, should always offer the biretta so that the priest can grasp that middle “horn”.
- When standing, hold the biretta with hands before your chest, using both hands, holding the bottom edge so that the biretta is above your hands.
- Servers: know when the “usual oscula” are to be observed.
- If in procession you are carrying a book, hold the book upright with the pages to the left and hook the top of the biretta in your lower fingers below the book.
- Hold the biretta before your chest as described above when standing when orations are sung, the Gospel is sung, you are being incensed, the blessing at the end, etc.
- Do not…do NOT… sit on it! That crunch sound makes angels weep.
There are some fast tips for your birettiquette!