One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Some time ago I reported the publication of the reissue of Ludovico Trimeloni’s Compendio di Liturgia Pratica (Milano: Marietti 1829, 2007).  If you want to know how to do something traddy, look in this book.

I said that I would from time to time share interesting points, as I did here.

I have just found out that I am in grave violation of a seriously important point when celebrating the “Tridentine Mass”.  This is so huge… folks, well… what to say… I think… I just don’t know if I can go on….

In the section on “Ceremonies of Mass, ch. I, “The Read Mass”, I. “The Celebrant” §1 – Ordinary Ceremonies  – 421 – “In the sacristy” ([. 397) I have just now read (my translation):

Use the footware that clerics of the place are used to wearing publicly and wear the cassock.

Well… this part isn’t so hard, though I am not sure I can find either matching flip flops or golf shoes for my cassock.  Maybe a different color cassock… hmmm… but I digress.   What follows is what upset me so much, and, of course, it is in a footnote: the good stuff always is:

D. 3268, 3. [Cf. Naifa, Costume of the Prelates of the Catholic Church, Balitmore, 1925: “According to the Roman ceremonial, all clerics and those who serve in church, as cantors, sacristans, etc., ought to wear shoes with buckles (It. fibbie).  The buckle is of shiny steel for members of the inferior clergy and servers, in silver for priests, monks and prelates belonging to religious orders.  Gold and gilded silver are reserved for secular prelates.”

All this time…. do you hear??? …. all this time I have been out of bounds, perhaps my immortal sole… er… soul in danger.

I am caught in a real aporia here.  On the one hand, how to deal with wearing shoes like clergy wear around here. I mean, how to you clip buckles on flip flops, anyway?  I guess you can work more easy with golf shoes.  But where to get silver buckles these days?

“But Father!  But Father!” … I can hear it now … “Shouldn’t you be doing things exactly as they were in 1962 if you are going to say the 1962 Mass??!?”

It is my great hope that nobody who has ever seen me celebrate a “Tridentine” Mass will have been scandalized by my lack of buckles.

On the other hand, more seriously, while I realize that some groups who use the pre-Conciliar liturgy are also choosing

to use the fibbie I do not in the least find myself obliged to wear something specifically abolished by Pope Paul VI.  The Pope got rid of buckles in 1969.  Though that detail was still in force in 1962, it is extraneous to the Mass and pertains to the garb of priests.

I think it can be safely dispensed with when celebrating the “Tridentine” Mass today without the slightest twinge of conscience.

Sacristans and members of Gregorian chant scholas, altar boys and others involved, needed not run out looking for buckles.

UPDATE: Fr. Finigan puts buckles on trial.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Stu says:

    Modernist! ;)

  2. Stu: If the shoe fits…

  3. Tim Ferguson says:

    If the loss of the maniple led directly to the sexual revolution, and the suppression of the fur mozzetta led directly to the fuel crisis of the 70’s (both of which have been undeniably established as facts), what did the abolition of buckles lead to?

  4. thetimman says:

    Fr., the ICR priests I have seen wear buckles. Now I know why. Being a trad convert is great stuff!

    I’ll have them ship you some. What is your size?

  5. Father: Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the shock you have received. I recommend that you take a pinch of snuff from your snuff box, pour yourself a fine Madeira, and try not to spend all evening weeping into your lace handkerchief in despair.

  6. swmichigancatholic says:

    Wait–those are congregationalist buckles. I kid you not–those are regular pilgrim Massachusetts Colony buckles. Fr, I think you have to get the right kind. Maybe not just any old buckles will do.

    Maybe they should be baroque buckles for saying the classical mass and plaid bungee cords for the novus ordo.

  7. You have obviously missed my report of an important trialon the subject of buckled shoes. Abolished by Paul VI? Not any longer!

  8. Colleen Rowan says:

    Dear Father Z,

    I think the Birkenstocks have buckles…and they were most popular in the 60’s…tee! hee!


    Colleen : )

  9. Nick says:

    I dont see HH Pius XIII wearing any buckles…

    This leads me to question his fidelity to tradition. Knowing what I know about buckles, Pius XIII has clearly apostatized and the chair is undeniably vacant.

  10. Athanasius says:


    I have taught 8 priests how to say the Traditional Latin Mass, and whenever the issue of buckles came up I kept the same line: Since it is technically abolished, and Rome has not said they must be worn again, simply wear dignified shoes and a cassock.

    If you have read my blog you know where I stand, and that I reject the liturgical changes from Pius XII onward, which makes me more Trad in some respects. But little things are of no consequence. The real issue is, how does this effect the salvation of souls? It doesn’t! No one is going to be distracted from our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist because he watches you when you genuflect and notices that you don’t have buckles!

  11. Brian says:

    As one of the few trad foot doctors online, I think I might be qualified to grant you ab-sole-ution, Fr. Z.

  12. Tim: You’re frightening me. Maybe I better put them on.

  13. Cathy: In my case I am sipping a pre-prandial and preparing “really angry feathers”, if you know what I mean. Dessert will be fresh strawberries from the patch in the garden.

  14. Fr. Finigan: Perhaps you could give a report of the findings? I will give the Veuve a half turn and await the results.

  15. ALL: Maybe you had better pool your resources if you are going to send me buckles. I insist that they be silver if I am going to put them on my shoes.

  16. catholiclady says:

    I never remember seeing a buckle but then maybe I didn’t look at the priests foot attire that closely.

    One two, buckle your shoe
    Three, four shut the door
    Five six, don’t forget the pix
    Seven eight Consecrate
    Nine ten, you say the amen.

  17. I assume shoe buckles are less vital than maniples’ But I recall the woman who approached her indult celebrant after Mass and said “That was a beautiful and holy Mass. Father.” “Thank you”, he replied.

    “But it’s too bad the consecration was invalid.” she said. “Why not?”

    “Because you weren’t wearing a maniple!”

    It turns out that, when the priest had hurriedly scooped up his Roman vestments in his own sacristry before rushing to the church where the indult Mass was scheduled, he had failed to notice the maniple slip to the floor, where he found it still lying when he returned to his own church.

  18. Father Bartoloma says:

    I have buckles on my shoes! However, they are not like that illustrative picture you posted…

  19. Jordan Potter says:

    Okay, so maybe priests don’t have to wear buckles, but can’t the Church at least issue a new canon requiring both male and female altar boys to wear something besides grubby sneakers???

  20. Henry: Yah, that sounds like some of the folks I have experienced.

  21. Fr. Bartoloma: I imagine they are far more elegant!

  22. mtober says:

    Father Z. I have been reading your blog for some time now. I really enjoy the posts. If I could email you I would, so please forgive me for contacting you through the comment box. Over at Sober Inebriation Blogspot I noticed that in the upcoming week an Interview with Dr. Thomas E. Woods will be posted – some of the discussion will be on some of his thoughts on the Motu Proprio and other intersting topics. I just wanted to send the tip your way.
    Looks very interesting. The blog is new and I think it is super-cool too!

  23. danphunter1 says:

    Now I get it…that’s what the Latin American bishops were complaining about when they groused about not going back to a “pre-counciliar spirituality.”
    Guess they are not as thick as I thought…..phewww

  24. jmgarciaiii says:

    Actually, if one wished to array oneself in footwear with buckles AND not wear, er, Birkenstocks or “Plymouth Rock” shoes one may simply purchase what are called (semi-ironically) “monk-strap” shoes. (yes, I know…brown, but at least one gets a better view of the shoe’s design)

    Naturally, one doesn’t expect a priest to pony up the utterly ridiculous sums that custom footwear such as this commands, (unless there are seriously underpriced cobblers in Rome), but at least this might give someone some help, idea-wise..



  25. Christopher says:

    Peace be with you.

    Actually, I have those same style shoes in black! I must say, they are very comfy and have buckles!

    God bless you.
    Holy Mary protect you.

  26. Toni B says:

    Father, Doc Marten makes a really nice monk strap shoe with a silver buckle. They’re comfortable and they’ll last for years. The yellow stitching would add a little dash to your vestments, too.

  27. Seumas says:


    Don’t be a heel. You need to buckle down. When the MP comes you don’t want to be the sole priest without the proper foot gear!

  28. Marko says:

    Changing the subject but I think we are all interested about this:

    So the Motu proprio …
    … is coming and
    … it should be out this year,

    says Fr. Lombardi SJ, the Vatican spokesman for the Austrian Catholic News agency.

  29. gravitas says:

    Father, while this is rather funny, again, I tell you i’m not sure you know how bad it is outside that ivy tower of yours in Roma!

    At our indult church, which unfortunately allows NO masses in multiple languages each Sunday, one of the priests for the english mass wears COMBAT BOOTS under his so-called vestments each week.

    While to buckle or not to buckle may be good humor, there is a reason for the strictness of the past, and I think our priests — and most Catholics in the pews — would be all the better if more of that seriousness of dress was brought back.

  30. Tim Ferguson says:

    I think it’s pretty crass to accuse Fr. Zuhlsdorf of inhabiting an ivory tower. I can assure you that he regularly interacts with hoi polloi, and not just through the medium of the internet. I’m also certain he’s well aware of the problems that many people face in attempting to live their lives of faith, from pastors who are material heretics, to sacristans who hide the 1962 Missal in order to frustrate the Tridentine community, to religious education directors who scoff at the catechism – even to the real, tragic horror of a priest wearing combat boots at Mass (surely that renders the sacrifice invalid, no?!)

  31. Fr. Z.: There is no need to wear the maniple anymore then, if we were to use the reasoning you use for the shoes and the buckles. Why should you wear the maniple when you say the Mass according to the 1962 liturgical books? Does it really make sense? Is the maniple required for the salvation of your soul!??

    And the same goes for the amice… most priests in the US do not wear it anymore.

    And the same goes for the biretta… and so on, etc…

    So, when saying the Tridentine Mass, is it really O.K. to bring Pope Paul VI only when we want to or need to? He did away with this, he did away with that…

    Well, he almost did away with the 1962 Missal completely.. so, should priests be saying the Tridentine Mass still?

    Should Compendio di liturgia pratica have been published in the first place? Or should I say: Should it deal with 1962 (as opposed to 1969)?

  32. Raymundus says:

    I submit, Father Z., that the author of this book is clearly singing outside the traditional choir, if you will. Canon 16 of the Fourth Lateran Council clearly states that clerics are NOT to wear buckles. What kind of modernist wrote this book, anyway? ;)

    See, they do teach us SOMETHING in seminary nowadays. ;)

  33. gravitas says:

    Tim Ferguson: “even to the real, tragic horror of a priest wearing combat boots at Mass (surely that renders the sacrifice invalid, no?!)”

    Tim, are you saying that anything goes as long as it’s “valid?” That doesn’t seem like a very high bar you’re setting for the liturgy …

  34. Tim Ferguson says:

    I’m not saying that “anything goes,” but I do think that a bit of perspective is needed. To accuse someone of living in an ivory tower and being ignorant of “how bad it is outside,” and then to cite, as an example of how bad it is, a priest who wears combat boots at Mass strikes me as lacking appropriate perspective. There are far worse problems, liturgically and theologically, than a priest wearing combat boots at Mass, and I’m quite certain that Fr. John is well aware of them – probably moreso aware than many of us commenters here.

  35. gravitas: outside that ivy tower of yours in Roma!

    I understand when people are frustrated, but that is simply nasty.

  36. Dan P. says:

    I always wondered about Father GW’s buckled shoes at St. A’s in St.P, MN. Now I know why. I find more and more reasons every day to increase my admiration for that great priest!

  37. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Tridentine Mass where anyone was wearing buckles :S

  38. Romulus says:

    Father Z, my first mouthful of really angry feathers was during my college days, at a neighborhood joint on Monte Mario. I sure do miss that taste. Do you have a recipe you could share?

    Being an ignorant lay man, when I was called to serve as MC at our indult parish I bought an expensive pair of black calf oxfords, which I’ve reserved for liturgical use. When even the MC is so hopelessly deficient,…well, what can one say? These are barbarous times.

    Do you think the Compendio di Liturgica Practica will ever be Englished, or at least made available in America? If I have to wait till my next trip to Rome, where should I look to find a copy?

    Thanks, and God bless you.

  39. Romulus: The “really angry feathers” recipe is fairly straight forward, as you can guess. Some hints:

    1) Throw a couple vegetable bullion cubes into the water for the pasta.
    2) I work in a frying pan for this. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce itself at a fairly high temp: that helps tighten the whole thing up and get the flavor into whatever pasta you chose.
    3) I am using both pepperoncini and some pepperoncino olive oil I prepared from what I raised last summer.
    4) Never brown the garlic. UGH.
    5) If at the end you think it not salty enough… you remember how salty Roman food tends to be … brighten it up with some fresh lemon juice instead of salt. It’s like adding a little electricity to the fire.

    About the Compendio, I think that Fortesque-O’Connell should fit the bill quite well. I doubt that Trimeloni will be Englished any time soon. We’ll see the Motu Proprio first, I think… GD&R

  40. There must be some cobbler in Italy who makes shoes like Saint John Bosco wore!

    Colleen Rowan stole my thunder, I was also going to mention: Why do you think Birkenstocks are so popular amongst religious?

    But wait, papal sandals didn’t always have buckles did they? Must be a Masonic conspiracy! :P

  41. RBrown says:

    Wait—those are congregationalist buckles. I kid you not—those are regular pilgrim Massachusetts Colony buckles.

    Which of course makes them appropriate footwear for mass on Thanksgiving morning.

  42. Seminarian101 says:

    I think the buckled shoes are great and the clergy of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest do wear them. My question is, if priests can wear any sort of black, dress shoes, and there are some sold in stores that have buckles on them, what is the big deal with the supression of P. Paul VI? I must confess I have a pair myself and they do add a nice touch to the liturgy. If we are going for an authentic restoration of the Classical Liturgy then we should not be minimalists…and perhaps this attitude will flow into the New Rite as well.

  43. Christian says:

    Fr Tim Finigan of the-hermeneutic-of-continuity blog always wears buckled shoes for Mass (new or old rite). I agree that they are not required but they are a lovely tradition and they should be encouraged as the recent exhortation says “everything connected with the liturgy should be beautiful”). Surely that includes shoes!

  44. Cerimoniere says:

    There is a great delight in trivia such as this, and Fr. Finigan’s splendid trial skit.

    However, Father does raise a serious point about the overlapping of specifically liturgical law and other aspects of canon law which can have a bearing on the liturgy. Sometimes, the line is very clear, but sometimes it isn’t. For example, no-one thinks that one is legally bound by the Eucharistic fast as it was in 1962 because one happens to be going to Communion during an indult Mass.

    However, things like clerical and prelatial dress are not so clear, because they relate to both liturgical and non-liturgical situations, and because the relevant law is found in specifically liturgical sources and in other sources also. A good example is the use of the mozzetta or the mantelletta by bishops without jurisdiction. Evidently, the current law is that all bishops wear the mozzetta wherever they may be. This is codified in the new rite Caeremoniale; but perhaps this merely reflects an earlier decree. However, the old rite book prescribes the mantelletta. Arguably, under the indult, one should follow the rubric of the old Caeremoniale despite the fact that the Church’s general law about prelatial dress has changed, because the indult creates an exception to the present law.

    As to buckles, however, I have no opinion!

  45. Fr. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. says:

    As a member of a religious congregation with a vow of poverty, I must disagree with Naifa. I should think silver buckles would be sinful. Afterall, if the vow of poverty does not allow us the use of the pom-pom on the biretta how then can we ever justify the wearing of silver buckles? And what of the Discalced orders whose footwear is part of their habit? Are they then putting their immortal soles (sic) in danger by wearing neither buckles nor cassock?

  46. Maureen says:

    Re: combat boots

    1. You don’t know what foot problems Father may have.
    2. If you’re looking at Father’s feet, you need to be paying less attention to him and more to the Mass.
    2. There’s a reason they call it “spiritual combat”! :)

  47. Kim D'Souza says:

    Fr Bailey’s point about poverty is interesting, especially given that he is a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. I recall reading in a life of St Alphonsus Liguori, the holy founder of the Redemptorists that the saint refused to wear buckles on his shoes because he thought them too much of luxury. He also refused other luxuries, such as shaving frequently and powdering his hair, which he saw as sure signs of a vanity most unbecoming in a priest.

  48. Le Renard says:

    I recall reading in a life of St Alphonsus Liguori, the holy founder of the Redemptorists that the saint refused to wear buckles on his shoes because he thought them too much of luxury. He also refused other luxuries, such as shaving frequently and powdering his hair, which he saw as sure signs of a vanity most unbecoming in a priest.

    That’s it???

    Saint Francis of Assisi wore NO SHOES whatsoever and a mere sack for clothing!
    Further, when he met someone poorer than he, he’d often give to them what he had on himself in order to help the other in the name of charity.

    Imagine the poverty this saint lived in???

    Yet, for him, his poverty was a way of holiness, keeping in mind that his heart, his treasure, was in Heaven, not here on earth.

    Mt 6: 19-21 (DRV)
    19 Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through, and steal.
    20 But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal.
    21 For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.

  49. Mary Jane says:

    I do recall in photographs of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson that he was always wearing the loveliest little buckled shoes. This I always attributed to the same excellent taste that led to the embroideries at Hare Street. And now I find out it was liturgical. Every day brings surprises.

  50. Parochus says:

    By 1962 the use of buckles on clerical and prelatial shoes had generally fallen into desuetude outside Rome. Certainly, one could revive their use when celebrating the preconciliar liturgy, but no one should feel obliged to do so.
    As for the postconciliar liturgy, the Instruction “Ut sive sollicite” of 1969 abolished the use of buckles for cardinals, bishops and lesser prelates (nos. 10, 15, 18-20). This norm is repeated in the “Cæremoniale Episcoporum,” nos. 1201, 1205, 1207 b).

  51. techno_aesthete says:

    Le Renard, St. Francis of Assisi was not a priest.

  52. Andrew says:

    Here is another problem with translation: all this talk about “buckles” is ridiculous. Please don’t call them buckles: call them clasps, fasteners or something, but not buckles. This word (buckle) comes from the French “boucle” – a corruption of the Roman “buccula” – a chin strap on the metal helmet.

    The Italian word is much better: “fibbie” which is baby talk for the Latin “fibulae”. A “fibula” is any kind of a fastener: the word is derived from “figibula” which comes from “figo, figere, fixi, fixus”. It symbolizes the unifying aspect of the priestly ministry. “Fibulae” were important in antiquity, both as a decorative item in clothing (often with jewelry added) and as a thing of value (soldiers were given golden fibulas for their exceptional services) and they were used in all kinds of jobs requiring fasteners: clothing, gaping wounds, fastening of wooden beams in buildings, etc.

    It should never be referred to as a “buccula” (a buckle) i.e. a “small cheek”. Please folks, get your terminology right. I am calling vox clara about the fibula. Don’t worry, Fr. Z. your name will not be mentioned.

  53. Andrew: Whatever they are (this is why I explicitly put the word in Italian fibbie in the entry, we don’t have to wear them. Still, I think finding shows with buckles will be easier than finding the clip on fibulae in question. (I do know what these things are, by the way and in case you are under the illusion that I didn’t.)

  54. Colleen Rowan says:

    Dear Roman Sacristan,

    re: “Colleen Rowan stole my thunder, I was also going to mention: Why do you think Birkenstocks are so popular amongst religious?”

    Opps! Sorry about that! : ) If I could throw an answer out re: why they are so popular..I think Birkenstocks are popular with loads of people in general (not just religious…) because they really are very comfy on the feet…and hugely popular amongst pregnant women in their last month since their feet swell they can’t get to their feet to tie shoes and those comfortable slip ons are really quite lovely at that point….


    Colleen : )

  55. Andrew says:

    Fr. Z:

    I would have never known they were “fibulae” if you hadn’t mentioned “fibbie”. Which made me look up also the word “buckle” and to my surprise I learned that it is also of Latin origin. For the rest of it, I was just trying to be funny.

  56. sean_IL says:

    What a divisive issue! This threatens to split the faithful into fibulan and antifibulan factions, throwing the Church into choas unseen since the days of Arius…

  57. Seamas O Dalaigh says:


    I quote from memory:

    “A gentleman may wear either black Oxfords or tan brogues (oxblood shoes indicate merely that one is eccentric). Under no circumstances does a gentleman ever wear shoes with buckles.”

    (Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners)

    James Daly

  58. Colleen Rowan says:

    Dear Mr. Daly,

    re: “I quote from memory:

    “A gentleman may wear either black Oxfords or tan brogues (oxblood shoes indicate merely that one is eccentric). Under no circumstances does a gentleman ever wear shoes with buckles.”

    (Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners)”

    And yet, not to be arguementative….I would imagine DePope would top Debrett’s ruling on current footwear requirements for priests : ) tee! hee!


    Colleen : )

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