QUAERITUR: “biretiquette” for the Novus Ordo

From a reader:

Thank you for the wonderful blog, I check it several times a day.  I have a question about the use of the Biretta in the Novus Ordo.  When can it be worn at Mass?  I wear it in procession at the moment. I’m especially curious of it’s possible use at Funeral Masses with the greeting of the body at the door of the church and at the end of the Mass at the commendation and procession out of the church.  My basic question is when should it be on and when should it be off.  I assume the answer is based on it’s use in the EF since there are no instructions for it in the NO.

The biretta can be used anytime!  And it should be!

I think your inclination is correct.  I would simply follow the rules laid down … what I call “biretiquette” … as they were in the old days, with the pre-Novus rites.  You can find all these rules in O’Connell and similar.

Remember too that during Mass you should put on your biretta, “cover”, after you sit down and “uncover” before you stand.  This is a common error… men uncover as they are standing or after… quod Deus avertat… they have already stood up!

The horror!

And do your best to avoid sitting on it if you are not used to using it.   There is nothing so disheartening as that crunching sound coming from a confused cleric on the other side of the sanctuary.

Lastly, with your right use the right hand point to cover and uncover.  Don’t use the front point.  Diocesan priests generally wear a biretta with three points, so the be sure to put the “empty” side to your left.  And… for the love of God… don’t cover with both hands.  I saw that not too long ago..

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  1. Devin says:

    Good news- St Mark Church in Shoreline, WA has a priest that has been wearing a biretta during solemnities and feast day Masses, WITH the Benedictine altar arrangement.

  2. Tiny says:

    What gives the Biretta its characteristic shape? Is it cardboard?

  3. Doug says:

    One additional rule: uncovering at the mention of Our Lord’s name and recovering afterwards. This only applies to Jesus and not to Lord or Messiah, etc. It can become somewhat comical if the homilist (??) tends to get, as one bishop I served for used to say, “a bit familiar with Our Lord”. The sedelia can start to look like the Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Hat Wavers. A very learned and practical priest of my acquaintance solved the problem in his parish by decreeing that three off/ons was quite enough. If a fourth was required, the Biretta remained off for the balance of the homily.

  4. dominic1962 says:

    Yes, the biretta is generally made of cardboard or similar material covered in wool or silk-depending on rank. Some fold, some don’t.

    At the homily, I believe what generally happens (at least what I’ve seen) is that the homilist should not be familiar with our Lord’s name and only use it when necessary. Of course, that is amongst traditional groups who actually have some feel for the use of the biretta. However, if such is necessary, after three doffings of the biretta it is just kept on and a small bow of the head is considered sufficient.

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