Bishops behind “Bring back our BLACK!”

Okay… we have the BIG MO, BABY!

Bring back our BLACK! has a little more support.

A kind reader alerted me to a weekly letter to his flock by His Excellency Most Reverend R. Walter Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa.

Get this!  Here is the relevant section but do go read what else the bishop has to say.  Pretty good stuff.

My emphases and comments.

There is a clear connection between this Feast and the Feast of All Souls which follows it on Sunday, November 2nd. We know that, although God’s mercy is greater than our sinfulness, still we have the choice to reject His gifts. Most of us live and die struggling to accept fully the gracious gift of faith and mercy. We are not ready for Heaven, for seeing God "as He really is," because we have not seen or loved Him clearly enough in this life. We need more scouring.

Part of how we receive this scouring or "purging" after death is by the prayers of the faithful still sojourning. [That’s where we come in.] We have a duty in this life, born of our unity in Christ, to pray for the dead, for the purifying fire of God’s merciful love to purge them of the heaviness of sin. This duty is one of the spiritual works of mercy. So important is this duty, that the Church uses an entire day to remind us of it each year. Remember, then, that none of us can make become saints without the hard work, not only of ourselves, but of many others also. One of the hardest forms of this sanctifying work is to learn to love and pray for all, especially for our enemies, even after their death. "For if you love those who love you, what reward shall you have? Even the tax-collectors do this. And if you greet your own family only, what more have you done? Even the heathens do this. Therefore, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt 5:46-8). All of us would do well to continue to pray for the souls in purgatory.  We hope that many will pray for us as well when we die. [You can say that again.]

[WATCH THIS] Black is a traditional color of the Church’s vestments that may be worn on All Souls Day. It can also be worn at Masses for the dead. As a liturgical color, black symbolizes mourning and penitence, sorrow and solemnity. [Death to the allurements of this world.] This is exactly the spirit we are trying to cultivate on the Feast of All Souls, when we pray for the salvation of the dead. [Oh my HEAVENS!  Did you get that?  This is a modern bishop in the USA, folks.  Kindly note that he connects what should be our proper attitude and BLACK VESTMENTS.  But wait… THERE’S MORE!]  It is appropriate, then, to use the external symbols suitable to help us cultivate the proper internal reality. Black vestments help us to remember to pray for all the dead, [% SOUND.TRUMPETS.HERE %] not just our own beloved dead. Black vestments help remind us of the inestimable worth of the divine gift of life, in this world and in the next. This year, for this feast, I will be wearing black vestments. [YES!] Hopefully, this sign will remind us of our need to face death with all its pain and mourning, but also remind us of the resurrected life to follow.


All I can say is…


[I want photos.]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Fr. Jay says:

    I have been wearing black vestments at funerals and on All Souls Day since I was ordained (1998). There have been a few times (albeit rarely in the bigger picture of the number of funerals I have done) when I have been asked why I was wearing black. I respond by telling them that (1) The Church gives three choices for vestment colors: white, violet, or black; and (2) I ask them what color was the family wearing at the funeral, which is always black. If they are wearing black for mourning and for the sense of loss, I say the Church is also mourning the death of the person.

  2. Jacob says:

    I should drive home early early tomorrow morning. He’s the bishop of my home diocese. :D

  3. Will says:

    I went to mass this afternoon, hoping for the All Saints day mass, but apparently the anticipated mass trumps all. It was a great consolation, however, to see both our priest and our deacon vested in beautiful black vestments.

  4. dominic1962 says:

    Very impressive. Hopefully more people pick up on this. I won’t be seeing black on Sunday, but I know for sure I’ll be seeing it Monday.

  5. GH good boy says:

    I was never in agreement to wear white for funerals since white stands for joy. Also, people are in denial about death and need to see the black.

    I had recently purchased a beautiful black chasuble for myself and a matching dalmatic for our deacon. We used them for the first time this week at a funeral and they where absolutely gorgeous.

    The funeral pall I did get in white with the same black trim as on our vestments. Pastorally, I don’t think people are ready for all black on the funeral pall. There is some logic for white on the coffin because of our hope in the resurrection of the body.

  6. Jim says:

    Alleluia. Glory to Your Resurrection, O Lord!

  7. Mark W says:

    I wish the pastor at the parish I attended this evening would read this. He wore some UGLY green and gold vestments(and they used the St. Louis Jesuits’ Mass). The good news was that his homily was on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

  8. rosebudsal says:

    Today I taught my catechism class, but I didn’t have the energy to stay for Mass as the kids wore me out, but as I was leaving I noticed our pastor was wearing black vestments before Mass for the evening vigil. I don’t know which of our priests will be celebrating at the Mass I usually attend, if it’s our pastor, he’ll wear black, one of the others, I’m not sure.

  9. Frank H says:

    At our 5 pm Mass this evening, the priest wore purple, but spent much time in his homily discussing purgatory. I can’t recall the last time I even remember hearing the word mentioned in our church. It was humbling, and encouraging.

  10. Shin says:

    Well this is very nice. Very fine. :)

  11. Mark says:

    I’m in a small suburban N.O. parish with an elderly, old-fashioned (ie orthodox) priest. He will be wearing a very old (in the parish from before he came) black FIDDLEBACK chasuble embroidered with gold.

  12. Jim says:

    I think what Bishop Nickless is doing is great! God bless the good Bishop.

  13. Anthony English says:

    Pretty good, but one point worth noting. The bishop speaks of praying for the salvation of the dead. In fact, all the souls in purgatory, for whom we pray, are already saved. We pray for their purification, but not their salvation. We can, of course, pray for the salvation of the dying.

    Anthony English

  14. Anthony English says:

    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

    1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect …

  15. This is great but is All Souls now designated as a feast? It used too be “The Commemoration of All Souls>

  16. Here at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlottesville VA (and the small church served in Scottsville) will have black vestments. And at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, the Gregorian Schola will sing the (ordinary form) Requiem Mass using the Dominican chants (as is permitted under our Rescript of 1969). The Dies Irae will be the Offertory Processional Hymn.

  17. I agree with David O’Rourke. Our diocesan ordo said that All Souls didn’t end until midnight. My priest friend in Italy said that their ordo also says that the anticipated Mass is from All Saints, not All Souls. It makes since because All Souls is a Commemoration and not a Solemnity or a Feast of our Lord.

    Personally, I think having All Souls on Sunday is completely inappropriate. In the Extraordinary Form it is moved to the following Monday since it is a Mass of the Dead. Ironically, even in the Ordinary Form, I don’t think Masses for the Dead are allowed on Sunday, yet All Souls (which is a Mass of the Dead, even the readings and preface come from the Masses for the Dead) is now celebrated on Sunday if it falls on Sunday. Sadly, All Saints and funeral Masses in the Ordinary Form emphasize the resurrection, but not the fact that our loved ones might be suffering in Purgatory and that they need our prayers to help them to Heaven.

    Even the damned will be resurrected, so I’m not sure why the emphasis on that. The emphasis needs to be on an understanding of Purgatory, Heaven, and Hell.

    Sometimes I think we should just rename All Souls in the Ordinary Form to All Saints Part II. Thankfully the prayers seem to say that the dead need our prayers, but many of the options for the readings make it sound like when they died they immediately went to Heaven, and that there’s no need to pray for them.

    Just my two cents.

    It’s good to see Bishop Nickless teaching a proper understanding of All Souls through the traditional external signs of the Rite. And I know our priest will be using black vestments on All Souls for his Ordinary Form Masses.

  18. Al says:

    Memo to Papa Benedetto

    Can yo please switch Bishops, moving him to this end of the sate (DBQ) & sending ours there? Per favore?

  19. When newly ordained in 1988, my first pastor gave me Hades for wearing purple or violet for funerals and All Souls Day. Once I became a pastor, I wear Black for All Souls and Funerals and Violet if the funeral of a young person. I want the family to know that Holy Mother Church mourns the death of one of her children (via baptism) as the earthly mother mourns the death of her child, also. We have the white Paschal Candle to symbolize the hope of the Resurrection. The vestments and the homily need to convey a sense of loss (since death is the consequence of Original Sin) and even Our Divine Lord WEPT at the grave of Lazarus. If we had more sober and somber funeral liturgies and stopped the heretical eulogies at the end, maybe more people would go back to PRAYING FOR THE DEAD. How many souls in Purgatory are longing for our intercession but do not get it because Father canonized us at our funeral?

  20. Father Z, do we email you the photos or just post a link to them here?

    Also, I was taught by my dearly departed spiritual director that we should pray for the souls in purgatory every night before we go to bed because by morning we might have joined them. We certainly want everyone praying for us when we die.

  21. Franzjosf says:

    1. Summorum Pontificum
    2. Bishop Finn, “Church Militant”
    3. Bishop Nickless, “Black Vestments” and encouraging prayer for the Holy Souls.

    I never thought I’d see all this in my lifetime! Glory be!

    Fr. Z, “Death to the allurements of this world.” Excellent. Never heard that before.

  22. Dr. Eric says:

    I have the privilege of going to Sacred Heart Church in Peoria, IL when I’m there. I also had the treat of viewing a beautiful black fiddle backed chasuble trimmed in gold with St. Anthony on the back (this is a Franciscan Church) and I was told that it was going to be sent to Chicago for a renovation and that it was going to be used in the future.

  23. Janet says:

    Our assoc. pastor wore black w/gold trim vestments today! I was amazed and happy to see it. And he talked about Purgatory today in his homily.

  24. magdalen says:

    Today the older Irish priest said in the old days black was used but we know better know. Christ did not tell the good thief that He would see him in 55 years after purgatory but rather that He would see him TODAY. Father cannot believe his dad could possibly still be in purgatory for God is merciful. Just do your best to be a good person and all will be well. Father prefers NOT praying FOR the dead but rather TO the dead. Jesus said from the cross to fogive us for we know not what we do.

    So wear white, all is joy.

  25. Magdalen,

    Let your priest know that his theology is bad exegesis: obviously he has not kept up with advances in biblical exegesis … Jesus could not have meant that he would be in heaven \”today\” meaning immediately. Jesus did not himself ascend to heaven until after the resurrection.

    As the fathers tell us, “paradise” here means the Limbo Patrum, that part of Hell Christ would descend to and break open after his death on the cross (as Eastern Icons usually show). “Today\” in this passage has to be understood as the “eternal today,” not the chronological one of Good Friday. Who knows what kind of purgation the good thief needed or didn’t need.

    The rest of his theology needs some “updating” as well.

  26. Here’s a pic of the vestments being worn at the Cathedral in Cincinnati today:

    There are matching chasubles, dalmatics, and a cope.

  27. Bailey Walker says:

    St. Thomas More Cathedral (Arlington, VA), All Souls Day, 9:30 AM Mass. The young celebrant wore a beautiful Roman chasuble in black with silver trim. The preaching was wonderful as is usual for this priest. Deo gratias!

    Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Fidelium animae per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.

  28. John Polhamus says:

    God bless this excellent Bishop! One liturgical color may seem trifling, but if externals didn’t matter ALOT, the forces of liturgical alienation and deformation wouldn’t have bothered changing them in the first place. God BLESS this excellent Bishop, and give volume and dissemination to his utterances, and his ACTIONS!

  29. Art says:

    @Fr. Thompson’s comment,

    A little off topic, but about the Limbo Patrum: is this the place where holy people (e.g. Moses, Elijah) ended up prior to the ascension and does it have any relation to the ‘Bosom of Abraham’?

  30. Will says:

    With all respect, Fr. S., that chasuble was a bit loud.

  31. AnAnonymousSeminarian says:

    We had Mass at the Seminary today celebrated by a younger priest does vocations work for the diocese. He wore black vestments, a black frontal was placed on the altar, and the homily was solid. Not one of the seminarians seemed to have a problem with the vestments.

    Brick by brick.

  32. Joamy says:

    Waiting to go to the TLM at my parish – our priest wore black vestements last year.

  33. Emilio III says:

    We endured “All Saints II”. White vestments, hymns proper for All Saints (plus a couple of silly Haugen / Haas dittys which don’t seem proper in Mass anytime). No mention of Purgatory or the need of prayers for the dead…

  34. Balthasar Fan in Brooklyn, NY says:

    What about black on Ash Wednesday. Wouldn’t that make sense too?

  35. AM says:

    Fr. Arcuri and the deacon at my parish (St. Michael-Worthington, Ohio) wore black with gold trim too. He started his homily with a quick catechesis on why he is wearing black vestments. It was great, we were just talking about it at home (school). One of the suggested activity was to ask a priest if he can show us black vestments. Well we didn’t have to ask, he was wearing one!

  36. Art, yes, exactly. As in Our Lord’s story of the rich man and Lazarus. And in the less theologically precise usage of the Old Testament period, it is also “Sheol.”

  37. Lee says:

    This morning at the 7:30 AM Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Portland the pastor walked into the sacristy and opened the vestment closet.

    Filling up the doorway and ready for his wearing were beautiful black vestments. Surprised, he stood back and said, “Whoa!” He vested in them, and before Mass he explained to the congregation that this is the one day of the year (maybe he meant the one Sunday of the year) when black is permitted so he wanted to take advantage of it.

    So I don’t know whose idea it was, the sister sacristan or his, but in any event he wore them and preached a wonderful homily on the communion of saints.

  38. depacadoradvitam says:

    Blessed in Saint Charles, Missouri USA with our newest priest (rock solid) in black vestments at Saint Joseph in Cottleville as well as a new turn in coming back to at least a partial Latin Agnus Dei.

  39. Dave says:

    I agree with bringing back the black, and really liked this post.

    Has anyone noticed that Bishop Nickless looks a lot like Will Farrell?

  40. RichR says:

    Black is real. Black vestments respect the mourning that is at hand, and it shies away from the unofficial canonization that can occur at funerals.

  41. Fr A says:

    Here’s a pic of the vestments being worn at the Cathedral in Cincinnati today:

    Yechhhhhh!!!!! That photo just put the lie to Solomon’s Nigra sum, sed formosa. Just because it’s black doesn’t make it beautiful.

    Best to consign this set to a) an incinerator, or b) to the Museum of Liturgical Bad Taste.

  42. Mike says:

    Cathedral-Basilica in Philly, 11 am mass (Ordinary Form, in Latin – which is normal for first and third Sundays of the month except in summer): celebrant wore black vestments, chalice veil was black, priest assisting with communion wore a black stole. Frontals at cantor’s lectern and on credence table were white. Opening processional, offertory, communion and recessional all in Latin – all from Missa Profunctis (sp??).

    As for black on Ash Wednesday, I believe both Anglican and Lutheran rubrics allow it (as an option with violet). Have Catholic rubrics ever allowed black on Ash Wednesday?

    I’ve always had an interesting thought about those who want to wear white on All Souls, or who complain about black or violet on that day – especially when All Souls falls on Sunday: come back next Sunday – which happens to be the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, and white is required!

  43. Lyle says:

    In response to this comment by Anthony English

    “Pretty good, but one point worth noting. The bishop speaks of praying for the salvation of the dead. In fact, all the souls in purgatory, for whom we pray, are already saved. We pray for their purification, but not their salvation. We can, of course, pray for the salvation of the dying.”

    I’d say yes, the souls in purgatory are saved, but WE don’t know who’s there and who isn’t. So insofar as we’re praying for a particular deceased relative or friend, we can pray for their salvation, meaning that they will have had the grace to make a perfect act of contrition if needed before their death. It’s too late for that prayer to take effect NOW, but God, of course, knew at the time of the person’s death that we were going to make this prayer, and doesn’t have to wait for this to answer it.

    After all, how often do we pray for a favourable outcome of an event which has already happened – an exam, a medical test – but where we don’t know the outcome?

    The point is of course correct in relation to prayer for the souls in purgatory in general.

  44. Melody says:

    My Father died on the 25th of October. Given his state of life, he is almost certainly in Purgatory. So it was a great comfort to me in my mourning when I went to St. Michael’s abbey today and saw the black vestments and heard the solemn chant.

    I have never experienced a real All Souls Day mass before. At the regular parishes it is always “All Saints II” as Emilio put it.

  45. Jason says:

    Our priest wore black vestments today for All Souls which was quite a surprise. I could have done without the Pittsburgh Steelers joke though. :-/

  46. I am 69 years old and it is obvious we are going back to the Mass as I knew it prior to 1963. Attendant with that, we are going back to the RELIGION of the two thousand years prior to 1963. I thank God He allowed me to live long enough to see it

    Benedicamus Domino!

  47. Charivari Rob says:

    Liturgically permitted or encouraged options aside, several posters have mentioned making the analogy to what the mourners are wearing, as “black is the color of mourning”.

    A color of mourning” would be more accurate. There are many cultures and societies in which black is the color of mourning, yes. There are also those in which white is the color of mourning.

  48. I am delighted to report that my pastor — a fairly representative priest of an “aging hippie” diocese — wore black vestments at all the Masses today. I nearly went into shock when I saw him at the first one (I attend all because I am the music director). Our deacon wore a white stole, since he didn’t have a black one.

    Deo gratias!

  49. Mary Jane says:

    In the church where I’m the temporary organist for two Masses, all was white. (I don’t know about the EF Low Mass at 8 a.m. – hopefully black?)

    The music was a combination of Easter hymns and miscellaneous positive messages, so that part was All Saints II. At least the homilies focused on Purgatory and our reciprocal relationship (sorry to sound like a team-building memo) with the Holy Souls.

    My schola sang at an Evening Prayer later that day in a local historic cemetary. The presider’s cope was violet with black trim, so that was an improvement (not same parish as above). And even though it began to drizzle, those in attendance stayed through our “postlude” of the In paradisum/Chorus angelorum. (Give ’em the real thing and they know it when they hear it.)
    But I find these reports from the rest of the Catholic universe encouraging.

  50. TNCath says:

    We had purple in our parish yesterday, which is better than white. What I found very strange was that we have had an All Souls Day Mass at our diocesan cemetery every year for over 100 years. This year, the bishop presided at a “prayer service.” Strange.

  51. Mary Conces says:

    Many of you are behind the times. According to the bulletin letter of a pastor here in southern Michigan: “We don’t use the old, quaint phrase ‘souls in purgatory’. That troubled phrase was prominent in the old Baltimore Catechism. Our funeral liturgy now has us pray for people who have died. The word ‘souls’ only is used a few times, and never the awkward ‘souls in purgatory’.” It’s all about fond memories. And our “loving Creator’s universal, constane, healing, saving power….[W]ith unshakeable hope, we rejoice.”
    He did briefly mention purification in his sermon, though.

  52. Joe says:

    HOLY TRINITY Parish in Gainsville, VA. The Pastor has encouraged the use of Beautiful Black vestment on All Souls day and other special occaisions (e.g. death of JP II) for years. I’ve spent most of my life trying to find a Proudly Catholic Priest and I have in Fr.s Peffley and Wooten.

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