QUAERITUR: stole over the chasuble

From a reader:

Visiting my grandmother out here in Texas and went to Mass Saturday evening. Saw the priest was wearing his stole on top of the chasuble.

I seriously thought about asking him, politely, if he was aware it constituted a liturgical abuse.

Decided against it in light of his stature as a priest and the mote in my own eye. How would you advise me to act in the future? Obviously I was only visiting, but I was wondering if not pointing out the abuse was a disservice to my brother laymen in the parish.

The stole is to be worn beneath the chasuble.

However, given that you were a visitor there, you probably did the right thing in deciding not to say anything.  If you were going to be there for a substantial period of time, and could get to know the priest a little, then I would bring it up.

Also, perhaps it is not the best thing to ask directly if a priest is aware that he is committing a liturgical abuse.  Be a little more diplomatic.  You might open the question by observing that you haven’t seen a priests generally wear the stole over the chasuble and ask him to explain it. 

Everyone has the responsibility to make sure the liturgy is celebrated properly.  This includes the use of vestments.

However, our approach will count for a great deal… or do a great deal of harm.  We need prudence.

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  1. John P says:

    I found this post peculiar, as my pastor sometimes wears his stole over the chasuble as well, I never realized this was inappropriate. I agree completely with Father Z that it was definitely the right thing to do to not say anything in that situation. So, am I correct in assuming the stole should NEVER be worn over the chasuble?

  2. From Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    [123.] “The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole.” Likewise the Priest, in putting on the chasuble according to the rubrics, is not to omit the stole. All Ordinaries should be vigilant in order that all usage to the contrary be eradicated.

  3. John P: I can’t think of a reason why it should be.

  4. TNCath says:

    The liturgical directive is that the stole is to be worn under the chasuble. The wearing of the stole over the chasuble was a fad that began in the early 1970’s. I’m not sure exactly where it originated, but I believe the (erroneous) rationale was to emphasize the order of priesthood. Vestment companies starting designing vestments in which the stole was meant to be worn over the chasuble. Locally, we had a lady who designed for a number of priests in our diocese these ghastly poncho style vestments with matching stoles in all liturgical colors except black but including rose, which was pink and made the celebrant look like a Sweet-n-Low package. Later on, a set of diocesan vestments were made with overlay stoles made from a heavy valour material that looked and felt like a couch cover. Apparently nobody seemed to pay attention to (or care about) the rubrics regarding vesture and merrily priests and bishops rolled along wearing them. Even Pope John Paul II wore an stole over his chasuble on one of his visits to the United States. I have noticed, however, in the last 10-15 years that fewer priests and bishops are donning this erroneous style of vesture. Those that still do seem to still be stuck in the confusion of the 1970’s.

  5. TNCath: … fewer priests and bishops are donning this erroneous style of vesture. Those that still do seem to still be stuck in the confusion of the 1970’s.

    I assume you mean that those, who exhibit this particular confusion of the 1970s, typically exhibit other confusions of the 1970s as well?

  6. TNCath says:

    Henry Edwards: “I assume you mean that those, who exhibit this particular confusion of the 1970s, typically exhibit other confusions of the 1970s as well?”

    Yes, I’m afraid so. There does seem to be a pattern. These are the same priests that will say daily Mass wearing only an alb and stole, ad lib throughout the Mass with “Good Morning,” the weather report, the score of whatever game is currently on TV, and lengthy introductions to the Penitential Rite, Suscipiat, and Our Father. They also frown on the use of Latin in the liturgy.

  7. Tom Lanter says:

    FR. Z;
    Years ago I coined this phenomena the Madonna Syndrome, after Madonna, the entertainer, who made millions wearing her under garment on top.
    Apparently this still is very common.
    Just after Redemptionis Sacramentum was released I was telling my friend of RS 123 and other instructions RS contained. He had not read it, nor he told me later, did he realize how many departments had signed the document. I never saw him with the stole on the top again.
    In photography we are told to read the camera manuals once a year. My last two digital cameras came with 150 page books! I will never master them. My point is we could do the same with RS and many other instructions having to do with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


  8. John Enright says:

    Good advice, Father.

  9. A newer and very sad development is priests not wearing the stole at all. I know a priest who will not wear one. His reasoning is “the people don’t see it.” No official document or legislation will sway him. Sadly, his view of priesthood and the evangelical councils are rather skewed.

  10. Fr AJ says:

    I know a bishop who wears his stole on the outside and this was pointed out to to him. He said he knows the rule but to change now would be admitting he was wrong before which he said he cannot do.

  11. cheyan says:

    Unrelated to the exact question at hand – does this go (in general) for other things that might not be done appropriately? For example the parish I’m in now lights two candles on either side of the ambo prior to Mass, and then before the gifts are brought up to the altar lights two candles on the right side of the altar. I remember reading somewhere that this is inappropriate (and I know it’s at least not the norm, because I’ve never seen it done that way anywhere else) but I certainly don’t have a paragraph to cite, and I don’t know how to ask the question without sounding like, “Why aren’t you like all the OTHER parishes?!”

  12. Gio says:

    The stole over the chasuble phenomenon is connected with the appearance of the so called Chasuble-alb in the 70’s.
    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chasuble-alb

  13. A Random Friar says:

    My liturgical understanding (from books, vesting prayers, etc) is that the stole is a symbol of priestly authority (which is why a stole is worn at Confession: the priest has the authority to untie you from your sins). The chasuble is love, or charity, which covers all others.

    I’ve heard it phrased this way against the stole over chasuble: “Why would you put your priestly authority over Christ’s love?”

  14. TNCath says:

    Father Bailey, C.Ss.R.: “A newer and very sad development is priests not wearing the stole at all. I know a priest who will not wear one. His reasoning is ‘the people don’t see it.’ No official document or legislation will sway him. Sadly, his view of priesthood and the evangelical councils are rather skewed.

    Ah yes, the “It Doesn’t Matter/Who Cares?/What’s the Difference?/I’m Going to Do it My Way Mentality.” Talk about clericalism!

    Father AJ: “I know a bishop who wears his stole on the outside and this was pointed out to to him. He said he knows the rule but to change now would be admitting he was wrong before which he said he cannot do.”

    Ah yes, the “I’m the bishop and nobody’s going to catch me admitting a mistake” mentality. Talk about clericalism!

    Fortunately, many priests (and even a few bishops) have indeed realized they were wrong about the things they were doing in the past, have acknowledged that fact, and corrected themselves. The irony of these examples is that these were the same folks who were pushing for their idea of “full, active, and conscious participation” in the Mass, aggiornamento, church as the People of God and all the other catchphrases that went along with the post-Vatican II world.

  15. Clinton says:

    Regarding a Random Friars post above — that is the same reasoning I was taught, and it makes sense to me. In a similar vein,
    there are prelates who wear their pectoral cross, a symbol of their office, over their chasuble. This is inappropriate for the same
    reason .

  16. PAH says:

    All bishops in Ireland seem to wear their pectoral crosses over their chasubles.

  17. A Random Friar says:

    Re: pectoral cross: see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11601a.htm

    The reason that bishops did not cross their stoles, btw, was due to the wearing of the pectoral cross, it seems. See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14301a.htm (Stole)

  18. more than trivia says:

    Aren’t deacons permitted to wear stoles over the dalmatic? [No. I don’t think so.]

  19. A Random Friar says:

    Trivia: Short answer: nope. :)

    GIRM 336-338 (see 338 esp.)

    336. The sacred garment common to ordained and instituted ministers of any rank is the alb, to be tied at the waist with a cincture unless it is made so as to fit even without such. Before the alb is put on, should this not completely cover the ordinary clothing at the neck, an amice should be put on. The alb may not be replaced by a surplice, not even over a cassock, on occasions when a chasuble or dalmatic is to be worn or when, according to the norms, only a stole is worn without a chasuble or dalmatic.

    337. The vestment proper to the priest celebrant at Mass and other sacred actions directly connected with Mass is, unless otherwise indicated, the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole.

    338. The vestment proper to the deacon is the dalmatic, worn over the alb and stole. The dalmatic may, however, be omitted out of necessity or on account of a lesser degree of solemnity.

  20. “Aren’t deacons permitted to wear stoles over the dalmatic? [No. I don’t think so.]”

    Unless they are Byzantines; then the orarion (deacon stole) always goes over the Sticharion (their version of the dalmatic–although you might consider it their version of our alb . . .) . . .

  21. Gavin says:

    Are there chausibles which look like they have stoles over them? I’ve seen many priests who wear their vestments the wrong way, but on closer examination it doesn’t seem they are wearing another vestment. Is this a modern style or are they just people who don’t know how to dress?

    Here’s how to solve it: go to Mass with your underwear on top of your clothes. Tell the priest “oh, I thought that’s what we do here?”

  22. JGKester says:

    It was a feature of the primatial rite of (I beleive) Braga and Spain for the Deacon to wear his stole over the dalmatic. Also this was occasionally a matter of legislation for episcopal synods in the Middle Ages. The express purpose was to distinguish a deacon from a subdeacon, especially when a tradition made greater use of the tunicle for Acolytes

  23. The former bishop of Richmond after banning any use of Latin in the mass (a deacon preparing for his ordination was told he would not be ordained unless he dropped the Veni Creator from the program-the ONLY latin in the mass),allowed the indult at one parish in the city.He said that he would celebrate it.He celebrated the 1962 missal wearing his stole over the chasuble.

  24. Alessandro says:

    Even in the Ambrosian rite of Milan, the deacon wears the stole over the dalmatic.
    And in all the latin rites, sadly, as it has been pointed out, it is spreading for priests the “if-it-is-not-seen-I-don’t-put-the-stole-on” fashion.

  25. opey124 says:

    It is common here/stole outside of chasuble. There is no way I would approach our priest here and ask about it. Although we do have a duty to correct, when we know we will not be received NOR will the Bishop back up the teachings, I think it is best to be quiet and pray. Or at least that is what I am doing. As you said…prudence.

  26. Right, prudence is the key, The priest chaplain who is at Newman Center where I go to school p/t does not wear chausible and just wears alb and stole. It’s not something that I generally bring up. In the hierarchy of abuses, this one’s rather low on the list, there are others that happen during Mass on campus that are far greater than this, and those are the ones I’m more aggressively trying to fix.

  27. Dr. Eric says:

    I used to go to a parish in Terre Haute, IN, in which the priest didn’t wear any clerical outfit (I think he is a Franciscan) but he wore a polo shirt and dockers. He also only wore the alb with a reversible stole over the top for daily Mass. I didn’t attend that parish on the weekend.

    Are priests required to wear the chasuble? I thought they were, he did not one.

  28. Dr. Eric says:

    The priest didn’t WEAR one. I should proofread these posts.

  29. TJM says:

    Father McAfee, I assume the bishop had NO authority to ban the use of Latin. In my humble opinion, he should have been suspended a divinis for his strange and blatant disregard of Holy Tradition and Church liturgical norms. Tom

  30. David Osterloh says:

    On a related subject, does anyone know of a web site that shows or has a video of the pre vat II vestments, how they were worn, and the accompanying prayers. I just barely remember our old priest Fr. Stock, (God rest his soul), vesting when I served mass as a 2nd grader and the high school servers helping him, just for my own curiosity

  31. magdalene says:

    I certainly know priests that always wear the stole on top. And then some who do not use the chausable for daily Mass, etc.

    It is not something I ever brought up to them but I noticed it. It goes along with other things like not genuflecting or doing the lavabo and so on, little disobediences.

    As was mentioned above somewhere, there are bigger things to be concerned about very often.

  32. Hugo says:

    I asked a priest friend about this and he said, “Huey, it came that way.”

    I then asked, ” if it came in a box, would you wear the box?”

  33. Clinton says:

    Gavin’s post earlier referred to those strange chasuble-like gunnysacks with the stole bit attached to the outside.
    A priest merely pops the whole mess on and, in theory, is good to go. I think they were concocted by some of
    the more irresponsible liturgical supply companies looking to make a sale. For shame.

    It’s difficult to believe, but it is possible that some priests may have made it through seminary without being
    taught how to vest properly. Regardless, I’d have to know the man pretty well to venture a tactful query about
    his way with a stole. In the end, I’d have to ask myself if speaking up — tactfully, respectfully — is likely to have
    a positive result.

    As for the priests who will not wear a stole “because the people won’t see it” — they make me wonder what else
    they do/won’t do because they think no one sees.

  34. Daniel says:

    Dr. Eric,

    I currently go to school in Terre Haute, IN. The parish you’re describing sounds familiar. The pastor dresses as you describe for Daily Mass, but vests with a chausable for Sunday Mass (Except stole on top of chausable most of the time). The usual green chausable is worn with this “stole” which seems Eastern in style. It has a collar sort of like a pallium, but hangs all the way down (the length of a stole) in front and back with Greek crosses.

    I no longer go to that parish as the liturgical abuses were too many (and the pastor wouldn’t listen to the college students when we proposed buying proper vessels). They also have a pastoral associate who runs Communion Services ripe with abuse.

  35. Hugo says:

    In their 14 tape series on the TLM, the Biersach & Coloumbe comedy duo spend about 20 mins on this.

    Stole = Authority
    Chasuable= Charity

    Authority exercised thru Charity.

    The first to put the stole on top were the Geneva Calvinists who apparently undertood the symbolism better than my pastor.

  36. Banjo pickin' girl says:

    Clinton, I think you are right. They do not know how to vest. I know a priest who doesn’t know that there are vesting prayers. For my confirmation he wore an alb over Dockers and t-shirt. For confession he wears Dockers and a plaid shirt. Never clericals. “They are uncomfortable.” But these are simply symptoms of a larger problem, as usual. He also told me anyone can be ordained, that ordination does not confer an ontological change on a man’s soul. The little disobediences are a sign that bigger ones lie underneath.

    How can I, as a convert who knows virtually nothing, be faithful without example? Fortunately, I have found a parish run by an order of friars which is faithful and I am now playing catch-up. (That’s catch-up, not catsup or ketchup, Fr. Z, ha ha.)

  37. PNP, OP says:

    Once, as a deacon, I refused to serve a Mass with a priest who refused to wear a stole. His reasoning: no one can see it anyway. I asked him if was wearing underwear…end of argument. Fr. Philip, OP

  38. dominic1962 says:

    Regardless of the older/other rite usages of the stole over the dalmatic, these days the stole over any vestment is just a excercise in stupidity/ignorance or disregard of rubrics. However, if it is an attempt to restore older usages, I don’t think they’d be using the usual polyester ponchos to do so.

    As to not wearing clericals, some guys do honestly tend not to wear their clerics or pop the collar for comfort reasons but if they are preaching silly things about women’s ordination and such, then its a whole other thing. This is usually why layfolks and other priests criticize the priests who don’t wear their clerical attire (at least in public)-because its usually seen as a sign of heresy.

  39. George says:

    Brothers and Sister,

    I read this post a couple of days ago and i was just recently going over a companion on canon law, Was the priest concelebrating?:

    “In some regions, including the United States and Canada, the chasuble-alb may be worn at concelebrations. The stole is worn over the chasuble-alb and should be the color appropriate to the Mass being celebrated. (see CLD 8:528.)


  40. Sem. C says:

    To play off of Fr. Phil OP’s post, it would appear that a stole over chasuble would be like underwear over pants!

  41. RLP says:

    In the archdioceses of Portland, OR & Seattle, Wa and dioceses of Spokane and Yakima, WA, many of the Jesuit priests have discarded the chasuble entirely. I’ve been to Eucharistic celebrations in all the above (arch)dioceses where the celebrant wears his stole over his alb. I guess that takes care of the problem of how to wear the stole properly.

  42. Banjo pickin' girl says:

    Oh, ha ha, my anti-spam phrase was “maniples now.”

    I thought the wearing of clericals was “required” at least when a priest is acting as priest. Especially egregious, I believe, is the refusal to wear even a stole for confession. It’s like confessing to the janitor. I’ve heard people ask him if he is the priest. You shouldn’t have to ask. It should be obvious who the priest is.

    This same priest wears a stole under his chasuble as usual but the alb is always over something silly like Dockers and t-shirt.

  43. Seems pretty petty to me

  44. Matt, what seems pretty petty to you? Liturgical abuse? Priests showing disregard for laws they have vowed to obey? It might seem like whether or not a priest wears a stole over or under a chasuble is of little importance, but only when the Church’s teaching on the Sacred Liturgy or the priesthood is not properly understood or deliberately rejected. Both reasons require serious attention: either education or disciplinary measures. And rarely is it just a case of not adhearing to liturgical norms or disobeying law. These are almost always visible manifestations of serious problems. And while none of us are perfect, when it comes to the salvation of souls, the people of God deserve nothing but the absolute best and ought never have to wonder if a particular priest truly has their salvation at heart.

  45. Moose Marone says:

    One does not have to hang around a discussion
    like this for too long before all of the
    judgementalism that made us weary prior to V2
    starts coming through loud and clear.

    The fearless military chaplains of WWII (the
    “big one” according to Archie Bunker) proved that
    a holy priest could offer mass on the hood of a
    Jeep, albeit ad orientem, and in camoflage.

    I think these modern liturgical minimalists are
    the true heirs to those heroes.

  46. A Random Friar says:

    Moose, with all due respect, and as a former serviceman, I’ve run into probably more judgmentalism from the so-called tolerant minimalists. I’ve had a heck of a workout going through seminary working on my prudence and patience, thanks to being beaten over the head constantly with toleration and multi-culturalism (which is odd, since I was of a mixed family, and my teachers were whiter than Archie Bunker).

    And as for those priests in WWII… what happened when they returned off the battlefield? Were they somehow less heroic when they returned home, or to base and went through the whole non-minimalist thing? Search through the archives in Life, etc… you’ll see (pretty nice) jury-rigged altars (ad orientem) and even surplices and albs for priests in the field (when wearing white or bright vestments was not an invitation to get shot at). There’s a basic premise in theology, Canon Law and Liturgy: you can’t ask the impossible, exceedingly dangerous or onerous of someone, and that includes priests celebrating Mass. Your examples are like saying St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe was a liturgical minimalist, because he did not wear alb and stole when he heard confessions in the concentration camp, or led prayers (I want to say he was able to offer Mass at first also, but I can’t recall now).

    I would suggest that you are mistakenly and anachronistically imposing your viewpoint on my brother priests and servicement (much as I would be if I said that Blessed John XXIII was a rabid Lefevrist, because, AFAIK, he ONLY said Mass in Latin! Context, context).

  47. Clinton says:

    Again, Random Friar, you are the voice of reason. I doubt many military chaplains carry a lace-trimmed alb in
    the field in Iraq. No one in their right mind would fault them for that! Celebrating Mass on a plank laid over 2
    55-gallon oil drums in the middle of nowhere for a group of servicemen who may be dead or wounded tomorrow
    can be reverent and beautiful. It’s the best that can be brought before God at that time, in that place. But for some
    parish here in the States to cite that as a reason to do the same is indefensible. For a priest with the time and the
    means available to choose rather to blow off the liturgical norms speaks volumes about his contempt for tradition,
    for legitimate authority, for his parishioners, for his office, for his vocation, and (heaven help him) for his God.
    As I believe Fr. Bailey was saying in his post above, such neglect of the liturgical norms can be because of either
    ignorance or willful error — but either way it’s often a sign of a larger problem.

  48. Seminarian says:

    It seems like this abuse, like many (be they liturgical, doctrinal, moral or “pastoral”), show a deeper problem under the surface. I may be wrong, but I think that it ultimately comes down to pride. Aside from the “invincible ignorance” of those priests who “just don’t know any better”, it seems like many abuses deliberately committed (with full will and consent) reveal a more deep-seated aversion in regards to authority. A priest who is humble will always want to be faithful to Holy Mother Church in all things, because he knows that he is not the author of the Sacred Liturgy, of Sacred Doctrine, etc. He is merely an “instrumentum”. On the other hand, a priest who lacks humility will always seek ways of drawing attention to himself, be it by liturgical innovation or whatever other method. Sometimes, of course, the pride is much less deliberate, much more subtle — and of course, we can never judge the intentions of any individual soul. However, it does seem clear to me that pride is often the root-cause, as it is of so much aberrant behaviour that we see all around us.

    As a seminarian, I have learnt to deal with liturgical (and other) abuses, by offering up my suffering to Our Lord through Our Lady, and asking them to grant holy priests to the Church, priests filled with zeal, charity and a love for the Truth. Maybe that is all that we can truly do in such situations. But it is surely not little in the eyes of God.

    Oremus pro pastoribus nostris.

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