The “Boy Bishop” tradition lives on St. Nick’s Day

Check out the photos of the St. Nick’s "Boy Bishop" tradition posted by Fr. Longenecker at his place.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Yep, those “traddies” are such stuffy, serious folks. And the young folk, especially the teens looked miserable in their uniforms, and probably having to sing solid hymnody and the like. (*snort*)

    You don’t even want to know what goes on for St. Nicholas Day at my place!

    (There was a pic of “H.E.” speaking from a lecturn. I wonder what he said in his address?)

  2. tom says:

    Of course, there are some traditions that deserve to die…

  3. One of the many things the killjoy ‘Reformers’ targeted under Edward VI was the custom of boy bishops.
    It was restored subsequently under Good (‘Bloody’) Queen Mary, before being axed again by Elizabeth.

    I bet this may be the start of three new vocations today.

  4. Matthew M. says:

    the historian Peter Burke writes about the 16th century Catholic reformers not liking the practice, denouncing it as irreverent, blasphemous, etc.

    And, back in the day, the boy bishops would give a sermon, too. He writes “…the boy bishop’s sermon was described, in an English proclamation against the custom in 1541, as tending ‘rather to the derision than to any true glory of God or honour of his saints’.” But I bet Fr. Longenecker was able to keep the boy bishop sermonizing under control..

  5. PUBLIC CONFESSION: some of us ‘lifers’ (i.e., those who attended high school seminary as well as college seminary and major seminary) dressed up in freshman year (9th grade) as a bishop, monsignor, or parish priest on Saint Nicholas Day. Sophomore year (10th grade) we moved up to Cardinal and Pope.

  6. Johnny Domer says:

    Fr. Trigilio,

    Didn’t you have a couple of priests/professors in seminary who actually THOUGHT they were the Pope, or someone much smarter? ;-)

    God bless, Father

  7. Tomás López says:

    I seldom say anything negative on the board, but I can’t restrain myself this time.

    In this day and age of all sorts of accusations — some warranted, some not so — and particularly in the States, I don’t think that it is at all prudent for clerics to be playing dress up with little boys.

    Pardon my negativity, but I think this photo could give scandal. [piffle]

  8. Maureen says:

    Plenty of the boy bishops gave very learned sermons/homilies, from the accounts given. And yes, many of the boy bishops and their attendants did end up with vocations. They also raised a lot of money for charity, back in the day.

  9. Fr. Guy says:

    Why is this being done at a Catholic school? The tradition of the “boy bishop” belongs to cathedrals and cathedral (choir) schools i.e. the places where there is an adult bishop who gives up his cathedra for the day to the boy bishop.

  10. joe says:

    Lighten up Tomas! There is nothing scandalous about it. This is a great picture! Maybe these young men will think about a vocation.

  11. tom says:

    To joe.

    Isn’t scandal “in the eye of the beholder”?

  12. Tomás López says:

    Joe, allow me to clarify. What I should have said is that I don’t believe there is anything wrong with the activity per se. However, based on current events, I don’t believe that this is a prudent thing for clerics to do at the moment because they are under closer scrutiny than ever.

    Looking at the photograph, I ask myself: Would detractors of the Church have a field day with this one? Could, based on recent scandals, these photos be used to cast the Church in a highly unfavorable light?

    I can’t help but answer YES to both of the above. These are tough times for the times for the Church and we all have to make sacrifices; in this instance, I think that prudence must needs outweigh levity.

  13. Joseph says:

    Recently I read that over 3/4 of the men in seminary were asked at one time by someone if they had considered the call to priestly or religious life. The photos are part play, part solemn in tone which is what any vocation life provides is about.

    Let us not be too hard on this Upstate priest or what motivations he appears to have for the photo shoot.


  14. I’ve seen that Zoro mask elsewhere. The unnecessary ministers of communion I see everywhere

  15. Palmetto Papist says:

    As a very conservative member of the St. Joseph’s faculty, I was somewhat skeptical of the revival of the boy bishop tradition (or in our case, boy administrator). However, it was carried off with great reverence. I expected snickering or laughter from the students, but there was none. The boy bishop himself and his canons were reverent and the boy bishop delivered an excellent homily after mass.

    As for dressing up! Next, no altar boys???

    It turned out to be a good idea, and perhaps a lesson for our future bishop.

    As I learned from the recent political “scandal” at the nearby St. Mary’s, maybe we ought to comment about things we know little or nothing about, and when we do comment, perhaps we should be more inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt!

  16. Palmetto Papist says:

    “maybe we ought NOT to comment…”

    And I insist that my students proofread!

  17. Boko says:

    Neat little boy bishop pericope in The Pillars of the Earth, by Follett. (Warning-lots of naughty bits – but not the boy bishop section)

  18. Thanks for all who have shown interest in our boy bishop ceremony. It was v. well received. Tomorrow I will post on my blog a copy of the Boy bishop’s sermon for all who are interested.

  19. Had these young guys been dressed up as surgeons, sailors or as policemen, would anyone have been offended or scandalized? I understand the motives for someone being concerned and circumspect but being a boy myself (long ago, albeit), play acting was important to future development. The recent scandal should not make us paranoid, however.

    Many of us priests pretended to be priests when we were little kids and had pretend Masses. I had pretend sermons and REAL collections (which my three younger brothers disliked since they had to cough up the donations). Rather than the gruesome and grotesque monsters, vampires and werewolves of today, I remember a time when we dressed up at Halloween as doctors, scientists, soldiers, policemen, etc. When adults started getting ‘into’ Halloween, then it became more macabre and occult oriented. Freddy Kruger and Jason replaced Superman and Batman. Some HEALTHY and INNOCENT role playing helps, I think, in a child’s formation of a vocation and career

  20. Alice says:

    Isn’t the crook of the crosier supposed to be towards the boy “bishop” to show that he has no authority?

  21. dymphna says:

    Gee, some folks really need to lighten up. We’re Catholics, not Puritans.
    It’s okay to smile and even laugh.

  22. Gere says:

    A few weeks back bloggers took the publicity around a toy “celebrate the Mass” kit as an opportunity to bash those on both sides of every question, surely a similar tempest in a teapot can be stirred up over this…

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  23. Mom says:

    As the mother of one of the pictured individuals, I feel inclined to comment. These reverent young men were extremely honored to be chosen by their peers for the privilege of participating in this ceremony. Father Longenecker is a deeply reverent and respectful man who realizes the importance of keeping youth actively participating in their faith. They are the future of our Church. Because of his encouragement and outstanding example, my son is considering the call to the vocation.

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