QUAERITUR: Can a seminarian use an amice?

From a seminarian:

Just a question: Is it permissible for those candidates to be installed as acolytes during their seminary formation, in addition to the alb and cincture, allowed to wear an amice?


Of course it is.  And it really must be used when the alb is designed in such a manner that your street clothes are visible.  Street clothes need to be covered.  Aside from the traditional theological meaning of the amice, as the "helm of salvation", it is a practical garment as well: it hides street clothes and it helps to keep vestments clean.

This is a non-issue when serving in a cassock and surplice.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. If you don’t mind, here’s my commentary on the amice:


    After having washed his hands, the priest can put on the amice. The amice (from the Latin amicire, meaning “to cover”) is a square of white linen wrapped around the shoulders close to the neck and tied in place; in the Middle Ages it was worn as a hood, especially by monks. As he puts on the amice, the priest prays:

    Impóne, Dómine, cápiti meo gáleam salútis,
    ad expugnándos diabólicos incúrsus.

    Place, O Lord, the helmet of salvation upon my head, {Isa. 59:17; Eph. 6:17}
    that I may overcome the assaults of the devil. {Eph. 6:11}

    The amice is a symbol of the “helmet of salvation,” which is the virtue of hope. (cf. 1 Th. 5:8) Having hope cover his head means that the priest should have his mind occupied with the things of Heaven and the care of souls, free from the fleeting worldly cares which can so easily distract him. His thoughts should be fortified against needless worry by confidence in God and hope in His promises. It should be no wonder that priests, who work for the salvation of souls, would be subject to “the assults of the devil,” who – during the celebration of Mass more than ever – would want to deprive him of peace in his soul, heart, and mind.

    The amice also represents Christ’s humanity, humility, and death. As it was once worn as a hood (thus going over the head), it is a sign of His humanity which He took up, veiling His divine glory. It is a sign of His humility during the Passion, when He endured being blindfolded and struck. (cf. Mark 14:65; Luke 22:64) Furthermore, after Christ died on the cross, He was wrapped not only in a bodily shroud (cf. Matt. 27:59) but also with a cloth around His head. (cf. John 20:6-7) The amice, then, evocative of the death of Christ, calls the priest to die to himself and live for Christ (cf. Gal. 2:20), the supreme exercise of humility.

    The virtue of humility, following the example given by Christ, is indispensible for the priest; this was reaffirmed in the Vatican II Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis (PO): “Among the virtues that priests must possess … none is so important as a frame of mind and soul whereby they are always ready to know and do the will of him who sent them and not their own will.” (PO 15) Humility disposes the priest’s will to recognize his dependence on God, revealing his own boundaries and limitations. Humility also calls the priest to understand his true relationship to his neighbor; he must be willing to serve all, from the richest to the poorest, remembering that ministry “to one of the least of these” (Matt. 25:40) is ministry to Christ. Humility is closely bound to charity, by which we love God above all else for His own sake, and we love others for God’s sake.

    As five men were being ordained to the priesthood, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City alluded to the need for humility as he said that we must praise God “that their ordination is God’s doing, not ours; that this is a pure gift from God, not an earned trophy; that His call trumps our curriculum vitae.” In ordination, priests receive extraordinary powers, and they tend to attract more respect (or at least more attention) than the average person. Without the virtue of humility, a priest would forget Who made him who he is: indeed, no priest is a self-made man! It is by “this humility and by willing responsible obedience [that] priests conform themselves to Christ” (PO 15), whose ministry they carry out.

    (From Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the Priest)

    (P.S. I welcome any comments or corrections!)

  2. I remember when I went to Mass at Assumption Grotto for the first time and my attention was drawn to the amice, wrapped snug around the priest’s neck. It caught my attention because I was so used to seeing…….the clerical collar framed by black shirt.

    One very hot day in June after temperatures were sustained for days and nights in the 90’s ahead of Sunday Mass, I was amazed to watch my pastor process up that aisle with that amice wrapped as tightly as any other day. My parish is not air-conditioned and it can actually get hotter inside, than it is outside at such times (N.B.: The confessionals are even hotter and the priests still make themselves available outside of regularly posted times – wearing cassocks which have long sleeves).

    I think this was the same hot Sunday that Fr. Perrone, with arms outstretched, challenged those who would wear shorts, tank-tops and other such garb to Mass on Sunday to justify that they could feel hotter than he in all of his vestments.

    Personally, I like to see the amice. I find the clerical collar, when highly visible behind the chasuble, a distraction. It’s not just a spiritual thing for priests, but as a lay person, it’s just one more detail that sets the tone of my worship.

  3. Jayna says:

    Can one of you guys come and explain to my priest that an undershirt, though not what he’d be seen out on the street wearing, would require an amice to cover it? He wears the collar on Sundays, but on weekdays it’s alb, stole, and…undershirt. I’ve seen him wear an amice a couple of times and, like Diane said, there’s something different in how I view him. And I’ll grant him that on Easter and Christmas he wears his cassock under his vestments with full collar and a long sleeve dress shirt under his cassock so that he has an excuse to wear his fancy cufflinks. But still…an undershirt?

  4. Briangar21 says:

    My problem comes when seminarians are allowed to wear clerical collars, or God forbid, “practice” preaching at Mass.

  5. Braingar: That my indeed be your problem. But you’ll get over it.

  6. Diane: I find the clerical collar, when highly visible behind the chasuble, a distraction

    It is also illicit.

  7. Briangar21 says:

    Seminarians aren’t clerics and if they are permitted to preach at Mass, why not allow those who are far more qualified, yet still not ordained.

  8. Briangar: First, this entry is not about preaching at Mass. Did you notice that it is about the use of the amice?

    Second, when the Supreme Pontiff desires to change the present law, I am sure we will hear about it. Until then let’s stick to preaching by the ordained.

  9. Briangar21 says:

    Oh, sorry. You said it was my problem when seminarians are permitted to wear clerical garb and preach at Mass. Sorry to go off topic. But just to be clear, preaching does not belong only to the ordained…just preaching at Mass.

  10. Kurt Barragan says:

    As Fr Zuhlsdorf notes, it is quite proper for a server to wear an amice. The official reference, if one is needed, is GIRM 119: “All who wear an alb should use a cincture and an amice unless, due to the form of the alb, they are not needed.”

  11. Kurt: Pretty much what I said at the top. o{]:¬)

  12. jbas says:

    I once learned the hard way never to machine wash several amices at the same time. They emerged in a spectacular knot! This seminarian might learn from my mistake.

  13. Peter says:

    jbas – I have had the same experience laundering amices.

    However there is a way around this. You can use a string bag to put the amices in. Such things are available purpose made for use in washing machines (albeit normally marketed for underwear). This ensures the strings are not wrapped around each other or the spin rotor.

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