QUAERITUR: If you wear an alb, do you need an amice?

From a reader:

I just had a quick question: If a seminarian or anyone for that matter wears an an alb at Mass is it proper to wear an amice under it? I have a cassock and surplice but the "tradition" in my diocese has been that seminarians wear albs when sitting in choir at Mass or serving or whatever.


For the Novus Ordo, the general rule is that street clothes should be covered.  For clerics, for sacred ministers, that sometimes requires the amice if the alb is not constructed so as to cover the collar.

If you priests or deacons in Mass vestments with their Roman collars showing, they are under-dressed.

As far as lay people are concerned, I think the rule would still apply.

But I wouldn’t want the use of an amice to lead to any sense of "clericalization" of the lay people who use them.  If there must be servers in albs, perhaps it would be better to have those albs that entirely cover the next, thus eliminating the need for an amice.

Seminarians should use proper choir dress.   But if they are forced to use albs, then use the amice if necessary to cover street clothes.

For the Usus antiquior, priests must use an amice.  Servers would be in cassock and surplice.

His omnibus scriptis: If you don’t have an amice and one isn’t available, you go ahead as best you can without it.  You are not held to the impossible.   But be responsible beforehand and make sure you have what you need.   Don’t assume these days that parishes have amices unless they also have more traditional liturgical worship.

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  1. TNCath says:

    Thank you, Father, for that clarification about the Roman collar showing! It always drives me crazy to see a priest’s collar showing under his alb.

    Does the “covering issue” also refer to the religious habit? Often one will see a Franciscan’s brown hood over the alb as an overlay, which I know was equally wrong.

    However, I have seen the brown hood worn over the alb yet covered by the amice. Is this proper, or should the hood be completely suppressed by the amice?

    I apologize for the possible creation of a “rabbit hole,” but does the hood of a religious habit replace the birretta as well and how would this fit with the amice?

  2. FrFenton says:

    There are monastic amices that fit around the outside of the hood. They are rarely seen nowadays!

    For the seminarian wearing the amice — my gut instinct is that if the diocese says its tradition is to wear the alb, it may be looked upon as being overly clerical. Circumspection is always called for, and especially for seminarians. Many are the times I had to bite my tongue and do something that wasn’t correct (along the lines of wearing an alb without amice). An upper-classman at the seminary told me early on, “Remember SUAGO” — Shut Up And Get Ordained.

  3. berenike says:

    Well, the servers at the Canonesses Regular of the Mother of God (Mass celebrated by the canons) wear albs. And the good sisters are True Trads liturgically speaking (while being very nice, and taking groups to WYD, and so on and so forth).

    And in Poland I’ve never seen anyone serving in a cassock except seminarians, and at the Traddy Mass in Warsaw. Not even in old photos.

    All of which makes me wonder (vaguely, and only very occasionally).

  4. kyle says:

    So a layman acting as Subdeacon in the Usus antiquior would also be required to wear the amice?

  5. uptoncp says:

    It seems easiest to me to regard the amice as part of the alb – a bit like an old fashioned shirt with detachable collar. If the alb in question is designed to be worn with an amice, it needs to be worn with an amice, whoever is wearing it (and there are plenty of mediæval precedents for servers in albs).

  6. In answer to previous questions.

    Yes, religious with hoods must wear the amice to cover the hood. That goes even for those (like Dominicans) whose habit and capuce is white. Those orders had special large or fitted amice to cover their hoods. All Dominicans I know who follow the rubrics as to albs (which apply to the Ordinary form too) have such amices. If such a special amice cannot be gotten, then I think it better to wear one of those albs with a hood attached, even (no flames, please) when celebrating an Extraordinary Form Mass. Needless to say, the cinture is always manditory when wearing an alb (unless in the OF the alb has a built in cinture strip).

    At least for the Dominicans (I have no idea about Franciscans and Benedictines), the head is covered by the raised hood (itself covered by the special amice), no biretta is used. The only biretta worn by Dominicans is the academic kind (if they have such a degree) and then only in extra-liturgical academic functions.

  7. paladin says:

    Hi, Father!

    Could you (or anyone else who knows) tell me what attire would be suitable for a lay person (acolyte) to use when exposing and/or reposing the Blessed Sacrament for/from Eucharistic Adoration (in the absence of a priest or deacon)? I’d been told that an alb is required; is that so? (Would it be improper to wear a cassock & surplice? Maybe I could just wear the cassock under the alb, if necessary?)

    Thanks for any help you can give!

  8. TNCath says:

    Thanks, Father Augustine Thompson, O.P. for the information about the hood. In my diocese, one rarely sees an amice anymore, much less a religious wearing one. I have noticed at the one Dominican parish in our diocese, the Dominicans don’t even bother wearing albs, wearing a stole and chasuble over their habits, and when concelebrating, will don only the stole over their habit. Apparently they think the habit is “white enough” to be an alb.

  9. Jayna says:

    Hopefully this is along the same lines as the post. My priest had his own alb made that has a hood on it and, to be honest, unnecessarily large sleeves. I’ve never been able to figure out why he wears it as he isn’t a member of any order, just a diocesan priest (well, not just, but you know what I mean).

    As to amices, I know we have them at my parish. However, in three years I think I’ve seen each of our priests wear them maybe two or three times.

  10. AndyMo says:

    I’m the organist at our parish, and I always wear a cassock and cotta for Mass. My shirt collars would always be visible but for one simple solution. I fold them down and over before putting on the cassock. Simple enough without clericalization. Our priest, on the other hand, always wears the amice.

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