From a reader:
May a priest wear black vestments for a funeral mass in the Novus Ordo?
Yes! Without question, yes!
Black is a legitimate liturgical color and may be used for Masses for the Dead, All Souls, funerals, graveside services, etc. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal 346 identifies black as a legitimate liturgical color.
Black has long been in use in the Western Church for many centuries.
Will you allow me to quote Ven. Pius XII on the matter? He writes in Mediator Dei…
62. Assuredly it is a wise and most laudable thing to return in spirit and affection to the sources of the sacred liturgy. For research in this field of study, by tracing it back to its origins, contributes valuable assistance towards a more thorough and careful investigation of the significance of feast-days, and of the meaning of the texts and sacred ceremonies employed on their occasion. But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See.
I urge priests to use black.
I urge laypeople to request the use of black.
I urge laypeople to rally together and purchase beautiful black vestments for their parishes.
Good luck with the requesting! Most priests I know will not even consider wearing black for funerals, even when they are easily available. While I know that black is making a comeback in a some places, many of us are still enduring the fallout from the misinterpretation of Vatican II from priests ordained between 1968 and 1980 who, now in their 50’s and 60’s, are well established pastors or priests with some degree of authority in their dioceses and are now “calling the shots.” These same priests resisting black vestments are the same ones actively (or passive aggressively) resisting implementation of the new translations of the Mass and will continue, as one priest told me today, “doing it my way” despite the new texts.
That said, I found the quote from Ven. Pius XII’s Mediator Dei to be extremely interesting and encouraging. Unfortunately, most bishops and their diocesan liturgical police forces aren’t listening.
I love it when I see black vestments. One or two priests I know, in addition to our wonderful bishop, uses black on All Souls Day every year. I love it! Often, black chasubles are often among the most beautiful because the cheap vestment makers don’t even bother with them!
At the last family wake that I attended, the priest was asked about the color of the vestments when talking to the family about the funeral Mass. Although he did not volunteer that a vestment color other than white was permissible, he forthrightly answered a family member’s question by stating that black and violet were both permissible, although many parishes today do not have black vestments. On the other hand, every parish has violet vestments, so that might be a workable alternative. In the end, for my family member’s funeral Mass, the vestments were white.
I remember attending a funeral in the 1990’s for a child who died of particularly tragic circumstances. The very liberal priest who presided (he and his wife now run a Catholic-style church together, both as priests; at that time he hadn’t left your church) went to a lot of trouble to locate and borrow black vestments for that occasion.
Talk about nutzoid! “….both as priests; at that time he hadn’t left your church) went to a lot of trouble to locate and borrow black vestments for that occasion.” Even in the good old days, white was the liturgical color used for the funeral of a child; and rather than a requiem, the “Mass of the Angels” was sung.
Correct me if I’m wrong in response to Williams but I think white and Mass of the Angels was used for a child who had not reached the age of reason or at least not had made their first Confession or Holy Communion.
I would love if Fr. would use vestments like these for my requiem:
I think violet would be an excellent “transition” choice for those priest who absolutely refuse to wear black vestments, or the parish doesn’t have them, etc. Personally, I would opt for at least violet instead of white.
Where does the tradition of wearing violet for Requiem Masses come from? Is this a purely modern allowance?
dcs, I love black vestments, but think I’m gonna have nightmares now.
When I began celebrating funeral Masses last year as a newly ordained priest, I wore white due to the parish not having black vestments. Then, I found a black chasuble in the closet of the rectory chapel. I made the transition into black by wearing violet vestments for a while.
I still remember the look on the altar boy’s face when I began to wear black. He was mesmerized by it; he really liked it. Now, I wear black for funeral Masses and have never received any negative comment about it. In fact, I was given another unused black chasuble as a gift!
Black vestments are used at all funeral Masses at Assumption Grotto, whether Ordinary or Extraordinary Form. They are also in use on days like the Feast of All Souls.
I took photos of black vestments in use during a 2008 Mass for All Souls. . That year, in the new calendar All Souls fell on a Sunday, so Fr. Perrone went all out with an orchestra Mass.
Further, Bishop Walter Nickless chose to wear black and explained why in this post by Fr. Z
Would you advise that a Priest ask a family (who normally would expect to see white vestments) before using black vestments for the funeral Mass of their relation? [I think it depends entirely on the circumstances. But black should never be ruled out as the default position.]
It is interesting to note here the great pressures on the popes that followed WWII for change in the liturgy as well as the Church. This WWII generation finally got its way once the Council was called, indeed to address this issue.
During an RCIA session on vestments and vessels, I asked our pastor if the parish had black vestments. Turns out we have a gray set with a black panel, which I don’t recall ever having seen. He added that it would be awkward to use either violet or black now, because, after all the funerals using white, people could think the new colors might indicate the deceased was particularly sinful.
At the last two OF funerals I attended, I saw black vestments in one and purple vestments in the other. I expect black vestments to be seen in both parishes this coming All Souls Day. (Both have vibrant young assistants.)
I have a tape of a ‘Latin Mass’ magazine conference, with Father Calvin Goodwin saying the exact words you quoted, Father Z!
I would prefer to see black vestments at a funeral Mass myself.
In my parish, purple is the default colour for Requiems, but I’m definitely having black for mine (we have two sets). The only time I have seen white used in my parish was for the funeral of a baby.
Both violet and black have a history of use in the Church for requiems. If I remember correctly, the Dominican rite allowed for violet until the 17th century when they conformed more with Roman use (they also had yellow vestments for confessors). And a requiem celebrated with the Blessed Sacrament exposed was in violet in the Roman rite. And though not settled until the 20th century definitively, a requiem Mass said at an altar with the blessed sacrament called for a violet antependium and tabernacle veil.
Remember the older practice was that the liturgical colors were white, greed, red, and black. Violet was introduced, but certain rites like the Ambrosian still wear black on Lenten ferial days. In the medieval Dominican missal, from the 14th century, violet was allowed to be substituted for black.
So the colors are historically very interchangeable