QUAERITUR: gloves on bishops

From a reader regarding this entry:

You can see the cardinal wearing purple gloves. I’ve never seen this before. Could you please explain the gloves and what role they play? I imagine he takes them off for the consecration of the blessed sacrament? And are the gloves only for cardinals etc or would your average diocesan priest wear them?

Priests?  No!

Readers… I’ll let you do this one.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Bishops may wear them.

  2. Clinton says:

    According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, they may be worn by Bishops and Cardinals.
    Others such as abbots may wear them by special permission of the Pope. The only time
    they are worn is for a pontificial Mass, and then only to the washing of the hands.

    So no, the average parish priest won’t need to spring for any episcopal gloves, unless he’s
    getting a pair as a present for his Ordinary…

  3. Philangelus says:

    Reminded me of a really sweet moment in a story:

    The person sounded familiar enough to be a parishioner, but he wasn’t fully visible in the dark. “You should be wearing your gloves.”
    Father Jay chuckled. “I work for Saint Gus. I can’t afford gloves.”
    A moment later he felt the person handing him a pair. “Here. Take mine.”

    But you mean for saying Mass, and not for keeping one’s hands warm in the snow. :-)

  4. Fr. Basil says:

    Gloves were among the pontificalia bestowed upon a new bishop in the pre-V2 consecration rite. The prayer at their bestowal referred to Jacob covering his hands to receive his father’s blessing. Since Jacob covered his hands to STEAL his father’s blessing, the prayer is hardly appropriate.

    Byzantine bishops do not wear them.

  5. JamesA says:

    Fr. Basil, is it just me or do you often seem to be hostile to the Roman Rite ? If you are, it puzzles me why you continue to read this blog at all, much less feel called to comment upon it.

  6. AnnAsher says:

    It is troubling to me as well when I sense hostility from Orthodox for our differences. After all, it’s not as if I as a Roman went about choosing them in order to stab the Orthodox in the eye. They are inherited. I for one, am very intrigued and open hearted toward learning and gaining understanding if the Christian East- really quite drawn to Eastern mysticism. When I converted I didn’t know there was more than one sort of Catholic much less a whole Eastern family. But it is really hard to inquire when I feel spat upon– and not just in regards to Fr Basil’s sometimes tone. I encounter the hate elsewhere too. For the record, I’m always very excited to see Fr Basil comment because I like to learn… But the anger is sad. Sorry Fr Z – off topic!
    I like the gloves – I’d prefer to relate them to the special ability of Bishops hands to annoint and ordain new Priests. Not sure that’s official though.

  7. A. J. D. S. says:

    The gloves were not introduced for any practical reason, but rather to provide “suitable adornment for the hands of the bishop” (Cath. Enc.). The practice dates back to before the 10th century.

    Catholic Encyclopedia notes that they are symbolic of “purity from sin, the performance of good works, and carefulness of procedure.”

  8. Fr Basil, Jacob’s means of obtaining his Father’s blessing may have been sinful but it was still the will of Almighty God that he obtain it.

    Therefore the gloves may well be a mark of humility for the bishop – though he be a sinner, unworthy of his office, God Himself ordains he fulfil it.

  9. JohnH says:

    Regarding the symbolism of these gloves, St. Louis DeMontfort draws an interesting parallel between Mary and Rachel. He notes that Rachel clothed Jacob to appear as the firstborn of his father. In the same way, Mary clothes us with Christ that we may be like the First Born of God the Father. The gloves therefore represent how the Bishop is clothed with Christ in a unique way such that he receives a blessing, which he is able to pass onto others. The Bishop, after having been clothed with Christ can now clothe others in this same fashion, and make other persons in persona Christi, so that their offering to the Father may be made acceptable in his sight. In this sense, the prayer regarding Jacob receiving the blessing from Isaac is indeed most appropriate, and should not be ridiculed.

  10. Centristian says:

    Imagine that the subject of pontifical gloves should cause some readers to throw down the gauntlet!

  11. Sometimes typology is about a great thing done by God, or a good or heroic thing done by man, pointing to something better. Sometimes typology is about a bad thing being a prophetic motif that is then turned around into a good thing when it is fulfilled by Jesus and the Church. Either way, what is less important and central points toward what is more important and central and more perfectly fulfilled. Typology shows how, in the end, the Lord makes good out of both mistakes and evil.

    So yeah, it’s difficult for this use of typology to be inappropriate, unless we’re gonna sweep sneaky Jacob under the rug altogether… and that’s a bit inconvenient, seeing as how he’s pretty darned important to salvation history in his better moments. :)

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