QUAERITUR: seminarians and clerical dress and WDTPRS POLL

Roman collarFrom a seminarian:

I’m wondering, I seem to remember hearing about a letter or something where Pope Benedict asked seminarians to wear clericals when going to audiences or something… I believe this was in reference to his visit to the US recently, but to be honest I’m not sure.

Can anyone help this fellow?

Of course this brings up the larger question of seminarians and clerical dress.

I say: YES.  I think there are good reason for this.  I imagine that some have arguments against.

What say you?

Chose your best answer and add a comment if you care to.  You don’t have to be registered to vote.

Should seminarians wear clerical clothing (suit with Roman collar/cassock/habit/choir dress), at least at seminary and in church even before they are deacons??

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  1. John UK says:

    Not sure how to vote, Father, as I would say cassocks: Yes, collar: No.
    Kind Regards,
    John U.K.

  2. Charliebird says:

    Yes, definitely, wear clerics, especially if in the Theology Division of seminary, but also if in any stage of seminary. I was a seminarian a few years ago, and we attended the Pope’s visit to Dunwoodie, and, according the the seminary, the Vatican had requested that all seminarians wear clerics! So…hard to argue with that…and every seminary that attended wore clerics.

  3. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    @John UK: The roman collar is NOT clerical dress, it is a very recent introduction into many Catholic countries (post WWII), eg France and much of Germany, and is still widely used OUTSIDE the church – with dress uniform in the army of several countries; by many judges (whose dress indeed comes form the same historical sources as clerical dress generally); and with court dress coats.

    The Lord Major of London, as you are English, also wears a roman collar with his court dress. He is not a cleric.

    So do all the altar-boys at St Peter’s, Rome, who are by no means “clerics” in the sense meant here.

    In several religious orders and congregations (Oratorians, some Benedictines etc) the roman collar is never worn at all, not by the most senior priests.

    The roman collar is not, in any way, a mark of the clerical state.

    Fr Z rightly does not like personal criticism, but a little information before posting would not go amiss.

    In Dmno.

    To answer Fr Z’s question, yes, clericals instil discipline and a sense of belonging to a community, which will avoid many problems later.

  4. I know the comparison between diocesan seminarians and religious in formation doesn’t exactly hold up, but novices and simple professed wear habits, and though we are not yet in final vows nor are we yet ordained (if we are going to be), the habit nonetheless serves as a kind of sacramental sign of the path we are on, the manner in which we are already in a way consecrated to God, even if that consecration is not brought to the fulfillment of final vows. I think it is similar with seminarians. No, they are not yet clerics, but yet their lives are still in a certain sense consecrated, they are set apart already for a unique vocation, and more than ever I believe our world needs these visible signs of the action of God’s grace in the world. So I would encourage seminarians to wear clericals as a sign of their vocation and their already being about the work of God in response to His call in their life.

  5. donantebello says:

    Yes. For the sake of identity and to build a priestly consciousness within the seminarian. When I was in seminary, even the 4th year deacons got called out by the progressive faculty for wearing their Roman collar. The thought (or lack thereof) was that “the seminarians need to know who they are before they can know who they are as a priest.” I’ll tell you the attrition rate was quite high among guys who didn’t finish and/or guys who got ordained and then left not long afterwards. We should treasure our traditions and edify our young men who desire a CHALLENGE!!!!! They want to live the adventure that is truth, not some watered down drivel. Why do you think the orders where the young men are attired in cassock, etc….from the day they enter are bursting at the seams!

  6. John UK says:

    Yes, I am aware that the Roman collar is of comparatively recent introduction: mid-nineteenth century in this country, IIRC, alongside the use of “Father” as a n address for secular priests..

    However, in this country the Roman collar is distinctively the mark of both those who under Roman canon law are in the clerical state, and also those who are ministers in other denominations.
    Indeed, I remember being told as a child that a deacon should have a black line on the front of the collar to indicate he was not yet a priest.

    The use of a Roman collar by laity outside the church. The Lord Mayor of London, judges, and others (in the U.K.) wear what is not so much a Roman collar as its predecessors – a waterfall cravat for the Lord Mayor, for example, bands for lower lawyers – all worn over a wing or an upstanding collar.

    Further more, Fr.Z. specifically referred to wearing the Roman collar with, not just the cassock, but clerical suit. Here, those such as the Lord Mayor who wear the assorted neckwear which is an antecedent of the Roman collar invariably do so in conjunction with the rest of the habit/uniform appropriate to the office, not as an accompaniment to everyday dress.

    Certainly, here, the Roman collar in conjunction with everyday dress has become the mark of authorized Christian ministry, and I do not feel I could support its use by seminarians in such circumstances. As to its use with the cassock, Charliebird has indicated Vatican preferences, and I believe it is the custom in the Diocese of Rome. But I think some mark of difference would be good, to show that the wearer was on the road to, rather than having achieved, the clerical state.

    Fr Z rightly does not like personal criticism, but a little information before posting would not go amiss

    I hope my brief comment did not imply any criticism of Fr.Z. – None whatsoever was intended.

    To answer Fr Z’s question, yes, clericals instil discipline and a sense of belonging to a community, which will avoid many problems later.
    I remember a sermon once in which the preacher invited the congregation to look back over the past week “Imagine”, he said, “You had to wear a dog-collar to show that you were a Christian. Was there anywhere you went, anything you did, anything you said, you would not have done if wearing it? . . .”

    Kind regards,
    John U.K.

  7. Faith says:

    Let me refer you to Brother Vito http://vocationstory.blogspot.com/2011/04/bridge-or-barrier-more-reactions-to.html
    He is a student Franciscan Brother, who posts about wearing and not wearing his habit. He noticed that wearing his habit creates a distance around himself, from others. People stare and cross the street. What goes through their mind …depends. However, when not wearing his habit, is when these same people approach him with questions regarding the habit and who and what he’s about.
    So I’d say the answer is BOTH. Sometimes wear the habit and then not wear it. The same applies to just the Roman Collar. In fact, the religious could wear their habit, then not, then the clerical roman collar, and not, and wouldn’t that be cool?

  8. biberin says:

    The religious orders with which I’m familiar, have a habit for postulants and novices which is like the habit of fully-professed/vowed members of the order, but still a bit different, to make the distinction. I would be very happy to see seminarians do the same. Wear a “uniform” to support their identity as priests-in-training, but not a roman collar on a background of black. That says “I am a priest,” and it just isn’t true yet.

  9. jbas says:

    The cassock, or its equivalent, is an excellent way to help these men cultivate a simple style of life and to form them in a spirit of fraternity. I remember visiting a diocesan seminary in Mexico in the ‘90’s were the seminarians wore distinct sashes, not unlike the former practice at Roman colleges. This would answer the “confusion with clerics” objection.
    But they shouldn’t start wearing cassocks, etc. on their own initiative!

  10. s i says:

    No collars. There must be some distinguishment.

  11. Andy Milam says:

    Yes they should wear clerical garb.

    A couple of things…

    1. About the collar. The collar is just a collar. The intent of the collar is to keep the cassock collar clean and in good order. If one wears a cassock with no collar, the cassock collar will wear out faster, because of wear due to rubbing against the skin and oils from the neck. I have no issue with anyone wearing a collar with a cassock.

    It is akin to saying that because I am not a professional golfer, I shouldn’t be wearing a Titleist hat when on the golf course, because I’m a an amateur.

    2. About the dress itself. The outward appearance serves to illumine the inward attitude. To continue with the golf theme. I’ve been playing golf since I was 4. I am now 39. I’m good. Not gonna lie…I played in college, I played in high school. I play in amateur tournaments in my area. Most, if not all of the tournaments I play have a dress code. Collared shirt, no denim, and shoes. Seems kind of elementary, right? If you don’t do that, you’ll get all manners of dress and it becomes distracting to those who are serious. What do I mean? If you play a serious tournament like the US Amateur and someone is there in cut-offs and a Hawaiian shirt competing, it is a distraction to the other competitors…so there is a dress code. It levels the playing field and it creates a sense of camaraderie.

    The same can be said of seminaries. If there isn’t a mode of dress, the attitude of the seminarian changes. When I was in seminary, I took it more seriously when I was in clerical dress. It reminded me of what I was after. It reminded me that I was doing something different. I wasn’t simply “playing in a fun-hog,” I was “playing in the US Amateur.”

    On a final note, I’ve played golf in cut-offs and a t-shirt (I hate Hawaiian shirts). I never take the game quite as seriously when I do that and I don’t play my best. However, when I wear a collared shirt, khaki’s or dress shorts and the proper footwear (and yes, I almost always have a hat of some sort on, 99% of the time with a Titleist logo).

  12. jbas says:

    It may be helpful to remember that liturgical vestments, such as the stole, indicate one’s place within the ranks of, or in relation to, the clergy, while the cassock or black suit simply identifies or associates one with the clergy in a general sense.

  13. AlexE says:

    I think after some time in formation, maybe two years, a seminarian should wear clerics. It is, I think, a powerful signal that he is preparing for the priesthood. In Mexico seminarians wear a blue sash with thier cassock, I think in the US a cassock is different enough, especially for diocesean seminarains.I also think a seminarian ought to wear it for anything he does as a seminarian.

  14. Gail F says:

    For an audience with the pope, or other official duties, I’d say yes. Otherwise no. At our seminary, seminarians wear their clerical clothes after they are ordained transitional deacons, and it seems to work very well. It sets them apart from the others and signifies where they are in formation. That said, perhaps having a set to wear for formal occasions (church, special events, etc.) would be good for all seminarians — the way students at Oxford used to — and perhaps still do — wear black robes for classes and lectures.

  15. beez says:

    As a current diocesan seminarian about to enter the clerical state (30 days! Woo HOO!) I would like to opine…

    At my seminary, we do not wear clerics unless we are the “deacon of the day” or when we are on pastoral ministry as designated by our field ed supervisors. In my home diocese, I am required to wear clerics whenever I am officially representing the diocese or acting in pastoral ministry (summer assignments, returning to home parish for Christmas/Easter, etc.) We are expected to use proper judgment about wearing clerics off parish grounds (if you’re running to the 7-11 to pick up a cup of coffee, OK, if you’re leaving for an extended period of time, change into civies.)

    It gets awkward at times, because people often call me “Father” when they see me. However, it also allows me to tell them I am not yet Father, I am a seminarian studying for the priesthood. Because I am in my mid-40s, this also opens up the conversation about vocation. I think it’s a good thing.

    All in all, I support my bishop’s policy. We should, as much as possible, be seen in clerics on parish grounds because it better prepares us for the role as “the face of the Church.”

    As for my seminary, I would prefer it if we wore clerics all the time simply because I wouldn’t have to think about what to wear every day!

  16. Legisperitus says:

    Like Henry Edwards, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll one day look under a pile of debris and find the Minor Orders still there.

  17. Titus says:

    This is not a question to which one can give a meaningful and thoughtful answer without a more thorough discussion (and education in) the norms and traditions surrounding clerical dress. I simply don’t know what ought to be done.

  18. JamesA says:

    As a seminarian myself, Father, I think once we are admitted to the ministry of acolyte we should wear cassocks during “work” hours. I think it would serve to focus us better on where we are headed and strengthen our identity as priests-to-be. Here at our seminary, however, we wear “civies” until ordained deacon.

  19. pelerin says:

    I cannot understand if the Pope has asked seminarians to wear clericals, why he does not stipulate that Priests and Bishops do too. A new Bishop was recently appointed in France and his ‘official’ picture showed him wearing a tie. He may indeed be 100% orthodox – I have no idea – but wearing a tie does seem to ring a few alarm bells.

  20. papaefidelis says:

    When I was a seminarian (late 80s, early 90s), we were required to wear the cassock and surplice at Mass on Sunday twice a month, but had to change to suit and tie for dinner following. We were ABSOLUTELY forbidden to wear clerical attire at any other time, to the point of dismissal. I thought the seminary faculty’s abiding terror of “clericalism” was all rather silly.

  21. As an actual seminarian I’d like to share my actual experience …

    Our Cardinal’s policy is that we should ALWAYS wear our clerical shirts. He says it helps us start “living” our future identity as priests, and I agree with him. I think seminarians should use clericals during “work” hours, but when we’re here in the seminary surrounded by other seminarians… I find it kind of ¿pointless?…

    I have found that these policy only works for him with seminarians and deacons… once they are ordained they don’t use clericals as much …

  22. Centristian says:

    In the pre-Conciliar Church, seminarians were tonsured in their first year. Tonsure brought the seminarian into the household of the clergy, so that he was no longer a layman, but a cleric. For that reason, seminarians wore the cassock and/or clericals (and the surplice, when in choir) in pre-Conciliar times. They were clergy. Minor clergy, but clergy nonetheless, and they had the right to dress as clerics dress, on a daily basis. Beyond being merely permitted to dress as clergy dress, many if not most were actually obliged to.

    In addition to clerical attire, minor clergy, being clergy, were also entitled to any other priviliges, prerogatives, and perquisites common to all clerics, including the use of the style “Reverend” to precede their names. A priest was “The Rev. Father,” a deacon “The Rev. Mister,” and minor clerics were all simply “The Rev.”

    Once tonsure disappeared, however, along with the minor orders and the subdiaconate, seminarians could no longer be said to belong to the clergy unless and until they made it to the diaconate. Today, upon his ordination to the diaconate, a seminarian at last becomes a clergyman and at that point is entitled to don clerical attire, regularly.

    Are there no circumstances under which a seminarian who is not a clergyman may wear clerical attire? Surely, if altar boys and lay members of a choir may, on occasion, don what amounts to clerical attire, it would be hard to argue that a seminarian mustn’t ever. Certainly a seminarian would when participating in liturgical ceremonies. But that, of course, is not because he is a seminarian.

    It would seem acceptable (to me, at any rate) that the rector of a seminary or the bishop of a diocese require his seminarians to wear cassocks (and surplices in choir) while on the grounds of the seminary. Since they, excepting any deacons, are not clergy, however, it would not seem reasonable to me that a rector or a bishop should permit their seminarians to so dress in public. As a matter of fact, it might just be illegal. Here is one state law (I believe Alabama’s) on the subject:

    “Section 13A-14-4
    Fraudulently pretending to be clergyman.

    Whoever, being in a public place, fraudulently pretends by garb or outward array to be a minister of any religion, or nun, priest, rabbi or other member of the clergy, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $500.00 or confinement in the county jail for not more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment. (Acts 1965, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 273, p. 381; Code 1975, §13-4-99.)”

  23. Tim Ferguson says:

    I think that wearing clerics can help a seminarian in several ways – it gets him used to the reactions he will cause when he’s ordained – the way that some people will be repulsed, and others will be drawn to him. It aids in developing the simplicity of life that should be a hallmark of the seminarian and the priest (no fretting in the morning about what to wear). It stands as a sign of hope for those of us layfolk in the church to see young men willing to even explore and discern the possibility of priesthood – gives us hope for the future of the church.

  24. APX says:

    I voted Yes.
    There’s a psychological aspect that goes along with wearing any type of uniform which sets a person apart from the general public. Such people need to come time to adjust to this.

  25. Fr. William says:

    Yes. Wear clerical dress. Many non-Catholic persons (Methodist, Lutheran, etc) wear the collars. It is not unreasonable to have seminarians dress appropriately. As well, when I am approached by someone who is unfamiliar with me, almost without exception, their opening comment is,
    “Are you a priest?” This has happened any number of times and places (I wear a cassock when I travel and encounter a number of people). A seminarian, if asked, then has the obligation to answer properly and truthfully, something I trust any seminarian would do. May God Bless them and Keep them!

  26. excruxspes says:

    Clerical dress is really misnomer. A more accurate term would be ecclesial dress. While seminarians are not clerics, it is quite appropriate for them to wear the roman collar with a black suit or cassock one formal occasions and especially during apostolic activity because they represent the Church. As a religious brother, I am sympathetic to the arguments that non-clerics wearing ecclesial garb can appear to be “clericalism.” Yet, it is precisely the ideology of clericalism that has reduced proper ecclesial and religious dress to the state of the cleric. Ironically, many opponents of clericalism perpetuate it by taking things that are ecclesial and making them clerical.

  27. Vilallonga says:

    You cannot put the collar and the cassock in the same pack. Collar isn’t a habit, collar doesn’t mortify.

  28. homeschoolofthree says:

    There is something beautiful about seeing a bunch of young men wearing cassocks, obviously in love with our Lord and Mother Church! What more beautiful way to encourage boys to think about the priesthood than to see men proud enough of their status as seminarians to wear a cassock and be visible signs of hope for our faith!

  29. Fr. Basil says:

    At most Orthodox seminaries, cassocks are required for services, optional other times–though most wear them to classes and meals.

  30. pseudomodo says:

    I have to admit that I am sometimes confused by:

    a) Clerical Dress
    b) Choir dress
    c) Pontificals

    I think it is important for clerics to wear appropriate dress. Whenever I see a person who is identified as a priest but neglects to wear clerical gard I often remark, “He’s a priest? He must be either a Jesuit or an Oblate!” And don’t get me started on nun’s!

    This led, at one point, when attending a synod where newly minted monsignori were presented, one of the preists remarked, “So & So is now LLABBA! Looks Like A Bishop But Aint!”

    BTW don’t get me started on Abbbots either!

    Father, do you think I can order a book from Amazon – “Petersons Field Guide to the Clerics” – a comprehensive guide to identifying clerics of the world? It could come with pictures showing little black arrows pointing to identifying marks. It would be most helpfull.

    page 187 Discalced Carmelite male – mature indicating winter colors. Note the thicker coat. Female is similar coloured but with cream or white cape when fully professed.

  31. pelerin says:

    Having googled to find details of the new French Bishop I am saddened to find that his wearing of a tie does indeed seem to reflect his attitude to the Magisterium. What I cannot understand is how one Bishop can be removed for discussing/believing in something while other Bishops holding the same beliefs continue to be appointed.

  32. MissOH says:

    I say yes and when I see seminarians at our parish or at other events it serves as a visual reminder to me to pray for them and for vocations. I would also think it helps as they are in their formation/discernment process just as a postulant’s dress and novice’s habit help in those religous orders (male and female) that have retained same.

  33. Roger Conley says:

    I have no opinion on that, I’m sure it’s an issue for priests to work out. My question is what do we call them when we meet them when they’re dressed like priests, or, come to think of it, when they are not in clerical dress? When I don’t know they’re seminarians I call them “Father,” and I’ve never gracefully recovered from that. When I know they’re seminarians I don’t know what to call them so I try to avoid them. I seem to remember that thirty or forty years ago in my diocese they wore black suits, black ties and white shirts. From my point of view, in those days you at least knew who they were.

  34. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I think the loss of clerical or ecclesial garb has been disasterous for the priestly identity. I can understand that in 100+ degree climate, some would prefer cooler clothing than a cassock. But the diocesan clergy have taken this too far, and it begins in the seminary. The college seminarians should have a simple uniform with cassock at the liturgy, while students of theology should wear the collar or cassock at all times in the seminary and for pastoral work outside.

    But more urgent than simply putting on the black, is the need to explain to diocesan seminarians the spirituality behind the garb. The great diocesan priest saints, such as Louis de Montfort, Don Cafasso and Don Bosco, would always explain the spirituality behind a clerical discipline before expecting priests or seminarians to follow that discipline. Too often, seminarians see the garb they wear as arbitrary rules, and think to themselves, “when I’m ordained, I get to do what I feel like doing.”

    Diocesan priests and seminarians must probe the depths of what it means to be consecrated persons (in a sense different than religious, who are vowed), and how external dress manifests this consecration and identity with Jesus the High Priest and Mary, Queen of the Clergy. At present, we are still tripping over ourselves to be “regular tom, dick, or harry” and prove how normal we are as guys, to the point of having the sloppiness and grundge which shows no sense of consecration.

  35. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I think the arguments in favor make more sense. I don’t see any big problem with seminarians, not yet being deacons or priests, wearing what seems to be “priestly” or clerical attire. There are potential problems, yes, but they can be resolved:

    > Someone mistakes a seminarian for a deacon or a priest?

    The seminarian explains himself.

    > A seminarian gets a big head and gets clerical in a bad way?

    This can be dealt with many ways.

    > Some folks react differently or keep their distance?

    This will happen anyway, when folks learn someone is a seminarian; and it will happen when they are priests. This cannot be helped and it is part of the price we pay for bearing witness to Christ in general, or to a special way of following Christ.

    In some ways, “surfacing” this is good; i.e., if I, as a priest, were always in a golf shirt, it would still be true that folks will treat me differently, because I am a priest. But maybe I’d be less aware of it. This deference calls for a different courtesy in response. As I grow in my understanding of being a priest and a pastor, I have to learn that I’m not “free” to be “one of the guys,” precisely because I’m “the boss” and I’m a priest. If I’m not careful, I end up–wittingly or not–taking advantage of others’ deference and even timidity; and that is not only unfair, it also breeds resentment. Better that I realize that this deference is part of my life from now on, and I have to handle it the right way.

    Hiding behind indifferent attire doesn’t really resolve this “they treat me differently” issue; because you are different. The end result of “resolving” it by shedding what’s distinctive, is to go beyond dropping clerical attire, to dropping everything that is distinctive about being a cleric, until there’s nothing left of ones distinctive identity as either a priest or religious. And that is deadly to these vocations.

  36. priests wife says:

    Priests, deacons and religious should always be readily identifiable- please! In my experience, even a simple dark polo shirt with a cross on the collar encourages a man to BE a cleric will shopping at the grocery store on his day off…”You are a priest forever…” even when you are on the golf course!

  37. Stephen Matthew says:

    It would seem that in major seminary, in the theology years, that the cassock would be appropriate, though the collar itself may well be rightly reserved until ordination or at least institution as a lector/acolyte. It seems these in major seminary ought to at least wear clericals for the liturgy and certain other particular functions at both the seminary and in parishs assignments.

    On the other hand, as minor seminary, college seminary, and even pre-theology/philosopy are essentially times or discernment an argument could be made that clerical garb is not yet needed or even appropriate, but even there it would seem not out of step to be worn at mass.

    So call me uncertain.

    That said I know my own diocese uses a seminary that isn’t much up on clerical garb before ordination nor is the diocese much in favor of it, though I suspect certain of our seminarians and perhaps even some at the vocations office may be.

    The last seminarian I encountered with a cassock was in formation with the Jesuits and had just returned from a 30 day Ignatian retreat.

  38. beez says:

    To answer Roger Conley:

    As a seminarian in my 40s, I have been called “Father” a lot! (In my second summer assignment, once wore a name tag with Fr. in a red circle with a line through it, so that people would know I wasn’t a priest yet.)

    Whenever I am called Father, I simply smile and say, “Not yet. I’m still a seminarian.” When people ask me what they should call me, I generally tell adults to call me by my first name and those under 18 to call me Mr. X.

    The funny thing is, most people persist on calling me “Father” even after I explain that I am a seminarian. As long as I am not simulating the sacraments, there isn’t really a problem.

    I don’t suspect to Centristan, that any attempt to arrest a seminarian in the Roman collar would occur. I certainly don’t think it would stick, because seminarians wearing clerics do so only when authorized by their legitimate superiors in the Church (Bishop, Rector or Supervisor in Field Ed), and thus they have an “official” mandate from the Roman Catholic Church to do so.

  39. JohnW says:

    What happen to the cassock? It would be so nice to see our priest in cassocks. I have not seen a cassock since around 1978. That was old timers who had the utmost respect. Please, how much longer do we have to have experiments in our church?

  40. moon1234 says:

    Today, upon his ordination to the diaconate, a seminarian at last becomes a clergyman and at that point is entitled to don clerical attire, regularly.

    I am pretty sure the Subdeacons in the FSSP, ICRSS, etc. would all disagree with you. I think the Vatican would also recognize their status. So whether you are in MAJOR orders or MINOR orders (even if the NO seminaries supress them) I think clerical dress is VERY important. I agree than tonsure should be brought back.

    Preconciliar dress made it easier to identify ones rank in the pecking order.

  41. CarpeNoctem says:

    As to the fellow’s first question, “yes”, when I went to the papal apartment for Mass and audience a little more than 10 years ago, even as a pre-Theologian, it was clearly made known by the management that we were to wear ecclesial/clerical dress. Intrestingly, going to the pope’s house was the first time I ever dared suit up in the blacks… that was not the discipline at the seminary I was at (although it is now for theologians). It was surreal, really. Looking into the mirror and seeing a ‘priest’… getting saluted by the guards at the Vatican… being requested to bless a rosary. Yes, what a strange day. Oh, and we got to have Mass with the pope.

    There is something scary about that transition of being ‘marked’ by even one’s attire that every seminarian should have to practice and deal with in a healthy way. I’m not sure my experience was the best way to have to do that, but it makes for an interesting story.

    The strangeness of the experience stuck with me. I did not have a follow-up experience of wearing the blacks in public in the same way until the day after my diaconate ordination. Sure, cassock and surplice on many occasions at church, and other certain rare occasions where blacks were appropriate in the house, but not out in public again until four years later.

    I do wear clerical attire consistently in the performance of everyday duties. Every once and a while, I will caught in a white shirt on days when I might have taken off the vest and suit or when I am doing some other kind of labor or exercise or have a ‘laundry crisis’, but otherwise I see it as a normal, healthy sign of pastoral service and charity.

  42. Glad someone is asking about this. Lots of DOTS love the garb, but haven’t the same enthusiasm for a lifetime of service to God and His people–much of which will not depend on garments. A clerk, or one in minor orders seeking holy orders, would do better to be challenged to put on the breastplate of righteousness, clothe himself in humility and self-forgetfulness, and gird himself with self-mastery. We know that many young men want to join orders and go to seminaries where the cassock is required partly because they want the garment to discipline. Some also want to feel special, and have others notice how special they are. Sorry. That’s the wrong motivation. It should not matter to a man what he wears, but how he serves. Rather, seminarians need to be introduced to modest male dress, or even inexpensive male dress. It’ll be a new experience for some merely to ‘dress down’. Humbling even. No. Cassocks for s ub-deacons and deacons, collar for deacons. Let the rest dress like their brothers before they forget about them forever. Immediately prior to confecting His redemptive sacrifice on the cross, Our Lord was stripped of His garments. A man is more than his clothing.

  43. 3D says:

    In the traditional priestly orders, the seminarians are clerics as they have received minor orders (though I’m sure some on this blog think they are “pretending”).

  44. EWTN Rocks says:


    You said, “Father, do you think I can order a book from Amazon – “Petersons Field Guide to the Clerics” – a comprehensive guide to identifying clerics of the world?”

    Not a bad idea…really. At the “Walk for Life” in January I noticed about a 100 priests all dressed up in different garb – some quite interesting and almost majestic. I was dying to ask some of them “what kind of priest are you?” but I don’t think that would have gone over that well. A field guide might have helped!

  45. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Not a cleric, not a Religious, but I was a Senior NCO in the USAF. The “uniform” (in the situation being discussed, the clerical garb) is an outward sign of “belonging, of maintaining a higher standard of behavior and values, of professionalism, and responsibility” It is NOT a costume, it is not “fancy dress.” If you espouse completely the values, mores and discipline that represent the organization, then the wear of its uniform is as natural as breathing, or as habitual as brushing your teeth.

    O Jesus, Eternal Priest,
    keep your priests within the shelter of your sacred heart,
    where none may touch them.
    Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch your sacred body.
    Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with your precious blood.
    Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
    sealed with the sublime mark of your priesthood.
    Let your holy love surround them, and shield them from the world’s contagion.
    Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here on earth, and in heaven, their everlasting crown.
    Mary, Mother of Priests, pray for priests and vocations to the priesthood.
    – St. Therese of Lisieux

  46. EWTN Rocks says:


    I agree with you 100% and apologize for the way I worded my last post (sometimes when I put something in writing it doesn’t come out as intended). My use of the word “garb” was because of my own ignorance of the correct term for clerical uniform. I have the highest respect for all in uniform, especially priests.

  47. Jayna says:

    Within church and seminary, yes. But I’m not so sure about “on the outside” until after they’re ordained a deacon (unless it is specifically requested that they wear it).

  48. John V says:

    I can remember when I was on my way to the seminary in the early 1980’s. One thing I was looking forward to doing at the seminary was wearing clerics. I wasn’t interested in being something that I was not, but rather I was looking forward to learning how to be something I hoped to be.

    When I arrived on campus, I was disappointed to learn the seminary faculty had decided to remove the clerical shirts, cassocks and any other “clerical” clothing from our wardrobe. In its place, seminarians had a ‘pin’ to be worn on the lapel of our jackets when off the seminary grounds. When we were on the grounds, we wore just regular clothes. Some of my classmates went so far as to nickname the college, “The Christian Finishing Schools for Boys”.

    Someone once told me, “a habit is not something you wear, but something you put on; (sic) it transforms you.” It is the discipline behind the habit that is transforming. The removal of the cleric from seminary formation was, and in some cases continues to be, but one of the many contributing factors to the loss of the Catholic identity in general, and in particular to those who aspire to Holy Orders.

  49. jflare says:

    I voted no.
    I keep thinking of a scene in The Rite. In short, a young man, a seminarian, kneels over a woman who’s dying in the street. Apparently because of his garb, the woman mistakes him for an ordained priest. While the actual ordained priest watches from 15 feet away, the seminarian offers prayers that I expected would only be offered by a priest.
    I know, it’s a dramatic scene, we do what we must in emergencies, etc. Real life might be very different. At the same time, I wondered if, should something like that happen in real life, if the seminarian shouldn’t assist the actual priest in reaching the woman and aiding him in praying over her?

    But because of his manner of dress, the woman didn’t seem to know the difference.

    Again, seems to me that there’s a reason for deacons, priests, and bishops to be dressed differently, as suits their state in life. I should think it quite reasonable for the average seminarian to be dressed in a similar manner for appropriate occasions though.

  50. jflare says:

    PS. I’ll be forced to reveal a bit more of my own lacking catechesis:
    What the devil..er..dickens IS “tonsure”?

  51. hungry_papist says:

    I am a newly accepted seminarian. My diocese’s rule is that seminarians wear cassock and collar during public liturgies at which they are assisting. There are more guidelines concerning the proper time to wear a cassock and collar, but this is the only one that currently pertains to me (as far as I know–I’ll check my seminarian vade mecum to make sure). Anyway, the first time I put on the cassock and collar I was incredibly moved because it made me realize with much greater depth the radical transformation that awaits me in seminary (and, God willing, at my ordination) and drove home the realization that I must put aside my earthly attachments and put on the New Man. The cassock and collar (in my mind) signify a death to self because it shows the seminarian and the community that his life is moving towards radical, ontological change, and that while he is a seminarian, his life is not his own. This lesson is necessary for deepening my relationship with God, regardless of where my ongoing discernment in the seminary leads me.

    Of course, these lessons are ongoing and putting on a collar did not in itself affect these changes in me, but it made me gasp with the realization of how different my life will (and must!) become through seminary. I voted yes, but I think it’s prudent to allow the seminarian to wear lay clothing most of the time while outside of seminary or liturgical functions, increasing the frequency of wearing a collar as he progresses through seminary. I think theologians should wear it much more often than collegians or pre-theologians, IMO.

  52. Andy Milam says:

    @ Magistra Bona;

    You state, “It should not matter to a man what he wears, but how he serves.”
    —That is way too simplistic. I work in corporate America. If I were to come to work in something other than a suit, I would be called on the carpet immediately. Heck, when I go in on a Saturday (which is a day our office is closed), I still wear an oxford and slacks (not khakis). It is a uniform. It not only shows that I wear what is appropriate, but also to what and whom I serve.

    You state, “Rather, seminarians need to be introduced to modest male dress, or even inexpensive male dress.”
    —There is nothing more modest or inexpensive than a cassock. If a seminarian spends $800 on two cassocks (including 2 cassock rabats) and $30 on a box of collars (this will be the biggest expense, as collars need to be replaced every couple of years) and $15 on studs for the collar, he is set up for the next 15-20 years! If we do the math, that is roughly an $0.11 investment over that 20 year period. It is all black and there is not much for frills, so it is modest. I can’t think of a much better investment or a much more modest one.

    You state, “Let the rest dress like their brothers before they forget about them forever.”
    —They’ve been doing that for the previous 18-25 years (or so). I’m sure that “dressing like their brothers” isn’t something they need to reflect upon.

    Finally, you state, “Immediately prior to confecting His redemptive sacrifice on the cross, Our Lord was stripped of His garments.”
    —That’s a lot of pressure to put on a seminarian. He is not God and he is not acting in a salvific manner. Also, by your logic, shouldn’t a priest be in a loin cloth, or heaven forbid…NAKED during the celebration of the Mass? Your logic fails…btw, Christ didn’t confect the sacrifice on the Cross, he actually sacrificed Himself. The priest will confect the Sacrament in an unbloody manner.

  53. catholicmidwest says:

    Too bad we don’t have a uniform for them, something like gray clerics specially for students of their advancement. It would keep them out of trouble.
    And they should be wearing them unless they are sleeping, in the dorm or actively involved in baseball or the like. You should be able to spot them immediately if they are in public.

  54. catholicmidwest says:


    I think you’re taking what Magistra said to extremes. I think he said that people (ie priests and laity) get carried away with the clothes and forget what they’re supposed to be doing. I think there’s some truth to that. I’ve seen things like that sometimes. The priesthood isn’t an excuse to dress up and act like a privileged character; it’s a vocation to service & fidelity to the truth (which transcends earthly stuff like cool duds) and priests ought to act like they realize it. Luckily many do, even if all of them apparently don’t.

    I think a priest should always be identifiable as a priest in public. This means no generic flannel shirts, t-shirts and sweatpants in public. BUT a priest can be identifiable in a pair of inexpensive black slacks and a clerical shirt. And I think that’s fine.

    Actually, rather than get out the formal dress cossacks and all that, which can be very expensive, I’d rather Catholic priests wear something that makes it clear they’re Catholic (!) like a crucifix or pin on their lapel.

  55. Alice says:

    Tonsure is a ceremonial cutting of the hair of a candidate for orders in the Sign of the Cross and leaving a bald spot. (Think of pictures of St. Francis or St. Anthony or St. Dominic.) The size of this bald spot varied depending on which of the orders the man had received and whether or not he was a religious. Since this could be cold, the zuchetto was used to keep the cleric’s head warm in church by covering his tonsure. I don’t think that keeping a bald spot was ever done by diocesan priests in America, but on some holy cards that show the back of a priest’s head, you can see it.

  56. Andy Milam says:

    @ Catholicmidwest;

    Thanks for the comment, but I disagree with you on this one…

    While anyone can get carried away with anything, it is part of our human nature, I am of the opinion that what was posted was a rail on clerical garb. So, I said what I said. It is what I think on the matter and what how I believe that seminarians should present themselves.

    I was in seminary in the 1990s. I was a victim to what he was describing and I think that it was woefully obvious that this was more than just “get[ting] carried away with the clothes and forget what they’re supposed to be doing.”

    As for the statement, “Actually, rather than get out the formal dress cossacks and all that, which can be very expensive, I’d rather Catholic priests wear something that makes it clear they’re Catholic (!) like a crucifix or pin on their lapel.”
    —It is a little hard to don a Russian revolutionary (sorry, had to be done, LOL!). I showed that even if a seminarian were to purchase two cassocks and the basic accoutrement that goes with it, it is insanely cheap. Again….I’ve had my cassock for almost 15 years now and it is still in fine order. I paid $350 for my cassock and over the years, I’ve purchased about 3 boxes of collars. That amounts to roughly a $.06 investment over said time frame. Is that too much of an investment for a seminarian/priest?

    You say that you want a priest to be identifiable in public. I can guarantee you with 100% surety, that when a priest wears a cassock in public, he will be identifiable. 100% surety. And it is a MUCH more powerful witness than a lapel pin.

  57. Joanne says:

    Wear a “uniform” to support their identity as priests-in-training, but not a roman collar on a background of black. That says “I am a priest,” and it just isn’t true yet.

    Ditto this. If it means something to be a priest, then there should be some distinction between priests and those who are not, including seminarians.

  58. catholicmidwest says:

    I agree 100%, Joanne. It also ought to be possible to distinguish a Catholic priest from a Methodist minister.
    I just don’t see the point of cossacks.

  59. catholicmidwest says:


    A cossack may identify a man as a Catholic priest, but I’m not sure what else it says to the general population. Or even to many Catholics. Anachronism can be good, or it can be bad, or it can be neither or something else.

    On this subject there are probably quite a few opinions because the sight will hit different people differently. A little forward: I am neither very liberal nor very conservative. I attend both the TLM and the NO with about equal comfort. I do understand some Latin and like it. I am a fan of Pope Benedict’s and a convert with some common sense and that’s why I’m here in the Church. But to me a cossack says uber-clericalism and perhaps a sort of ambiguity you may not want to talk about. I find cossacks odd.

    What’s wrong with a crucifix or another Catholic icon on a pin or an insignia on a priests pocket? That would distinguish him from others. I don’t know why dioceses don’t do this sort of thing.

  60. amenamen says:

    Cassocks are good. But I really want to see Cossacks in the priesthood.

  61. Fleeb says:

    Cassocks, no collar. Too confusing.

    Collar should be earned…

  62. I wear a cassock when I’m MC-ing the TLM, obviously. I was wearing a “tab collar” for a while, but I was advised to stop, as there was “confusion” among the laity. So I wore a white banded-collar shirt underneath, and no one complained. ALTHOUGH … I still get mistaken for a priest. There are seminarians running loose in their first year, with tailored cassocks and banded cinctures, and nobody gives a hoot. And during WWII, older seminarians wore their cassocks when going into town, so people wouldn’t harass them about why they weren’t in uniform.

    I don’t lose a lot of sleep over being mistaken for a priest. I only wear the cassock when performing my liturgical duties. I can go to a party and talk about religion, and people will mistake me for a priest.

    Is it my fault that I look so good in black???

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