GUEST ENTRY: Praying and vesting in armor before combat and before Holy Mass

When a priest prepares for Holy Mass it is customary for him to say prayers as he dons each vestments. When putting on the amice, he lets it rest on the top of his head briefly and he says the prayer:

Upon my head, O Lord, place the helmet of salvation, so that I may defeat the assaults of the devil.

I received today an email which I share with my emphases:

Father Z,

Let me say first, thank you for the time you put into your blog. It is a solid source of information and community to those who need it, including myself and some compatriots of mine here in Afghanistan.

I know you often preach the use of vesting prayers for Mass, and after seeing something today, thought you may appreciate knowing what I witnessed.

As a backround, I am a former seminarian who left in good faith. I later felt a calling to, and joined the armed forces becoming a commisioned officer. In my time as a seminarian, I grew an appreciation and facination for the vesting prayers before Mass, but have never had quite the appreciation as I do now, finishing up my tour in combat.

I lead Soldiers as a full time job now, part of my job is leading the recovery of destroyed vehicles and ensuring personnel make it back to safety when things go for the worse. I always say a quick prayer as I put my equipment on, as it is the one physical thing often protecting my life from leaving this world when I am in the open.

Past myself however, I have been stuck recently with a sense of amazement as I have witnessed my Soldiers ‘vest’ in their armor before we head into an area we know will be dangerous. Everytime, no matter their beliefs on the divine, or how excited or scared they may actually be, I have noticed every one of them has at least a moment of reflection or invocation, as their myriad of equipment is hastily put on by themselves and their brothers.

I know there are many seminarians, Priests, and we can only hope… Bishops that read this site. I myself consider what I do a trifle in regards to what the Priest does as he ascends calvalry in the Divine Liturgy. While accidental when considered to the substance of the Mass, I hope all Priests realize and take the time to meditate on what is happening as they vest in the armor the Church has provided for her Soldier. We need them to build this fundamental block, it will keep them alive and healthy for the Church Militant.

End point, I just felt like I was suppose to share this experience with you. Thank you for your vocation Father, and I will always pray for your ministry. I do not mind if you share anything I wrote.

God Bless you, Lieutenant.

I will remember you and your men during the next Mass I say.

I ask all the readers here, please, in your charity, to stop – right now – and say the Prayer To St. Michael, asking the great Archangel to protext the Lieutenant and those under his command from all spiritual and temporal harm.

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    This is a great post and a really interesting way of looking at things. It is absolutely true that none of the things done in the liturgy were done for aesthetic or expressive reasons. They were rooted in reality, either in the reality of the Roman political rites that formed their basis and the reality of the Hebrew practices relating to sacrifice that underlie it all, or the accumulated experience of the Church frm the times of martyrdom onwards.

  2. asacjack says:

    As a kid, I was an altar boy and remember the vesting prayers. After I retired, I started serving daily Mass (as nobody else seemed to want to). I have yet to see any priest, of any age, use vesting prayers. I’m afraid this is yet another tradition lost to the ages.

  3. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    This gave me a chill. How awesome, in the proper sense of the word.

    I had the honor of MC’ing the First Mass of a fellow son of the parish at the beginning of the summer. As he prepared to celebrate, he carefully read the prayers in Latin off of a paper he had prepared. One of the most moving parts of the day was helping him vest as I watched the prayers being said in that sacristy for the first time in years.

    Prayers to St. Michael and guardian angels for all in combat; both spiritual and corporal.

  4. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    @asacjack: neither have I, but see my comment above…its a tradition being revived.

  5. Charles E Flynn says:

    When I was an altar boy, I sometimes served at a very early mass in the small chapel in the convent, so small that the communion rail was a few feet behind my feet as I knelt at the altar. I recall the vesting prayers being beautifully printed on cream, red, and black cards about 18 inches tall, hung above the vestment case.

  6. AnAmericanMother says:

    Why, why, why!?!?!?!?!?!?!???? did the Church give up all these beautiful, meaningful, powerful things?
    Even the evangelical Protestants understand about “putting on the Armor of God”.

  7. New Sister says:

    The picture of that Soldier melts the heart. Maj Gen Mayville (now commanding general of RC-East) had a huge, framed copy of it in his office. I think he said it was of an 82nd Airborne Soldier who had been marching all night after a night drop. I shall pray for the LT and his men. I pray they never have to recover another vehicle.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    Ah, spiritual warfare is not even realize by so many priests and even bishops. That is why 50% of the dioceses in the States have no exorcist and my dear exorcist friend-priest has to cover four states and southern Canada.

    I pray for protection even of those who do not realize they need it.

    This is especially true for seminarians as well.

  9. chcrix says:

    The best way to protect our soldiers from harm is to withdraw them from the many many locales the government places them and where they do not serve the national interest.

  10. Kevin Fogarty says:

    Thanks for the post, Father. It is on its way to my son in Afghanistan who may not see a priest in his entire deployment. But he does have his St Michael the Archangel tattoo.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    chcrix, have you been paying attention to the building up of arms by the Russians…? I am afraid your statement is a bit out-of-touch with the real situation in the Middle East. I pray for all these men, as things are getting worse very, very fast.

  12. Laura R. says:

    What a profound and beautiful letter from the Lieutenant! Am praying the St. Michael prayer for him and his men with tears in my eyes.

  13. moon1234 says:


    The Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of before. The modern Russia is justified in their concern about the overthrow of so called “regimes’ in the middle east. The US has directly supported the overthrow of Egypt, Lybia and several other middle east nations. The US is fomenting war against Iran and Syria. Russia is not THAT far away.

    If “I” were Russia I would rather arm countries like Syria and Iran, rather than fight a war myself. You have to realize WHO is calling the shots in starting these wars in the middle east. It is NOT the elected representatives who decide to go to war. Leon Panetta even said Obama does NOT need permission from congress to start war and that they would only consult the UN first.

    Look at what the US has done in the middle east over the last 20 years. If you were Russia how would YOU feel about out actions. Reverse the roles and have Russia replace the US role in the middle east for the last 20 years. What do you think out response would be?

    The US did the SAME thing with contra’s in the 80’s. We were supplying arms to the rebels. This ALWAYS goes badly.

    It is time for the US to withdraw from the middle east and STOP over throwing these regimes. They only get replaced with more radical anti-us puppets. This NOT worth our boys dying over.

  14. Bea says:

    What beautiful reflections by such a noble young man.
    I have said my prayers for him and his men, and will say it as often as I think of them.
    For you too, Father, in the battle for souls, whom the enemy attacks to keep us from your good counsel and for all priests that they may not be distracted from inspiring us to holiness who too often get distracted by worldly affairs.

  15. EXCHIEF says:

    I pray daily for our Clergy and for all men and women in uniform, both military and law enforcement. Lt. Col Dave Grossman USA retired calls those who protect others Sheepdogs, keeping the wolves from victimizing the sheep. Sheepdogs are the right arm of the Shephard. Our Clergy and our men and women in uniform are Sheepdogs and for that I am thankful.

  16. AnnAsher says:

    Powerfully stated

  17. Johnsum says:

    The Lt.”s faith reminds me of the Roman Centurion’s faith. It is hard to imagine a priest vesting for Mass and not wanting to pray those vesting prayers. What is the non-praying priest is thinking about while putting on his chasuble?

  18. Gaz says:

    A couple of years ago, I found myself on the second morning of the Christus Rex pilgrimage, sitting in my tent in front of my bag of clothes, thinking that I needed some serious vesting prayers as I prepared myself for the day ahead.

  19. irishgirl says:

    What a powerful letter from the lieutenant-and a powerful photo of the soldier kneeling in prayer!
    The photo reminds me of a painting of George Washington kneeling in the snow at Valley Forge.
    Please, St. Michael the Archangel, protect our military personnel from harm, and bring them safely home to their families.

  20. PA mom says:

    A video created by the Knights of Columbus on priestly vocations showed a priest praying while placing on his vestments. It seemed very solemn but this really puts that moment in perfect context. It also points to the reason that modern vestments do not give that same sense. ” Roman” style ones look so much more masculine, like samurai wear or a breastplate, rather than a mumu.

    So glad he shared; may God bring him and his men all home safely.

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