Of processions, flower girls, quzzing altar boys, and the use of the biretta outside

In some places it is customary to have a procession for the Feast of Christ the King.  In the older, traditional, Roman calendar, this Sunday (the last of October) is the Feast of Christ the King.

Our friends at Romanitas Press have an interesting piece about the Christ the King procession.

There is also an article about little girls dropping flower petals in processions.  (Hint: NO!  Females may not be in liturgical processions.  The lovely little creatures with their pretty flower petals can go in front of the procession, of course, but they shouldn’t be in the procession.

There is also a new chapter of Peregrinus Gasolinus available about the all important wearing of the biretta by priests in public outside of church!  (HINT: Yes, we can use it as a regular hat, out-of-doors, when going about on our business while dressed in the cassock.)

Also, I note that there is a sheet useful for when you quiz altar boys in preparation for service at the altar!   HERE.  One of these days I must really get resurrect that site wherein I did the Latin, slowly, in bits and pieces so that it could be more easily memorized. I shall look into that again.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Well, I just learned something because I was under the impression that the cassock (which I enjoy seeing clergy wear) was not to be worn when one is off church premises.

  2. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    Indeed so to me also, acardnal. I thought one of the Baltimore councils about 120-125 years ago so commanded. I, and I assume you, are ready to be corrected, but as of now I am of the belief that priests when out in “town” were to wear suits and Roman collars.

  3. Matt R says:

    I believe that became the American norm to prevent anti-clerical violence.

  4. mamajen says:

    I’ve known at least three priests (all very traditional ones) who always wear a cassock. Two of them also wear a biretta around. I always figured it was just a preference.

  5. jdscotus says:

    Thank you for mentioning the excellent work that Mr. Tofari at Romanitas does!

  6. Mark Ingoglio says:

    I was under the impression that Father must wear a clerical suit “while traveling.” See? I learned something on my first day here! Thanks to all!

  7. “Must wear” are strong words. The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, 1884, said:

    “We wish therefore and enjoin that all keep the law of the Church, and that when at home or when engaged in the sanctuary they should always wear the cassock [vestis talaris] which is proper to the clergy. When they go abroad for duty or relaxation, or when upon a journey, they may use a shorter dress, but still one that is black in colour, and which reaches to the knees, so as to distinguish it from lay costume. We enjoin upon our priests as a matter of strict precept, that both at home and abroad, and whether they are residing in their own diocese or outside of it, they should wear the Roman collar.”

    Priests of the FSSP and ICRSS may claim the cassock as part of their “habit”, being members of clerical societies. But I don’t think it’s ever been the tradition for the majority of American (or British) priests to wear the cassock even on the street. I’m sure some did, but clerical suits have been around here for a very long time. This may have been to keep priests from being attacked by members of the Know-Nothing Party, etc. Until recently, as Baltimore says, they were frock coats extending to the knees. This is why a laicized priest is “defrocked”. I personally think frock coats should make a comeback, not only for clergy, but for ordinary laymen. In the medieval imagination, the longer your garment was, the more dignified you were. Hence, cassocks were very dignified. Cassocks were also worn by judges until recently.

    In the city of Rome, frock coats, knee-breeches, and tricorner hats for the clergy persisted well into the reign of Pope Pius IX in the later 19th century!

  8. Now, I should also say that I think it’s great for a priest, or even a deacon, to wear the cassock on the street. Wearing the cassock on the street was a custom in France after the French Revolution, when the French Church was reforming itself. Before, French clergy very often wore secular dress. After the Revolution, they woke up and realized they needed to assert their clerical identity. Hence, for some time, to wear a cassock on the street was called “French style”.

    I think we’re in a similar post-revolutionary state as the French were.

  9. Katheryn says:

    I’ve seen Monsignor at our church wear a cassock once or twice, and it really made an impression on me… Like he means business. None of this Roman collar Bill Cosby sweater combinations.
    Pray for the clergy, everyone! Satan hates them as much as he hates babies.

  10. Mike_in_Kenner says:

    I am under the impression that one of the reasons why the council at Baltimore established a form of clerical garb other than the cassock (or religious habit) for use while outside of church property was that many places in the United States had open hostility to Catholics, and had local laws used to intimidate Catholic clergy. If a priest went out in public wearing a cassock, he might be arrested as a transvestite. Anti-Catholic factions used laws against cross-dressing to harass priests in their “dresses.” I’m afraid I don’t know any reliable historical references for that story, but it seems plausible to me.

  11. frjim4321 says:

    …I note that there is a sheet useful for when you quiz…

    The typesetting is very nicely done. My compliments.

  12. disco says:

    The character of the parish priest of st finnbarr’s church in the tv show boardwalk empire is a good illustration of wearing the cassock when in the church but the frock coat when about town. Not good for much else but at least they made the costume appropriate.

  13. StWinefride says:

    Oh dear, I had no idea that females were not allowed in liturgical processions! Thank you for the info.

    Fr Z: One of these days I must really resurrect that site wherein I did the Latin, slowly, in bits and pieces so that it could be more easily memorized. I shall look into that again.

    Yes please!!

    @Katheryn says: Pray for the clergy, everyone! Satan hates them as much as he hates babies.

    Amen! And here’s a lovely prayer for Priests:

    Keep them, I pray Thee, dearest Lord,
    Keep them, for they are Thine —
    Thy priests whose lives burn out before
    Thy consecrated Shrine.
    Keep them — Thou knowest, dearest Lord —
    The world — the flesh are strong.
    And Satan spreads a thousand snares
    To lead them into wrong.

    Keep them for they are in the world
    Though from the world apart,
    When earthly pleasures tempt, allure —
    Shelter them in Thy Heart.
    Keep them, and comfort them in hours
    Of loneliness and pain
    When all their life of sacrifice
    For souls seems but in vain.

    Keep them, and oh, remember Lord,
    They have no one but Thee
    Yet they have only human hearts,
    With human frailty.
    Keep them as spotless as the Host —
    That daily, they caress —
    Their every thought and word and deed,
    Deign, dearest Lord, to bless.
    (Imprimatur: +Henry Joseph O’Leary, D.D., Archbishop of Edmonton)

    Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy, ora pro nobis!

  14. Imrahil says:

    I do not follow the general principle that women may not be part in liturgical processions. We do know that, wisely or unwisely, prudently or imprudently, fitting or unfittingl<, but certainly not sacrilegiously or invalidly, they have even been made altar servers in recent time.

    Of course, the writer of the article is better informed on positive law. If the Congregation of Rites forbade it, the Congregation of Rites must be followed. But that does not say that the Congregation of Sacraments cannot reallow it; and indeed any such law can, I think, safely be presumed abolished at least for the OF.

    Now what can women not do? Be clergy. What, therefore, should women not do? What is reserved to the clergy either strictly (as the reading of the Gospel) or laxly, as something somewhat clerical which is done by altar servers (as bringing bread and wine). This speaks against their being altar servers; yet even this has been allowed.

    There is nothing specially clerical about throwing flowers, wearing girl First Communion dresses, or also – in my view – walking within a certain distance to the Sanctissimum even if the others that walk there are clerics.

    It is ancient custom around here (though not normally followed these days) that the Procession Heaven is carried by the four men lastly married in the parish. They are nearer to the Sanctissimum than any others except the celebrant! I grant that they are male; but they are, by the very mode of their picking, also quite not to be mistaken for clerics. And they (this is still true) wear formal dress, or the national costume; nothing clerical either.

    It is also custom to have the First Communicants (male and female) wear a ribbon on each side of the Sanctissimum. These, too, get quite near to It.

  15. Gail F says:

    James TM Griffin: I had no idea that was where the term “defrocked” came from, interesting!

    I was at a Corpus Christi procession last year in which little girls who had made their First Communion that year went in front of the procession scattering flower petals. The boys who had made their F.C. were with them, but they just walked (no flower petals). It was charming.

  16. Gail F says:

    Interesting that originally lay people weren’t in the procession, they were simply watching it. In the two processions I have been to, there wouldn’t have been a procession without the laity because no one would have watched it! Maybe someday… But I have heard that before Vatican II in our city, the Corpus Christi procession was a HUGE deal. People lined the streets to see it. The only laypeople in the procession were the different confraternities, the rest were priests and seminarians — and, I think, all the First Communion kids in the city got to do something with it (probably walk in front). It would end at the baseball stadium .

  17. Imrahil says:

    I actually cannot imagine a Corpus Christi procession without laity. Confraternites yes, but more profane clubs also — especially the firemen; in villages and little town districts the firemen organize the whole procession –; and all laity in the back with Mayor and Representative in front of them.

    Watching are those who for some reason or other do not participate in it. Indeed the kind of people that will watch a Corpus Christi procession from the outside are often the highly interesting and much neglected sort of people who could (if it must be said) be described as less than practicizing (nor have a public office or club membership which socially, if they are Catholics, requires their attendance), and do still feel attached to the Church.

  18. Tim Ferguson says:

    From the time of the Baltimore Plenary up until the promulgation of the 1983 Code is was contra legem in the US for priests to go out in public in cassock. The 1983 Code changed that, and this was further clarified by the US Bishops’ Conference, which issued particular law regarding the interpretation of canon 284, to wit: “…In liturgical rites, clerics shall wear the vesture prescribed in the proper liturgical books. Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric. In the case of religious clerics, the determinations of their proper institutes or societies are to be observed with regard to wearing the religious habit.”

    So, thanks to Vatican II, and the new Code, and the Bishops’ Conference, it is now permissible for priests in the US to go out in public in their cassock, at their own discretion.

    As an anecdote, if our host will permit a slight diversion: Fr. Werenfried Van Straaten, the “bacon priest” told this story on a Tuesday evening at St. Agnes in St. Paul when he was visiting. He said that, on one of his first visits to the US, he came to New York on the invitation of the Society for the Propogation of the Faith, then headed by the Ven. Fulton Sheen. He was about to go out to a parish for his first talk when Archbishop Sheen told him that, no, it was not proper in the US for a priest to go out in public wearing his habit. Sheen loaned him a clerical suit instead.

    So, Fr. Werenfried goes out in clerics and tries to hail a taxi. It took him fifteen minutes to flag down a taxi. He was stunned by the cost of the taxi ride to his speaking engagement. He gave his talk, passed around his hat, and collected less than a hundred dollars. He walked back to where he was staying, a bit dejected by his first foray into what he had hoped to be a lucrative fund-raising trip to the US for his charity, Aid to the Church in Need.

    The second night out, he decided, to heck with it, and wore his habit. He said as soon as he stepped to the curb, a taxi pulled up to pick him up. He explained who he was to the taxi driver as they drove to his speaking engagement. The taxi driver would not accept a fare, and instead, gave Fr. Werenfried all the cash he had on him at the time – over $100. Fr. Werenfried gave his talk, in his habit, and collected the largest single amount he had collected in his career thus far, and one of the attendees drove him back to the residence in his limo. Archbishop Sheen was there to greet him, and asked how things went. When Fr. Werenfried told him the difference between the first and the second night, Archbishop Sheen asked him, “Do you think I might be able to fit in your habit?”

  19. acardnal says:

    Of course, it probably didn’t hurt Fr. Werenfried that his habit was white! :-)

  20. VexillaRegis says:

    What a wonderful story about Fr van Straaten!

  21. Former Altar Boy says:

    The last time I went to lunch (at a restuarant) with my pastor, he wore his cassock. Of course, he’s FSSP and proud to be a priest.

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  23. John Nolan says:

    The guide for Latin pronunciation given in the quiz for altar boys seems to suggest they adopt an Italian accent (Italianate pronunciation of Latin is a different issue). Fair enough if you are Cardinal Bertone (eena nomine Patrees etc) but faintly ludicrous if you are a native English speaker. And ‘Abemus ad Dominum is simply wrong – the ‘h’ in Latin is aspirated.

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