JUST TOO COOL! Catholic school children hold a CONCLAVE! PHOTOS!

I got this from a reader.  FUN!

Hello, Father–In case you’re interested, here are some pictures from today’s (Monday, 3/4/2013) mock conclave at St Louis Catholic School. These young men were largely from the corps of Altar Servers. The Parochial Adminstrator, Fr Zuberbueler, and the school principal, Dan Balliageron, pulled out all the stops.

The “Sacred College” lines up to enter the “Sistine Chapel:”

The “cardinals” deliberate, guarded by the Swiss Guards:

“Cardinal Burke” confers with “Cardinal Tagle”(the boys chose a Cardinal to represent):

The Cardinal Revisor re-counts the votes:

The Cardinals make obedience to the new pope:

Pope Sebastian I says the Urbi et Orbi:

As I look at these photos, it occurs to me that someone made a lot of red birettas.   In the much larger versions of the photos I was sent (I crunched them down for the blog) they look pretty good!

I sense the possibility of a cottage industry, making birettas for American seminarians and clerics.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Just Too Cool, Lighter fare and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Supertradmum says:

    LOVE this. Real Catholic education. Thanks for sharing. How wonderful.

  2. mamajen says:

    Adorable! That’s one Catholic school I would love to send my son to.

  3. Traductora says:

    Wonderful! Very cool indeed!

  4. DavidJ says:

    Excellent. Also, I would love to have Pope Sebastian I!

  5. Catholic Hokie says:

    Father, I noticed you tagged it as part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, but it looks like this is the St. Louis Catholic School in Alexandria, VA (part of the Diocese of Arlington).

    Very great seeing all these children learning about the conclave–and good luck to Pope Sebastian I!!

  6. acardnal says:

    Fr Zuberbueler! Now there is a happy memory from my former diocese of Arlington, VA. Great priest.

    The Swiss Guard uniforms had to be a challenge to make!

  7. AnAmericanMother says:

    This is brilliant!
    My mom was a visiting scholar in the Artists in the Schools program for many years. One of the theories she taught was “experential learning” – getting down into the nitty gritty and physically reproducing the experience that you are learning about. Back when I was involved in the National High School Mock Trial program, we developed a similar opportunity for high school students to participate in a jury trial as lawyers and witnesses. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody at St. Louis Catholic School has some NHSMT experience – it wouldn’t take much adjustment to make that program work for a Conclave.
    What a wonderful application of learning theory!

  8. Dr. K says:

    It looks like Card. Burke didn’t get elected :-(

  9. AnAmericanMother says:

    Not as hard as you would think. There’s a cadre of mamas in most high schools with a LOT of experience in theatrical costuming (my daughter was in the technical stagehand end of things, so naturally I wound up behind my Bernina). With the aid of one of the nice medieval/renaissance pattern books that are available if you hunt around, the only real issue would be making sure you get nice straight seams when putting the different colors of fabric together to fill the pattern pieces. A quick search indicated that there are actual Swiss Guard patterns available – if you read German. But patterns are patterns in any language (other than converting cms to inches).

  10. MouseTemplar says:

    Sigh. How awesome!
    In my son’s ‘Catholic’ school, all the moms would pitch a fit until their daughters got to be “cardinals” so they could have a vote too…….

  11. It looks like the cassocks were for use at Mass; I can imagine they may have borrowed some from nearby parishes. Same for the surplices. The red capes were probably easy to make. I marvel at the birettas.

  12. Stumbler but trying says:

    @ MouseTemplar…that sure would be a drag to have to be all inclusive as it would certainly damper the fun, in my opinion. Anyway, glad to see that was not the case from the looks of the photos and all had a wonderful time. God bless Pope Sebastian I. ^^

  13. Gail F says:

    How fun!!! Where did they get the Swiss Guard uniforms and the birettas?

  14. oldcanon2257 says:

    I see “Cardinal Burke”, but where is “Cardinal Ranjith”? :D

  15. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr. Fox,
    It’s always easier to create a costume on a substratum of something like a cassock and surplice. I once did a Father Alexander Anderson costume over an altar server cassock . . . the blessed silver bayonets were the hard part, my husband handled that bit in his wood shop :-)
    The birettas are a lead pipe cinch – cut out a circle with a wedge missing – bring the edges together and stitch end-to-edge, same way you’d make a dart in a shirt. Get fancy: cut out and sew two, lay them right sides together, stitch all of the edge of the circle except a small gap, then turn it inside out and hand stitch the opening closed.
    They probably had an assembly line of mamas turning them out.

  16. Christ-Bearer says:

    Uh-oh. An anti-pope! :-P

  17. inexcels says:

    Judging from this event, that school is more awesome than all of the many schools I attended combined.

  18. a catechist says:

    My ten year old son: “They have red birettas?! I want a red biretta!”

  19. disco says:

    Who did they elect!?

  20. There is no way they are not going to get at least one vocation out of this! Maybe several…

  21. Pingback: This has to be the most awesome, vocation inspiring thing ev-vah…

  22. Prof. Basto says:

    Notice the TIARA on the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI ! Of course, a school as cool as this one would have the coat of arms no other way but the Tradtional way!

  23. RichR says:

    How odd: no feminist teacher or heretical parent had enough sway to force a few “female cardinals” into the mix to make a political statement. A nice change from what we see on CNN and MSNBC. Looks like there was a compromise with girl Swiss guards. Oh well, no doctrines in peril with that one. Looks like everyone had fun!

  24. How awesome! Every single one of those boys now knows how the papal conclave works. They pulled quite an amazing production together in not much time!

  25. inIpso says:

    Amazing! I love my diocese!!! :D

  26. New Sister says:

    Bravo, Peter! :-)

  27. Peggy R says:

    Oh, how I miss the Arlington Diocese!

    They need to ban parishes named after St. Louis. I had to hunt to see that it was not a parish in St Louis, MO, the metro area we live in now.

  28. AGA says:

    Who had to play Cardinal Mahony?

    Poor kid…

  29. BLB Oregon says:

    If they actually made authentic Swiss Guard uniforms, which require 154 separate pieces each, not to mention an extraordinary amount of work, then surely the primary future qualification for anyone to guard the “Pope” at that school is going to be whether or not they fit the uniform! (Sorry, Jacob, but you fit the Swiss Guard uniform, and therefore don’t have a vocation to be a cardinal…well, not until you get bigger, anyway…and as for Teresa, well, this time, the uniform _does_ make the man!!)

  30. Liz says:


  31. Margaret Mary says:

    I would love to see that biretta pattern as well. That would be the best All Saints’ Day accessory ever!

  32. Pingback: Mock Conclave? | Life at Le. Rheims

  33. LaxMom25 says:

    A shout-out to “the other Father Z,” the holy and solid Father Zuberbueler. Father Z was the Chaplain at the Catholic High School our boys attend until last summer, when he transferred to Saint Louis. During after-school sports events, he would drive a golf cart, the “pope mobile,” decorated with Vatican flags and pictures of the Holy Father around campus. The children at Saint Louis are blessed to have this holy shepherd who joyfully teaches us the treasures of our faith.

  34. PatB says:

    AnAmericanMother–methinks you have your hats mixed up! See the very first photo for birettas.

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  36. Pingback: Virginia school elects the new pope: Pope Sebastian I

  37. MissOH says:

    I love it. Unfortunately I don’t know of a school on this side of the Potomac that would be able to do this.

  38. Christine says:

    That is awesome!

  39. ReginaMarie says:

    Love it! Fr. Zuberbueler (the “other Fr. Z”) was at my old home parish of St. Timothy’s when I lived in the Arlington Diocese…he’s fantastic! God bless him! Indeed, may there be (many!) vocations from this! My boys are a bit envious of these awesome kid-sized vestments!

  40. LarryW2LJ says:

    Some dedicated folks to have made those Swiss Guard uniforms! Love it!

    Can I have one of the halberds when “habemus papam”?

  41. wolfeken says:

    This parish also has a wonderful assistant pastor who offers — of course! — the TLM. (1st three Thursdays of the month at 7:30 p.m.)

  42. Therese Z says:

    Note that the Swiss Guards are girls. I don’t mind – they have to part of this somehow, in school.

  43. Pingback: Coolest Thing Ever? Catholic School Hosts Conclave! | CatholicVote.org

  44. Lauren says:

    LaxMom25 – Fr Zuberbueler left the Diocese of Arlington? How sad for us.

    He was our priest at the Cathedral of St Thomas More and we loved him and his pickup truck. I was all thrilled about the photos and now I’m sad he has left Arlington.

    But the photos are really fantastic – sure looks like fun for all. Must admit, had I been one of the girls in the event, I would have been jealous of the boys :)

  45. Lauren says:

    oh good !!!! He’s still in the Arlington Diocese. I totally misread the messages (Duh!).

    OK, I’m happy again. He’s one priest we MUST keep around here. Thinking about him makes me smile and laugh.

  46. DeoAcVeritati says:

    Well, those kids had much better costumes, but our students here at Colgate just held a Model Papal Conclave as well! It was pretty great. I’ll post a link when the articles come out. The winner was Cardinal Tagle, who chose the name Gregory XVII.

  47. Pingback: dotCommonweal » Blog Archive » Interregnum report, March 5

  48. This is amazing, and a great way to promote vocations! I pray for the dear children.

    I remember I did a retreat with my Priest with a Confirmandi Class (they were about age 10-12) and we all made Birette from black cardboard, and Father was tempted to wear his at the Mass later on that day, but he thought that maybe that wouldn’t be so orthodox… oh dear.

    But, Kudos to Fr. Zuberbueler!

  49. Happy DRE says:

    I’ve gotten the ok from our Fr. Z. at St. Louis in Alexandria, VA to share some of our costume secrets. The zucchettos were made as stated above. Cut a circle from soft red felt. Cut out a wedge so it looks like pac-man then hot glue together. As for the birettas, they’re made from stiffened felt that was hot glued. Believe it or not, there’s a young man on youtube who demonstrates how to do it. We just played around with the sizes. Yes, lots of mamas and carpenter papas helped. The Swiss guard costumes were made by a master seamstress, pillar of the parish. She combined costume patterns and made it happen. I think we should take up a second collection and send her to Rome!
    As for the election, Pope Sebastian I is the former Cardinal Turkson from Ghana. There were many more little details of a conclave that the children (and I!) learned from this wonderful experience.

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  51. Chuck3030 says:

    What if some colleges/seminaries did this…

  52. tom g says:

    How cute! Middle-schoolers dressing up and playing Cardinal! What is it that bothers me the most here? The fact that the children are trivializing Papal Conclaves, which no Catholic ought to imagine himself a part of? The fact that several bloggers see this sort of thing as a wonderful example of “Experiential Learning” for middle-schoolers? [Now we know why middle schools are in such dreadful shape, as bad in the Catholic schools as they are in the secular!] Or am I offended by the fact that nobody among your bloggers sees anything wrong with these pictures? Back in the bad old Pius XII 1950s, we used to dress a girl up at my Catholic elementary school for the May Crowning of the Blessed Mother, but nobody pretended the lucky little girl was actually the BVM !!!!

    [Wow… just… wow…]

    The Sour Grapes Award

  53. An American Mother says:

    Quite right – my mistake. Meant zucchetto & was typing carelessly.
    Happy DRE,
    Thanks for the info! Never got around to the birettas, but I suspected flocked cardboard – stiffened felt is MUCH better! You all did a great job, everything looks great and very professional.
    tom g,
    Even extremely small children can tell the difference between reality and make-believe, but a little participation fixes the facts in their heads. I taught my daughter’s middle-school class a unit on the Iliad. They dressed up in peplos and chiton, ate baklava, and got to handle a couple of bronze age daggers and the Mask of Agamemnon (reproductions of course). But they also memorized the first ten lines in the original Greek, and we worked through 3-4 different translations and had a very lively discussion on the compromises inherent in translation. My daughter’s best friend ran into me (they are now 24) and spontaneously repeated the first 2 lines, so as Kipling said “a little of it sticks among the barbarians.”
    I’m sure you disapprove. What a bore.

  54. VexillaRegis says:

    tom g, is playing a cardinal a sacrilege???? By your logic, it would be impossible to set up the Passionplays of Oberammergau since playing Christ, Bl. V. Mary, the apostles, Joseph of A. and others would be forbidden. Only Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, some Romans and the bad thief would be left on the stage. LOL!

  55. Ben Dunlap says:

    tom g, you might be interested in the medieval custom of the Boy Bishop (that link will take you to the entry in the 1907 Catholic Encylopedia) — definitely not a modern concept, and one that was suppressed by all the wrong monarchs in 16th century England.

  56. Supertradmum says:

    Funny cardinal story-a Benedictine friend of mine at Notre Dame when I was there found an entire set of cardinal’s clothes in a closet in the grad men’s dorm at that time. He brought them to a party, dressed up, cape, hat, etc. The rest of us were uncomfortable with this, so we made a plan. As many of us were from foreign lands, we organized an entire summer’s travel with about 16 of us in different countries, writing postcards to this monk stating “I see you, The Cardinal”

    He did get freaked out. I do not know what he did with the clothes….

  57. MaryAlice says:

    I am amazed at the clever moms and dads who put their time and effort into such a grand task. I am almost spitting distance from the Arlington diocese and marvel at these young people. Our future looks brighter to me after viewing the pictures and the posts. Thanks for putting them on the Net – I needed a lift tonight!

  58. YTG YTB ELS says:

    Great job St. Louis! There must be some very clever and thoughtful educators in charge:)

  59. The Cobbler says:

    Girl Swiss Guards?

    Probably either clones of or children of River Tam, all sent back in time via the Flux Capacitor.

    Or maybe it’s just River Tam herself, sent back in time multiple times (e.g. she comes back to the day before the conclave, then the day after instead of returning to her own time goes back to the day before a second time so it seems as though there’s two of her there at that time; repeat as necessary).

    I mean, really, who would you ask for help defending the College of Cardinals?

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  61. ocalatrad says:

    This is amazing! How great to see!

    Take a chill pill, man. Holy smokes.

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  65. jafc says:

    Wondering what website you used to make the birettas?

  66. eMVeeH says:

    Here are a couple of links for tips on making your own biretta:
    Patterns from the Phillippi Collection religious headwear blog.
    I’m giving it a try in a couple of weeks.

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