ASK FATHER: “Baptismal Stoles” or “Confirmation Stoles”

From a reader…


I heartily agree with you regarding cassocks and surplices on “altar girls”. [More on that HERE] But I have another concern, and I wonder if I am right. I also do not believe that “Baptismal Stoles” or “Confirmation Stoles” should be conferred on those receiving these Scaraments. This happens in my parish at the Easter Vigil when several adults are Baptized and/or Confirmed. The following is from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The stole is worn only by deacons, priests, and bishops. For deacons and priests it is the specific mark of office, being the badge of the diaconal and priestly orders. The wrongful use of the stole by subdeacons, therefore, would imply the usurpation of a higher order, and would constitute an irregularity. (…) As a liturgical vestment, the stole signifies the “yoke of the Lord” whose “burden is light.”

If the wearing of a stole by a subdeacon (which order is now suppressed) constituted an “irregularity” how much more so does it constitute an “irregularity” for a lay person to wear one? The wearing of the stole by a lay person. regradless of age, it seems to me would demonstrate a confusion of roles. The argument is presented to me that this just a manifestation of the “common priesthood of the laity”? I emphatically say, NO! There must remain a clear distinction of roles, and wearing a stole in the manner of a sacramental priest simply confuses those roles. But I get shouted down on this issue and also regardiong our “altar girls” attire, which is, ugh, the cassock and surplice.

It seems to me that the “confirmation stoles” and “baptism stoles” are an even more egregious error than young girls in cassocks and surplices.

The use of these stoles confuses the royal priesthood of the faithful with the ministerial priesthood of the ordained.

Since bishops possess the fullness of the priesthood, shall we give little miters to the newly baptized? Of course not!

The mark of the royal priesthood of the faithful is the anointing, which is already done in baptism and confirmation.

Furthermore, putting stoles on laypeople like that just seems… condescending.  It is as if the cleric is saying, “Aren’t you cute, you good little lay people.  I’ll dress you up like me!”

The baptized and confirmed laity have their own dignity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Oy vey. I had never heard of this practice. But then again, I had never heard of the ordination tambourine either.

  2. mrshopey says:

    I know what is used here for the babies is a felt stole with a symbol stamped on the end. It could be born out of that – baptismal garment. When it was used on ours, it was not placed around the neck, like the priest wears it, but laid across body/chest.
    Fr. Z, please don’t give then any ideas (miters)! Although I would participate if only get one, miter, for Halloween/All Saints Day! Ugh.

  3. Peter J. says:

    When I was confirmed in 1978, I was required to wear a white stole on top of the red gown that all of the confirmandi wore. Our “stoles” had our confirmation names on them. At the time I thought it was “cool” to do so but what did I really know back then as a grammar school boy? For the last several years Archdiocesan directives for confirmation have clearly stated that a stole may never be worn by the confirmandi. This aberrant practice feel out of use years ago. I had presumed that it was no longer an issue anywhere but apparently it still is. Ugh!

  4. Mike says:

    “The baptized and confirmed laity have their own dignity.”

    I first “got” this when I started attending TLMs.

    Thank you, Benedict XVI!!

  5. Phil says:

    Not sure if this is relevant, but what about the use of the Academic stole? So much of academic insignia finds its roots in medieval monasticism (the academic cap and the biretta, for instance, share a common ancestor; as well as the gown and the monk’s choir dress), would this be something of a similar usage?

  6. Netmilsmom says:

    At our parish, our Priest say something about a “White Garment” symbolizing a new life for Infant Baptism. They have a “stole” but just lay it across the baby. It looks like a stole with a small red cross at the bottom. Is this okay?

  7. skvie5738 says:

    If baptismal and confirmation stoles aren’t to be used for the laity, then why are they sold in Catholic merchandise catalogs like Autom??

    [Turn the page and look also for the pink and powder blue ladies clergy blouses. These companies will sell anything to anyone.]

  8. yatzer says:

    I’m fairly certain we have one/some of those left over from our children’s Catholic childhood. I was thinking maybe they would be something saved in their “stuff” that might lead them back to the faith eventually. Maybe it would lead them astray instead? Maybe I shouldn’t keep them after all? I have no personal attachment to them as they aren’t particularly attractive–it was the 80’s after all.

  9. Cath says:

    In the directions sent out to parishes for Confirmation by my Archbishop

    “Some parishes have the custom of having candidates for Confirmation wear a “Confirmation Stole” that has their Confirmation name on it. I ask that this practice be discontinued. Stoles are specifically vestments that connote the authority that comes from ordination. Most parishes have developed nice name tags that can accomplish the same thing. The vast majority of candidates dress appropriately for the liturgy but it is important to remind all candidates of the importance of dressing modestly in every circumstance but especially when participating in the liturgy.”

  10. Joe in Canada says:

    Good question about why they are sold in Catholic catalogues. I suspect that they started as an innovation in Catholic catalogues who saw them in Protestant catalogues that also sold to Catholics. The Catholic catalogues saw a market in Protestants who wanted to be “a bit more liturgical”, and they also saw a new market among Catholics by creating a need. I remember a diocese I worked in where the funeral homes convinced everyone that the pall bearers had to wear white gloves, which were then thrown into the grave on top of the coffin. Pure marketing. Like “overlay stoles” – Catholics have no need for a stole to “complement” a chasuble – a stole should never go over a chasuble – but Protestants can do what they want, so the cataloguers created a new niche.

  11. Mrs. Amen says:

    What should we do if this “baptismal stole” is incorporated into the baptismal rite at out parish? My newest baby will be baptised in June (because all the spaces were full, this is the earliest date we could get) and I know the use “baptismal stoles” as my last daughter received one at her baptism.

  12. gretta says:

    I had heard that the baptismal stole is meant to be the “white garment,” particularly for babies that may not be baptized in a white gown or outfit. Of course, if that is the case a big white bib would likely serve the same purpose.

  13. TMKent says:

    At our parish, the stoles for Confirmation have been replaced by a name-ribbon attached to a corsage/boutonniere and simple white over-garments is now given to the adults who are Baptized. Now in their 20’s, both our sons were baptized as infants and stoles placed around their necks. My husband was also Confirmed with a white stole at the Easter vigil in 1987. For many years the sewing of these stoles was a “ministry” in our parish. I still have their stoles in my “hope chest” and cherish the memory of those sacraments, but even then I objected to the confused symbolism.

  14. TMKent says:

    At one time – our entire congregation was given red felt stoles wear at Pentecost!

  15. APX says:

    The stole is worn only by deacons, priests, and bishops.

    And Carthusian consecrated virgins who are given a stole and maniple at their consecration.

  16. Cantor says:

    When I received First Holy Communion many years back, we were all presented with scapular medals by our pastor the week beforehand. They were worn under our shirts. Perhaps this would be a better approach if some ‘memento’ is desired for this important step.

  17. VexillaRegis says:

    Despite being a female I sometimes wear a stole. In church. A minkstole from the thirties. My cat loves it too ;-)
    Funny liturgical customs you have on your side of the pond.

  18. BLB Oregon says:

    In its “Practical Guidelines for Confirmation Planning,” the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon states: “The use and decoration of “confirmation stoles” for the candidates is not an appropriate symbol. The stole is a sign of ordination. Nowadays very few parishes arrange for the rental of traditional Confirmation gowns. Therefore, some direction should be given candidates about suitable attire. Neatness, cleanliness and modesty can no longer be presumed. Please specify these expectations.”

  19. Geoffrey says:

    Thankfully, I have only ever seen these in the Autom catalog.

  20. APX says:

    Why do those being confirmed need something like a stole, or a special gown, etc? What happened to boys in a suit or Sunday best and girls in white dresses like First Communion? In diocese where the order of the sacraments has been restored to confirmation before first communion, both sacraments are received, from Bishop (not an EMCH like I had for both of my first communions), at the same Mass, thus there is no special distinction like stoles, or red gowns/robes, etc. Boys may have a white ribbon tied on the arm, but that’s about it. When I was confirmed we had to wear these felt little tongues of fire that had rusty and corroded safety pins that put a really nasty rust/copper blue stain on my white dress. Not impressed. >:-(

  21. Volanges says:

    We got rid of Confirmation stoles in our parish around the late 90s, with exactly that explanation “Stoles are not worn by the laity.”

    As for Baptism, we have the parents bring their kids in regular, coloured clothing and at the appropriate time they are presented with their baptismal clothes and taken to the side of the sanctuary, dressed and brought back for the Presentation of the Light and the Ephpheta Rite. If the child is older and the parents don’t wish to buy a white garment, the child is dressed in an alb that we have altered for that purpose. I’ve really never understood how a stole or bib could ever be considered a ‘garment’.

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