ASK FATHER: Do vestments really matter?!?


Building the kingdom, one yellow chasuble at a time.

From a deacon…


Does the kind, shape, color, and texture of vestments worn to celebrate the Mass really matter? Or, is it the person wearing the vestment is about building God’s Kingdom here on earth?

Wow… interesting.

I am reminded of John 12.

Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein. Jesus therefore said: Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial. For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.

Actually, the kind, shape, color, and texture of the vestment really doesn’t matter.

Nor does the person wearing the vestment matter.

The only thing that matters is Him. Everything else is contingent.  There is one thing necessary (cf Luke 10: 41-42).

When, during Holy Mass, we are in attendance upon the one Who is necessary, then our feeble attempts to put forth our best foot become all-important.

Have you ever seen a child picking a bouquet of dandelions for his mother? He is careful to pick only the most beautiful ones, in full flower and not yet gone to seed. He meticulously finds the largest blossoms, arranges them carefully and presents them to the object of his affection proudly with a puffed-out chest and beaming smile.

They are worthless. Mere weeds that, under the best circumstances, will last for a few hours in a vase. Yet, they are the most precious things in the world because of the love and care that has gone into their selection. The boy gave his best to find the best possible dandelions for his mother.

Should we put less effort into our gift of worship to Almighty God?

So, yes, the vestments matter, and, no, they don’t matter at all.

gold angel vestments

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    well…..that may have been one of your finest and most profound post ever Fr. Z. Many thanks.

  2. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Matthew 22:11-13 “And the king went in to see the [wedding] guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”

    Apparently Jesus is pretty concerned about the garments we were to His wedding Feast.

  3. JonPatrick says:

    Wow almost lost my breakfast when I saw the yellow chasuble. Even a Episcopal priestess wouldn’t be caught dead in something like that :)

  4. momoften says:

    Do you have a better picture of the gold vestments, (no, not the yellow) I have not seen anything like that before on a dalmatic and tunicle. They are antiques, and I suspect out of gold (real gold) fabric? They look stunning.

  5. Scott W. says:

    Charity obligates me to assume that priest that looks like a bottle of Mellow Yellow isn’t malicious, but abysmally misguided. I suspect the good intention was to appear amiable, approachable, and nonthreatening. But few can seriously deny that the effect is trivialization of things that should not be made light of.

    Seems like lay people can help here. Get on the liturgy committee, go through the vestry, toss out the ludicrous chasubles (and any other ’70s detritus) and provide only proper ones.

  6. Kerry says:

    In his reasoning explaining to the finance council the value of buying (expensive) new vestments, our Priest reminded then it is as if Christ Himself were being vested, and shouldn’t He wear the very finest?

  7. Kerry says:

    By the way, is that a young David Letterman wearing the banana peel?

  8. Andrew says:

    Priests of the Old Law used sacred vestments: how much more priests of the New Law should use them who, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, worship not in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary but as ministers of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, had set up:

    Exodus 28: For the glorious adornment of your brother Aaron you shall have sacred vestments made. Therefore, to the various expert workmen whom I have endowed with skill, you shall give instructions to make such vestments for Aaron as will set him apart for his sacred service as my priest. Then he put the tunic on Aaron, girded him with the sash, clothed him with the robe, placed the ephod on him, and girded him with the embroidered belt of the ephod, fastening it around him.

    Leviticus 8:
    He then set the breastpiece on him, with the Urim and Thummim in it, and put the miter on his head, attaching the gold plate, the sacred diadem, over the front of the miter, at his forehead, as the Lord had commanded him to do.

  9. pelerin says:

    Oh the yellow horror! Where is the dignity? Did not the Cure of Ars St Jean-Marie Vianney make sure he wore the finest of vestments to celebrate Mass even though he wore tattered clothing for every day wear?

  10. D2 says:

    I remember when I was vested at my ordination, the priest said ” remember who you are dressing for”
    Every time I vest I remember those beautiful words.

  11. Skeinster says:

    I used to make vestments, and know that I never sewed anything else so carefully, not even my
    babies’ baptismal gowns, which were, actually, much more complicated.

  12. Kati says:

    I don’t comment often but this response to the deacon’s question was a gem of wisdom! Wonderful…thank you.

  13. Sonshine135 says:

    You found the actual Father Lovebeads! My goodness that vestment is a nightmare!

  14. little women says:

    That yellow, flowered chasuble is so abysmal, so laughable, I have to feel sorry for this priest. My nine year-old daughter summed it up when she said, “What is that?” I’m assuming that some misguided, zealous woman in his parish made this for him, so he felt obliged to stand for the picture and smile. There is no other explanation … is there?

  15. Art says:

    Just to show how bad it can get, there’s a website dedicated to bad vestments:

    It includes some interesting churches too.

  16. JBS says:

    I’ve noticed that the uglier the chasuble, the hotter it is, because such vestments tend to be made of thick polyester, often with a high collar (what is the practical or liturgical purpose of these collars?). I’ve also found that Roman-cut chasubles are ideal in summer months, since they provide a similar effect to wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

  17. Cafea Fruor says:

    Wait, that yellow thing is a chasuble? I totally mistook it for a reincarnation of a vintage shower curtain…

  18. Patrick-K says:

    Does it really matter what you wear to your wedding?
    Does it really matter what you wear to your parent’s funeral?
    Does it really matter whether athletes, police, or soldiers wear the correct uniforms?

    I think most people would recognize these questions as absurd or obvious. Yet for priests it’s different. There are likely different reasons for this, ranging from the naive to the misguided to the more sinister…

  19. pelerin says:

    If anyone needs cheering up after viewing the excruciating chasuble here and the prancing monk video a few posts down I thoroughly recommend the two links given in comments of the latter post – one to the BBC Peter Cook sketch of the leaping nuns, and the other to Stephen Colbert’s King of Glory video. Both are guaranteed to raise the spirits!

  20. pelerin says:

    What a pity the Bad Vestment blog appears to be finished.

  21. russlem says:

    What a great answer!

  22. RobS says:

    That answer should be read from every pulpit. Well done.

  23. oldconvert says:

    That first picture invites a quotation from the late, great Alice Thomas Ellis [I so wish it were mine]: A tie-dyed frock.

  24. Gaetano says:

    On a related note: Let’s not forget that the bad vestments often sell for as much as the good ones.

  25. Gerard Plourde says:

    An excellent post. It reminds us that circumstances exist that would mitigate against vestments (missionaries riding circuit, Church communities in persecuted areas, for example), but that like the mediaeval cathedral builders we are called to celebrate or love of the Lord by exhibiting and giving our best. (Dovetailing on Fr. Z’s comment about the child who gives his mother dandelions because he thinks them to be pretty, so also we should perhaps give the benefit of the doubt to the yellow chasuble.)

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Church communities in persecuted areas traditionally manage some very nice and ingenious vestments and vessels. What is our excuse?

  27. AidWater says:

    Where I went to church on Wednesday (The Annunciation) the priest was wearing Purple!

  28. gretta says:

    That yellow garment passing for a chausible is so bad it takes your breath away. It makes one want to run away screaming, “My Eyes! My Eyes!” as in, it is impossible to un-see this.

  29. Dave P. says:

    People who go on about costly vestments and church supplies often forget that those ornate vestments put bread on the table for a religious community (like the Benedictine Sisters of Ephesus), or an individual craftsman (like Mr. Michael Sternbeck of the St. Bede Studio), or the employees of a small business (like Gaspard’s in Wisconsin). So: if you believe in promoting social justice and building God’s Kingdom on earth, you can help by buying a nice Solemn High Mass set from one of the aforementioned…

  30. Gaz says:

    My old Parish Priest once said to me (regarding Priests who didn’t wear the chasuble), “He comes but He’s not happy”


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