ASK FATHER: Father wears the chasuble for everything he does

From a reader…

medieval massQUAERITUR:

Is it appropriate or allowed for a priest to wear a chasuble while hearing confessions, baptizing babies or other non Mass functions?  Some priests seem to always wear a chasuble for everything while others wear an alb and stole (or cassock, surplice and stole) for these other things outside of Mass. It seems to vary in the Novus Ordo but every EF baptism I’ve ever attended, the priest has always worn a cassock, surplice and stole.  Thank you for your work!

Interesting.  Some (liberal) priests seem to refuse to put on a chasuble even for Mass and here is one that won’t take it off!

The chasuble – in whatever its style, ample “Gothic” or streamlined “Roman”, is a priestly garment.  It is the vestment of the sacerdos, which includes priests and bishops.

Traditionally the chasuble is used for the celebration of Holy Mass and also – though you don’t see this done often now – for processions.  It used to be that priests walking in procession would put on a chasuble over their cassock and surplice.  These days, we most often use a cope if we have a vestment for a procession.

Should the priest wear the chasuble for everything he does?


Is it “wrong” to do so?  I think it is, but it probably isn’t a formal abuse.   The priest should wear the prescribed vestments.  These are spelled out pretty clearly for the Extraordinary Form.  They are more vague for the Novus Ordo, wherein it seems that any old former flour sack with velcro fasterners can be, and is, used.

For a rite such as baptism, the priest traditionally wears surplice over cassock with the proper stole.  In the Extraordinary Form, he either changes stole from purple to white (sometimes two stoles, sometimes one handy reversible).  For more solemn conferral of baptism, Father would wear a cope.

This would also go for more ceremonious singing of the Major Hours, such as Vespers.  Father would wear a cope.  He wouldn’t need the stole unless he was to handle the Blessed Sacrament.   He would also use the cope when performing important blessings, such as the blessing of Epiphany Water.  He wears if also for other non-Eucharistic rites, including conferring of sacraments.

As far as confession is concerned… chasuble for confessions?  No.  I suppose if it is 5 minutes before Mass and he is vested… okay (not that that is a good time to ask Father to hear your confession, mind you).  Otherwise, for confession, at the least the purple stole if not stole over surplice over cassock.

The chasuble is a specifically priestly vestment, but that doesn’t mean that it is the Swiss Army Knife of priestly vestments.  He should probably use the cope more often.

Would I send Father to liturgy jail for wearing the chasuble for everything?  No, but I’d try to introduce him to a few other options.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. SpesUnica says:

    So, cassock-surplice-cope for Liturgy of the Hours, but stole only if there is exposition (/and benediction) ? What about “blessing occasions,” house blessing, blessing a school? I would think (most to least solemn) cassock-surplice-stole-cope, or alb-stole-cope, or just stole over clerics. For baptisms, I would think one of the first two of those options. What about group Compline on a parish retreat?

  2. Our PP hears confessions on Saturday mornings straight after Mass. He just goes in and sits down and puts his stole on over his Mass chasuble, even though he hears confessions in the place where he also vests.

    Because of the kind of man he is, I think it must help him to feel as if he is occupying that Christlike role more closely – he is actually DRESSED for the part. He is behind the screen, anyway, so it wouldn’t or shouldn’t be a concern for anyone else.

    I think it’s the same for the last-minute before-Mass confessions – but I think also it helps to save precious minutes before Mass starts if he’s vested and ready to go.

  3. AlexanderAerarius says:

    As I recall, the cassock is a cermonial descendent of the everyday overcoat, so priests did wear their chasuble out and about in the Early Church. I would just be glad the priest wants to wear something priestly. Maybe he doesn’t have a cope?

  4. Martin_B says:

    The chasuble is (today) the vestment for the priest when celebrating mass.
    It may also be worn to rites closely associated with the mass, like baptisms during mass, or processions directly preceding or following the mass. (see GIRM no. 337)

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