Blue Vestments: wherein Fr. Z rants

The use of blue vestments during Advent is pretty much cliché now, so cliché that not even the aging hippies are clinging to it.  Here’s my annual rant about the use of blue vestments in the Roman Rite.

At this point, some people always blurt, “But Father! But Father! Once upon a time in Spanish territories there was an indult and… therefore… we can… you know!  You hate Vatican II!”

Who knows if that legendary – I repeat legendary – indult still applies. I don’t.  I seriously doubt it does.  Has anyone ever seen the text of that indult?  No. I haven’t either. Over the years more information has come to light about that legendary indult.  According to THIS, we read: “This privilege was granted to Spain, its colonies, and Latin America by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on Feb. 12, 1864.”  I have not seen the text.  Also, I suppose you would also have to demonstrate that your territory was under Spanish control on 12 Feb 1864.

Apart from whether their use is licit, it is clear that they were used in some Spanish territories and that they probably survive in the Rite of Toledo and in other regions too.

Others will say, “But Father! But Father! There is a custom of using blue during Advent and on Marian feasts!”

Yeah yeah… sure.  It’s against the law.

Also, I I learned last year from a commentator, the Spanish bishops approved, in their liturgical Ordo, the use of blue (“azul”) for the Marian Feast of the Immaculate Conception.   Last year it read:

8 LUNES. LA INMACULADA CONCEPCIÓN DE LA VIRGEN MARÍA, patrona de España, solemnidad
(…)
Misa de la solemnidad (blanco o azul).
bl az MISAL: ants. y oracs. prop., Gl., Cr., Pf. props. No se puede decir
(…)

I’m not in Spain.  Are you?

15_11_29_blue_lampasGiven what’s going these days, I am more inclined to look favorably on a traditionally tinged antinomianism.  HERE  In this Age of Mercy, I guess we can do whatever we want to the Roman Rite.  It’s for the poor, after all.  And, in mercy, some of the things we do in the Extraordinary Form should be done in the Ordinary Form.  No?  Shall I mention the traditional offertory prayers?  The Anglican Use has them.  How about the Last Gospel?  The Anglican Use has it.

Use the prove that I love Vatican II I say “Let’s just do whatever the hell we want!”

Here is another argument: “But FATHER! Solemn occasions merit the most beautiful vestments even though they might not be the right color!  It’s legitimate to use illicit colors if they are the best vestments you have!”

Sure… okay.  But respondeo dicendum: Since blue is not an approved liturgical color in the Roman Rite, why are the blue vestments the best you have?

As soon as blue is approved for use, and I hope it will be, I will be among the first to have a beautiful set made in the Roman style!  I will take up a collection and get a magnificent Pontifical set, replete with cope and humeral veil and all the dalmatics and tunics and gremials and frontals!  I’ll get a stupendous Low Mass set with gold and embroidery.  I will ask for huge donations!  You can bet on it.

In fact… why should I wait?

If bishops – cardinals – can pretend that Christ didn’t mean what he said about one man and one woman and matrimony… can pretend that the magisterium of John Paul II is obsolete and that Benedict didn’t really issue Summorum Pontificum … and can pretend that there is such a thing as mercy without truth… then I can pretend that I’m in Spain and that blue is approved for the entire Latin Church.

Right?

Thus endeth the rant.

Now enjoy this annual song from the official Parodohymnodist.

UPDATE 29 Nov:

There is a treasure trove of information about past concessions to use cerulean/blue vestments HERE.  Ultimate Fr. Z kudos for that.

In a nutshell, the concessions given for the use of cerulean were few in number and were quite restrictive by the clear intent of the Holy See.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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41 Responses to Blue Vestments: wherein Fr. Z rants

  1. David says:

    For this excellent rant, I believe the apposite quotation is from the inimitable Tom Lehrer’s The Vatican Rag: “Do whatever steps you want if / You have cleared them with the Pontiff, / Everybody say his own / Kyrie eleison, / Doin’ the Vatican Rag!”

  2. Yep. This is the order of things in the “golden age of the laity.” We in the pews are expected to say our parts, and sing the songs, and generally busy ourselves with doing a bunch of stuff. We have ushers to keep us in line, and priests and deacons to lecture us sternly on our failures of “active participation” if we do not keep up with our many appointed tasks. We are essentially driven like cattle through a noisy, fast-paced obstacle course that leaves us no time to pray or recollect ourselves or remember that we are at the foot of the Cross. Meanwhile, many priests do pretty much whatever in the hell they want at the altar, whatever the books may say, right down to wearing illegal colors.

  3. Charles E Flynn says:

    Time for another trademark application. Google has no previous instances of “traditionally tinged antinomianism”.

  4. albizzi says:

    The blue chasubles with the lilies flowers look almost like the mantles of the french kings on some portraits of the 17th-18th centuries

  5. oldcanon2257 says:

    After reading Father Z’s blog post above, I am still confused about these things:

    1. Did the indult really exist? [It probably did.]

    2. If it existed, is it still in effect? As long as no competent authority explicitly abrogated that indult (assuming it existed), it should still be in effect, yes? [I suspect that it isn’t, but other factors such as custom could come in.]

    3. Why nobody has inquired the CDW (the entity which is the successor of the then-Sacred Congregation of Rites) about this matter in the narrowest scope possible? I am certain Cardinal Sarah would give the inquirer a straight answer. [RULE 1: Don’t ask questions like that unless you know the answer in advance.]

  6. Okay sheeples repeat after me: blue TRIM good, ALL blue bad. Repeat 5 times now.

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It’s also completely unnecessary to have blue vestments when one could legally have white or silver or gold vestments that are trimmed with blue, figured in blue (as with fabric patterns), or which feature blue embroidered motifs. Heck, you could have embroidered motifs that almost completely cover the vestment, without it changing the base color of the vestment!

    Seriously, illicit vestment people, have you never visited a fabric website? Get with ye programme.

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    PS. With all the crafty Catholics out there, why don’t we ever have embroidered vestments and altar decorations anymore? It’s not easy, but obviously people do big embroidery projects all the time, and they also do big group craft projects.

  9. CatholicMD says:

    “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

    When Divine Revelation and the Natural Moral Law are openly flaunted it’s hard to take liturgical rubrics seriously.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    PPS. Here are some nice examples of secular embroidery projects done by members of the SCA, a group that does all sorts of medieval stuff for fun. Compare these clothing projects to the sorts of things your parish has for vestments. Obviously some parishes have much nicer things, but others have much less nice stuff.

  11. Will D. says:

    How widespread is this problem, really? I’m 40, been Catholic all my life, and have had some very goofy priests (and some very good ones, to be fair), and I don’t recall ever seeing blue vestments at Mass.

  12. APX says:

    I’ve only ever seen blue vestments used in Marian feast days at the Anglican Use ordinariate.

  13. Jarrod says:

    My home parish growing up was led by a well-intentioned innovator. (I say “well-intentioned” because I do believe he had pure motives despite misguided decisions.) To wit: he once rode a donkey down the aisle to open Palm Sunday and on another occasion on or about Christmas he had a man dressed as Santa bring up the gifts. But I never even knew blue vestments were a thing until last year when I heard they were allowed in Spain for Marian days.

  14. CharlesG says:

    Now, now. Just because some set at nought the liturgical law, or even the moral and Divine law, does not make it meet or right.

  15. VeritasVereVincet says:

    My parish has used navy blue for Advent for years.

    Our new pastor told my mom that we’ll be using violet (and rose!) starting this year, and I am so excited.

  16. Dave P. says:

    Here in Milwaukee, where liturgical abuses still persist in many places, it has been many years since I have seen blue used for Advent. In fact, I have seen a return to violet/purple in parishes which used to have blue.

  17. Sri_Sriracha says:

    The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest seems quite fond of blue vestments…

  18. Alice says:

    I’ve never seen blue vestments for Advent in a Roman Catholic church. At one of the parishes where I served as organist, the priest would wear blue for Marian feasts (although, I think someone talked to him because it stopped quickly), but Advent was violet and rose. It’s a bit odd because my non-Catholic friends who love liturgy consider blue to be the traditional Advent color with violet as an innovation whereas for Roman Catholics, violet is traditional and blue is for innovators.

  19. Kevin Jones says:

    I believe that you be referring to the Choir dress used by Institute priests, this does contain a lovely shade of blue.

  20. taffymycat says:

    wow this is fascinating….those vestments are gorgeous, but i have never seen, now that i think of it, any blue vestments…is there a canon law against that color and what woudl be theological reason for that?

  21. JesusFreak84 says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the blue vestments at the Ukrainian-Greek rite parish I attend ^_^ (The green ones, too; just wish I could see those at more than just Pentecost =-p )

  22. Matthew Gaul says:

    I’m not studied enough to know the nuances of canon law, custom, laws abrogated due to non-enforcement (or whatever the terms are), so the most compelling argument that you make, to me, is that the the blue indult is regional. Therefore, using blue vestments outside of the indult is an attack on the legitimate regional diversity of those areas.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to say bishops should clamp down on blue elsewhere, but positively encourage it in the traditional indult areas. Dig in and find out exactly where the indult applies, based on that date you mentioned. It’s these sort of local customs that are a barrier to wholesale, top-down imposed liturgical chaos. More importantly, they are part of the joy of the universal faith. Maybe there could be a New Spain ordinariate, with a slightly modified calendar for regional saints. The more legitimate high-church local customs, the better!

  23. Orphrey says:

    If wearing improper vestments, along with other liturgical irregularities and even abuses, are against canon law, and if priests swear an oath that they will uphold canon law, how culpable therefore are such priests for such violations? Even presuming they are ignorant of the canon law they are violating (although I assume they are expected to know canon law) and they are well-intentioned in their innovation / experimentation / invention, are they sinning? Can illicit alterations to the vestments, or ad-libbing of prayers, or cracking of inane jokes throughout the Mass, or lack of chasuble render the Mass illicit or invalid? [I hope I am using all these jargon words correctly! :) ]

  24. Denis Crnkovic says:

    At Sint-Agneskerk in Amsterdam (FSSP) today, the vestments were violet – and look a bit shopworn, by the way. At last Saturday’s (Nov 21) Mass for the Feast of the Presentation at the Kapuzinerkirche in Vienna (also FSSP), offered at the Marian side altar, the celebrant wore “blue” vestments. The truth is that the vestments were “white” with very large swathes of blue; indeed there was more blue cloth than white cloth. I suppose you can get away with this the same way you can sew a lot of gold thread into white vestments for the glorious effect.

  25. St. Epaphras says:

    Jarrod, Will D and others, The priest at our then local parish was still wearing blue vestments during last Advent. When we had a more orthodox assistant pastor the pastor had switched to violet but switched back when the new man was transferred. As I am no longer attending that parish I won’t know which color shows up this year. Perhaps it will depend on whether the current associate pastor, a priest of over a year, refuses to go along with the blue.

  26. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Fr. Z has explained gone over this point till he’s blue in the face. (Sorry, couldn’t resist). [très drôle]

    Now, about that 1864 citation: Putting assertions in quote marks does not turn them into citations. No SOURCE cited is the same as a gratuitous assertion. That said, I have a couple of collections of SCR rescripts at work. I’ll look tomorrow.

  27. Imrahil says:

    Apparently as blue isn’t a liturgical color in the Latin Church, a nice blue vestment with some very significant gold embroidery runs, by the liturgical equation “gold = white”, officially as a white vestment. [No. It’s a blue vestment with gold embroidery.] And there is no law that would ban a priest reserving a specific white chasublefor specific occasions that have the color white – such as, for example, Marian feasts.

    At least that’s how I explain that some very traditional priests have these blue-with-gold vestments for certain feasts of the Blessed Virgin, around here. And then, why not, also for the Rorate Mass.

    That said, let’s distinguish again.

    Using blue for Marian feasts or votive Masses (and there are, in fact, a lot of them in Advent, especially the votive Masses) – possibly a breach of law, yes (only if there isn’t enough gold on the vestment?), [Yes. It is.] but “makes somewhat sense”: and thus, nothing I personally would hue and cry about. [So, let’s stop calling a blue vestment white and let’s admit that we don’t care about breaking the law.] It’s the ecclesial superiors’ job (read: not mine) to make sure people follow Church law, taking the appropriate measures.

    Using blue for Sundays and ferias of Advent – that is an entirely different story, though. It does not make sense; Advent is not an “extended Octave” thing (of the Assumption or what not), it is an “extended Vigil” thing, a time of penitential preparation (though there is no general practice of fasting and abstinence). By the definition of the significance of the liturgical colors, only violet is appropriate.

    But as some have said above, I too haven’t ever seen blue for a Sunday or feria of Advent.

    (But then, we’re a Catholic region with only some Lutherans in addition, whose preachers rarely wear liturgical colors at all, but rather the traditional dress of scholars – and the few High-Churchers apparently go for the traditional color as well. If there is a Protestant, Anglican or what not, custom that “Advent is blue”, it isn’t one from here and thus could not influence Catholics.)

  28. amg910 says:

    If only the Acta Sanctae Sedis had started publishing a year earlier in 1864 instead of 1865, we might have the reference.

    However, some of you might be interested to look in the 1889 Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS 22) which records a dubium from Palencia, Spain: Dubium I. Semel concesso pro universa Dioecesi privilegio utendi colore caeruleo in omnibus Ecclesiis tam in Festo et per Octavam Immaculatae Conceptionis B. M. V. quam in cunctis Sabbathis, quibus fit eius Officium votivum, vel quoties dicitur eiusdem Missa votiva, potestne ad libitum adhiberi color albus vel caeruleus? Ad I. Negative, sed utendum colore caeruleo.

    [Interesting. Perhaps I should write up a request in Latin that could be sent in by diocesan bishops asking for the concession of a privilege to wear blue on Marian feasts.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  29. APX says:

    I didn’t see blue vestments, but we did have a rose cope and violet for the rest.

  30. Imrahil says:

    Reverend Father,

    I might add that as a layman I was not defending what I do myself, but that of priests whose Masses I had had the pleasure to attend. Extraordinary form, so no general suspicion of irreverence, either.

    When I see something odd and the alternative is 1. he broke the law 2. the law might allow this in that and that way, I’ll go for 2. (And after all, gold is white. My parish priest once explained “it’s Lateran Dedication today, hence this white vestment” when the vestment was entirely of cloth of gold.)

  31. Imrahil says:

    But yes, I’ll make a difference between mere failing to acquire a dispensation with all necessary stamps and signatures on the one, and acting contrary to the meaning of liturgical things on the other hand.

    That does not make the first allowed; but yes, it does not change a lot how much I’m affected by it when I happen to attend that mass.

  32. Imrahil says:

    “but yes, it does change” (in the last sentence). Sorry.

  33. Pingback: SUNDAY EXTRA – Big Pulpit

  34. Discerning14 says:

    I just visited the San Fernando Mission in Los Angeles California for a discernment event held by the Archdiocese. In the museum area they had a beautiful blue chasuble on display.

  35. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I went to an early Mass in a nearby suburb today. The pastor was away. The priest saying Mass wore green with touches of bright blue. No idea why. (Visiting Jesuit.)

  36. bmbain16 says:

    I’m a parishioner at Our Lady of Walsingham here in Houston, the principal church of the USA Ordinariate. We always have blue vestments for Marian feasts (very beautiful Gothic chasubles). My guess is the Ordinariate gets permission because it’s part of the Anglican patrimony, but I’d like to see if there’s any official document on the matter.

  37. rbbadger says:

    What about New Mexico? I have canonical domicile in a New Mexico diocese. Catholicism in New Mexico dates back to the 16th century. Would New Mexico count as a former Spanish province where the historic privilege of Seville would extend?

    I wouldn’t wear them myself, but this is a purely academic question which is of interest to me.

  38. TWF says:

    I believe the only time I’ve encountered blue vestments was on a Marian feast at the church of Altagracia in the old city of Santo Domingo. As it happens, licit or not, one of the most reverent and traditional masses I have experienced in the Dominican.

  39. Scout says:

    Saw navy blue vestments in Mass today.

  40. Supertradmum says:

    Thankfully, have not seen blue vestments for years, but my Lutheran friends tell me their ministers use blue, not violet. Make your own mental connections on this one…..

  41. Papabile says:

    http://deipraesidiofultus.blogspot.com/2014/12/liturgical-blue.html?m=1

    This is the best reference I have found on the web. I saw it mentioned on Rotate and looked it up.

    It contains some full texts mentioning the insult, and references for SCR rescript/decrees.

    I will get to CUA’S Theological Library to look some up this week.