ASK FATHER: Use of the biretta at Low Mass

biretta_01From a reader… a question about birettaquette.


I am an avid reader of your blog and has been inspired by it. For my vacation from the seminary, I am planning to help my parish priest know how to celebrate TLM starting with the low mass. I wonder if it is necessary for the celebrant to wear a biretta in the low mass.

The use of the biretta was and is prescribed (i.e., Father must use it) for the celebration of Holy Mass in the older, traditional form. Of course no one is held to the impossible.  If there is no biretta, then it can’t be used.  That doesn’t mean that the priest shouldn’t say Mass.

For a Low Mass, the use of the biretta is simple.  The priest puts it on in the sacristy before he goes to the sanctuary to say Mass.  Upon arriving at the foot of the altar, he removes the biretta with his right hand (he is holding the chalice in his left hand), and he hold the biretta our to the server standing on his right who takes it.  Father won’t need the biretta again until Mass is over.

When Mass is over, the priest descends from the Gospel side (where he concluded the Last Gospel) to the floor at the center of the steps. He turns to the altar and he kneels on the lowest step for the “Leonine Prayers”.  When those prayers are concluded, he rises, goes up the steps, gets the chalice and descends the steps again.  He turns to the altar, standing at the center.   He genuflects, rises, and receives the biretta from the server at his right in his right hand.  He covers and then returns to the sacristy.

So, at Low Mass the priest essentially uses the biretta to go from the sacristy to the altar and from the altar to the sacristy.

I believe the only other time he might use a biretta at Low Mass, is if he should choose to preach (no need to) and he should choose to wear the biretta (no obligation to).

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  1. Fr. Pius, OP says:

    Or, to be more precise, the use of the biretta is prescribed for secular priests celebrating the older, traditional form of the Mass. A Dominican priest, for example, would not wear the biretta at Mass, although some religious did, such as the Norbertines.

    [And yet he asked me about the use of the biretta. Ergo…]

  2. Martin_B says:

    You just have to remind yourself of the old joke about a young boy recounting his first ever mass (old form):
    “A man came in with a little boy and gave the boy his hat. The boy hid the hat.
    Then the man silently asked the boy where he hid the hat and the boy told him he didn’t know.
    Then the man asked the congregation aloud: Where is my hat? And the congregation answered, We know not. Then they collected for a new hat. In the end, the little boy gave the man his hat, but they did not return the money. “

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