ASK FATHER: Guidelines for sitting in choir, including birettaquette and also hoodiquette. With a short Fr. Z rant.

From a Dominican…


Regarding the Pontifical Mass, there were Dominicans in choir. There is a resurgence of the traditional Dominican Rite.

I am writing to ask if you can point to a source that tells what Dominicans are supposed to do with their hoods during the Pontifical Mass in the Roman Rite.  Do Dominicans follow the same rules as priests with birettas?

Thanks for any clarity or resources you can provide!

Hmmm… what religious do with their hoods, specifically Dominicans.

Dominicans at Mass at a mystery to me.

I am reminded of an old Roman joke, which may not survive translation out of a now outdated but very Roman context.    How does one gauge how “successful” a liturgy is among the different religions families?   It seems that it is successful for the Benedictines if they have sung more than half the notes correctly; for the Dominicans if at least half are still there at the end; for the Jesuits if at least half show up at all; and for the Franciscans if half are still uninjured.

As far as birettas are concerned, the vested sacred ministers wear the biretta in church during the processions in and out.  Others in procession, once they enter the church, remove their biretta and hold it top outward before their breast with both hands.  If they carry a book, they hold the book upright before their breasts, open pages to their left, and they hook the biretta below the book with their fingers.

When seated in choir, unless the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, cover.  Before standing, uncover.  That is, remove your biretta before you stand, not while you rise. Not after you have risen.  Before you rise.   Cover after you sit down.   When the Holy Name is said or sung, you uncover or tip, according to local custom.  Sometimes the Holy Name is used quite often, and constantly uncovering or tipping is untenable.   There is usually a general agreement in places about how this will be handled. For example, in a sermon, the first time uncover and lower the biretta to the right knee, the second time tip, the third time nihil fit.  If someone “reverences” you, with a bow, a liturgical acknowledgement, you tip back.   You bow your head while standing when the celebrant at the altar bows his head, as when during the Gloria the celebrant bows his head during his own recitation when he says the Holy Name or the phrase “…suscipe deprecationem meam…”.  If everyone is seated as the choir sings the Gloria, you uncover at those moments.  You bow your head or uncover as appropriate at the name of Mary and of the Saint of the day.

Also… and this is important….


That is your basic birettaquette.


There was a Cistercian in the choir with us.  Among Cistercians, only the vested sacred ministers put their hoods up.  Benedictines will vary according to their congregations or monasteries, but in general, they put their hoods up during Matins, but not during the day, and also at Mass during the Epistle, Gradual or Tracts, Alleluia.

Dominicans… I dunno.  But I know that Dominicans will chime in!  I’ll wager that Dominican hoodiquette is not the same as birettaquette.  As far as the other religious who wear hoods (Franciscans) rather than birettas (Norbertines, Augustinians, etc.) are concerned, I am not sure.  They all have their own customs.

After the Mass in at the Shrine, one priest mentioned to me that it would have been helpful to have a card available to tell the men in choro what to do.

For standing, sitting, etc. during a Pontifical Mass.  This is from Stehle, p. 291.

While the bishop vests stand
During the Confiteor kneel
While the celebrant ascends the altar rise
When the celebrant sits (Kyrie, Gloria) sit
When the celebrant rises rise
At the Epistle sit
At the singing of the Gospel stand
When the celebrant sits (Sermon, Credo) sit
When the celebrant rises rise
After Oremus (Offertory) sit
When the bishop goes to the altar stand
When the bishop ascends the altar sit
When the deacon some to incense the choir rise
After the Sanctus kneel
After the elevation of the Chalice rise
After Communion sit
At Dominus vobiscum rise
At the Postcommunion stand
At the Blessing kneel
At the last Gospel stand
While the bishop divests stand

Meanwhile, what do nuns do when they are in choro in their own communities?   Well… women should have their heads covered all the time in church (cf. St. Paul).

For absolutely comprehensive rules for secular priests, see Martinucci.

Some of you might be thinking dissident thoughts such as the always dopey, “But Father!  But Father!  Don’t we have more important things to worry about than your hat during Mass?  Why have a hat anyway?!?  Because YOU HATE THE POOR AND VATICAN II!”

I always enjoy that one.  The general idea is that we can’t do more that one thing at a time.  Libs always use a “zero sum” approach when they flail around for a way to hate on tradition.  If you have a hat, you don’t care for the poor.  If you are using a hat, you are not caring for the poor.   The utter stupidity of that line of thought is amazing.  This is the logic of Judas, the thief.

Firstly, if you are AT MASS you are not on the street with the poor.  But, you could be praying for the poor, strengthening yourself spiritually to help the poor when you go back out of church, listening to a text or a sermon that moves your heart to acts of mercy, etc.

Also, using a hat during Mass doesn’t take anything from the poor.  It does, however, contribute to decorum.   Beauty and decorum, the aptum, the pulcrum, nourishes the spirit.  Beautiful liturgical music and beauty in art and architecture, beauty and solemnity and order in liturgical worship may be the only beauty and order that many hungry souls experience today.  The poorest of the poor alongside the wealthiest of the world should have a way to nourish the soul through beauty.  Archbp. Cordileone made this point in his sermon at the Shrine.  He cited Dorothy Day and her thoughts about how the poor are hungry for beauty and how they can find it in beautiful churches, extravagantly built.  It is a work of mercy to build transcendentally beautiful churches and compose exceptional music and provide lavish vestments and execute dignified and decorous liturgical rites as a service to the poor.

And it is obvious that this is what is needed according to the virtue of Religion.

Another thing.  Men are hardwired and respond well within structure and rank with clear missions.   These marks of identity, the habit, the cassock, the biretta, the dignities and so forth are important for mission and, ultimate, service to all.   This is just axiomatic and needs no further explication because all reasonable people know that this is true for boys and men. If you don’t get that, then just… go away.

Taking them away, downplaying them, denying them when they ought to be used and given is, well, an indication that something is deeply wrong especially when men deny them.  It is a sign that a man is employing the FFLF, the Female Fun Limitation Factor.   I’m only being partially facetious here.   The FFLF is the effect produced on one or more males having fun when a female of any age asks in that special tone of voice, “Do you really think you should be doing that?”, and in all its variations, especially through The Look and other non-verbal signals.   An example: men are horsing around and having fun at something which, admittedly, might be better left undone.  At some point when real fun is being had, a female walks into the scene and, with The Look or some other merriment extinguishing comment snuffs out the activity.   When, in the Church, men start doing that in regard to those things which are clearly important and not “horsing around” at all, when men act like Susan From the Parish Council, then … well… you probably can guess what I think about them.

So, come around with your asinine, “You are more interested in hats than people!” B as in B, S as in S, and you can stick it in your clatfarting hat.

Ritual is foundational for who we are and how we fulfill that all-important duty of Religion: giving God what is due.   Ritual is just that… formal, repeatable, imitable.  It requires rules that can be understood and followed, that can be handed down and followed.   We are our rites.  We convey from generation to generation profound truths through fidelity to and care of our rites.

Sloppy rites, shabby gift, confused identity.

Confused identity… easy pickings for the roaring, prowling Enemy of the soul.


A tip of the biretta to Garage Logic, btw.    o{]:¬)   I am reminded that a couple of these tropes, like B as in B, S as in S and the FFLF are from a talk radio guy in my native place, Joe Soucheray.  This is from years and years ago.  I don’t know if he still uses those tropes or not, since I haven’t heard him for eons.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Re: FFLF — reminds me of this.

    There is this element of a fine fruitlessness about the male enjoyments; wine is poured into a bottomless bucket; thought plunges into a bottomless abyss. All this has set woman against the Public House—that is, against the Parliament House. She is there to prevent waste; and the “pub” and the parliament are the very palaces of waste.. –Chesterton

  2. ex seaxe says:

    “Men are hardwired and ….. ” absolutely! The underlying curse of our modern age is that it has disregarded all ancestral understanding, and tries to construct an ideal society de novo.
    I remember a television series many years ago which interviewed people about family structure, in many different cultures around the world. It explored several questions of the purpose of marriage, the role of the sexes, care of children, how to finance the family (and how the responsibilty was split within the family, and other questions. There were Africans, Chinese, Moslem polygamists, Nepalese polyandrists, English working class, and English middle class. The striking thing was that on each question everybody was in underlying agreement, except the English middle class. They did not know that the underlying purpose of marriage is to raise children, but everybody else did. They did not think there was a distinction of roles, but everybody else did. Etc. etc.
    At root, our Western middle class culture has lost contact with reality.
    I also think that in England at least, most Freemasons have joined for the hierarchy, the formality of ritual, a delight in regalia, NOT any philosophical viewpoint. Though of course they may have been seduced into that by the ritual – ritual done properly is potent.

  3. tho says:

    In my way of thinking, tradition is the soul of a well ordered society, be it secular or religious. We all look for examples of proper behavior, in society, and our church.
    Traditionalist look back to see what worked, and worked well, and have a desire to keep it going. The rubrics of the Novus Ordo are, for the most part, not rooted in tradition, consequently we are subject to an organized form of chaos. Whereas the TLM has evolved from 2019 years of tradition, and is rightly described as the Immemorial Mass, and it is uplifting and beautiful.
    Please underline, my way of thinking.

  4. VFerrer says:

    This may be of interest regarding the question of the Dominican usage of the capuce, via Fr. Augustine Thompson’s blog:

  5. I have posted a summary of when Dominicans are to rise and lower the capuce (hood) in the traditional Dominican Rite:

    In addition, I make suggestions for adapting the traditional practice at Dominican celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours here:

    Copies of the rubrical texts referred to in these posts can be downloaded from the left side-bar at the same Dominican Liturgy site:

    [It was just a matter of time! Thanks.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  6. Pingback: THVRSDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  7. jflare29 says:

    I could wish this question and answer could have been presented to us before my class graduated in ’93. Heck, I could wish this question and answer could be presented NOW to every student in every school. …Especially the Catholic ones.

  8. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    Father, I will be attending an Anglican Ordinariate Mass for the Solemnity of the Immacilate Conception. As a Roman Rite deacon, it it appropriate for me to sit in choir in choir dress? [Sure.] If so, am I part of the entrance procession? [If they want you to. They may have the men in choir in place beforehand. It depends on their custom.]

  9. JonPatrick says:

    Concerning the lib’s disdain for headgear due to their alleged concern for the poor, consider how those poor from the last century would have felt as the marble statues, altars and communion rails that they contributed their hard earned nickels and dimes to purchase to make their parish churches beautiful were unceremoniously ripped out and thrown into dumpsters by said libs.

  10. teomatteo says:

    Um…. i dont get the joke.

  11. The Cobbler says:

    Women, as a rule, try to ensure everyone’s feelings are protected.

    No visible hierarchy; jealousy is the inevitable result of seeing another above you. Nevermind that in practice we all look up to someone or grant more influence to some than to others, and nevermind that bowing to others’ offend-ability gives them a way to exert control. Veil your insults is compliments, we can’t have the group taking sides: nevermind that sides are taken anyway and drama continually simmers, at least we’ll keep it from boiling over. Nobody truly has to like each other (and women seldom do; their chief complaint in life is being judged, and their chief preoccupation is judging), but at least let me not be the one who is caught out causing hurtful feelings (and indeed, in a pinch it is mutually assured destruction: I can call her out for hurting mine by calling me out).

    The paradox is that women generally fail to recognize that men’s feelings are perfectly in accord with all those horrid, stupid, un-feminine things men do.

    Little makes men feel worse than not knowing who his leader is, what his duties are, or who his enemies are. But a man feels proud (I mean in the sense of self-esteem, not the vice or egotism) to follow a good leader in a good cause. He feels brotherly confidence if he knows he can count on his fellows to do their jobs, he feels inspired if he knows what to do himself, and he feels indomitable if they can accomplish more together. Likewise, if there is injustice to be fought, he will feel satisfied when the problem has been stated and the opponents have debated, or come to agreement and/or amendment and atonement (peace offerings are not sappy, they are a mutual recognition of justice), or thrown down if that’s what it takes; and he will feel peace as he holds out his hand to help them back on their feet after throwing them down.

    (As an aside even biology supports this. I forget where I heard it, but cortisol, the stress hormone that triggers the flight or fight response, is suppressed by testosterone, the hormone that’s involved in fights. Physiologically the more virile you are, the easier it is to escalate and de-escalate. And men normally have an order of magnitude more testosterone than women. Biology is not destiny, but feelings are corporeal, and women’s bodies make it far easier to avoid conflict and far harder to back down once engaged.)

    (The other hormone that suppresses the stress hormone cortisol is oxytocin, the bonding hormone – feelings of trust, in other words. Ever notice how staggeringly insecure feminists are?)

    The idea that one might be glad to take orders well does not come naturally to people who could only countenance speaking out about the problem as an excuse to act out themselves. Tell a woman she’s an excellent foot soldier, she is insulted: you think I’m just a foot soldier? Tell a man he’s an excellent foot soldier, he puffs out his chest: the commander called me excellent!

    Just because it doesn’t come naturally, though, doesn’t mean they cannot understand it and should just go away.

    Women do care about roles, for instance – exhibit A: feminist hyperventilation over them. The key is that women will not understand men’s feelings if they are inclined to look down upon men (or upon what they do not understand), or if they deny maleness and femaleness are part of human nature, or if they take the zero-sum view that the goodness of men or masculinity would imply something against women or femininity. Witness the typical feminist explanation for gender: the belief that men have been conditioned to think and act differently from women by social structures that, actually, match women’s and not men’s (and which men therefore have been conditioned not to do: the explanation for the difference depends upon the difference not being there)!

    Women simply need to be reminded now and again that regardless of whether you believe men and women are equal, complementary, hierarchical or some combination of the three, regardless of whenever you believe there is or is not any basis for men to judge women, there’s no call for women to judge men as though they were or should be women.

  12. Colm says:

    Do the above guidelines (excluding what is specific to a Bishop as celebrant) apply to a Solemn High Mass or a Missa Cantata?

  13. Hidden One says:


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