ASK FATHER: Are vestments made of materials other than silk tolerated for Mass in the Extraordinary Form?

From a priest…


My sincere thanks and respects for your good work you do with your “blogapostolate”. Your words have helped my keep my head and remain in my foxhole fighting on while trusting Our Lord.

My question: Are vestments made of materials other than silk tolerated for mass in the extraordinary form? (Specifically: polyester and cotton polyester blends)

I never considered the question before ordering 4 low mass mass sets of polyester from Catholic Liturgicals (the Indian company) and receiving 3 low mass of a sets of a cotton-poly blends from a friend .

A few months ago I read JB O’Connell’s study of the rubrics and his commentary on the material of vestments (pp 166-167). In light of his citations of the S.R.C, I am afraid I may not use them. Father, I do not want to abuse the sacred liturgy or engage in sinful ignoring of the rules

I am a young diocesan priest who has learned and celebrated the EF just this year. I understand and affirm that silk is the proper material for the sacred vestments, but for those of us who celebrate the EF only privately the cost of such vestments seems out of reach.

Thanks for being concerned about offering the very best for sacred worship.  Thanks for your kind words.  And THANK YOU for learning to celebrate Holy Mass in the traditional form.  It’s important.

Part of this is, I think, conditioned by technology.  Once upon a time, the only fabric available was from natural fibers.  When artificial fabrics were invented, they weren’t of sufficient quality to be worthy of the altar.   It took a long time for really fine fabrics to develop, and that was after prescriptions from the Sacred Congregation.  Now we have fabrics that are splendid, and they are artificial or mixes.

Yes, you can use vestments that are made from artificial fibers.

That said, I think it is always best to opt to natural, organic fabrics.

We have to find a balance between the possible of the present and the possible of the future.   For example, when I took over leadership of the TMSM I had hardly anything (money) to work with.  However, we needed vestments for a Pontifical Requiem.  I used Catholic Liturgicals for that set… grudgingly.  We received the vestments in time and we used them several times but I longed for something better every time I was forced to look at them.  “Bid your time”, quoth I.   After a few years, after fleshing out our treasury of vestments in more commonly used colors, I returned to black.  We now have a splendid set for a Pontifical Requiem and I filled out the set with items for pre-55 Holy Week, such as folded chasubles that can be used as ordinary Roman chasubles and a broad stole.  I wanted those also in the case that we lend the vestments for a Novus Ordo funeral where there may be a couple of concelebrants.   Maximize.

The fabric for the new set in black is a blend, and it is fantastic, and it is unquestionably worthy of the altar.

Had I held out for all silk damask with real silver, I’d still be fundraising on the 10th anniversary of my passing.  There’s always the lottery.  I am engaged in the art of the possible right now and the anticipation of the possible later.  When I am able to upgrade, I upgrade.  When I can fill a gap, I fill it.

Mostly, I am very grateful to donors who have made our work possible.

But, yes, you can use vestments made from cotton-poly blended fabrics.

As for pure polyester of the Catholic Liturigicals … think of all those little polyesters slaughtered.   Seriously, this nasty stuff is made from oil, coal and water.  It is more like plastic than true cloth and it highly flammable.  It is cheap and it looks it.  However, we are engaged in the art of the possible.  Until you get something better use those and then either hand them down (if they are still usable) or put them out of their, and our, misery.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. When I was first ordained, I had three chasubles (with stoles) fabricated: purple, green and red. The red was all silk, including — because I didn’t know any better — silk lining. The purple and green I had made in wool. A white chasuble was made for me, and I’m pretty sure it’s a synthetic fabric, as are many of the vestments the parish owns. All of them are “gothic,” meaning they are ample; because when I was ordained, anything else was looked upon with horror. Alas, I am ample too, so there’s that.

    The red silk vestment is heavy and quite warm, and slides around; so I am always rearranging it. Synthetic vestments tend to make me sweat. Meanwhile, the lightest, most comfortable? Those made of wool. And sixteen years later, they still look great; they will last for many more years.

  2. L. says:

    Since I’m not a cleric, my first thought was practical: which is more flammable? After all, Priests wear vestments around hot wax and open flame. I eliminate pulls and snags from neck ties by using a match or lighter, and it seems to me that natural fibers (e.g. cotton and silk) will burn off slowly but that artificial fibers burn brightly and melt into a burning plastic mass.

    An altar boy at our parish spilled hot candle wax on the sleeve of his cassock which then burst into flame. He wasn’t hurt but the polyester cassock was damaged more, I think, than one made of wool or cotton would have been.

    So, perhaps you Fathers should consider consulting your insurance carriers about what materials are appropriate for vestments?

  3. Gregg the Obscure says:

    it occurs that perhaps the cheaper makeshift vestments could be used for the burial of priests who did heinous things in life

  4. mschu528 says:

    “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” as they say. If polyester vestments are the best you can afford, and the Mass is celebrated with great devotion, wonderful! If you can afford the most beautiful silk vestments, but during Mass are distracted and unconcerned, that is awful.
    Obviously, if you can obtain fine vestments, AND celebrate Mass with great reverence, that is the ideal.
    Always strive for better in the liturgy, as Our Lord of course deserves more than what we have to give, but never be discouraged so as not to offer Him the best we have in the moment.

  5. ordovirginum says:

    Oh dear, now I feel guilty.
    I have chasubles for priests who come to celebrate holy mass in my home, and they’re all from Catholic Liturgicals. They’re in the traditional Gothic style and I thought they’re great. They’re much admired. I guess we have low standards. :(
    (Hiding my face in shame.)

  6. Yosef says:

    I also wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU for learning to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. May God reward you abundantly!

    In planning for the future, perhaps there is a group of laypeople where you are that would be interested in helping to fundraise for vestments for you to use?

  7. I looked at the Catholic Liturgicals website. Their stuff doesn’t look bad. The designs are nice and traditional–and the Gothic chasubles don’t have the huge volume or–this is what I really can’t stand–those awful collars that look so repulsive. Furthermore, the chasubles appear to be designed for ad orientemMasses with the major design features on the back, not the front. I guess, though, the the fabric quality at Catholic Liturgicals isn’t the best.

    [Or some of the workmanship. You should see some of the pieces in our black set.]

  8. Felipe says:

    Father, is there a website you could recommend as an alternative?

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