ASK FATHER: LESSONS IN CLERICALISM – How to wear the cassock.

From a deacon…


Could you recommend where to look to find info on, or yourself explain, the intricacies of wearing a cassock? I’m am ordering one and basically going in blind. I know there is a collar worn underneath it and that there is the sash, fascia, worn apparently at sometimes but not always? I’ve seen many a post, here and other places, encouraging its wearing but haven’t seen much in the way of a “how to” for it. Similar to how there are entire sites dedicated to dressing sharp in suits. I’m a relatively new permanent deacon. I received great formation but in the midst of my weekend warrior style formation this wasn’t something that was covered. I thank you for your time and understand if you don’t have the time or see the need to address this question. Be assured of my prayers.

How to wear a cassock.

When I put on a cassock, I put my arms into the sleeves rather than letting the sleeves hang down empty.  I also wear it with the buttons in the front, chest side.  Another thing, the narrow band part is placed upward, about the neck.  That’s the top.  The long part below the sleeves goes on the bottom and it hangs downward toward the floor.

Seriously, here is some formation in proper, healthy clericalism.

Firstly, cassocks ought to be blessed.  There is a lovely blessing in the traditional Rituale Romanum. I like the way the description begins…

Si quis militiae clericalis candidatus…  If anyone striving belong to the clerical service…”

It goes on in the blessing to talk about “putting off the ignominy of secular clothing… deponentes ignominiam saecularis habitus“.

The best education in wearing the cassock is, frankly, wearing the cassock.  Fabricando fabri fimus, after all.

The length will vary.  For choir cassock, the length should drop to the bridge of the foot.  For more active days, perhaps a touch shorter.  A fascia will raise it up.

Collar height… I think the average is 3.5cm.  It depends on your neck.  I suggest cord trim around the collar, sleeves, etc.  It keeps the wear and tear down, especially on the collar.

For daily wear, don’t use the fascia.  Use it in choir.   I remove mine when vesting for Mass.  It’s up to you whether or not to have “loops” in back for the fascia.  For a daily use use, they are just in the way.  On a nicer cassock, they can be helpful.  The fascia is worn high, between breast bone and belly button at elbow level.  It falls to the right side with the two falls matching in length.

When going down a flight of stairs reach back, take a handful of fabric, and lift a bit, so you are not dragging over dirty surfaces.  Lifting the front edge when ascending can be helpful… for the whole not tripping and falling thing.  It depends on the length of your cassock.   For driving, as you are about to step in, gather it in front and pull it up toward your lap.  For other necessary moments, if you get my drift, you might gather the whole thing up and throw it over your shoulder.  It’s pretty important to have control of your cassock when riding a bike. If you don’t… results vary.

There is a way to put your cassock on over the head, rather than stepping into it, and also taking it off so that it isn’t dragging on the floor.  One way is handy, because it turns the top part of it inside out, which on a hot day helps a lot.

Also, you might want to practice buttoning with both hands in two directions, top hand from the neck down and lower hand from the bottom up.  It takes a while but it is handy for speeding up the dressing process.  This is a seminary thing.

Under the cassock… different customs.  I’ve noticed that the French tend to have short pants and high stockings.  In our world, black pants and black socks (unless you are a prelate).  Plain black leather shoes.  In 1962 I believe it was still on the books that clerics had to have silver buckles.  I don’t use those except for Mass on my Bate’s 8′ tactical boots.

The cassock should be worn when vesting for any sort of liturgical function.  Use the cassock and surplice and stole for leading prayers or baptizing, etc., rather than the white moo-moo or gunny-sack and cincture.

I like linen collars.  I get mine from Rome.

Don’t stand around with your hands in your pockets.  Just… don’t.

There is a prayer for vesting in a cassock, said while buttoning up.

In a cassock for an MC, paonazza (magenta), when going outdoors cover up even in hot weather with a greca (long coat).  It is also right to use the Roman flat hat or “saturno”.  When in black, it was usual to use a ferraioletto, but that usage is gone.

First, wash your hands (whenever vesting) saying:

Da, Domine, virtutem manibus meis ad abstergendam omnem maculam ut sine pollutione mentis et corporis valeam tibi servire.

Give virtue to my hands, O Lord, that being cleansed from all stain I might serve you with purity of mind and body.

When putting on the cassock, say:

Dominus, pars hereditatis meae et calicis mei, tu es qui restitues hereditatem meam.

O Lord, the portion of my inheritance and my chalice, You are He who will restore my inheritance.

When putting on the surplice, say:

Indue me, Domine, novum hominem, qui secundum Deum creatus est in iustitia et sanctitate veritatis. Amen.

Invest me, O Lord, as a new man, who was created by God in justice and the holiness of truth. Amen.

Of course these are prayers for males, because only males should ever wear the cassock, etc.  The rest is abomination in the sight of God.

So, those are a few practical notes for your proper use of the cassock.  Wearing it lot is the best school.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    For the prayer for putting on the cassock, “Dominus, pars hereditatis meae et calicis mei, tu es qui restitues hereditatem meam”, I always said it with an additional “mihi” at the end (when I was a clerical member of the SSPX). Was I getting mixed up (as the “mihi” following the Psalm is said when being tonsured)? In any case, what’s an extra “mihi” between friends…?

  2. mysticalrose says:

    Should altar boys say the cassock prayers, or just priests?

  3. Adelle Cecilia says:

    To mysticalrose, the vesting cards I’ve seen for servers all have the same prayers for cassock and surplice.

    As far as cassocks go, Father, do you recommend (young) servers have their own?
    If yes, even if the parish has a wide variety of sizes?
    Do you know if they are easy to take in or let out? I’m just curious how much bigger I would purchase so that it doesn’t become much too short in anywhere from 3-12mo.

  4. Grabski says:

    Why wouldn’t a prelate wear black socks?

  5. Should altar boys say the cassock prayers..?

    Yes! Altar boys should use the prayers for the washing of hands, for the cassock, and for the surplice. They should be posted in the sacristy, the one for the hands near the sink, the other two near to where the cassocks are kept. They should be asked regularly if they said their prayers while vesting. The younger boys should see the older ones doing these things.

  6. do you recommend (young) servers have their own?

    If it is within the families means. Boys grow fast. The cassock could be passed along eventually. Having one’s own cassock might help a boy to keep candle wax off of it and hang it up correctly.

    Cassocks are tricky to tailor. I’ve seen a lot of attempts at making cassocks by the well-meaning and perhaps even well-skilled. It’s usually less than optimal.

  7. Fr_Andrew says:

    Practical advice for all clerics : eventually the “fullness of the priesthood” will most likely set in, raising the hemline off the floor, and making the cassock take on the “high-water” look.

    Get the hem right and maybe an inch off the ground to begin with, and you’ll get a bit more time.

    Also, if your daily-wear cassock does not have a wear-guard fringe already, have a 1/2″ strip of grosgrain added to the inside of the hem, stick out about 1/8″. This will take the wear and be able to be replaced for $10 or less.

  8. mysticalrose says:

    Thanks! I’m glad to hear this. I think these prayers would be a wonderful means of formation for my boys.

    Adelle Cecilia: My boys all have their own cassocks. It gives them a sense of honor and identity, the same way as their soccer jerseys. I thought about getting them really good quality ones, but they grow so quickly that we just get the more economical Autom ones. They can be hemmed and let out, just make sure you (or your tailor) don’t cut off the extra!!! I’ve made this mistake.

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  10. chuckharold says:

    I saw a priest wearing a cassock a few years ago. First time in 40 years. A priest friend of mine had to purchase one in Rome because he unexpectedly was given the opportunity to meet with the Pope. He hadn’t worn one since seminary 30 years before.
    Most bishops I have known, however, wear them on Sunday for Mass.
    When I grew up, all priests wore cassocks in church and in the rectory, or while playing baseball on the school playground during lunch break. They didn’t wear it on the street or while driving.
    Might they be a thing of the past?

    [Cassock are making a huge come back.]

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