From a priestly reader…
I cannot find when to use the Biretta at the Homily, should it be worn, if so, then does one wear at for the Epistle & Gospel readings in the vernacular/English?
Thank you for your precious time.
Use of the biretta! Finally something important, instead of all these questions I get about whether or not X is a mortal sin, or why some in the Church seem determined to commit ecclesial mass-murder and suicide. Refreshing.
A long time I ago, I coined a term “birettaquette” for this critical dimension of clerical comportment. It has made the rounds, I think. I have some other posts about birettas, and berettas, in the archive. Gosh, I’m getting nostalgic. That’s a bad thing, right?
Should the biretta be worn when preaching?
This is covered by local and community custom these days. I don’t believe there are specific rubrics or responses from the old Sacred Congregation for Rites that cover this. Pun intended. No, wait. There is one: if memory serves The Pontificale Romanum (that governs ceremonies of bishops) instructs the priest to wear the biretta when preaching. However, that is in a pontifical ceremony. I’m not sure it applies “downward” to the Masses of merely mortal priests.
Fortescue, again if memory serves, opines that it should be worn when preaching, but I think Wapelhorst does not. It makes no nevermind. Auctores scinduntur and we can make up our own minds.
I believe that the SSPX priests do not use the biretta when preaching. As a matter of fact their biretta use seems quite limited, perhaps because when they were formed Archbp. Lefevbre, who had been a religious, deemphasized it. The FSSP, influenced in its origins from the SSPX has greater use by far, as does the Institute of Christ the King, whose members I believe may also eat and sleep wearing birettas. A legit choice, by the way. Before central heating people used sleeping caps and the biretta is not strictly liturgical. Priests wore and can still wear the biretta when out and around in the cassock.
It is daily wear, as you might see in the movie Going My Way, when the old Irish priest is strolling outside around the grounds.
And then there are the authoritative don Camillo movies!
We could also get into the removal of the maniple and, in some places, the chasuble for preaching.
The idea is that at that moment the priest steps out of Mass, as the sermon was not perceived as part of the Mass, and then puts them back on when finished and Mass “resumes”, like halting and restarting a clock. In the post-Conciliar view, the sermon is part of the Mass, not a-part.
This usage view reveals something about readings as perceived by the Novus mind or the Vetus mind.
In celebrations of the Novus Ordo you often get the sense that you are in a didactic setting, where things are being described, related, explained, taught. Versus populum orientation of the altar magnifies this as does the vernacular.
In the Vetus Ordo the readings are also sacrificial in nature. This is why in the traditional Roman Rite the readings are always read by the priest celebrant at the altar, which is the place par excellence of sacrifice. In 1962 there was a daft shift in this in regard to the Epistle and Gospel which dopey changes are fit only to be entirely ignored. The main point is that even the uttering of the words of Sacred Scripture in the Mass is the raising of a sacrifice, as incense rises heavenward, and so forth. Therefore, the readings have to be read by the priest even if they are then sung or read by someone else (subdeacon, deacon, layperson in some places).
It occurs to me as I write that the Novus Ordo practitioner emphasis of the separation of elements underscores how the dimension of sacrifice was obscured in the Novus Ordo regarding readings.
Firstly, in the Novus Ordo there are two books, a Missal and a Lectionary. Bugnini back in the day wanted to make sure that the priest could never say Mass from one book ever again. The use of a second book isn’t just because the number of readings was multiplied. It was a separation of word from sacrifice. In the Vetus Ordo, all the readings are in the same book as all the elements for the Sacrifice. The use of a separate book for the singing of the readings by subdeacon and deacon is purely a matter of utility and not a theological statement.
Next, in the Novus Ordo design of some churches and sanctuaries there is such an emphasis on the word, that the ambo is given just as much emphasis as the altar, sometimes even being placed in such a way that they have equal positions next to each other. I’m sure you’ve seen that in places.
I’m digressing, but you see how all of these things are interlaced.
The biretta doesn’t carry nearly the significance as sacred vestments or altars and ambos. However, it did develop from the scholar’s doctoral cap. Therefore, from its origin it seems not unreasonable to wear it while preaching.
That said, some reflection on these matters could provide a priest with a sort of “examination of conscience” about his preaching. It is not for nothing that the Council of Trent took the matter of quality of preaching (and therefore formation) in hand and called for a book for priests to guide their sermon and instruction, the Roman Catechism.
I do not see an absolute conflict between the idea of “stepping out of Mass” to preach and the sermon being “part of Mass”. Here is a real point of “mutual enrichment” that Benedict XVI wrote about. The two views of the sermon seem on the surface to be antitheses. But are they really? The priest has choices to make about his preaching. These two ways of thinking about the sermon could provide some orientating course corrections.
To the point about birettas, there is no hard and fast rule, authors are divided, and local custom and the preference of the priest governs this all important question.
Now back to the lesser stuff, like is it really necessary to go to confession (yes), is is eating alligator permitted on Fridays of Lent (yes), and whether certain acts are mortal sins even in marriage (of course).
I’ll conclude with this, in Italian, but authoritative and thematically and visually apt for our sad days, when a flood of what can only be called persecution has driven many of the faithful who desire traditional worship out of their “homes”, their churches and chapels. Don Camillo stays at the altar and, unable to say Mass because of the flood, and reminds people that one day the flood water will subside, the sun will return to shine, sorrow will diminish and divisions will be healed.
A REMINDER of the old BIRETTAS FOR SEMINARIANS PROJECT.