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On the glory of the cassock….. November 7, 2013

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Christendom, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Latin Mass, manhood, priests, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

…..or any religious habit, for that matter.  Some may think the cassock simply an article of clothing, perhaps out of date.  But that is completely missing the point, according to the author quoted below:

Another external sign against which opinion has solidified is the wearing of the cassock – not so much in the church or in visits to the Vatican as in everyday life. The question is not of the most fundamental importance, yet it has great symbolic value………I read in the Paris newspaper this statement from an avant-garde priest: “This is childishness…in France, wearing a recognizable uniform is meaningless, because there is no need to recognize a priest on the street.  Quite the contrary: the cassock or Roman collar creates a barrier…….the priest is a man like anyone else. Of course he is president of the Eucharistic assembly!” [I think a fair translation 2013-tonsure37would be: “identifying visibly as a priest makes those in my avant-garde circle uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to be recognized as a priest, because the “barriers” that creates serve to undermine the new church I want to see created. A church that sees no essential difference between the lay participants at Mass and those who preside over it.”  Such an impoverished understanding of the priesthood!]

……The habit identifies the cleric or the religious, as a uniform identifies a soldier or a policeman. But with a difference: these latter, in representing the civil order, remain citizens like other people, whereas the priest is supposed to keep his distinctive habit in all phases of his life. In fact, the sacred mark he received at ordination means that he is in the world but not of the world. WE know this from St. John: “You are not of the world; I chose you out of the world (Jn 15:19). His habit should be distinctive and at the same time reflect the spirit of modesty, discretion, and poverty.

Secondly, the priest has the duty to bear witness to Our Lord. “You are My witness….men do not put a lamp under a bushel.” Religion should not be confined to the sacristy – as the powers in the communist countries declared it should be. Christ commanded us to spread Picture 002our faith, to make it visible by a witness which should be seen and understood by all. The witness of the word, which is certainly more essential to the priest than the witness of the cassock, is nevertheless greatly facilitated by the unmistakable sign of the priesthood implicit in the wearing of the soutane.

Separation of Church and state, which is accepted and sometimes considered preferable, has helped the spirit of atheism to penetrate little by little into all the realms of activity, and we must admit that many Catholics and even priests no longer have a very clear idea of the place of the Catholic religion in civil society. Secularism is everywhere [and this was written almost 30 years ago!].

The priest who lives in a society of this type gets the ever increasing impression of being a stranger in this society, an embarrassment, and finally a symbol of a past age, doomed to disappear. His presence is barely tolerated. At least that is the way he sees it. Hence his wish to identity with the secular world, to lose himself in the crowd……..

…In communist countries the first act of the dictators is to forbid the cassock; this is part of a program to stamp out religion. And we thCAERSZHXmust believe the reverse to be true too. The priest who declares his identity by his exterior appearance is a living sermon. The absence of recognizable priests in a larage city is a serious step backward in the preaching of the Gospel. It is a continuation of the wicked work of the Revolution and the Laws of Separation.

It should be added that the cassock keeps the priest out of trouble, for it imposes an attitude on him, it reminds him at every minute of his mission on earth. It protects him from temptations. A priest in a cassock has no identity crisis. As for the faithful, they know what they are dealing with; the cassock is a guarantee of the authenticity of the priesthood.

————-End Quote————-

I should note that the predominate form of clothing worn by American priests today, the black suit with Roman collar, was more or less an American invention.  There were questions back in the 19th century when its wear became common, whether it was appropriate or not, whether it gave sufficient witness to the identity of the priest and his glorious, mystical, supernatural vocation.

I think it interesting, and revealing, that when the popular culture portrays a priest or religious, they almost always put them in a cassock and/or easily discernible habit. Some of the more discerning movie directors, etc., do put them also in the suit and collar, but the cassock and traditional habit predominate in popular presentations on the Church far more than they do in real life. Movie or TV show producers want their audience to be able to quickly identify who and a given character is.  The fact that they choose to visibly identify priests and religious in the traditional manner underscores how people still respond to these traditional identifiers. I think that significant.

But far more significant is the need for priests (and religious) to visibly witness to the Faith they represent. Especially priests, who have such radically supernatural vocation. The cassock for centuries clearly identified this vocation, creating priests as those “set apart” like Paul and Barnabas. I encourage all priests to re-embrace the cassock to the extent that my standing offer remains, to buy any priest who will wear them on a regular basis a set of cassocks (and biretta) necessary for their vocation.  If we see a priest in public wearing the cassock particularly, but even the Roman collar, we should thank them for their witness and the giving of their lives in the service of Holy Mother Church.  That might encourage more priests to give such wonderful witness – even on their day’s off.




1. Barbara Kralis - November 7, 2013

Why do we not see more of our Dallas priests in their cassocks? I remember a while back that Fr. John Dick was spotted at the Catholic Book Store in Dallas in his cassock and someone told the Bishop [not sure which bishop] and he was told not to wear his cassock out in public again. Does that ‘order’ from the Chancery still stand?

tantamergo - November 7, 2013

I don’t think there is an order. But the message gets conveyed by many means. There are young priests who would like to wear a cassock – some even have from time to time – but they get told by pastors, and others, that doing so is somehow harming their brother priests, making them look bad, or feel bad, or something. That it’s not in sync with today’s ecclesiology.

David - November 9, 2013

I have never formally met Fr. John Dick, but I would like too. He was a “late vocation”, and I’ve heard at St. John’s in Ennis that he only allows boys to serve at the altar (much like Fr. Paul Weinberger at St. Williams in Greenville). I heard good things about Fr. John Dick when he was at St. Patrick’s in Denison.

I would like to see more priests put their foot down and take a stand with only male altar boys. I think it helps with vocations, particularly if the priest has a “manly” presence. I have actually tactfully told this to vocation directors.

There are two parishes that I attend in the Dallas area where in recent years (one has a newer pastor) I have noticed more boys stepping up to serve. I attribute part of that success to both of these parishes having successful “male leadership” on behalf of the pastor and the parochial vicars.

However, I recall visiting one parish in a suburb north of Dallas two years ago where I was disappointed to see four altar girls and no boys on the altar. Honestly, if the boys (particularly 10-13 years old) see a bunch of girls on the altar, the boys will not step up.

I recall one time visiting St. Anthony’s in Wylie for a special occasion – it was the first Mass for Fr. Tom MacLean (who is from Dallas, but was ordained for the Diocese of Lincoln in 2002). Fr. Morris was the pastor, and Fr. Morris proudly wore a cassock that day. Fr. Tom MacLean wore his biretta.

I always liked Fr. Morris. Fr. Morris (who is now retired, but he still says Masses around the diocese) is one priest who is not afraid to preach on what the Church teaches.

2. Daniel Brooks (@codephined) - November 7, 2013

Great article.

Also, if you notice, most horror movies that have consecrated sisters in them, wear the full habit if they are “evil” in the movie. When they are nice and accepting, etc, etc, they are depicted wearing secular clothes with minimal habit shown, like the head piece (I don’t know what it’s formally called).

Noticed this during the Halloween horror movie craze on cable… every time there was an “evil nun,” she wears a full habit 🙂

3. Bill Deville - November 8, 2013

Were the priests in the embedded pictures just random pictures? Or, is there a story behind some of the pictures?

tantamergo - November 8, 2013


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