Friday, October 20, 2006
To wear - or not to wear....
That is the question in this neo-Benedictine age.
"When in Rome..."
I'm not a priest so I don't know much about these things. I was a monk for awhile - and when we went into town we never wore the monastic habit. When we worked, we wore jeans and work-shirts. Several novices were taken with the habit, one liked to wear the hood up when he walked through the cloister - very "Nun's Story-ish". Another took his with him when he left monastic life - for Halloween? I never figured that one out.
All of our seminarians in this Archdiocese are required to have a cassock. I would say every priest I know has one for liturgical functions when they wear a surplice over it. (Albs and a stole are more the fashion since Vatican II.)
When I was little, the priest always wore one, even in the rectory - but never on the street. Supposedly the Council of Baltimore forbade that. The rule today is no longer in force - it maybe expired. Many good priests I know do not like the cassock, much less the biretta, and seem to be suspicious of those who have an affinity for wearing them. Although, many young seminarians embrace the custom heartily. Younger people and converts seem to love traditional clothing.
I was talking to two priest friends of mine one day when a young priest came in and was wearing a full length coat over his cassock. We asked where he got the coat and he said in Rome. It was like the Pope's white coat, only black. (It was a beautiful coat.)
One of the priests I had been speaking with called me a day later to ask about cassocks. I told him we sell many. We discussed them. Then he asked about the priest in the coat and also asked how many priests come into the Store wearing cassocks, which is not many. I realized the cassock is sort of a litmus test. Who wears one, the why and wherefores, etc. It was an interesting conversation. (My friend thought it pretentious, but I wonder if that has more to do with our age and training? Maybe, with the younger new priests, trained in a seminary where the cassock has been worn, may think otherwise.)
Although, when the seminarians started wearing cassocks, another well respected priest friend of mine, who had been rector at the seminary, thought it absurd and said he would never be caught dead in a cassock. While another dear priest friend, when he visited our Store at my invitation, spied a biretta, called me over and jokingly whispered, "It's a mortal sin to wear one of these!" He has never been back since.
I'm ambivalent about what a priest chooses to wear. If I were a priest, I would hate wearing any sort of clericals, and never would wear a cassock except for liturgical functions. But I'm not a priest. Because a priest may wear a cassock doesn't make him more of a priest in my eyes. If a priest is out of clericals, meaning the suit, I don't care about that either; although I've heard people say to priests, where I work that is, that they should be dressed in clericals. I don't agree - especially when it's their "day off" and they are running in to pick something up. Priests are people too.
That could be one reason why we don't get all the priests in our Archdiocese shopping at the company I work for. (Of course it could also be that they just don't want to get into the "mix".)