Monday, July 12, 2010

The Average Parish's Vestments Today



I must admit up front that I've never been a fan of the Fr. Peter Daly column in the Criterion. It isn't so much what he does say; my beef is with the issues that are never talked about. Anyways, his most recent article was a letter to newly ordained priests. Most of it was fine (the sort of stuff a priest his age would say to new guys), but one of his pieces of advice was just plain wrong. Fr. Daly encouraged new priests to not worry about vestments and just wear what the parish has.

I couldn't disagree more. Anyone who knows me knows that fashion ranks VERY low on my priority list. I wear all black all the time, even when running or working out. My concern with what is worn at Mass is not from a "diva mentality" but rather from attempting to follow the guidance of the Church, which looks to ensure that there is a proper dignity surrounding the things of the Mass.

The Church Herself speaks to the issue of vestments when She says, in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) p. 344 "It is fitting that the beauty and nobility of each vestment derive not from abundance of overly lavish ornamentation, but rather from the material that is used from the design."

Now, Fr. Peter Daly, I would be happy to wear the vestments of a parish, but literally 99.9% of the vestments that I see in a parish don't come ANYWHERE close to being suitable for the Liturgy per the GIRM above. It seems, for the last 30 years or so, that the mindset in the vestment world has been the tackier and uglier the better. There are websites that have a competition for worst vestment in the world which are quite entertaining and worth a look. It would be funny if not also sad at the same time because the problem is so widespread. I usually look in vestment closets when I visit parishes and it is almost always a true disaster. I've seen sequence, plaid, rainbows, polyester, and tons of vestments that are essentially bed sheets with a hole cut out of the center. Trying to decipher which liturgical color an average parish vestment is supposed to be is a true chore these days as well.

As with most things in my generation of priests, those who don't like us too much seem to think that in attempting to restore beauty to the liturgy we have as our true motivation a desire to be carried around on thrones and be viewed as once again important people. Again, if you see me wearing something nice at Mass, please know it is for the glory of God, in keeping with the request of the Church, and not something I'm doing because I have an overly developed sense of self-importance.