Friday, July 29, 2011

A Liturgical Rant: Wearing Underwear Over Outerwear

OK, so this isn't a post dealing with a particularly earth-shaking issue!  Still, it's something that continues to crop up and I get questions about it all the time, so I thought I'd address it.  The issue?  The horrible practice of wearing the deacon stole OVER the dalmatic!

I'm old enough to remember very well the days prior to the Second Vatican Council.  I began serving Mass in 1957 when I was seven years old, and often served two or three Masses a day.  I then spent high school and college in the seminary during and after the Council; liturgically, that's a lot of experience!  I first served as a liturgical Master of Ceremonies when I was 15.  OK, that's some background.

For centuries, the accepted practice for all clerics in the major orders was to wear the amice, alb, cincture, and maniple.  Over these foundational vestments, the subdeacon added the outer vestement of the subdeacon, the tunicle.  Over those same foundational vestments, the deacon added the stole (tied diagonally and held in place by the cincture) and then the outer vestment of the deacon, the dalmatic.  Over those same foundational vestments, the priest added the stole (worn crossed over his chest and held in place by the cincture) and then the outer vestment of the priest, the chasuble.  Notice the pattern?  THE OUTER VESTMENT, by definition, was worn OVER EVERYTHING ELSE!

Catholic clergy didn't adopt the Protestant practice of a "preaching stole" worn over other vestments.

So -- what happened?  Why do priests and now some deacons choose to wear these so-called "overlay" stoles?  How did this liturgical novelty catch on, DESPITE liturgical guidance (read: law) otherwise?

Let's get the legal stuff out of the way.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the GIRM) has always stated that the dalmatic or chasuble is worn OVER the stole and other foundational vestments.  Period.  So why do some choose to wear their liturgical "underwear" over their liturgical "outerwear"?

I think there are a couple of things at play here.

First -- and this is a good thing -- we have seen a wonderful emphasis on the primary role of the bishop, presbyter and deacon for preaching the Good News.  I get that, and support it.  This led some priests, immediately after the Council, to adopt the common practice of other Christian churches to wear the stole, associated by many of those Churches with the function of preaching, OVER their chasubles.  Vestment makers picked up on this and began to design "overlay" stoles.  Still, it's worth noting that the liturgical law of the Church has NOT changed on this regard: it still tells us to wear the stole UNDER the chasuble/dalmatic.  What's next, wearing the cincture over the chasuble/dalmatic?  How about throwing on an amice over everything?  That would be an interesting look, too!

Second -- for deacons, many of us are still getting used to the dalmatic.  After the Council, most parishes got rid of their old "Mass sets": fiddleback chasubles, dalmatics/stoles, and tunicles.  New liturgical vestment styles were developed, except that in the late 1960s and early 1970s these often didn't include vestments for the deacon, since the permanent diaconate was still in its infancy.  This led to expedient of wearing an alb along with a "priest" stole tied or pinned diagonally.  There were very few dalmatics.  This led to the liturgical innovation of a deacon of the Mass wearing only an alb and a stole: this was NEVER the practice prior to the Council.  So, deacons often associated the stole as the primary sign of their Order of Deacon.  HOWEVER, the actual sign of the deacon is the DALMATIC: that is the vestment unique to the diaconate (and the episcopate).  So, when overlay stoles were developed by the vestment makers, they gradually extended that mistake to the deacon's vestments as well, and some deacons have embraced it because they can wear "their" identifying vestment (mistakenly assumed to be the stole) in plain view over the dalmatic.

During this time of ongoing liturgical renewal, it seems a good time to get back to the basics: Wear the stole UNDER the dalmatic!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Lesson for Sinatra, an insight for all of us

Bob Greene over at CNN has a nice little story about Frank Sinatra, and his friendship with Pasquale "Patsy" Scognamillo who owned what became known in the 1950's as the singer's favorite restaurant.  It seems that the men became friends when both were about to make it big, Frank in entertainment, and Patsy with his own popular restaurant.  Then, when Sinatra's career tanked for a time in the early 1950's, Patsy and his restaurant became sources of comfort and support.

Patsy's grandson still runs that restaurant, and the family recounts this time justifiably with great pride. Greene writes,
 A person recalls how he is treated not when he is on top of the world, undefeated, but when he is at his lowest, thinking he will never again see the sun.
 This is such a good insight for all people of faith.  Not only do we ourselves remember how we were treated when we were down, it is a reminder about how we treat others when they are most in need.  As Greene points out, many people didn't want to be seen with Sinatra during his "down" time, but Patsy reacted with generosity and compassion.  That's a good lesson for all of us, especially those of us who are deacons.

Read the whole story here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

On the Road to Tucson: Fundamentals

I just arrived in one of the greatest cities around -- Tucson, Arizona.  I'm here for an annual gathering of the diaconate communities of the dioceses/archdioceses that comprise Region XIII.  It's always a wonderful event, with lots of great fellowship, wonderful food and drink, and conversation.  They've asked me to talk about "The Diaconate in the Liturgy: Past, Present, Future."  That's quite a broad topic, but here's what I plan on doing.

There's been a lot of talk about the implementation of the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal in a few months, and so most of the folks have already been to classes and workshops on the particulars.  I don't want to prattle on about things they already know.  What I think (hope!) will be far more beneficial is to really turn the clock back and reflect on WHY we have the Mass in the first place!  We often spend all kinds of time talking about WHAT the Mass is, and WHAT TO DO at Mass, and many times we don't have a real clue about WHY we're doing it in the first place!

We are going to start with the most fundamental dogma of the Church.  That will be my first challenge to the deacons and wives present tomorrow at my presentations: Just what IS the most fundamental DOGMA of the Catholic Church.  A dogma, of course, is a teaching (doctrine) of the Church that we believe is divinely-revealed.   Think about that for a minute.  What do YOU think that most fundamental dogma is?

If you said the TRINITY, you get a gold star, or maybe we should make it a gold triangle!  So, the first thing we're going to do is talk about the Trinity.  Where did that whole idea come from?  What led Christians to take the ONE GOD of the Jewish faith and further define that ONE GOD as being in Three divine Persons?  Why was such a radical step necessary?

Because Christians had to answer a very important question, one that they'd been wrestling with since Jesus asked if of Simon at Caesarea Philippi: "Who do you say that I am?"  Every Christian has to answer that question for himself or herself.  Well, the range of possible answers includes: "You are a man," "You are God", "You are neither God nor Man," and "You are both God and Man."  But here's the rub.  If you answer that Jesus is simply a man, you have no problem.  But if your answer involves Jesus being divine, you then have to figure out HOW to explain His relationship to the ONE GOD.  Of course, as any good church historian will tell us, these dicussions about who Christ is (the Christological debates) and who God is (the Trinitarian debates) occupied many of the early centuries of the church's life as disciples struggled to explain all of this.

And while all of this debating was going on, faithful Christians continued to gather in their various communities and traditions to worship Mystery through the breaking of bread as modeled for them by Christ.  Those earliest Christians didn't wait till they had answers to all their questions before they acted: they lived and acted out of sheer faith.

We'll get into many things tomorrow, but this will be our starting point.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Moving On. . . . What shall we talk about?

OK, I'm all settled in (well, mostly) to my new jobs, and there's been so much on the news (both religious and secular) to choose from!  I entered (briefly) into the whole Corapi mess, but now it's definitely time to move on.

So, what shall we talk about about?  What's on YOUR mind these days?