Tag: Vestments

Why Do Franciscan Friars Wear Brown? What Does Their Vestments Signify? 

Why Do Franciscan Friars Wear Brown? What Does Their Vestments Signify? 

It’s one of the most iconic and recognizable religious habits in the world. The image of a preaching Friar, in a simple brown robe with a humble cinture, is a powerful, evocative, and indelible image. But why exactly do Franciscans wear brown? Let’s take a close look at how the classic brown robes of the Franciscans came to be. 

By Canon Law, the numerous religious orders existing within the Catholic Church each wear their own distinctive garb according to the customs and laws of their institute. While it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of them all, the most easily recognizable religious robes may be those coarse brown ones worn by Franciscan friars, which are usually tied with a three-knotted rope, and paired with sandals. We can recognize a Franciscan’s robes from 100 yards away, but how did their brown color become the standard for their order.

Living simply.

Franciscan friars live their lives in solidarity with the poor, taking vows of poverty and living with few possessions. The Rule of St Francis does not prescribe any particular color to the order, but it does invite its members to “wear humble garments,” to “dress in cheap clothing.” The Franciscans serve the poor at their level and it would not help their mission to be covered in finery while serving the destitute.

Earth tones reflect the earthly body.

Every order which takes a vow of poverty does so in order to demonstrate that possessions are not what define us, and to follow the words of Christ in Matthew 19:21:

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

OFM.org, homepage to the Ordo Fratrum Minorum, cites a biographer who mentions the saint’s admiration of the plain lark, suggesting that brown reflects earthly life and the works of the order to relieve earthly suffering:

“Its plumage is earthy. It gives example to religious women and men that they should not have elegant and fine attire, but rather wear dull colors, like that of the earth.”

In the beginning, brown was all they had.

St. Francis began his order about 809 years ago, in 1209. At the time the brothers’ robes were supplied by peasants, who often were not much wealthier than the Franciscans. The most common color worn by the peasant class of the dark ages were varying shades of gray and brown, depending on the source of wool that was used. Undyed cloth was the cheapest available. The robe worn by St. Francis preserved at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels is gray. The Franciscans, whose clothing is meant to be utilitarian and long-lasting, were unconcerned by color, but as their influence grew, brown simply became “their color.”

The color served another purpose as well. When the order first began, the brothers lived among the leper colony of Rivo Torto near Assisi, and spent much of their time climbing the mountainous region of Umbria in order to bring relief to the needy. The friars would often sleep in dirt, and the brown color was useful in helping them to still look relatively clean.

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a more recent branch of the followers of Francis, are known for their gray habits.

The cincture.

Another distinctly Franciscan trait of their garb is the cincture, a long corded rope with three knots tied into it that is worn around the waist. While the cincture does help to keep the sack robes closed on gusty days, the three knots represent Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, the three cornerstones of the Franciscan Order.

The hood.

While most Franciscan habits have an attached hood, one branch is distinctive for its long hoods, known as capuches. The Capuchin Franciscans take their name from this distinctive feature, and have in turn given their name to the capuchin monkey (who seems to be wearing a hood) and to cappuccino, the coffee beverage that echoes the coloring of the Franciscan habit.

What Is A Chasuble? And Why Do Catholic Priests Wear It During Mass? 

What Is A Chasuble? And Why Do Catholic Priests Wear It During Mass? 

The Roman casula went out of style ages ago, but the Church held on to it through the centuries.

During holy Mass, you’ll always see the priest wearing a distinctive garment unlike anything in modern-day fashion. It typically has some sort of embellishment or symbol on it, and comes in several different colors.

What is it and why do priests still wear them?

Since ancient times, whenever a priest celebrated the sacrifice of the Mass he would put on a large poncho-like garment called a casula (chasuble) that covered his ordinary clothing. This vestment developed from the ordinary Roman attire of a farmer, who wore the large poncho to protect him from the elements. It eventually became associated with Christians in the 3rd century.

As the fashion trends shifted the chasuble ceased to be an ordinary garment but was still used by priests. By the 8th century the chasuble was reserved for clergy members and began to be ornamented in a way that reflected its sacred function.

At first the chasuble was large and bulky, and required the help of other attendants at the liturgy to gather the many folds to better facilitate the movements of the priest. Over time it was cut down in shape, most extreme in the case of the “fiddleback” style chasuble during the last few centuries.

The symbolism of the chasuble can be found expressed in the traditional prayer that a priest prays before putting it on.

Domine, qui dixisti: Iugum meum suave est, et onus meum leve: fac, ut istud portare sic valeam, quod consequar tuam gratiam. Amen

O Lord, who has said, “My yoke is sweet and My burden light,” grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace.

The chasuble is seen as the “yoke of Christ” and reminds the priest that he is “another Christ” in the sacrifice of the Mass and to “put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:24).

Additionally, the chasuble symbolizes the “seamless garment” worn by Christ when he was led to his crucifixion. This further accentuates the connection between the priest, the Mass, and the sacrifice of Jesus on the crossA common ornamentation of the chasuble is a large cross on the back or front of the vestment to further cement the symbolism. The color of this vestment is coordinated with the symbolic color of the liturgical season or feast.

For these reasons, the Church holds on to this ancient garment, reminding the priest (and the people) that the Mass is not an ordinary event, but one that is sacred and like nothing else on the face of the earth.

Why Do Priest And Deacons Wear Stole?  

Why Do Priest And Deacons Wear Stole?  

A cross section of Priest with green coloured stole above their necks.

​Why do priests (and deacons) wear a stole?

The small piece of fabric is one of the most important vestments worn by ordained clergy.One of the most significant vestments a member of the ordained clergy wears is a simple strip of material called a stole.

The Vatican’s Office of Liturgical Celebrations explains, “The stole is the distinctive element of the raiment of the ordained minister and it is always worn in the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals. It is a strip of material that is embroidered, according to the norm, whose color varies with respect to the liturgical season or feast day.”

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