Friday, June 26, 2009


So . . .

You are on a plane and a man in clerical attire sits next to you and you are wondering if this guy is priest or a bishop. You might look at his ring finger to see if he is wearing a signet ring (reported here some time ago) but too often priests take it upon themselves to wear rings also.

The best bet is to see if you see if you can spy a chain crossing his chest beneath his suit coat. That is the chain to his pectoral cross worn by abbots, bishops, cardinals, and popes. It is a cross worn about the neck but it differs from what most people wear in a number of ways. First it is worn low on the body, below the heart, it is larger than what most people would wear, and is usually of precious material and often bejeweled but should not be ostentatious.

It is not a symbol of authority (as is, for example, the crosier) but that of the office of bishop. As such it is to be worn showing at all times (hence you can pick a bishop out in a crowd. This is particularly true in places where everyone is in cassock and there are monsignors about as they wear the same kind of cassock.) The exceptions to this is when he is wearing his black suit (and you see just the chain, the cross being in his breast pocket) and when he is wearing a chasuble.

With a suit it is usually attached with a gold chain. With liturgical attire it is attached with a green rope (the original color of the episcopacy – you can see this in the color of the hat in their coat of arms) intertwined with gold.


Mikki said...

Might be simpler to just ask.

Anonymous said...

Father, I would appreciate learning more about the vestments the priest wears at Mass, including their history and spiritual significance. Thanks!