“They why worry about it?” yawned the Liturgiologist. “We’re doing better than some of the brethren, for we haven’t taken off the Roman Collar, and I, for one, have no intention of doing so. And what do we care if we are sometimes mistaken for Ministers? After all, we’re merely trippers, here today and gone day after tomorrow. And, certainly, we’d feel mighty queer in our cassocks. What if we’d worn ‘em this afternoon at Pompeii?”
“Of course you’re right,” conceded the Antiquary. “But, really, I don’t see that we’re justified in dispensing ourselves from the rule at home. I mean so far as the time we spend in the house and grounds of the parish church. The Act of Baltimore, which I cited just now, plainly says, ‘We wish therefore, and we command that all (ecclesiastics) keep the law of the Church, and, whether at home or in church, always wear the cassock, which is the proper garb for Clerics.’ Isn’t it rather stretching the favores ampliandi sunt when we habitually appear in our coat tails, and only put on our cassocks when we go into the church, and not always then?”
“I believe you are right, Pere,” said the Liturgiologist, in a slightly muffled voice. “Though I must confess that I’m not so strict in my observance of the rule as you are. Seeing the Priests here going about in their cassocks certainly impresses one as right and fitting, though we laugh when our Anglican neighbors do the same thing at home. But I don’t think I’ll wear mine outside, except when we go to see the Pope, and I don’t believe anybody will find fault with me for not doing so. But I’m certainly going to be more particular when I get home.”
“Bene, benissime!” murmured the Antiquary. “And meanwhile, what about pyjamas?”
“Which is a polite hint for me to seek the seclusion of my own cabin,” grunted the Liturgiologist, heaving his vast bulk reluctantly up from the chaise longue. “Maybe if we had simars to wear we’d keep the letter of the law a bit better.”
“Simars?” queried the Antiquary, escorting him to the bedroom door. “Oh yes, Habitus Pianus, a Prelate’s house gown. Of course, it isn’t a cassock at all. I’ve noticed the Monsignori are rather fond of them, and some, who never wore a cassock outside of church before they got the purple, wear them even when they ought to appear in said purple. Well, maybe the Pope will give you one, since the Bishop doesn’t seem inclined—”
“Good night!” snapped the Liturgiologist, as he disappeared into his bedroom, across the corridor.
1 An Italian word that describes a room with an open outer wall, or type of porch or gallery, but with enclosed sides (or ends).
2 A type of reclining chair with a leg rest.
3 Another Italian word referring to a type of long-sleeved, light jacket.
4 A French phrase that translates literally as “table of the host” and referring to a restaurant or hotel meal.
5 The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore was held in 1884 and its decrees were binding upon the clergy in the United States. For more on its decrees of clerical dress, see this external resource “Clerical Attire: The Origin of the Obligation: Codicial and Recent Discipline, Governing Legislation from the Conference of Bishops in the United States of America, and Particular Legislation in the United States of America”.
6 This Latin term for the cassock (or soutane in French) literally means “ankle-length garment”. The word “cassock” is derived from the Middle French word “casque”, which means a long coat.
7 A type of frock coat from the Victorian period and commonly attributed to Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s consort), and thus its name.
8 Latin for “according to the legitimate local customs”.
9 Latin for “strictly speaking”.
10 That is, those who have priestly faculties—or ordinary jurisdiction—in that particular region.
11 A Latin phrase that means “favors are to be enlarged” from the juridical statement that “the condition of the defendant must be favored”. In this case though, this phrase is more in keeping with the English idiom of “pushing one’s luck”.
12 The French word “simar” means a flowing robe or type of long and loose jacket. As an ecclesiastical term it refers to a type of cassock that includes buttoned elbow length over-sleeves, cuffed sleeves and a pellegrina, or shoulder cape. It was nicknamed in Italian the “abito piano” (and in this chapter rendered tongue-in-cheek in Latin) meaning “the habit—or dress—of Pius” after Pope Pius IX popularized (or rather allowed) the wearing of it during Papal Audiences as a type of formal dress.
The Ecclesiastical Garb
Peregrinus Goes Abroad
Part 2: Peregrinus Goes Abroad; Chapter 25
Outside the long windows of the Antiquary’s room, high up in a corner of the Hotel Santa Lucia which faced away from the fortress of The Egg, and looked out across the Bay of Naples towards Vesuvius, there was a wide loggia, ending in a balcony with a high wrought-iron railing. At one side of a little table, in this loggia, there was a wicker chaise longue upon which the portly form of the Liturgiologist might be discerned in the darkness, stretched out senza coat and collar, while the Antiquary, senza both and also shoes, lolled (the word is as undignified as that usually courtly Cleric’s attitude) in an arm chair. On the little table were the remains of supper, for neither of them had felt equal to facing the table d’hote after a strenuous day, which had begun at the National Museum and gone through a warm afternoon at Pompeii, bringing them back to Naples through an opalescent twilight, which had but now faded slowly to darkness, pricked by the lights of small pleasure boats nearby on the Bay, and made memorable by the sound of music over the water and the promise of a moon ere long.
“We were to discuss the Clerical Garb at this session,” remind the Liturgiologist. “You’re more a Canonist than I, and I’ve noticed you’re particular about wearing your cassock around the place at St. Inveteratus.”
“Well,” drawled the Antiquary, “I suppose that the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (Acta et Decreta n. 77) raised to the status of law the custom of Clerics appearing on the streets in secular garb—”
“Do you call ‘a coat of black or somber color, reaching to the knees,’ secular garb? snorted the Liturgiologist.
“Why, surely,” replied the Antiquary. “In contradistinction to the prescribed vestis talaris. It seems evident that American Clerics are, so to speak, dispensed from wearing the cassock everywhere, on the condition that they substitute for it a costume almost equally distinctive yet sufficiently resembling ordinary lay dress to keep them inconspicuous.”
“Inconspicuous indeed!” growled the Liturgiologist, the light of battle in his eye. “Now I would be inconspicuous walking down Main Street in a Prince Albert, wouldn’t I?”
“Well, we’ll have to admit that ‘legitimate custom’ has been at work since the Fathers of Baltimore adjourned,” replied the Antiquary quietly. After the day’s exertions he was in no mind for battle, though no activity seemed ever able to deprive his beloved confrere of his inherent pugnacity.
“But what I wanted to get at is whether we ought to wear our cassocks on the street while we’re in a Catholic country, where it is not only the custom but the law for Clerics to so dress. ‘Secundum legitimas locorum consuetudines’ says Canon 136, if I remember rightly. Of course it isn’t a question of incurring the penalties of Canon 2379 if we don’t, because no one has admonished us, or is likely to. And it seems to be the custom for visiting Clerics, not only Americans but others, to lay aside the Clerical Garb, stricte loquendo, when traveling abroad.”
Wearing the frock coat style named after him.
Simple cassock of a priest.