Black Clothes and White Collars

The easily recognizable clothes of a Catholic priest distinguish him from the laity and provide a visible sense of the sacred in the world.

Priests in the early Church dressed normally but priestly attire gradually evolved into clothing more appropriate to their sacred calling and service in the person of Christ.

Outside of Mass, a priest’s clerical suit or clerics consist of the familiar black shirt and pants with a Roman collar. Priests may also wear a long anke-length black robe called a cassock.

Associated with death, the color black symbolizes that the priest has died to himself and his worldly desires. His clothes remind him that he has given his life to God and the people that He has entrusted to his care.

The white of the Roman collar or collarino represents purity, hope, and light. Placed at the throat, it indicates the evangelization and worship that the priest will do with his voice in answering his calling. The collar is also a sign of obedience to the Church.

The thirty-three buttons on the front of a cassock represent the age of Jesus when He was crucified and the five on the sleeve represent the wounds on his hands, feet, and side. The fascia, a sash that symbolizes celibacy, wraps around the waist of the cassock.

Priestly attire that identifies and symbolizes:

Giving witness and offering invitation:

“They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent Me into the world, so I sent them into the world.”

John 17: 16-18

Not of the world but in the world:

Dead to the world but alive for Christ:

A reminder to the priests and people:

An external symbol of an internal reality:

Do not be afraid, in doing so, of being separated from your faithful and from those to whom your mission intends you. It would separate you from them much more if you forget or neglect the sense of consecration that distinguishes your priesthood. Being one more, in the profession, in the lifestyle, in the way of dressing, in political commitment, would not help you to fully realize your mission; you would defraud your faithful who want you to be priests in their entirety.

Pope John Paul II, Homily, 8 November 1982

Dressing to unite with Christ:

Conformed to his vocation:

In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis: It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi). Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1548

Public witness to the world:

Revealing a life given to Jesus:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Engaged by beauty and intellect:

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