Monday, March 10, 2008

Jesuit Fr. James Martin, Makes A Pitch For The Black Cassock

St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, never wished for the members of the Society of Jesus to have any distinctive garb, as did most other religious orders of the time. His idea was that the Jesuits should wear the dress of a "priest in good standing" in the locale.
The Constitutions note that the clothing we wear should be "first...proper; second, conformed to the usage of the country in residence [or "not altogether different"]; and third, in keeping with the poverty we profess." [Const. 577]
Elsewhere, in what are called our Complimentary Norms, it states plainly "there is no specified habit." His thinking seemed to be that Jesuits would dress as other priests did in the region, out of a sense of modesty and poverty, and in solidarity with the rest of the clergy. ......................
There are plenty of good reasons for a distinctive religious habit.
First, it makes the question of what to wear rather simple. (And with a habit, there's less of a need to do much clothes shopping.) Second, it is a sign to the larger world about the very presence of men living in a religious order. Third, it ties the Jesuits back to all those who wore the habit in centuries past. Link (here)

29 comments:

A Simple Sinner said...

Father Martin is going to find himself in an assignment in the Yukon Territory or the Siberian Mission very soon...

A Simple Sinner said...

Maybe that Afganistan mission...

Jesuit John said...

The young man in the photo is not wearing a Jesuit cassock... Jesuit cassocks have no buttons and shold be worn with the cincture knot nearest his right hip.

(Just being picky) :)

Joseph Fromm said...

Jesuit John,
I'll be working on finding a new picture!

JMJ
Joe

Anonymous said...

He brings up a good question: what sticks more with Ignatius' ideas about what a Jesuit should wear nowadays - the cassock or what goes for "priest wear"?

Joseph Fromm said...

Fr. Martin is saying to wear "street cloths" is unacceptable by Jesuit standards.

semper fidelis said...

The heading is completely misleading. If readers follow the link at the end, and read the entire article, Fr. James Martin concludes:

"I've no idea whether the new Jesuit Superior General will return to the cassock, but for now I'm happy that Father Nicolas is wearing the garb of the priests of our day and eschewing a habit in favor the simple Roman collar and suit. It seems modest and "proper," and closely aligned with what St. Ignatius intended. (And for that matter, the Holy See, since the Constitutions are, technically, a Vatican document.)

While some were surprised that Father Nicolas showed up to meet Pope Benedict XVI sans cassock, it reminded me of the need for the Jesuits to use every means to adhere to St. Ignatius's idea of "this least Society," and it seemed a humble thing to do before the pope, and before the world.


In what sense can it be said that he "makes a pitch for the black cassock"?

A Simple Sinner said...

"In what sense can it be said that he "makes a pitch for the black cassock"?"

I believe that is called "cover one's a**"...

As to Jesuit John - if you are a jebbie you are on the inside, but as far as I can tell, Jesuits wore what Jesuits wore... They don't seem to have ever been restricted to the "semi-Jebbie" - but back in the day when they had novices-a-plenty, ordering a distinctive style was definately an option.

semper fidelis said...

"I believe that is called "cover one's a**"... "

Well, then, I believe that you believe wrongly! Have you read the article?

Joseph Fromm said...

Dear Semper Fidelis,
Why did Fr. Martin quote the Jesuit Constitutions, talk about his positive experience in wearing a cassock while working within a gang ministry, he then goes on to explain three reasons its good to wear a cassock; connection past Jesuits, sign of a larger religous world and finally simplifing a Jesuit's life.

Granted, I pulled these statements out of a larger piece. I personnally think Fr. Jim used the broader scale of the article about the Superior General to include these 5 points.

JMJ

Joseph

Jesuit John said...

"Jesuits wore what Jesuits wore"

Righto. Jesuits have worn anything and everything that would appear to further their ends at that particular place and time. But the cassock worn most often by Jesuits today (don't forget, the non-cassock-wearing Jesuits in the US are not the only ones in the world) is what I described earlier.

http://www.norprov.org/vocations/images/daffronpoland.jpg

The one on the left is Polish, the right is an American.

Last I checked, they were in no danger of being sent to Siberia.

A Simple Sinner said...

"Last I checked, they were in no danger of being sent to Siberia"

Nope just Poland... Not in an American Province urging a return to cassocks.

A Simple Sinner said...

Yes, SF.

Every man myst have beliefs!

Joseph Fromm said...

Every Jesuit I saw in Poland wore a cassock. The Jesuits (my Parish)I know, always wear a roman collar during work hours. They will wear street cloths when out with parishoners at social funtions. I regularly see Indian Jesuits on the internet wearing white cassocks. I love the paintings of the Jesuits in the 16th and 17th century looking like the three-muskateers in black. Jesuit John what is the current custom of Jesuits? Their seems to be different standards for Jesuits who are assigned to Parishes, High Schools and Collages. If you are a Jesuit that never wears clericals, why not? I did like to understand your perspective.

JMJ
Joseph

Jesuit John said...

Well, I teach at a high school so I wear black pants and a roman collar every day like the other Jesuits. I wore a cassock one day to teach and the students all loved it while some faculty poked fun at it. I certainly wasn't persecuted for it. I make an exception to wearing the collar when it makes sense, like when I coach football (hot, muddy) or if I am relaxing in a T-shirt and blue jeans away from work. Not being an ordained priest, the collar can be confusing for some people. I go back and forth with myself as to what I should wear for things outside of school, like travel or on the rare occasions that I eat out or attend mass at a parish.

When I worked in Mexico, the parish priests there rarely wore a collar so I stayed away from it as well.

When I studied philosophy at Saint Louis University I wore regular clothes to classes 90% of the time, but made sure to wear the collar when I taught RCIA or helped out with campus ministry. The diocesan seminarians didn't dress differently so I used what they did as my general guide.

I think that is what most Jesuits do. They dress according to what priests in the diocese in that area dress as. That is what our Constitutions suggest.

Being that there is great diversity in how diocesan priests dress, it leaves individual Jesuits in most apostolates to dress according to their own determination. And we choose according to what will be most helpful to us in achieving our end.

We are all aware of the story of Saint Francis Xavier encountering resistance in Japan when he wore his poor black cassock. He wisely switched to the garb of educated men while there.

I think now, though, the case can be made for a strong need for the public witness of a collar. And the cassock seems to be an even stronger witness in so far as it speaks to the timelessness of religious values. Maybe one day I'll be convinced to wear a cassock more often. But for now, I think it runs the risk of appearing prissy or closed to the ideas of Vatican II - neither of which would I consider helpful to my intended ends.

A Simple Sinner said...

"I think it runs the risk of appearing prissy or closed to the ideas of Vatican II - neither of which would I consider helpful to my intended ends."

One could argue, Brother, that avoidance of the cassock so as not to be seen as being "closed to the ideas of Vatican II" may well give ownership of the cassock to men who ARE closed to the ideas of Vatican II.

Where I went to HS, the Jesuits wore shirts and ties... Except for a chemistry teacher... he wore the collar and a labcoat all the time. I don't recall EVER seeing him out of the lab coat except when he was in vestments... And even then I can't swear that the LC wasn't on beneath!

Jesuit John said...

"may well give ownership of the cassock to men who ARE closed"

Excellent point. So I'm left to wonder if, outside of the stronger witness to the "timelessness of religious values" that I mentioned earlier, the cassock still has value here in the U.S.

Why does a Jesuit in a cassock appeal to y'all in a way that a Jesuit wearing a collar doesn't?

I am sincerely interested.

A Simple Sinner said...

"Why does a Jesuit in a cassock appeal to y'all in a way that a Jesuit wearing a collar doesn't?"

It is a dramatic sign of cultural contradistinction and makes it rather clear you are Catholic - whereas the collar has been adopted wholesale by many mainliners...

But honestly, I would be just as happy to see black shirts and collars... Business suits and turtlenecks were the order of the day at my HS...

Jesuit John said...

It may be too late...

http://media.tbo.com/photos/trib/2007/nov/110707white.jpg

That picture is from a protestant mega-church not far from where I am stationed now in Tampa.

A Simple Sinner said...

RE: http://media.tbo.com/photos/trib/2007/nov/110707white.jpg

Any info on who the be-cassocked gent is and what exactly he is doing?

I have noticed that among African American pentecostal/evangelical/holiness churches, cassocks are quite common for preaching.... The colors of the cassocks vary WIDELY. A Black Baptist Church which broadcast locally its Sunday service has a pastor who essentially dresses like a Roman Cardinal in his black Roman Cassock with Red piping.

Jesuit John said...

a very sad story...

Bishop Randy White and his wife Pastor Paula White

Anonymous said...

THE SJS UNTIL THE FORTIES WORE BEADS ON THEIR CASSOCKS...THE SJ CASSOCK WAS ALWAYS CLOSED AT THE COLLAR OR IT HAD A V OPENING....

Joseph Fromm said...

I have been thinking about this subject for a few days now, here are some questions I have been thinking about?

1. After a 5-13 year process to become a priest. Is not the roman collar like a diploma?
2. Police, fireman and grocery store cashiers wear uniforms, for the same they wear a uniform, should not a priest?
3. Just because another priest might call another priest quaint, old-fashioned or dare say pre-V2. Is that reason enugh not to wear a roman collar?
4. If wearing a roman collar is no big deal, then why can't the laity wear a roman collar?
5. Why do totalitarian, communist and socialist dictatorships always start their oppression of the Roman Catholic Church with the banning of clerical garb?
6. If the laity can be told how to dress for Mass or immodest dress is sinful, why can not a priest be told what is proper attire?
7. If a practicing Catholic was not in a state of grace and walked by a Catholic priest walking out the rectory door, but could not tell he was a priest, the man however was seeking reconciliation with Christ and wanted to receive the sacrament of penance. The man then died in a pedestrian vehicular accident moments later. Was that neglagence on the part of the priest?
8. If you are a priest and you wear your collar to the mall, how many times have you been stopped by the laity seeking spiritual guidance?
9. If a priest is a "Good Shepard" how will the lost sheep know he is the shepard, with out the roman collar.

Anonymous said...

WHEN ENTERING A JESUIT HOUSE TODAY WITHOUT THE FATHERS IN CASSOCK/COLLAR THEY LOOK LIKE A NURSING HOME WAITING TO DIE...SINCE THEY DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DRESS.....

Anonymous said...

It is a very sad story that the Society of Jesus has given up on vocations in USA. Many provincials have appointed lay persons and foster that instead of memebers of the sjs to positions within their institutions...the New York Province is a great example of that the Provincial should be removed. They are just men in depends waiting to die....not only in their on nursing home, but all houses.....

Anonymous said...

Jesuits are not called by our lord Jesus Christ, they are self-proclaimed priests and are ruled by the dragon of Revelation.
Those who have have ears, may they understand...

Elaine Schaller said...

Please pray for the Jesuits in the US and the Jesuit universities. Our Pope Francis is one of the few great Jesuits left these days.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? Please pray for the US Jesuits and the Jesuit schools and universities. Our Pope Francis is one of the few authentic Jesuits left. St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

Anonymous said...

Why is wearing a black suit with the collar considered more "humble" than wearing a cassock? I am referring to the comment here discussing Father Nicolas greeting the pope wearing a suit as a "humble thing to do." The cassock is a simple black robe with a cloth belt--a pretty humble and modest garb if you ask me. Ultimately, a priest should dress appropriately for ministry, just as I would expect any other secular professional or church minister to do. I grew up in the 70's and 80s and am just a little tired of (still) seeing priests (and sisters) dressing inappropriately and sloppily for their duties--sandals and shorts under albs for funerals, despite the air conditioning working well. Let's have some common sense and some respect for self and others. And let's stop jumping to conclusions about priests who decide to wear a suit, a cassock, cuffs, no cuffs, drive a junk box, a new car or take the buss. What a distraction this is becoming in the Church.