Cassock at Pontifical North American College

Hi everyone,

For any current/former seminarians, or for those who might be familiar with one, what is the current practice of the North American College and Roman seminaries towards the cassock? Is it favored over a clerical shirt/suit? Is it used only for formal occasions? Do many seminarians wear it regularly?

The cassock is used at the Pontifical North American College by those serving Masses, and the choir (both also use the surplice over the cassock at these times). The only other time cassocks are worn are at papal events.

Most seminaries require their seminarians to wear a clerical shirt at most times. If the PNAC is still doing what they were last I checked, seminarians wear clerical shirts in the morning, and change into “business-casual” for afternoons at the college (after classes).

Having seen you post previously on the vocation forms, I want to offer the following advice: Don’t get too hung up on the cassock. I like my cassock. I prefer the look of a cassock to a clerical shirt. But as a seminarian, and even a young priest, you can’t expect to be able to use it all the time (or even often).
There are many priests of a certain age who don’t like the cassock, because they relate it with “clericalism,” or “old-fashion-ness.” Neither of these are necessarily true of course, but many priests have been formed in such a way that this is what they have been told for decades.
If you’re accepted as a seminarian, keep your head low, do what you’re told. If (God willing) you’re ordained a priest, keep your head low still. If you build a rapport with the bishop and priests of the diocese as a priest who’s a good, hard-working associate pastor, after a couple years when you would have your own parish, these things will be given a bit more slack, and you can slowly work into showing more of your personal “style.”

Based on what I have observed in various dioceses, once the older generation of priests retires, a much more traditionally inclined generation of priests will inherit their parishes…we will see a lot more of the cassock down the road…and a lot more chant…and a lot more incense… just need to be patient.

Except in those dioceses, such as mine, with almost no younger priests to inherit the ministries of the older ones.

Also I’m not sure about the three specific things you mentioned.

While the return to the cassock by some young priests was initially a good and beautiful thing, resistance from conservative progressives has meant it has become a symbol of a specific expression of Catholicism, bordering on sectarianism. I think this will kill the cassock in the long term at least among good priests (excluding those in societies that use the cassock as something analogous to a habit).

Incense has the problem of ordinary laypeople who hate it or have reactions to it. In this era of pastoral sensitivity I see this as a hindrance to its comeback.

Chant is great and may continue to make a comeback, but is limited by the skill of singers. Not that it is actually particularly hard to do decently well, but it is not something that can easily be added to your average suburban liturgy without some extra effort and some recrafting of other aspects of liturgical presentation. Finally, some Papal momentum has recently been taken out of this new liturgical movement. The perceived connection of beauty to decadence and stuffiness, and of spartan ugliness to humility and freshness, will continue to complicate efforts to restore a more beautiful liturgy.

Why do you ask?

Any seminarian that is hung up on things like cassocks and clerics is too immature to wear them. That indicates a person is interested in how he is being seen, rather than what he is doing.

I agree with you, but also a cassock is important part of seminarian’s identity … As you mentioned, spiritual life and hard work for Heavens are at the first place…

In Christo,
farter Attempto

:thumbsup:I agree! It’s like a young person choosing to join the Marines because they like the uniform better than an Air Force uniform even though the Air Force might be a much better career choice in the long run. Thank goodness that I belong to a huge Jesuit Parish where the likelihood of someone joining because of clerical wear is almost nil! Most men entering the Jesuits have already completed at least a bachelors degree and are beyond the romantic notion of walking around in a cassock!:rolleyes:

I suppose that really prompts the question of what is a seminarian’s identity? While seminarians should ideally be able to be identified as what they are, at the same time, I think that achieving this (at least outside of liturgical events) is easy to talk about but hard to actually do. One of the difficulties is that diocesan seminarians don’t exactly have a distinct identity given that they’re liminal (that is, on the fringes of both clerical and lay life) but also because they’re on a journey to somewhere rather than actually being somewhere. The difficulty I have with cassocks is that they risk creating an artificial identity which is all too easily able to be assumed by those still searching for their own, true identity and struggling with who they are as a seminarian. Cassocks were adopted as a means of distinguishing laity from clergy to create a distinct priestly identity set apart from those in the world around them. Yet, seminarians are part of the laity and aren’t nearly as removed from the world as they originally were.

So I would say to the OP, just be yourself and let the Holy Spirit work through you to bring out who you really are and not who you (or others for that matter) think you should be. I’d also add that the choice of which seminary you attend isn’t really up to you - it’s a matter for your Bishop and those he entrusts with your formation.


I really like wearing my cassock even outside of liturgical events… I decided to be a seminarian (someday God willing priest) of Almighty God … Again I was. who DECIDED for that way of life, for that victim (sacrifice)…

And yes, even if seminarians are still part of laity they should live like clergy.

Priest is taken from among the people and is appointed for people… - He isn’t part of people any more, he just give up his life and will in order to serve God and people.

As much as I would agree, but the original poster was only asking a simple question about some information. There is no need to assume that he/she is “hung up” on such things.

On another note, cassocks bear a great symbol of humility and charity, just as you would expect a monk to wear only his robes; it is his life, he is a priest and he should live in such humility.

Contrary to that, there is an italian phrase; “il habito non fa il monaco” that is “The habit doesn’t make the monk”, and frankly, if someone were to be interested only in cassocks and vestments, then the Church knows how to recognise that.

I would add however, that an interest in vestments and clerical clothing is still good. It is well within the tradition of Holy Mother Church to say these things are important and valued.

To the original poster, L Marshall has it all correct. Generally, on a day to day basis, the clerical shirt is worn.

For anyone that is interested, here is an excellent video someone from the NAC shared with me last week on Facebook. It’s “A Day in the Life of a Seminarian” at the NAC:

God bless! :gopray2:

Thank you all for the replies.
And thank you to DeusSalusNostra for recognizing that I simply asked an informational question and was not manifesting some sort of unhealthy fixation for the outer trappings of the priesthood. I simply asked because I am genuinely interested in the current status of the cassock in the Church and, so I thought, by understanding the practice in Rome, one can hope to tease out the general practice of the universal Church. My apologies! I should have been more explicit!
Thanks again and Blessed Pentecost!

I was not suggesting that you were. I wanted to point out that if there was any discernment or consideration about where to go in seminary (assuming the diocese/order were giving the choice) those are the last things to be considered.

I simply asked because I am genuinely interested in the current status of the cassock in the Church and, so I thought, by understanding the practice in Rome, one can hope to tease out the general practice of the universal Church. My apologies! I should have been more explicit!
Thanks again and Blessed Pentecost!

The PNAC is not really the standard for the future of the Church (in the US). The PNAC was once the place men went because they wanted to be bishops. It also had a high rate of leaving seminary and priesthood.

Cassocks are often worn in a reactionary way and it is perceived as that.

If what he wears is an important part of his identity, the seminarian does not have one.

Out of topic: He does have, believe me… :smiley: Today priests (and seminarians) need/should witness in the world for Christ - not only with our actions or words but also with our clothing…

And I pray for you Spinonitaliani…

In Christo,
fra Attempto

I am a priest who had to spend 4 years at the NAC as a seminarian. It was no picnic.

We had a rector’s conference where we were told that wearing the cassock has “connotations.” When a classmate asked the rector what these connotations were, the rector started stuttering and couldn’t give a coherent answer. In my time, the cassock was only permitted for papal liturgies. Certain elites were permitted to wear the traditional seminary cassock with the red sash and blue piping and buttons for MCing liturgies in-house. The rest of us had to wear albs to serve Mass and, if I recall, you were lucky if you could wear the cassock under the alb. Perhaps this may have changed; who knows?

Last Things is spot-on - the NAC has a very high attrition rate of priests and seminarians, and it is a place where the reigning spirit is not really the Catholic faith, but rather ecclesiastical political correctness. The quality of studies at quite a few of the Roman institutions is not worthy of being called “university education”. Many questionable things are taught at the Gregorian, which is where many bishops mandate their seminarians study. But then again, skipping class is an old custom in the national colleges.

I have a very happy ministry as a priest and I love the priesthood. I wear my cassock all the time. The only negative comments I have ever received on it have been from other priests. The lay faithful have only complimented it. Sure, people can get hung up on external things, but they also can be a springboard to a deeper love of things eternal. Leave the seminarians alone. Maybe if they’re offered things like classical theology, spirituality and the traditional liturgy rather than pop psychology, IPF pseudo-spirituality and social engineering, they’ll turn their attention from worrying about externals.

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