Official position on "Cassock-Albs"

Hi. I don't know whether I'm posting in the right place or not (I thought "Liturgy and Sacraments" seemed the right place to ask this), but I wondered whether it's permissible for an acolyte to wear the "Cassock-Alb". I think they're much nicer than the plain albs, and I've been considering getting one, but I haven't been too sure about whether they're just a Church of England (Episcopalian) thing or not.

Any information would be good thanks.

[quote="Matt241, post:1, topic:265702"]
Hi. I don't know whether I'm posting in the right place or not (I thought "Liturgy and Sacraments" seemed the right place to ask this), but I wondered whether it's permissible for an acolyte to wear the "Cassock-Alb". I think they're much nicer than the plain albs, and I've been considering getting one, but I haven't been too sure about whether they're just a Church of England (Episcopalian) thing or not.

Any information would be good thanks.

[/quote]

A "cassock-alb" may be worn by a Catholic altar server. When you stop to think, what are they exactly? An alb with a "finished" neckline that does not require an amice which has more refined styling. Rather than being designed as an undergarment, they are albs that are designed to be worn sans chasuble or dalmatic. For servers they look a heck of a lot better than plain albs with an amice too.

[quote="Matt241, post:1, topic:265702"]
Hi. I don't know whether I'm posting in the right place or not (I thought "Liturgy and Sacraments" seemed the right place to ask this), but I wondered whether it's permissible for an acolyte to wear the "Cassock-Alb". I think they're much nicer than the plain albs, and I've been considering getting one, but I haven't been too sure about whether they're just a Church of England (Episcopalian) thing or not.

Any information would be good thanks.

[/quote]

The best person to ask would be your pastor or liturgy director. If they have objections then whether it's permissible in general really doesn't matter.

In my parish all of the altar servers wear exactly the same thing. Fortunately the company offers sizes that fit everyone from children to adults. If you tried to wear something else, even if you thought it was nicer than what the parish supplies, you wouldn't be permitted to serve.

Perhaps your parish is more open minded about how the servers dress.

Our standard issue servers' albs are the type you throw over your head with a small zip at the front. They don't have pockets or pocket splits so there's nowhere for we ancient servers to put our glasses. The old men therefore wear cassock-style albs with pockets. Because they are all white, the congregation can't tell the difference. (That's the albs, not the congregation that are all white)

The is no particular stipulation as to how altar servers should be robed. They should all have similar robes and they are designed to be inconspicuous. (Sorry, that lacy surplice is out unless you buy one for everybody). I have considered wearing my university fellowship gown and academic hood over the top, but people might mistake me for an Anglican.

I very rarely see priests vesting with a plain alb and amice anymore as the cassock-albs are simply a superior design and they save time. I don't think they are well suited to servers though. I suspect that way it was once most common for servers to wear the cassock and surplice. As someone mentioned they should be inconspicuous. Adult servers in my parish buy their own albs and that arrangement has worked just fine for many years. Now we have a female server who wears a lacy alb fit for an FSSP bishop (it cost over $1,500 in Italy) over a red cassock who looks foolish when she serves Mass. I suspect some reform will be necessary.

Please ask your priest what he prefers servers to wear. Serving at the altar is not a fashion show. Servers should all wear the same vestaments which are usually a simple alb or cassock/surplice. In my experience a parish or church works with one supplier to purchase multiple sizes and to replace worn ones with the same garment. There is usually no need for servers to supply their own alb or cassock.

QUOTE=SenorPaulito;8673404]I very rarely see priests vesting with a plain alb and amice anymore as the cassock-albs are simply a superior design and they save time. I don't think they are well suited to servers though. I suspect that way it was once most common for servers to wear the cassock and surplice. As someone mentioned they should be inconspicuous. Adult servers in my parish buy their own albs and that arrangement has worked just fine for many years. *Now we have a female server who wears a lacy alb fit for an FSSP bishop (it cost over $1,500 in Italy) over a red cassock who looks foolish when she serves Mass. * I suspect some reform will be necessary.

I have seen many a thread here with male servers taking about the special order alb, cassock, or surplice they plan to buy. Or someone who is not yet even in seminary contemplating berretas and other special garments. The desire to dress like a peacock is not limited to females.

If all servers and seminarians (and those discerning a vocation to an order with a super old-fashioned fancy habit) would worry less about their clothes and more about their service, we would probably all be better off.

[quote="Mrs_Sally, post:6, topic:265702"]
Please ask your priest what he prefers servers to wear. Serving at the altar is not a fashion show. Servers should all wear the same vestaments which are usually a simple alb or cassock/surplice. In my experience a parish or church works with one supplier to purchase multiple sizes and to replace worn ones with the same garment. There is usually no need for servers to supply their own alb or cassock.

[/quote]

There is no need for all servers to wear the same albs. You won't find that as a requirement in any liturgical document from the Holy See. That's not the Church's historic tradition in fact. It is common for both clergy and lay servers to wear different albs (or different cassocks and surplices.) In some cases the vestments are handed-down from father to son and brother to brother. But as someone else said, servers should be vested in an inconspicuous manner and they should have their vestments approved and if their pastors require one type of vestment then that local rule should be followed.

[quote="SenorPaulito, post:8, topic:265702"]
There is no need for all servers to wear the same albs. You won't find that as a requirement in any liturgical document from the Holy See. That's not the Church's historic tradition in fact. It is common for both clergy and lay servers to wear different albs (or different cassocks and surplices.) In some cases the vestments are handed-down from father to son and brother to brother. But as someone else said, servers should be vested in an inconspicuous manner and they should have their vestments approved and if their pastors require one type of vestment then that local rule should be followed.

[/quote]

However, if one server is wearing his special-order super-duper cassock-alb and the other is wearing the standard issue garment from the parish, they are not being inconspicuous. And the onus is one the one who is so very concerned about how he looks to be more humble and wear what is hanging in the sacristy. I doubt there are too many men hanging on to the cassock they wore as an altar boy to give to their son these days in the US.

I do not mean to be picking on the OP, simply pointing out that there is a fair number of vestament fashionistos running around this forum.

[quote="Mrs_Sally, post:7, topic:265702"]
QUOTE=SenorPaulito;8673404]I very rarely see priests vesting with a plain alb and amice anymore as the cassock-albs are simply a superior design and they save time. I don't think they are well suited to servers though. I suspect that way it was once most common for servers to wear the cassock and surplice. As someone mentioned they should be inconspicuous. Adult servers in my parish buy their own albs and that arrangement has worked just fine for many years. *Now we have a female server who wears a lacy alb fit for an FSSP bishop (it cost over $1,500 in Italy) over a red cassock who looks foolish when she serves Mass. * I suspect some reform will be necessary.

I have seen many a thread here with male servers taking about the special order alb, cassock, or surplice they plan to buy. Or someone who is not yet even in seminary contemplating berretas and other special garments. The desire to dress like a peacock is not limited to females.

[/quote]

[quote="Mrs_Sally, post:7, topic:265702"]
If all servers and seminarians (and those discerning a vocation to an order with a super old-fashioned fancy habit) would worry less about their clothes and more about their service, we would probably all be better off.

[/quote]

In this case the server just happened to be a female. I didn't infer that it had anything to do with her sex. You are right, some people do get overly wrapped up about vesting. That does not mean that necessarily it comes at a cost of not worrying about their service as you are trying to imply, however.

[quote="Mrs_Sally, post:9, topic:265702"]
However, if one server is wearing his special-order super-duper cassock-alb and the other is wearing the standard issue garment from the parish, they are not being inconspicuous. And the onus is one the one who is so very concerned about how he looks to be more humble and wear what is hanging in the sacristy. I doubt there are too many men hanging on to the cassock they wore as an altar boy to give to their son these days in the US.

I do not mean to be picking on the OP, simply pointing out that there is a fair number of vestament fashionistos running around this forum.

[/quote]

That's not necessarily true. I have a very nice alb that I wear when I serve Mass. If differs from the "standard issue" because it does not terminate mid-shin (it's the correct length), it's the right size (I have a 48" chest), it's clean and it's pressed. If someone knew what to look for and was standing next to me they might also realize that it's linen and not polyester or cotton but in no way is it ostentatious. No matter what, there is certainly no rule in the Church that all servers must wear the exact same garb.

May I just ask if:

  1. The cassock-alb is an officially recognised and permitted liturgical vestment, which more or less functions in lieu of the amice + alb (and no longer requiring the cassock beneath)?

  2. If it serves the function of the cassock, i.e. worn for ordinary use, or i it’s still strictly reserved for liturgical celebrations (as is the character of the alb - “Beyond the historical circumstances, the sacred vestments had an important function in the liturgical celebrations: In the first place, the fact that they are not worn in ordinary life, and thus possess a “liturgical” character, helps one to be detached from the everyday and its concerns in the celebration of divine worship.” From vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/details/ns_lit_doc_20100216_vestizione_en.html )

Thank you and God Bless!

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