Seminaries and Cassocks

I noticed this news update on St. Charles Borromeo’s seminary website : Cassock Day!

I never knew that modern seminaries (i.e. not traditionalist ones) have a reception of the cassock ceremony. It is good when they bring back these old traditional customs and habits - it makes the seminarians remember that they are clerics, and therefore should be more vigilant about where they go, what they do. It is also a sacramental. Clergy shirts just don’t look very roman :stuck_out_tongue:

Are there any other modern seminaries, where the seminarians wear the cassock around the seminary and church and in public?

The Old College Undergraduate Seminary (the minor seminary) and Moreau Seminary (the major seminary) operated by the Congregation of Holy Cross permit seminarians to wear cassocks and surplices during liturgical functions. It’s a step forward from the days of no clerical garb :thumbsup:

Plus, many younger Holy Cross religious are also wearing their habits more often than prior generations.

I can’t wait to receive my own cassock and surplice during our “cassock day” for my sophomore year.

The practice varies from seminary to seminary and diocese to diocese. For example, at my seminary, the cassock is an option for those in Theology, but they may also wear the clerical shirt. In some dioceses, all seminarians may wear the cassock, but in some others, they may not wear it until ordination. I’m curious–why do you think the clergy shirt “doesn’t look very Roman?”


Just a note. Seminarians are not clerics, they are still a part of the laity.

One does not become a cleric until ordination to the diaconate.

because you see protestant ministers wearing them too.

Rarely, you see a protestant minister in a cassock, unless he’s anglican, but you can tell because it’s a different cut. The ministers in the south who wear the coloful showy preaching gowns…those r just plain flashy

That doesn’t make it less Roman, though. I can see this argument being used for a lot of legitimately Catholic practices–that since Protestants use them they’re not as faithful to our identity. But that’s not always the case. Plus, Eastern clergy make use of both the clerical shirt and the cassock, probably more commonly the latter. Bottom line, I don’t think it’s a useful practice to cut out certain things because Protestants do them. And most ministers in the South tend to wear a suit from what I’ve seen–either with a clerical shirt of some kind or just with a shirt and tie.


except those who receive the tonsure.

I believe that there are some misunderstandings here.

  1. The cassock is not an ancient form of dress. Actually, the cassock, as we know it today, is a very modern concept, probably originating in the early 1500s.

  2. The clerical shirt is not of Catholic origin. It began with the Church of Scotland. It was a substitute the cassock.

  3. The cut in the collar is irrelevant. Some cassocks have the smaller cut and some have the larger cut. That’s a cultural thing, not a denominational thing. In some countries Catholics and Anglicans have the wider opening at the top. The same is true about the solid white band. Some Catholics wear it.

  4. The cassock is not a exclusively a clerical garb. At the founding of the Jesuits, the male habit was set aside by most religious except friars and monks. The Jesuits introduced the cassock to the religious life and other religious congregations followed suit. Many of them are congregations of brothers only or congregations of brothers and priests, both wear the cassock or the clerical shirt.

  5. A man becomes a cleric when he is ordained a deacon. The tonsure, while it is retained in the Ecclesia Dei societies and communities, is no longer the conferral of the clerical state. The ritual has been kept by these communities, but Canon Law does not recognize tonsured men as clerics. There is a reason for this. There are monastic communities and many Franciscan communities that still tonsure everyone. However, these communities are not clerical communities. They have clerics, which is not the same as being communities of clerics. Some don’t have any clerics. Canon Law defines the cleric. In the Code of 1983, the clerics are the clergy: deacons, priests and bishops.

  6. The cassock day should not be confused with the investiture day. I know that some people believe it’s the same thing. It’s not. Investiture is the official entrance into the consecrated life. It happens on the first day of novitiate. From that day forward, the young man or woman is canonically a consecrated religious, even though he or she is not yet in vows. Those young men who are entering religious communities that wear a cassock instead of a habit, such as the Holy Cross Fathers and Brothers, receive their cassock on the day that they enter the novitiate, because from that day forward, they are Holy Cross religious, Jesuit religious, Salesian relgious, etc. That’s why you may see a young Holy Cross man wearing a cassock and his diocesan classmate in street clothing.

  7. The cassock day is not a requirement, whereas investiture is a canonical requirement as the official beginning of the consecrated life. The diocesan seminarian is not a consecrated man. Therefore, it’s up to the bishop to decide when he can wear the cassock for daily dress. In most diocese, this does not happen until the man is ordained a deacon. But there is no hard and fast rule on this. Cassock Day is actually a Post Vatican II development. It did not exist prior to Vatican II. This ritual mimics the investiture ceremony of religious. Prior to Vatican II and for many years after it, there was simply a point when you put on the cassock.

  8. The term “minor seminary” referred to high school seminary. Philosophy and Theology were major seminary. In Europe, they took place in one school. In the USA, we started the custom of studying philosophy at the undergraduate level and theology at the graduate level. The Europeans did not have this BA & MA system of education. You graduated from high school and you entered university and stayed there until you came out a priest. For example, someone like Pope Benedict never received a BA and an MA. He simply went to seminary and came out with a Sacred Theology Licentiate. It was a six-year program from high school graduation until you finished your degree. Then went back for a Sacred Theology Doctorate, which was optional.

  9. When high school seminaries closed, the term “minor seminary” shifted to the undergraduate level seminary.

Having said all this, I think it’s a nice thing to have a point and special ceremony when the secular seminarian receives his cassock.


Br. JR, OSF :christmastree1:

we did have something similar to this at our seminary but it wasn’t a receiving cassock type thing even though the ceremony was based of this one. It was kinda an in-house welcome in new seminarians type thing.

Thanks, Br. JR! I always love reading your insights! :thumbsup:

Yes, during one’s fifth year in the Congregation of Holy Cross, he goes to the novitiate were he receives what we’ve been told as a “work habit,” which I guess is a “work cassock” essentially.

But during his second year in Old College, he receives a cassock and surplice at one of the opening Log Chapel masses of the new school year. He’s only allowed to wear them when serving at mass though.

After novitiate, Holy Cross religious are allowed to wear the “habit” (which as you say is simply a cassock with a pectoral crucifix and a shoulder cape) during Mass and outside of liturgical functions for special occasions. They kind of ease you into it.

The work cassock is to the congregations what the novice’s habit is to the orders.


Br. JR, OSF :christmastree1:

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