White albs for servers


i was wondering if anyone knows why altar servers wear white albs? is it because of purity?
thanks! :smiley:


No, it is because the alb is the liturgical garment appropriate for those who serve at Mass.


IIRC, the traditional vestments for altar servers are/were black cassocks with surplices (often white, but I’ve sometimes seen them in other colors, as well). I was told that these cassocks were “reserved” (that is, only allowed to be used by men who were to become priests - often, seminarians will use these when serving - btw, if a seminarian is in residence at a parish, he is to be used as the primary altar server during Mass and primary sacristan before and after Mass).

Albs are pretty much nothing more than white tunics with a cincture. Even though they have been used by ordained men since the earliest days of the Church, there is nothing really special about them - but they do help distinguish the altar servers from the rest of the congregation. Today, though, many parishes are returning to using cassocks and surplices for all servers, regardless of gender.


The white alb signifies the Baptismal garment. It can legitimately be worn, at the discrecion of the celebrant, by any baptized liturgical minister

The cassock is a clerical garment. It has, by (small t) tradition been reserved to the clergy or to those who emulate them.

That emulation would include altar boys, which is why some parishes (like mine) still retain them.


The alb is the baptismal garment of all the baptized. It is appropriate for liturgical ministry.

The cassock and surplice is clerical garb, and can only be worn by men/boys.


Which begs the question - why are parishes starting to allow altar girls to wear cassocks/surplices? (And believe me, many are).


Mostly out of ignorance.

We had a big brouhaha about this at our parish last year. We needed new albs because our old ones were worn out. A couple of parishioners lobbied hard for the surplice and cassock because they “look nice”. They have no idea what a surplice and cassock are, what they are for, who should wear them. The sole criteria was that they “look nicer”. Oh, and they are sold in the catalog showing pictures of both girls and boys wearing them.

They aren’t bad people, they are just ignorant.

We who knew better obtained the appropriate citations from a variety of sources, and from our diocesan office of liturgy and sacraments, that we then were able to use to educate the parish council on the fact that girls cannot wear cassock/surplice.

Our priest is from a foreign country, so I’m not sure if he was following the whole cassock versus alb thing, until the point at which I brought it to the council and flatly stated that only boys could wear cassocks, to which he said, “yes this is right”. So in the final analysis we could have both albs and cassock/surplice with girls wearing albs and boys wearing cassocks (which is common in our diocese). But, then they wouldn’t look the same, so the parishioners that had wanted cassocks gave up on that idea.

And that killed it and we bought albs.


I’d be interested in seeing “appropriate citations from a variety of sources”. I myself have been unable to dig them up. The most reputable citation I can find is Fr. Z’s blog. And I am in need of this, my visiting parish has a very liturgically correct pastor who puts altar women in cassock and surplice (and even all members of the choir, several years ago.)


Our liturgy guy from the diocese emailed a bunch of stuff to my husband. I’ll have to see if he still has the email. It was last summer, so not sure. I should have kept it, but didn’t think of it at the time.


We who knew better obtained the appropriate citations from a variety of sources, and from our diocesan office of liturgy and sacraments, that we then were able to use to educate the parish council on the fact that girls cannot wear cassock/surplice.

I would be interested in these sources and citations since I have never seen anything prohibiting an alter server of either sex from wearing a cassock/surplice and I consider myself very knowledgeable in liturgical norms.


Our Cathedral also allows this.

At the parish where I work, the girls/women wear albs and the boys/men wear cassocks and surplices.

At my home parish, both boys and girls wear red choir gowns. :shrug:


Traditionally of course, the cassock is appropriately worn by clerics, acolytes, and those standing in for acolytes (alter servers) while the alb was worn by all the baptized in the early church. But I’m not aware of any rubric that forbids girls from wearing cassocks. It’s been done at papal Masses.

The GIRM does prefer albs for all lay ministers, regardless of gender. The cassock and surplice do in fact look nicer than the alb but symbolically, the alb is the much better choice for lay servers.


There is nothing liturgically to prevent it, but it’s kinda weird, Sort of like dressing boys up in nun’s habits making that their serving attire.


In my parish we wear a back cassock and a surplice. But I’m looking for a new surplices as mine is old and worn.


1ke. " There not bad people, they’re just ignorant." We who knew better " Your a snob." Thank you Lord for revealing to the meek and humble what you have hidden from we who knew better.

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