Claire Chretien

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Priests wearing cassocks and surplices at the 2015 Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage in Rome


What priests’ cassocks and taxis have in common

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

March 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – French dioceses have done a curious thing by editing an image of a priest to make it appear he’s wearing jeans rather than a cassock. It may seem counterintuitive, but the Catholic Church actually risks becoming irrelevant by trying to be more “relevant,” as it apparently did with this stunt in France.

It seems almost apologetic to edit from this photo something so defining of the Catholic priesthood.

The cassock is the long black robe that was pretty much the “standard uniform” of Catholic priests before the 1960s. It distinguishes a priest – whose voice and hands can literally bring Jesus down to Earth – from the laity.  

A few years ago, a friend made this analogy, and it seems fitting to share it here: If you needed a taxi, wouldn’t you rather hop in one that was yellow and had “taxi” printed on it in large letters than a van whose driver said his vehicle was a taxi, but could produce no proof that it was?

Just as people are more likely to know that a yellow car with “taxi” written on it is in fact a taxi, people are more likely to know that a priest in a cassock is in fact a Catholic priest.

Paradoxically, priests who wear cassocks and lace surplices and intricately-embroidered vestments tend to be quite masculine. They seem comfortable in their priesthood. They know they’re different, and they embrace that difference as an integral part of their vocation and manhood.

Of course, there are wonderful priests who prefer to wear a clerical shirt and black pants, or who for some reason are unable at times to wear their Roman collars.

But a priest in a cassock is a beautiful reminder of the distinction between the ordained and the laity. Priests’ cassocks and the habits nuns wear seem like a sign of their closeness to God and their proper distance from worldly things.

And just as a struggling swimmer views a lifevest floating toward him as, well, a lifesaver, running into an easily identifiable priest is a lifesaver for anyone who needs to ask for prayer or Confession or help. I’m friends with a seminarian and it always strikes me how much people in public light up upon seeing his cassock. More than once he’s had to wistfully tell them, no, he’s not a “father” yet, but yes, he will still pray for them.

It’s because Catholicism is countercultural that so many are attracted to it. It’s a refuge from the world and the world’s emptiness. The Church offers everyone the opportunity to experience the supernatural and get a very tiny taste of what we hope to attain after death.

Priests who wear cassocks act and dress like priests of Jesus Christ because that’s what they are. They know and embrace it. And the laity love them for it.

God bless the nameless French priest whose cassock was subjected to silly treatment by someone misguidedly trying to make him look more “modern.”

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Claire Chretien

Claire is grateful for the opportunity to write about human dignity, bioethics, faith, and related issues for LifeSiteNews as a journalist and Washington, DC Correspondent. She became involved in pro-life activism while a student at The University of Alabama, where she served as the President of Bama Students for Life and directed 40 Days for Life campaigns.