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From Costume of Prelates of the Catholic Church According to Roman Etiquette, by the Rev. John A. Nainfa, S. S.; Baltimore: Metropolitan Press, John Murphy Company, Publishers; 1909; pp. 7-10.



The contents of this little book will be new, doubtless, to most readers. Indeed, the first reason that prompted its composition was the fact that there is not in the English language any other work on this subject.

Really, if we except the important writings of Mgr. Barbier de Montault, we find scarcely anything treating ex professo of this matter. The works of this learned Prelate deserve the reputation they enjoy; for they are a mine of erudition. The information they furnish is, as a rule, remarkable for its accuracy. It seems, however, that a serious lack of order, numerous and useless digressions, and the aggressive tone in which these works have been written, have proved a serious hindrance to their popularity.

To this first reason, rather negative, for its publication, I might add a second, that of positive utility. With the exception of Italy, there is no other country in which the proportion of Prelates is larger than in the United States. Now these Prelates would naturally desire to have their official costume conform as far as possible to the rules and prescriptions of the Church with regard to its color, shape, trimmings, etc. They will find this manual at least useful as a book of reference in matter of the costume which they are privileged to wear.

Such a manual seems almost a necessity when we remember that tailors, in making ecclesiastical costumes, very often follow their own tastes, fancies or designs, instead of the very clear and precise rules of ecclesiastical etiquette. With this manual in hand, they would have o longer an excuse for the mistakes they make.

Even our good Sisters and pious ladies, who so kindly and generously shower Christmas presents on the Clergy, 8 in the shape of birettas, “rabbis,” surplices, cottas, and other articles of clerical dress, need to be informed that the material, color, shape, trimmings, etc., of these objects are regulated not by the rich taste, generous liberality or devotion of the giver, but by ordinances of the Church.

May I not hope, then, that this little book, in spite of its shortcomings and imperfections, will prove useful to those interested, and be a guide where needed in the making up of ecclestical costumes?

With regard to the various costumes worn by Prelates, the will of the Church has been that modifications, however excellent and, in some way, justifiable, should not be left to private fancy; for she clearly foresaw that, after a short lapse of years, such toleration would practically do away with a unity at once beautiful and instructive.

Therefore has she laid down for all these costumes precise regulations that should not be lightly put aside. Two Roman Congregations, the Congregation of Rites and the Congregation of the Ceremonial, are especially commissioned to watch over the exact observance of these rules and to secure their preservation.

It is to the decrees of these two Congregations that I have chiefly had recourse in compiling this manual. The decrees of the Congregation of Rites are quoted from the Collections of Gardellini and Muhlbauer. As to the Decrees of the Congregation of the Ceremonial, as there exists no official Collection, I have had to rely on the authors who quote them. To the decrees. I have joined the prescriptions of the Ceremonials, and especially of the official books of the Church, the Missal, the Ceremonial of Bishops, and the Roman Pontifical, which contain a wealth of interesting and instructive Rubrics.

Finally, for the interpretation of decrees and rubrics, and for the modern adaptation of all these rules, I have consulted authors generally considered the best, who have 9 devoted their lives to original research in this matter, such as Mgr. Martinucci — “ Rex Ceremoniariorium” — Mgr. Barbier de Montault, the Rev. Fr. Haegy, C. S. Sp., in his new edition of “ Les Cérémonies Pontificales” of the learned Father Levavasseur, etc.

As to matter that is not to be found in books, I have invariably followed Roman Tradition, the only one of authority on this point as on all others.

It goes without saying that I have not failed to mention lawful customs where these exist.

Before closing these few remarks, it is my duty to acknowledge my debt of gratitude to all who have in any way been a help to me in rendering this small volume less unworthy of its readers. They have my sincere thanks.

I add that I shall gratefully accept any suggestions that might aid me to improve this first essay, and declare that all the contents of this book, both in general and particular, are respectfully and cheerfully submitted to the judgment of ecclesiastical authority.


Baltimore, February 18, 1909.



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