|ROME, 24 JAN. 2006 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: 1) Can a priest celebrating a private Mass in a chapel wear simply an
alb with a stole on the ground of convenience and nothing more? 2) When
does it become sinful for a penitent who has gone to confession to delay
his penance (satisfaction) given to him or her by a priest after the
confession? Does this prevent him/her from receiving holy Communion in
the Mass which comes up before the penance is begun or completed?
A.E., Onitsha, Nigeria
A: The answer to the first question is relatively simple: no.
Except in those few cases where the Holy See has granted a special
dispensation from using the chasuble, it must be used by a single
celebrant in all celebrations, or by at least the principal celebrant in
As "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 123, states: "The vestment proper to
the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly
connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn
over the alb and stole. Likewise the Priest, in putting on the chasuble
according to the rubrics, is not to omit the stole. All Ordinaries
should be vigilant in order that all usage to the contrary be
The second question requires some nuance.
It is necessary to recall that accepting the penance is one of the
essential acts of the penitent. And thus is necessary for the validity
of the confession itself.
It is one thing to accept the fulfillment of the penance and another to
actually fulfill it. The state of grace is restored immediately on
receiving absolution and a delay in fulfilling the penance does not
affect this. Subsequent failure to fulfill the penance, however, can be
sinful if due to neglect.
From this principle a person may receive the Eucharist and the other
sacraments immediately after confession even if, for some good reason,
they have not yet been able to fulfill the penance.
In principle, one should complete the penance as soon as possible,
preferably before leaving the church after making one's confession.
On some occasions, however, the nature of the penance itself implies
some delay or is spread out over time. If the sin has merited a more
such as praying the 20 mysteries of the rosary, visiting a specific
sanctuary, or a day of fasting
then clearly they must be carried out later, albeit within a reasonable
At times external circumstances may arise which limits fulfilling a
penance in the short term. If, for example, after accepting a penance to
visit a certain place, or fast for some time, a person develops a
condition impeding the penance, then he does not fall into any sin.
If a person has not fulfilled a penance due to neglect, laziness or
forgetfulness, then this fact must be confessed in a subsequent
confession. It is not necessary to confess the non-fulfillment of a
penance which has been delayed but which one has the intention of
fulfilling as soon as practically feasible.
On the other hand, if unforeseen circumstances have made fulfillment of
a previously accepted penance excessively burdensome, the penitent may
explain the difficulty to either the same or another confessor, who may
substitute the original penance for another one which is possible to
In the same way, if, at the moment of confession, a priest were to
impose a penance which a person would find impossible to fulfill
for example, fasting to a person suffering from diabetes
then the person should explain the circumstances so that the priest may
change his mind. ZE06012420
* * *
Follow-up: An Alb Alone [02-07-2006]
Our brief comments on the use of albs and stoles (Jan. 24) generated a
surprisingly heavy response.
A reader from Detroit, Michigan, took me to task for injecting personal
opinion, rather than Church norms, into my commentary that wearing the
stole over the chasuble was a fad.
While my opinion that this vesture is less than elegant is certainly
personal, the use of the stole under the chasuble conforms to Church
norms as witnessed by "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 123:
"'The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other
sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated,
is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole.' Likewise the Priest, in
putting on the chasuble according to the rubrics, is not to omit the
stole. All Ordinaries should be vigilant in order that all usage to the
contrary be eradicated."
One cannot defend the argument, as some attempt to do, on the basis that
the Pope has concelebrated with priests who wore the stole over the
The Holy Father is hardly in control over every detail of a celebration
and such things do not create legal precedence. Stoles are worn
underneath the chasuble in Vatican concelebrations.
This reader also offered a history of the use of the stole that was
inaccurate in some details.
This vestment was originally a kind of protective towel or scarf, but
was not a symbol of senatorial authority as asserted by our reader.
Deacons originally wore it on the left shoulder over the dalmatic as a
symbol of service.
It was only after the 12th century that it began to be used in its
present form, hanging as a sash from left to right. During this period
it was always white in color and continued to be worn over the dalmatic
until around 1500 when the stole assumed the liturgical color of the day
and began to be worn under the dalmatic, as is still done today.
Unlike the deacon, the bishop and priest wore the stole under the
chasuble a practice for which there is evidence from at least the fifth
Another reader asked about some vestments no longer in use: "I noticed
one who had offered the new rite but wore the maniple and crossed his
stole as is done in the 1962 rite. The rationale was that the maniple
had not been suppressed, but simply that it was no longer required."
In a column of Jan. 11, 2005, I offered an answer on the matter of
crossing the stole.
I do not think that the rationale justifying the use of the maniple (an
ornamental vestment worn over the left forearm by the celebrant in the
Latin rite prior to 1968) is correct.
It is not necessary for the Holy See to issue a decree abolishing every
single detail. When, as it does above in "Redemptionis Sacramentum," the
legislator lists the vestments to be worn, then logically any further
additions no longer correspond to the norms.
A South Carolina reader asked if a priest could celebrate using only alb
and stole in exceptionally hot and humid weather.
The Holy See has given a similar permission in some very exceptional
cases, but the preferred solution is to use a very lightweight chasuble.
An individual priest does not have authority to omit the liturgical
vestments but could wear lighter garb underneath the alb.
Some deacons also sent in questions.
One asked: "Is there ever an occasion when the deacon should/may wear
cassock and surplice, and if so, how is the stole worn?"
Another asked: "I often serve as a master of ceremonies for liturgies at
the cathedral. My understanding is that 'Choir Dress' is the accepted
vesture for an M.C., typically a cassock and surplice. Our faculties,
however, strictly forbid permanent deacons from the use of the cassock
and surplice. Many times I've been asked to wear an alb and stole, or
alb, stole and dalmatic when I am in this role. My understanding was
that, when serving as an M.C., you would put on the stole when handling
the Blessed Sacrament. What is the appropriate vesture? An alb alone?
Alb and stole? Both with the dalmatic?"
The Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 36, states: "The master of ceremonies
wears either an alb or a cassock and surplice. Within a celebration a
master of ceremonies who is an ordained deacon may wear a dalmatic and
the other diaconal vestments."
Thus, the wearing of the dalmatic is a legitimate option but also the
cassock and surplice. In the latter case, however, a priest or deacon
serving as a master of ceremonies wears a stole only when receiving
Communion or during duty at the tabernacle.
The diocesan prohibition of permanent deacons wearing the cassock and
surplice probably exists so as to distinguish permanent deacons from
priests and seminarians. The function of master of ceremonies could
probably be considered as a legitimate exception which the bishop could
Except when there is some specific prohibition on the part of the
bishop, as seen above, the general rule of thumb is that the cassock and
surplice may substitute the alb for any rite were the alb is not
Thus, for example a deacon may don a cassock and surplice, along with a
cope, when he participates with other clergy at solemn lauds or vespers.
He may use them to expose the Blessed Sacrament, for Benediction, and to
administer those sacraments open to a deacon. Cassock and surplice may
be used along with a cope but never with the dalmatic. In all cases the
deacon wears his stole in the usual fashion over the surplice.