Blue Liturgical Vestments

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Blue Liturgical Vestments

ROME, 11 MAY 2010 (ZENIT)

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university. Q1: During his visit to Austria in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wore a blue chasuble and stole as well as a blue miter. Does this mean that blue vestments may now be used for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary? — C.J., Anaheim, California

Q2: Attending Mass at our parish church on the feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, I saw that our parish priest was proudly wearing his new blue stole that he had received as a gift from the local community. In our region, this feast is primarily considered as a feast of Our Lady, hence the color. As far as I know, blue is not officially allowed in our diocese, but is tolerated. Contrary, there is no matching deacon stole available, so the deacon was wearing a white stole. Is it acceptable that both priest and deacon wear stoles of different colors and how should such "conflicts" be handled? — F.H., Houthulst, Flanders, Belgium

A: Since both of these questions are intimately related, I will attempt to address them together.

Blue is not one of the standard liturgical colors and it may only be used in virtue of a special privilege. By blue vestments we mean those manufactured from cerulean fabric. White vestments with blue motifs or trimmings are not subject to any restriction.

The privilege of using blue vestments in the Latin rite is of two kinds. One kind is that granted to some important Marian shrines. This was the case of Pope Benedict's Mass which was held at Austria's foremost center of devotion to Mary. The decree granting the privilege determines whether these vestments may be used habitually or only on certain major feasts.

The other privilege is that granted to whole countries. For example, all Spanish churches may adopt blue vestments on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and this favor is sometimes also extended to countries once ruled by the Spanish crown.

Apart from these exceptions blue may not be used as a liturgical color, not even on major Marian feasts.

With respect to the blue stole in Belgium, I am unaware if this country retains the privilege, although it is possible as Flanders was once ruled by Philip II of Spain.

Since blue vestments are uncommon, even when they are permitted, it is possible that a parish has only one set. In this case I would say that it is possible for the deacon to don only white vestments. The situation is analogous to cases where only the principal concelebrant wears vestments of the color of the feast or season, while the others don white stoles and chasubles.

All that we have said refers exclusively to the Latin rite. Blue vestments are quite common on Marian feasts in some Eastern Churches, especially those of the Byzantine tradition.

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Follow-up: Blue Liturgical Vestments [5-25-2010]

Related to the question about blue vestments (see May 11), a reader from Ghana had asked: "Is it important or necessary that the color of the statues of the Virgin Mary and the saints in the church follow the liturgical colors? For instance, during Lent would you put violet around the Virgin Mary instead of white, or green during ordinary time? In these same periods or liturgical times, should the altar be changed to white on Thursdays for adoration or not?"

There is no law regulating the vesting of images of sacred images and hence no requirement to do so according to the liturgical seasons. However, where such a custom exists it is good to maintain it.

For example, the costume of the famous statue of the Infant of Prague venerated in the Czech capital's church of Our Lady of Victory is frequently changed according to the feasts and seasons. There are many other shrines to Mary and the saints that have similar customs. These changes need not coincide with the liturgical seasons and may follow their own traditions.

It is still a widespread custom to place an antependium hanging down in front of the altar and varying in color according to the season or feast. While not obligatory, it is congruous to remove or change it to white for adoration, especially if the antependium is of a penitential hue.

A correspondent from the Philippines asked for details about the "Spanish privilege" of using blue vestments on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This privilege was granted to Spain, its colonies, and Latin America by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on Feb. 12, 1864. Since the Philippines was still a Spanish colony at that time, I believe they continue to enjoy the privilege.

This privilege would not apply to Belgium, from whence came one of our previous column's questions. All remaining ties that Belgium had to Spain ceased with the Peace of Utrecht in 1715.


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