St. Joseph's Church and its Amazing Colored Vestments
The cycle of the Catholic calendar and the meaning of holy days and seasons are reflected in the colors of the priest's chasubles — or vestments.
Growing up Catholic, I was entranced by the rituals, signs and symbols invested in every facet of the faith.
While some parts of Mass sometimes failed to hold my juvenile attention (usually the homily), I always loved the beauty of the liturgy, the repitition of the words, the solemnity of the gestures — genuflection, the sign of the cross, the kiss of peace.
And I loved the colors of the altar flowers, altar cloths and vestments — each conveying special meaning.
When I saw that St. Joseph's Church in Maplewood had recently acquired new vestments — or chasubles — for its priests to use in celebrating Mass, I could not resist running the pictures that Father Manolo sent to run with the announcement.
The gold and white vestments will be used for celebrating the joyous events in the Catholic calendar: Easter Sunday, Christmas, the Annunciation, and, yes, funerals — because the faithful are born into a new life. White is also the church-sanctioned color worn for the feasts of the Blessed Mother, to symbolize her purity.
Purple, or violet, is the color of penance and preparation, worn throughout Advent and Lent and certain days of Holy Week leading up to Easter.
Green is the color of "Ordinary Time" (sounds like a Robert Redford-directed film, no?), technically the days of growth and harvest but in reality, any time that falls outside of Lent and Advent or that is not a Holy Day.
Red is the color of Christ's Passion, worn on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Pentecost Sunday.
I didn't remember blue vestments from my days growing up in St. Matthew's Parish in Philadelphia. I called Father Manolo to find out what the blue is for.
"The color is to be used for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary," answered Fr. Manolo, acknowledging that the color blue is not universally used for the Virgin throughout the Roman Catholic Church but that in some diocese it was "tolerated" and in others allowances were being made.
The influence for using blue comes from the Philippines, Fr. Manolo's homeland, where the color is used to celebrate feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The use of blue in the Philippines dates back to the country's years under Spanish rule (Spain has permission from Rome to use blue for the feasts of the Virgin). Fr. Manolo even shared a link with us from Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum University, explaining the Church's stance on the use of blue vestments.
Our thanks to Fr. Manolo for answering that question.
St. Joseph's Church is inviting parishioners to memorialize one or more of the thirteen new vestments (sorry, only six are pictured here). The person for whom the item is memorialized will have his/her name embroidered on a label and sewn into the vestment. For more information about memorializing these liturgical garments, call 973-761-5933 ext. 13 for more information. You can choose what vestments to memorialize; they are now on display at the office of Fr. Manolo.