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Out of the Question

07 February 2014


A few Anglican and Roman Catholic priests and bishops are wearing their stoles outside rather than beneath their chasubles. Is there some reason for this?

There has been a steady but significant change in the shape, design, and fabric of modern vestments, and this includes the stole: it has become a matter of considerable aesthetic interest, and these developments have had an impact on how stoles are worn in relation to other eucharistic vesture.

Distinctive weaves on much wider stoles, with intricate ornamental patterns, have added to their artistry, to invite attention and be shown off rather than hidden from view. This has led to diversity of practice in the modern Church. Use of specially tailored chasuble-albs has been popular in some instances, enabling decorative stoles to be displayed, and for which the Roman Catholic Church has been known to make concession.

Quite otherwise is the novel custom to which this question refers, of wearing stoles outside the chasuble. For RC priests, this completely contravenes clear instructions that celebrants must always wear their stoles underneath the traditional chasuble. (See General Instructions of the Roman Missal, no. 299, and Ceremonies of Bishops, nos. 66 and 126).

In addition, deviations from that norm seriously spoil and overthrow accepted symbolism in vesture.

The stole has always represented the sacramental and teaching authority of ordained ministry, and likewise the chasuble has been regarded as a sign of the charity of Christ, which "covers all things". When a bishop or priest presides at the altar, vested to celebrate the eucharist, it is important that the overall charity and love of God is given visual expression to take precedence over the sacerdotal authority, as when the chasuble covers the stole in the traditional way.

For these basic reasons, the trendy fashion of a few bishops and priests has little to commend it.

(Canon) Terry Palmer
Magor, Monmouthshire

If a lay canon takes Holy Orders, does the canonry lapse?

Probably the constitutions of all cathedrals are very different in their content, but, after looking at Chelmsford Cathedral's, I discovered that it was silent on this point. I have concluded that there was probably an expectation that any lay person adjudged to have given "distinguished service to the Diocese or Cathedral" would be of an age when he or she would not be expected to contemplate training for Holy Orders.

The cathedral constitution provides, however, for a canonry to last for five years, then being renewable. Clearly renewal will not happen should the person be in Holy Orders at that time.

Another thought is that surely the lay canon would resign voluntarily on taking Holy Orders.

Harry Marsh (Lay Canon)


What is the origin of the beautiful traditional names Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima for the Sundays before Lent, and why were they dropped?

M. A.


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