The cassock

There’s a great emphasis on learning how to ‘inhabit’ this garment. What does that mean?

13th March 2024

Louis-Marie, seminarian

On the second Sunday of Lent, 12 of us in the 5th year were instituted lectors. From now on, as a concrete consequence of this step towards Ordination, we wear the cassock within the walls of the seminary on a daily basis.

Each of us has a different relationship with the cassock.

When I put on the cassock each day, I recall that Christ is calling me to serve my brothers and to give my whole self to the Church. But at the beginning, the most striking aspect is to feel the way others look at you changing. I must admit that I was not indifferent to the fact that I was becoming a bit of the centre of attention, even if the relationships at the seminary soon become natural again as we are so accustomed to seeing this habit around us.

There’s a great emphasis on learning how to ‘inhabit’ this garment. What does that mean?

It means learning to wear the cassock with simplicity, without putting on a show.

It is also, and above all, a way of entering into its deep symbolism. It is the sign that our life is consecrated to God (or in the process of becoming so), a sign that we want to belong to him ever more each day; “The Lord is my allotted portion” (Psalms 16,5) we pray as we put it on. If it is a sign of this belonging, a belonging that fills us with profound joy, then it will also be a sign of the immense and tender love of the eternal Father for all mankind. By wearing the cassock, I am publicly affirming that I am a person loved by God, and that every human being is called to discover that love.

But I must not let that by my life I ruin this sign. For if I use the cassock to take centre stage, to feel that I exist and to. be served, then it will become an obstacle to the Revelation of the Father’s love.

I must therefore constantly remind myself that I am not the Light, but like Saint John the Baptist, only a witness to the Light, which is in fact a wonderful position to be in. Christ is the true light that enlightens every person, not me. Thus I like to look at the black colour of the cassock. Jesus at the Transfiguration shows that he is the Light. “His clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mk 9:3) To him, then, belongs the white garment. To us, his witnesses, the black garment. In this way, we are reminded that it is he to whom people should turn their gaze, and that by looking to us, they should be naturally led to Christ. The cassock is John the Baptist’s finger pointing at Jesus, saying to the people, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). The cassock thus becomes a daily call to the wearer to renounce himself and follow Christ. We can then meditate on these very radical words of Jesus: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). Then we will experience the joy that Saint John the Baptist felt when he saw the crowds abandon him to follow Jesus: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3: 29-30)

Pray for us that we may discover the joy of the servants of the Bridegroom.