ROME, 11 MAY 2010 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ
Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina
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
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.
* * *
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.