23 Reasons Why A Priest Should Wear His Collar

Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.”

  1. The Roman collar is a sign of priestly consecration to the Lord. As a wedding ring distinguishes husband and wife and symbolizes the union they enjoy, so the Roman collar identifies bishops and priests (and often deacons and seminarians) and manifests their proximity to the Divine Master by virtue of their free consent to the ordained ministry to which they have been (or may be) called.
  2. By wearing clerical clothing and not possessing excess clothes, the priest demonstrates adherence to the Lord’s example of material poverty. The priest does not choose his clothes – the Church has, thanks to her accumulated wisdom over the past two millennia. Humble acceptance of the Church’s desire that the priest wear the Roman collar illustrates a healthy submission to authority and conformity to the will of Christ as expressed through his Church.
  3. Church Law requires clerics to wear clerical clothing. We have cited above number 66 of the Directory for priests, which itself quotes canon 284.
  4. The wearing of the Roman collar is the repeated, ardent desire of Pope John Paul 11. The Holy Father’s wish in this regard cannot be summarily dismissed; he speaks with a special charism. He frequently reminds priests of the value of wearing the Roman collar.In a September 8, 1982 letter to Ugo Cardinal Poletti, his Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, instructing him to promulgate norms concerning the use of the Roman collar and religious habit, the Pontiff observed that clerical dress is valuable “not only because it contributes to the propriety of the priest in his external behavior or in the exercise of his ministry, but above all because it gives evidence within the ecclesiastical community of the public witness that each priest is held to give of his own identity and special belonging to God.”In a homily on November 8, 1982 the Pope addressed a group of transitional deacons whom he was about to ordain to the priesthood. He said that if they tried to be just like everyone else in their “style of life” and “manner of dress,” then their mission as priests of Jesus Christ would not be fully realized.
  5. The Roman collar prevents “mixed messages”; other people will recognize the priest’s intentions when he finds himself in what might appear to be compromising circumstances. Let’s suppose that a priest is required to make pastoral visits to different apartment houses in an area where drug dealing or prostitution is prevalent. The Roman collar sends a clear message to everyone that the priest has come to minister to the sick and needy in Christ’s name. Idle speculation might be triggered by a priest known to neighborhood residents visiting various apartment houses dressed as a layman.
  6. The Roman collar inspires others to avoid immodesty in dress, words and actions and reminds them of the need for public decorum. A cheerful but diligent and serious priest can compel others to take stock of the manner in which they conduct themselves. The Roman collar serves as a necessary challenge to an age drowning in impurity, exhibited by suggestive dress, blasphemous speech and scandalous actions.
  7. The Roman collar is a protection for one’s vocation when dealing with young, attractive women. A priest out of his collar (and, naturally, not wearing a wedding ring) can appear to be an attractive target for the affections of an unmarried woman looking for a husband, or for a married woman tempted to infidelity.
  8. The Roman collar offers a kind of “safeguard “for oneself. The Roman collar provides a reminder to the priest himself of his mission and identity: to witness to Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, as one of his brother-priests.
  9. A priest in a Roman collar is an inspiration to others who think: “Here is a modern disciple of Jesus.” The Roman collar speaks of the possibility of making a sincere, lasting commitment to God. Believers of diverse ages, nationalities and temperaments will note the virtuous, other-centered life of the man who gladly and proudly wears the garb of a Catholic priest, and perhaps will realize that they too can consecrate themselves anew, or for the first time, to the loving Good Shepherd.
  10. The Roman collar is a source of beneficial intrigue to non-Catholics. Most non- Catholics do not have experience with ministers who wear clerical garb. Therefore, Catholic priests by virtue of their dress can cause them to reflect – even if only a cursory fashion – on the Church and what she entails.
  11. A priest dressed as the Church wants is a reminder of God and of the sacred. The prevailing secular morass is not kind to images which connote the Almighty, the Church, etc. When one wears the Roman collar, the hearts and minds of others are refreshingly raised to the “Higher Being” who is usually relegated to a tiny footnote in the agenda of contemporary culture.
  12. The Roman collar is also a reminder to the priest that he is “never not a priest.” With so much confusion prevalent today, the Roman collar can help the priest avoid internal doubt as to who he is. Two wardrobes can easily lead – and often does – to two lifestyles, or even two personalities.
  13. A priest in a Roman collar is a walking vocation message. The sight of a cheerful, happy priest confidently walking down the street can be a magnet drawing young men to consider the possibility that God is calling them to the priesthood. God does the calling; the priest is simply a visible sign God will use to draw men unto himself.
  14. The Roman collar makes the priest available for the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Anointing of the Sick, and for crisis situations. Because the Roman collar gives instant recognition, priests who wear it make themselves more apt to be approached, particularly when seriously needed. The authors can testify to being asked for the Sacraments and summoned for assistance in airports, crowded cities and isolated villages because they were immediately recognized as Catholic priests.
  15. The Roman collar is a sign that the priest is striving to become holy by living out his vocation always. It is a sacrifice to make oneself constantly available to souls by being publicly identifiable as a priest, but a sacrifice pleasing to Our Divine Lord. We are reminded of how the people came to him, and how he never turned them away. There are so many people who will benefit by our sacrifice of striving to be holy priests without interruption.
  16. The Roman collar serves as a reminder to “alienated” Catholics not to forget their irregular situation and their responsibilities to the Lord. The priest is a witness – for good or ill – to Christ and his Holy Church. When a “fallen-away” sees a priest, he is encouraged to recall that the Church continues to exist. A cheerful priest provides a salutary reminder of the Church.
  17. The wearing of clerical clothing is a sacrifice at times, especially in hot weather. The best mortifications are the ones we do not look for. Putting up with the discomforts of heat and humidity can be a wonderful reparation for our own sins, and a means of obtaining graces for our parishioners.
  18. The Roman collar serves as a “sign of contradiction” to a world lost in sin and rebellion against the Creator. The Roman collar makes a powerful statement: the priest as an alter Christus has accepted the Redeemer’s mandate to take the Gospel into the public square, regardless of personal cost.
  19. The Roman collar helps priests to avoid the on duty/off duty mentality of priestly service. The numbers 24 and 7 should be our special numbers: we are priests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are priests, not men who engage in the “priest profession.” On or off duty, we should be available to whomever God may send our way. The “lost sheep” do not make appointments.
  20. The “officers” in Christ’s army should be identifiable as such. Traditionally, we have remarked that those who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation become “soldiers” of Christ, adult Catholics ready and willing to defend his name and his Church. Those who are ordained as deacons, priests and bishops must also be prepared – whatever the stakes – to shepherd the flock of the Lord. Those priests who wear the Roman collar show forth their role unmistakably as leaders in the Church.
  21. The saints have never approved of a lackadaisical approach concerning priestly vesture. For example, Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), Patron Saint of Moral Theologians and Confessors, in his esteemed treatise The Dignity and Duties of the Priest, urges the wearing of the appropriate clerical dress, asserting that the Roman collar helps both priest and faithful to recall the sublime splendor of the sacerdotal state instituted by the God-Man.
  22. Most Catholics expect their priests to dress accordingly. Priests have long provided a great measure of comfort and security to their people. As youths, Catholics are taught that the priest is God’s representative – someone they can trust. Hence, the People of God want to know who these representatives are and what they stand for. The cherished custom of wearing distinguishable dress has been for centuries sanctioned by the Church; it is not an arbitrary imposition. Catholics expect their priests to dress as priests and to behave in harmony with Church teaching and practice. As we have painfully observed over the last few years, the faithful are especially bothered and harmed when priests defy the legitimate authority of the Church, and teach and act in inappropriate and even sinful ways.
  23. Your life is not your own; you belong to God in a special way, you are sent out to serve him with your life. When we wake each morning, we should turn our thoughts to our loving God, and ask for the grace to serve him well that day. We remind ourselves of our status as His chosen servants by putting on the attire that proclaims for all to see that God is still working in this world through the ministry of poor and sinful men.

Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.” Homiletic & Pastoral Review (June, 1995).

Founded over one hundred years ago, Homiletic & Pastoral Review is one of the most well-respected pastoral magazines in the world. HPR features solid articles on every aspect of pastoral life and eloquent weekly sermons that illuminate through exposition of Scripture. Subscribe to HPR here.


Msgr. Charles M. Mangan has been appointed by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to a position serving the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Ordained in 1989, Msgr. Mangan formerly served the Diocese of Sioux Falls in several parishes.

Father Gerald E. Murray is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and was ordained in 1984 after completing studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N. Y. Currently he is studying canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome.

Copyright © 2010 Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Source: courageouspriest.com


18 pensieri riguardo “23 Reasons Why A Priest Should Wear His Collar

  1. Also religious to wear their habits is imperative as well. They, too, give a beautiful witness of consecrated life and the love of God.

  2. The 23 reasons above may have flown 50 years ago but not now… the collar usually only sends one sign: distrust and hypocrisy. Jesus warned the pharisees about dressing in their priestly clothing and he mentioned none of the above points. I love John Paul II but he was also an advocate for the founder of the legionaries of Christ… and we know what happen to him. The priest’s actions and trust are what Christ will judge not his clothing for aren’t we more than what we eat and drink and wear?

    1. I have a lot more trust and respect for a priest that wears a Roman Catholic collar. Funny, that non Catholic ministers wear a collar??? I wonder why?

      1. I place trust in a person who is trustworthy not because they “look” trustworthy. That’s the difference between an actor and the genuine article. God does not judge on outward appearances… sounds like you do.

    2. “Jesus warned the pharisees about dressing in their priestly clothing”
      He absolutely did not! He made no criticism at all of the clothes worn by the Jewish priests. He did warn the Pharisees (who were laymen) gainst wearing overly ornate phylacteries and prayer-shawls whilst simultaneously ignoriing what they represent. He approved of wearing (less ostentatious) phylacteries etc. Catholic clerical dress is the reverse of ostentation, it is a sign of poverty as explained very well by the author.

      “and he mentioned none of the above points.” Actually He mentioned several of them, and also made many other commands along the same lines such as “don’t hide the Light under a bushel” etc. He certainly gives no impression in the Gospels that He wants His followers to disguise the fact that they are leaders of His Church, or that they are ever truly “off-duty” as such.

  3. Years ago, I was at a restaurant with several young single women friends. One of my friends was lamenting how hard it was to meet a nice single man. She said “I’d like to meet a nice guy, someone like that!” pointing to a youngish man at another table. I look and see that she’s pointing at my parish priest! He was a young, nice-looking, wholesome man, sitting at a table with some friends, not wearing a Roman collar but rather a regular shirt and jeans. I gently told her “That’s my priest”. Very awkward.

    Also, it’s nice to see a Roman collar when you’re traveling. I’m a nervous flyer and seeing a nun or a priest on a plane or in the airport is very reassuring.

  4. An excellent article. Wearing his collar is one of the bravest things a priest can do. He may be insulted or in some countries, become a walking target for those who are killing Christians. He’s the embodiment of Divine Love in the face of evil. Also, when the parish senses their priest is seriously on the path to holiness, the laity responds accordingly with more modesty, thoughtful prayer and reverent worship.

    Something else to consider? A deacon friend commented there is confusion regarding the diaconate, Many don’t understand they are consecrated people as well. He said in some dioceses the deacons are allowed to wear clerical clothing and in others they are forbidden to distinguish themselves from the laity. Consequently, many people don’t realize there are married consecrated people in the Church and it’s an option that devout family men should consider.

    Perhaps the faithful would be edified and the culture evangelized more frequently with many visible consecrated people rather than fewer. The laity needs our nuns to wear their wedding clothes too—to increase holiness in general. Also nuns are more accessible and sometimes less intimidating to approach especially for the non-Catholic.

    Msgr. Mangan and Father Murray thank you for saying “Yes” to your vocation. You are appreciated!

  5. Not only the priests but the parishoners!! I am saddened when I see how many of our parishoners dress for mass! People! What would you wear if you were meeting a king or a president? At mass you are meeting Someone who is much more important than these.

  6. This article and tons of the responses keep saying “Roman collar.” Not only is e collar worn by Anglicans and other priests, it’s not even a Roman invention. It’s fine that Romans wear it as well, but to lay claim to it exclusively is historically inaccurate.

  7. L’ha ribloggato su A Shepherd's Journale ha commentato:
    I might have not agreed on every point given on this article about the reasons why a priest should wear his or (her) collar, I thought its a great reminder to ordain ministers. Enjoy reading it.

  8. Great article. I only add regarding those clerics who try to “reinvent the wheel” and wear or mandate the wearing of supposedly “distinctive clerical dress” which consists only of regular layman’s clothes with a tiny cross on the collar lapels, tie or breast pocket. Most people do not even notice these, or if they do, take them as merely a sign that the wearer is a Christian of some kind. And indeed I know several non-Christians who wear such crosses merely as fashionable jewellery.

    The “back-to-front” collar with black shirt & suit or cassock, is immediately and universally recognised as the uniform of a Catholic priest, by virtually everyone in the world, even those who have never met a Catholic or know nothing else about Catholicism.


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