01 June 2007

Where have all the copes gone?

A friend recently asked me if I have any copes in my possession, a question which has given me the occassion for this post.

I do indeed have a cope. In fact, I have five: one white, one red, one violet, one gold and one for Marian feasts (which also happens to be white).

We, sadly, do not see much of copes any more, at least not here in the United States of America. I am not entirely sure why this is, though I do, naturally, have a couple of thoughts.

As has been noted here, few parishes have a large selection of vestments and not too many priests seem to have their own personal collection.

When you enter a church sacristy you ought to ask to see the vestments; it's usually a good time. This priest is always happy to show them to people, both my personal collection and that of the parish.

If you do, as I often do, I think you'll be surprised to find very few - if any - copes in most parishes. Here at St. Anthony of Padua parish we happily have several copes, one red, one violet, one white and one gold that I can think of off the top of my head. We might even have a couple more.

Given that copes used to be seen frequently many years ago, we might ask the obvious question: where have they gone? Sadly, many have somehow found their way into priests' private collections - often rarely worn, or they somehow find their way on to eBay, the world's largest sale of unwanted things (this is probably a more accurate term than "garage" or "yard" sale, though I'm sure you could buy those, too), and in some cases no doubt both are true. And yet, others seem to be spirited away in the dead of night by gnomes or some other fantastic creature.

Why don't more priests wear copes more frequently? I'm not sure, though I suspect a certain amount of apathy or laziness has something to do with it, in addition to the scarcity of them.
If memory serves, the most common reason I hear from my brother priests as to why they don't often wear copes is two-fold:

  1. they aren't necessary, and

  2. the people don't like them (along with incense, chant, the organ, the biretta, cassock, surplice, processions, etc., etc., etc.)

While the first part is certainly true, the second is certainly not.

I wear a cope for baptisms and weddings outside of Mass, vigil services at funeral homes, funerals outside of Mass, sometimes at the cemetery (depending on moisture levels), communal penance services (which are not the same as general absolution), Vespers when we have it, and at various blessings to boot.

Not once has someone told me they didn't like the cope. The contrary, though, is quite true. People like liturgical vesture and they have a right to see and enjoy it. It is part of the Roman Liturgy after all. Such vesture is beautiful and all things of true beauty lead to God, who is Beauty itself.

If you would like to see more copes being worn, you might consider getting a few of your friends to go in together to give a cope to your parish for the anniversary of your parish, the feast day of your parish, or even the anniversary of your pastor.


  1. The pastor in my hometown parish makes good use of his cope(s).

    For instance:

    My goddaughter's baptism. :-)

  2. I wish my home parish made better use of the beautiful, antique vestments that are available in the sacristy. Nope, we mostly get the hideous polyester ones. Sigh. Look at it this way. When Motu Proprio gets here, you'll be ready!

  3. Father,
    Did you see Mary Martha's photos of Father Scott's first Mass at
    Our parish has delicious vestments, including copes.
    (I'm a vestment fiend, by the way. Black fiddlebacks are worth dying for.)