21 October 2008

On religious garb

Isn't it curious how several things often unexpectedly come together?

This morning I saw a news report about an Anglican thoelogian, the Rev. Andrew Atherstone, who claims, according to the headline, that the wearing of robes is absurd and that ecclesiastical vesture belong to a "bygone world." Atherstone says, "Robes can be a barrier to mission, a hindrance rather than a help."

I couldn't disagree with him more. Granted, Atherstone is an Anglican, but there seem to be a few Catholics - albeit they a shrinking number - who would suggest the same, at least terms of clerical attire outside of the Liturgy.

Thinking back to the conversations had last evening at the volleyball game with the high school students, what I was wearing? A cassock. And a cape (at least at first). They were disappointed that I didn't have my saturno with me.

Atherstone asks, "Let members ask themselves whether there are not occasions...when they have been embarrassed by, or found evangelism hindered by, the clergyman up front in robes, looking a right wally?" Perhaps there are such occassions. But there are surely similar occassions when parishioners are "embarrassed" by clergy not dressed as clergy.

From my own experiences, Atherstone's argument is quite false. Are there those who would prefer I not wear a cassock. Of course there are. But there seem to be many more who are glad I wear it, so I shall keep it wearing it. Besides, it's much more comfortable than a suit.

I also found this morning Fr. Longenecker's post regarding a new book he is writing. The new book, The Romance of Religion, will be about "the ridiculous-ness of religion, the absurdity of the quest and the glorious and valiant tilting at windmills which we call Catholicism." I'm intrigued.

He says:

Despite the lack of interest in my scribblings, I am writing this book as an act of noble, and faintly ridiculous badinage with badness. It is my joust with the jesters of the world, my own quixotic attempt to be Quixote. I don't expect it to be a best seller. I don't expect it to change much at all. Like the dog who barks at the train, I bark not because I expect the train to stop, but because I am a dog.

I am inspired in this effort by all those priests who proudly wear ridiculous clothes like cassocks and capes. Are they not the last vestigial vestments of the romantic heroes of old? I write as a salute to monks in cowls and Cardinals in Cappa Magnas, a pope who wears (like Dorothy) ruby slippers that might just carry him home. I write to honor clergy in lace cottas and Monsignors who hold their heads high as they wear sashes of scarlet and birettas with purple pompons. I write to honor the Knights of Columbus with their capes, their swords and their pomade hats.

I salute all those who, like the mouse Reepicheep, fight the giants of the day, or like the boy David, slay the Philistines. The book will be about just that--the need to fight the good fight and be a romantic warrior in a world of useful things. It will encourage us all to find the key to the costume cupboard, dust off that cape, shine the broadsword, don the rubber nose and false moustache and the broad brimmed hat, replace the white plume and be a liturgical Lancelot or a ceremonial Cyrano de Bergerac.

Yes, let us all be fools for Christ. Somehow it attracts people.

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