Blessing of Vestments
Question from on 03-20-2007:
Dear Mr. Donovan,
Is it required that a Priest have his vestments blessed by the Bishop? Or does he have the authority to bless them himself? The Catholic Encyclopedia states:
"Not all the vestes sacrae necessarily require a blessing. This is strictly commanded only for the amice, alb, maniple, stole, chasuble, and perhaps also the cincture. The blessing of the liturgical vestments is a prerogative of the bishop; others can bless them only when specially empowered to do so. Vestments that have been blessed lose the blessing when the form is essentially altered, when they are much worn, and are therefore unworthy of the holy service, finally, when very greatly repaired. On account of the lack of positive information, it cannot be even approximately settled as to the time at which the blessing of liturgical vestments was introduced. The first certain statements concerning the blessing of liturgical vestments are made by the pseudo-Isidore and Benedict Levita, both belonging to the middle of the ninth century, but the oldest known formula of blessing, which is in the Pontifical of Reims, belongs to the end of the ninth century, for the benedictory prayers the Pontifical of Egbert of York are an interpolation of the tenth century. From the twelfth century and especially in the later Middle Ages, the forms of blessing were very numerous. The blessing f the vestments was probably always the prerogative of the bishop, though this is not expressly mentioned before Gilbert of Limerick in the early part of the twelfth century. In the Oriental Rites the blessing of the liturgical vestments is also customary; it is given by the bishop, but in case of necessity the priest can perform the ceremony. The benedictory prayers in the Greek Rite are very similar to those in the Latin Rite. It is perhaps even more difficult to determine the time when the blessing of the vestments in the Oriental Rites began than to settle its date in Western Europe."
I know this is a pre-Vatican II encyclopedia so possibly the discipline in this matter has changed, however the GIRM #335 states:
"In the Church, which is the Body of Christ, not all members have the same office. This variety of offices in the celebration of the Eucharist is shown outwardly by the diversity of sacred vestments, which should therefore be a sign of the office proper to each minister. At the same time, however, the sacred vestments should also contribute to the beauty of the sacred action itself. It is appropriate that the vestments to be worn by priests and deacons, as well as those garments to be worn by lay ministers, be blessed according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual137 before they put into liturgical use."
Does this mean that every time a Priest buys a new chasuble he needs to go to the Bishop and have it blessed?
I am entering seminary next year and I need to buy a cassock and surplice but I don't know if I need to have them blessed by a Bishop/Priest before using them to serve at Mass.
Thank you for your answer and God Bless.
Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 05-15-2007:
Keeping in mind that matters such as vestments are not of the divine constitution of the Church but completely under the authority of the Church, the Catholic Encyclopedia is refering to the discipline in place in 1913.
The "Book of Blessings" currently provides that items to be used in the celebration of the liturgy (vestments, altar cloths, corporals) may be blessed either before or within the Mass, using the rite provided in the ritual.
So, you do not have to have them blessed by bishop, but you may have them blessed by a priest. There does not seem to be a requirement, however.