The vestments worn by a priest are a part of the Catholic tradition, but for children, a priest's vestments can make him seem other-worldly. When you teach children about the vestments, their history and meaning, it gives them a better understanding of the vestments and of Catholic traditions.
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Vestments are the attire worn by a Catholic priest when he performs his sacred duties. They are called sacramentals and are blessed by the church. These vestments are worn by the priest for the celebration of the Mass, when administering sacraments and at prayer services and processions. The priest’s vestments are like a uniform that indicates that he is on duty. The vestments are similar to the garments worn in the ancient Roman world. The Catholic Church standardized the vestments that priests would wear at the beginning of the ninth century.
Vestments for Mass
When teaching about priests’ vestments, you need to know what each article is called, its purpose and how it is worn. The amice is a white linen piece that the priest places around his neck and shoulders to protect the outer vestments and conceal his regular clothing. He wears a long, white linen robe, an alb, over his clerical clothing and the amice. A stole is the long scarf-like vestment that the priest drapes around his neck. It is crossed at the waist and secured with the cincture, a long tasseled rope tied around the waist. The chasuble is a long, flowing outer garment worn over the alb and stole. Its color corresponds to the church’s calendar. The last vestment worn by the priest at the celebration of Mass is the manipule, a long rectangular piece of fabric that is the same color as the chasuble. It is worn over the priest’s left forearm.
Vestment colors worn at Mass change with the seasons of the Catholic calendar. White vestments represent joy and glory and are used for Christmas, Easter and feasts of Mary. Gold vestments represent honor and praise and are sometimes used in place of white. Red vestments represent love and are worn on feasts of the Lord’s passion, feasts of the Holy Spirit, apostles and martyrs and Pentecost. Violet represents penance or sorrow and is worn during the seasons of Advent and Lent. Rose vestments represent joy and are worn on the third Sunday of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Green represents hope and trust and is worn during ordinary times.
To help your children appreciate the traditions of the Catholic Church, engage them actively in the learning process. Download drawings of the priest’s vestments (see Reference 3) for young children to color. Print multiple copies of the chasuble and manipule for them to color during the various church seasons. Middle grade children enjoy matching and word searches. Make a matching page with drawings of the vestments on one side of the page and the name of the vestment on the opposite side of the page for children to match. Create your own word search online (see Reference 4) by using names of vestments, colors and church seasons.