Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why priests should wear their clerical attire while travelling

A couple of weeks ago I travelled home to England for my nephew's First Holy Communion. As I boarded the flight in Chicago, the stewardess - Linda - welcomed me aboard with the words: "Good morning Father, or should it be 'Pastor'?" I replied that "Father" was indeed an appropriate title, to which she responded that she always carried her Rosary with her.

A little way into the flight, Linda came to my seat to show me her beautiful Rosary beads, each white bead hand-painted with beautiful blue designs.

Later on again, she introduced me to one of her colleagues. After a small chat and greeting, they both went off to carry out their duties. I thought that would be the end of it and settled down again to reading Newman's Development of Christian Doctrine (always good to have a little light reading when travelling!)

Some time later, Linda's colleague came by and stopped to chat. After enquiring where I was working and where I was from, she said that she is of Danish origin and how sad it is that nobody goes to Church in Denmark whereas in the US "everybody" goes to Church. She said that she was Lutheran but married to a Catholic and they had brought up their children as Catholics. I asked if she had ever considered becoming a Catholic. She had but found the prospect of giving up all that was dear to her - the memories of her First Communion and Confirmation in the Lutheran church - difficult. I had just read the following passage from Newman about true conversion being ever positive and never negative in character which I said I would write out for her and give her.
A gradual conversion from a false to a true religion, plainly, has much of the character of a continuous process, or a development, in the mind itself, even when the two religions, which are the limits of its course, are antagonists. Now let it be observed, that such a change consists in addition and increase chiefly, not in destruction. "True religion is the summit and perfection of false religion; it combines in one whatever there is of good and true separately remaining in each. And in like manner the Catholic Creed is for the most part the combination of separate truths, which heretics have divided among themselves, and err in dividing. So that, in matter of fact, if a religious mind were educated in and sincerely attached to some form of heathenism or heresy, and then were brought under the light of truth, it would be drawn off from error into the truth, not by losing what it had, but by gaining what it had not, not by being unclothed, but by being 'clothed upon,' ' that mortality may be swallowed up of life.' That same principle of faith which attached it at first to the wrong doctrine would attach it to the truth; and that portion of its original doctrine, which was to be cast off as absolutely false, would not be directly rejected, but indirectly, in the reception of the truth which is its opposite. True conversion is ever a positive, not a negative character." (quoted from Tracts for the Times, No. 85, p. 73, by Newman in Development of Christian Doctrine, 1903 edition, p. 201)
Before we arrived in London, she collected the text and said that she would probably re-enroll in RCIA in Chicago. Please keep her in your prayers.

Upon my return to Chicago, I boarded the shuttle-bus to take me to the hotel where I had left my car. The driver - a woman - looked at the paper and asked: "You are Reverend John?" to which I replied in the affirmative. "Oh, I need your blessings!" "Why?" "My life is in a mess. My husband left me two years ago and now I'm divorced." And so the conversation proceeded. She is Polish, having come to the US many years ago. She has found it hard to go to Church since her life fell apart but always has her Rosary and picture of Our Lady with her. In the fifteen minutes it took to arrive at the hotel, we were able to have a wonderful conversation and she was so happy when we parted. I was too. I have no idea how she has followed up from our conversation but I remember her now by name in prayer. (Her name is very similar to my above-mentioned nephew's grandfather so it is easy to remember.)

Had I not been wearing my clerics, none of these would have happened.

So, my brother priests, I encourage you to be visible when using these means of public transportation. You never know how the Lord might use you. And even if you face awkwardness or abuse, it is for the Lord's sake you bear it, not your own.


  1. So very true Father, excellent and moving post.

  2. A priest who always wears a cassock told me: "If police officers wear uniforms so people know where to go for help; so, too, should priests wear cassocks so people know where to go to help their souls."

  3. Amen, Father! Whenever I'm traveling and I see a Roman Catholic Priest, I always stop and ask for a quick blessing. I usually see them all the time in the airport. They always seem so delighted to give me a blessing! If priests don't wear their clerical attire when traveling, I would miss out on many opportunities to be blessed, and so would so many other people that need their guidance and help!

  4. Thank you, Father - good post. I recently met a Chinese Catholic at the Laughing Buddha in Bexleyheath who would not have engaged in conversation had I not been wearing clerical dress. I was able to encourage her to attend the Chinese Mass at St Patrick's Soho.

    But you are becoming worryingly Americanised: English people do not use public transportation, they use public transport ;-)

  5. Laughing just like that Buddha! What a name for a diner - I mean restaurant!

  6. Another reason Father is that someone may walk up to you and ask for you blessing.

    A little over a month ago I did just that in London (ok to be fair I was just leaving Westminster Cathedral), unfortunatly and to my embarissment the cleric in question was a transitinal deacon and was therefore unable to do so.

    I hope to enter seminary next year (could I ask you to pray for me?) and If ordained will definately wear the cassock in public

  7. Of course I shall pray for you. And full marks to that deacon for wearing his clerics. He could have given you a blessing as a deacon, should you have chosen to accept it. Did he not offer to do so?

  8. Dear Father

    The Deacon in question said that as a Deacon he couldn't bless a person.

    Still I'd been interviewed for an internship with the Diocese (wasn't succesful) by the Cannon and the subadministrator of the Cathedral just a few hours before, should have asked for a blessing then.

  9. Father, that brought me to tears... mostly because of an incident I had today with a local priest: who was wearing a polo shirt and jeans at the time. Who made the comment: "one can never be over dressed."

    Thank you for your blog and thank you for your view of the faith.

  10. and for those of us called to "civilian" life (lol) there is a good reason to always carry your rosary. i make knotted twine rosaries (learn how at rosaryarmy dot com) and give them away. people see me busy knotting and ask. i have met many people that way! and many people tell me that it was a blessing to get my rosary....

    (the rest of the time i knit, i also get converstions about that.. i have to keep my hands busy or...OoHhh shiny! wanders off)

  11. Very true Father, as you know I would like to be a priest when I'm older and I will wear my clerics all the time. I mean, whats the point being a priest then hiding it from everyone.
    Brad Jacobs

  12. May the clothes you wear continue to reveal the heart of a pastor.

  13. Be a sign of the Kingdom to come!


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