Why I wear my Roman Collar

I just spent sometime on a retreat with youth.  I had a desire to speak about one of the symbols of faith that was important to me.  So I had chosen in advance my chalice, which was a gift from my parents and sisters for my ordination.  To me, the chalice is a powerful symbol of the priesthood, holding forth the cup of salvation for the sake of those whom I am to serve.  But being my disorganized self, I packed it up and totally forgot to bring it to the room in which I would speak to the youth.  So I picked the only other symbol I had on me…my collar.

The first thing I told them was, that I had intended on bringing another symbol, but forgot.  They laughed…yes, typical Fr. Chris.

In any case it is my view that often innocent mistakes are the result of the Holy Spirit directing me down the right path.  So I popped the collar out and began talking about its importance to me.  That it is a symbol of service, something that I am called to live.

Here are some after-thoughts.  When I was ordained, one of the first things I did was I got rid of a great deal of my clothing.  I no longer needed to dress like everyone else.  I had my uniform, and the rest could go to the poor.  Now, I did not get rid of everything, but most of it.  I have some regular clothes for sleeping, camping and a few nice things (but every month my closet gets a bit smaller as I continue to learn simplicity).

So the first experience I had with the collar was:  “this is what I will wear for the rest of my life.”  At first it seemed grand.  Later it became bland, and in that sense:  good.  Bland is good because its simple, and keeps me from vanity and obsessing about myself.

Second experience I had while wearing it was…people are looking at me.  Oh…I guess I better behave.  I should be careful what movies I watch, what language I use, as I am a visible sign of Christ to others now, in the priesthood.  Now, that is not to say that I am not called to live out such virtues with or without the clothing on.  When I put my PJ’s on at night, I’m still called to virtue.  Although the idea of clerical PJs has always interested me (people:  its called a sense of humour, if you didn’t laugh…*shake* loosen up!!)

But here is one of the most powerful reasons.  While the New Evangelization needs to be made public, on facebook on twitter, what about in the mall, on the high-way, at Tim Hortons?  If we only do public acts of Christianity in the Church, guess what…only those who go to Church will be evangelized.  So that it goes without saying…we need to, as a Christian people break outside of the church walls and meet people where they are…literally.

This is WHY I wear a collar:   Some priests have done harm to the Church through sin, while wearing that collar.  And thus have added a very negative meaning to it (stigma/stereo-type).  So it is actually not easy for any priest to wear.  haha…a little while ago I walked into Toys R Us for my niece’s birthday gift…awkward.  Roman Collar

In any case, I wear it because instead of hiding that grief that society has experienced, or keeping it segregated to the Church building, I would prefer to do good with it on, to bring about an alternative view to the priesthood through its most common-symbolic expression.  The collar represents service.  If we wear it and serve at the same time, perhaps that healing can begin.

I get knocked down a few notches, but its not really by people outside of the Church, for wearing the collar.  But that is neither here nor there.

Wearing the collar – MUST accompany charity.  It would be better for a priest to never wear his collar if he would cut people off while driving, or eat fancy meals and drive expensive cars.  The priesthood does not need to be undermined so publically.  When I went to Tim Hortons, it was my day off, and I almost did not wear my collar to just grab a coffee…conscience said otherwise though, so I obeyed. 

It was around Christmas time and there was a man ahead of me in line.  He looked at me a few times, almost perplexed.  Then finally he said, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to say anything, but I am.” 

I think to myself…”Oh crap…is this going to turn into a public declaration of hatred towards priests” (as has happened in the past).  Nope.

The man shared with me how he was not Catholic, but his wife was.  She had died last year, but one of her wishes was to hear Christmas Caroling.  The kids in an elementary catholic school sang to her before she died, and it really impressed him.  Then at the funeral, the priest arranged to have that same choir sing at her funeral. 

He was having a difficult Christmas without his wife.  When he saw the collar he was reminded of how God had been present to him through the Church and it gave him consolation.  He literally said, “I didn’t know how I was going to get through this Christmas, but then I saw you.”


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39 responses to “Why I wear my Roman Collar

  1. Judith

    Beautiful story! Your ‘mistake’ of bringing your roman collar instead of the chalice reminded of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s comment: “There is no such thing as an accident in the providence of God.” Thank you for your faithful and heroic witness to the faith both publicly and privately!

    • Seminarian. John Mariae Muringi Muiruri

      He is a wonderful teacher. Am touched by the story. Judith, lets now impliment the teachings in our lives.

  2. This was very beautiful and profound. As a convert to the Catholic faith, I was struck by the witnesses of priests. I know there are some very bad ones out there but they are the minority. I first felt the wonder of God’s forgiveness at the absolving hand of a priest, I first learned about the sacrifice of Christ from the Eucharistic offering. Thank you Father!

  3. Deacon Tom Lang

    Thank you for that Father! I hope many priests read this.

    I would like to write a corresponding article about why deacons who are not permitted to wear the clergy shirt and Roman collar should be permitted to do so for similar reasons to many of those mentioned by you. We would love to be witnesses of our vocation for the sake of the Church, the world and ourselves.

    • Chris

      I have been told recently that deacons ARE allowed to wear a collar. It was at a funeral at which I was singing and I thought there were 3 priests; turns out there were 2 priests and a deacon wearing a Roman collar. In inquired and was told that deacons may also wear the collar although not many do.

      • Deacon Tom Lang

        Chris – It’s up to each individual Bishop in their Diocese. Most do “permit” their Deacons to dress as the clergy which they are, but some don’t. Interestingly, Canon Law really handles it the opposite way. Recognizing that many Deacons also hold regular jobs outside of the Church, Canon Law dispenses with the “requirement” of clerical dress for Deacons as they all may not be able to wear them at their secular jobs. I can’t verify it myself, but I have been told that prohibiting Deacons from wearing the clothes of the clergy may only be done as a penalty under Canon Law. But who is going to fight that battle and die on that hill? Hahaha! God bless!

  4. Seminarian. John Mariae Muringi Muiruri

    Fr. Thanks for sharing those insights. I feel humbled to impliment/apply them in my Formation. You have inspired me. Remember me in your prayers that I may one day ascend to the Alter as a Priest. Am taking my theological studies-Kenya.I promise you ma prayers. God bless.

  5. Dear Fr. Chris,
    What a beautiful witness you bear to Christ. Thanks! I’ll pray that you continue to grow in holiness as you live out your priesthood. Please pray for me and for the Salesian Sisters!
    In Our Lady,
    Sr. Colleen, FMA

  6. gmarquez

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. And thank you for the you service, Priests have many challenges now adays, yet they serve with a smile. I’ve known many Priests thoughout my life as a Catholic, I can only speak well of Priest. I have often said that I hope one day, the extra bedroom in my home will one day be a home to a retired Priest, since their retirement benefits will leave them with many everyday necessities.

    Speaking on behalf of my husband and children, I thank you once again for your great examples to mankind and your love for all.

  7. agnes

    I am so blown away by this post. By the way, I came across it on facebook. Been long I read something and had goosepimple crawling on my skin. A priest wants to be simple, just plain simple and to be a sign of Christ to others, down to wearing the Roman collar with respect??? That’s so much for one day.

  8. Lorraine

    We like to call them God-cidences …

  9. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming and deeply meaningful story. Thank you for the gift of your priesthood!!!

  10. Sean

    Beautiful, loved the end. “I didn’t know how I was going to get through this Christmas, but then I saw you.”

  11. Thanks for your witness Father and hopefully this little story will give a little encouragement to some of our brother priests. God bless you.

  12. Daniel Thompson

    Hi Father Chris . I’ve just read this posting , it is so simplistic and yet you have to coin a phrase , hit the nail on the head . The Catholic Church has gone through a tough time of late , Pope Francis I will cleanse it and make what it should be , God’s Holy Church ! He will carry that out through priests like yourself .

  13. Pingback: Why I wear my Roman Collar | Celebrating the Year of Faith

  14. Mary Ann Andersen

    Very grateful to God for your vocation, Father, and for your willingness to share with us what it means to you to wear your collar. I always feel sad when I see a priest not wearing his collar, as I do not understand why they think it is not important…it IS!!! We pray for vocations before each Sunday Mass and have two hours of adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament every Monday, praying specifically for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. You will be in our prayers for Our Blessed Mother’s protection. Thank you again for being a priest!

  15. Thanks Fr, what a wonderful sharing. God bless

  16. Such beautiful humility.
    I’ve always wondered what it must be like for a priest nowadays. Sometimes it’s hard enough to be a plain clothes Catholic among anti-religious people. May God bless you and sustain your courage, Father.

  17. Chris

    Thank you so much, Father Chris, for sharing and opening the eyes of so many, who in these days, have lost sight of the “Christ”ness of the priest. I was brought up to feel that the priest is Christ on earth and feel that way to this day. A priest should never be reluctant to show everyone WHO he is!! I am aware of a couple priests today who seldom show their Roman collar, in fact, keep the little slip-in tab in their pocket.

  18. As a convert, I was surprised at the number of religious who don’t wear habits, etc. I think it’s ironic that the general public identifies Catholics with habits and collars, but then the Catholic religious don’t wear them. It’s a valuable witness missing in much of our culture.

  19. michelekc

    Beautiful post. Thank you for your candidness. The little anecdote at the end brought me to tears. For me, the beauty of the priesthood is that Jesus chose human beings to make Himself present to His people.

  20. sem. DENIS

    wonderful we need to know that a police man or woman identifies himself by his or her uniform, a doctor does the same, even the waiters and waitresses do the same. like wise a priest who leaves behind his identification is like a soldier without a combat we need to identify ourselves for this is a new and still old way of healing and winning souls for Christ. let us awaken the zeal by putting on what our ministry requires. it is through this that many wounds shall be healed

  21. Fr Philip Vaske

    I loved your comment about your PJs. 🙂 I wonder if some people think that we shower with our clerics on? It is a rarity for me not to wear my collar…even if I am traveling while on vacation.

  22. Bob Phillips

    In about 2002, I was desiring to return to the Sacraments (after being away about 10 years)when the priest sexual abuse scandal broke big. It caused me to rethink things. Did I really want to return to the Catholic Church or go to another denomination. At this time I was working in a retail store. One day, during a slow period, I was thinking about this when in walks a young priest proudly wearing his Roman Collar. His witness (guided by God’s hand) made me realize Jesus, His Church are bigger than any scandal. Wearing his “blacks” was that silent witness I needed at that time. A few years later, I was able to let this good priest know what his witness meant to me. Thank God for that moment!

    • snowcap

      How wonderful, Bob! It is so great to hear of these little “unknown” acts of Christ brought about through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Thanks for sharing that.

  23. Bjay Joaquin

    God bless you always, Fr. Chris.

  24. Thank you for this – it is so tender. Papa Francis often speaks of tenderness – and this is it. I love the Priests. I love the ones with collars and the ones in cassocks. I love a Nun in a habit. All of that says, to me, “I am here for you.” Thank you for that!

  25. Thank you, Father, for writing This. There are many people (like me) who are always overjoyed to see priests in collars and friars & sisters in habits but who might not say anything. Simply seeing you boldly proclaiming a silent catechism makes my day.

    God bless you, and may Our Lady always protect you beneath her mantle.

  26. Pingback: A priest writes: “This is why I wear a collar…”

  27. Well done brother;
    we are both of the same view on this one, methinks. I’ve found the collar to be more of a door-opener than an obstacle in ministry. When I have been challenged by others, suggesting, ‘aren’t you nervous what people will say to you in public with THAT on?’, my response is generally, ‘bring it on…’
    Deacon Chuck

  28. Fr. JP

    I’m a priest and I sometimes wear my collar on my off days. But there are times when I don’t. When I go out to dinner with priest friends we usually don’t wear our collars so that people won’t want to listen in on everything we’re saying, like the old E. F Hutton commercials! There have been times when I’ve worn the collar on my off days and I’ve been called to a priestly service like emergency anointing or counseling for someone who is troubled. In these instances I’m glad I did have the collar on at the time. But there are also days when I can at least make believe that I’m a part of the crowd especially on vacation and all I want to do is attend Mass at a local parish without having to feel as if I need to concelebrate or even be asked to celebrate the Mass. I appreciate your commitment however. But I think it’s up to each individual priest to decide for himself if he wants to or not.

  29. syl

    wonderful story. roman collar as a symbol of preaching. god bless u FR.

  30. I live across the street from a large Catholic school. I LOVE seeing Priests and Nuns walking down the street. Its comforting. I love seeing Priests at the grocery store… the collar is a beautiful sight.

  31. Osita Chinwendu Sandra

    It is very true dat out of d 100% of priests out dere only 20% can be or can ve an image of christ in dem, my dear priest may d Gud Lord direct u in a gud part alway. SHALOM

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  34. Pingback: My First 5 Years as a Collar Wearing Priest | Courageous Priest

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