What Do Priests Wear at Funerals?

Black is one of the colors worn by priests at a funeral.
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The proper colors and vestments worn by a Catholic priest during a funeral Mass are determined by the rules of the Catholic Church. The individual priest can choose his vestments provided they meet these rules. The colors allowed for funerals include white, black and purple. The particular robes worn and the accompanying vestments also vary, with different vestments worn if there is a Eucharist than for non-Eucharistic funerals.

1 Colors

White, black and purple are the accepted colors that may be worn for a funeral mass. White is the most common color worn for Western funerals. Each color has a meaning according to the Catholic Church. White is symbolic of hope, innocence and purity. White was often worn at funerals of young children even when black was the predominant funeral color. White focuses on the deceased's ascension to Heaven. Black symbolizes mourning and death. It focuses on the loss felt by the mourners and the loss of life. Purple symbolizes penance and reflection. It is a sorrowful color.

2 Robes

The white robe worn by priests during funeral Masses, as well as for most other liturgical roles, is called an alb. The white color symbolizes the purity of the priest who dons the vestment. Albs are floor-length with tapered sleeves and made of linen. An alternative to the alb is the cassock. Cassocks may be black or purple. It is also floor-length with long sleeves, though the cut of the robe can vary. A cassock will usually have 33 buttons down the front.

3 Eucharistic Vestments

When the Eucharist is to be given during the funeral Mass, the priest will often wear the alb, along with a chasuble and stole, or just the stole without the chasuble. The stole and chasuble will be in the chosen liturgical colors. A chasuble is an overlying vestment of varying lengths. The chasuble covers the shoulders and drapes down to cover the front and back of the alb. The stole is a long scarf that goes around the back of the neck with the ends hanging down the front of the robe.

4 Non-Eucharistic Vestments

If there is no Eucharist given, the priest may wear the cassock along with a surplice. The surplice is a white knee-length, shirt-like vestment with long bell-shaped sleeves that is worn over the cassock. A cope may be worn with the alb for a non-Eucharist service as well. The cope is a mantle similar to the chasuble. It is also worn in the chosen liturgical color. A cope may also be worn during the service and exchanged for Eucharistic vestments while the Eucharist is given in a Eucharist funeral.

Jill Kokemuller has been writing since 2010, with work published in the "Daily Gate City." She spent six years working in a private boarding school, where her focus was English, algebra and geometry. Kokemuller is an authorized substitute teacher and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Iowa.