It used to be that a priest was required to say a prayer with each garment that he put on as he prepared for Mass – ordinarily, seven prayers total, including the initial washing of the hands (there is not a prayer for hand sanitizer……).
These prayers are quite lovely: on the one hand, they help the priest to form sentiments of humility and docility before God and his sacred mysteries, which he will soon celebrate; on the other hand, they aid the priest spiritually, to be properly recollected for Mass and not to go about it routinely, which is always one of the pitfalls in parish life.
These prayers are no longer required to be said, and I’m not sure we’re better off for that. In any case, they certainly may still be said, and indeed, are encouraged. For more on that, read this article by the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marino.
I like to say the vesting prayers as they were written: in Latin. Latin doesn’t bother me; not only do I understand it fairly well, but I find it consoling to pray in the Church’s language. In any case, there is nothing that says that these prayers must be done in Latin. Various vernacular translations exist, but I found many of them insufficient in some way. Therefore, I have prepared a new translation: into both English and Spanish.
Indeed, it seems to me that many parishes now have both English and Spanish liturgies, with a variety of priests helping in some cases. Some may wish to pray the prayers in English, Spanish, or Latin. The document that I have prepared – which may be printed and framed for hanging in a sacristy – provides all three languages.
Please feel free to share this with your priest; you might even print it nicely and get a decent document frame to put it in and give it to him as a gift.
The prayer for the maniple is included, since some priests (indeed, more and more) are using the maniple again, even though it is not specifically mentioned in the Novus Ordo rubrics (in any case, it has been clarified at various times that it may still be used). The prayer for that garment, in particular, is quite meaningful for the priest, since it references the “weeping and sorrow” that he encounters in his work, looking to God for peace and consolation. In fact, this Sunday’s responsorial psalm is directly related to the maniple in our Latin tradition: it concludes with “Although they go forth weeping…they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.” In the Latin Vulgate, that text is rendered as, “carrying their maniples” — the maniple being a type of handkerchief used to sop up sweat and tears amidst hard work.
As we experience the clergy shortage more acutely at this time, but also see signs of great hope with young men responding to God’s call, we priests can relate to the toil of going forth to our work weeping but coming back rejoicing… and we can do so, “carrying our maniples”, if we choose to wear that optional garment. It is, of course, no longer used as a handkerchief (in fact, it would be a minor crime to use some of them for that purpose, so richly are they now made in some cases), but its symbolism still remains – and symbols are important.
I share these prayers here, also – rather than just emailing them to the priests I know – because I think that most lay people will find them edifying. The garments that the priest wears for Mass “clothe him in Christ”, in the Christ whom he represents and in whose Person he acts while celebrating the sacraments; they help to mask the priest’s personal identity, covering over his street clothes and so forth. This reduction of the priest’s ego is a good thing, since “it’s not about him — it’s about Jesus”. The priestly garments are now far-removed from even most of the other ceremonial dress that still exists in the world; they come to us from a different time, yet they continue to be quite meaningful. Understanding better their meaning and symbolism — and the prayers that go with them — can help us get more out of our time at Holy Mass.
My intention is to get better at praying these prayers each time I vest for Holy Mass — even to memorize them. I hope that other priests may wish to do likewise.
Dómine, diléxi decórem domus tuæ… O Lord, I have loved the beauty of your house! (Psalm 26)