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The Deacon's Bench

There’s been much debate around these parts about deacons wearing collars (and even about priests wearing them).

Now a seminarian from Long Island has added his voice:

priestcollar.jpgIn the past decades seminarians were discouraged away from the collar in order to discourage the temptation to clericalism, or from forming a superficial attraction to the trappings of the priesthood. The seminarians of today, training for the priesthood in a time of church-wide pain and scandal, do not want to wear the collar out of a feeling of superiority or exclusivity; we want to wear the collar out of a desire to be a witness to the world, and a symbol of hope and continuance. Externals matter. Attire matters. The Roman collar matters.

I was grateful for the change in collar-policy because it happened as I was heading out of the seminary and into a parish for my pastoral-year internship. I don’t know who was happier — the Parish of St. Joseph’s in Ronkonkoma, NY to have a seminarian, or me for being sent there. This particular parish has a history of hosting pastoral-year seminarians. I was their third in five years. The two who preceded me are men whom I admire tremendously. I knew I had big shoes to fill.

I wore the collar every chance I could while in the parish. I truly believed the people expected it of me. The collar helped me tell the people of the parish and the town that men willing to give up the world in order to serve Christ do exist, despite the negative press. The people of God love their priests, and, by extension, they love seminarians.

To be a priest is to be a public person. Being a seminarian in a collar means learning how to be that public man, and that spiritual leader; one can’t possibly lead if one cannot be seen. The collar, for good or ill, made me stick out like a sore thumb at parish gatherings. There is an expectation of how one should comport oneself while wearing the collar, and I was acutely aware of it. My task and challenge during the year was to fulfill that expectation “in season and out”; when it was convenient and when it wasn’t; when I was dressed clerically and when I wasn’t.

Read the rest. It’s worth it.

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