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Caitlin Kennell Kim
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
General Questions
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Mike Hayes
Our readers asked:

What is appropriate attire for priests when they are “off-duty”?

Neela Kale Answers:

Priests should dress tastefully and modestly, just as we all should, whether they are “on” or “off” duty. But, except for members of some religious orders that wear habits, they don’t have to follow any specific dress code. Black clothes and the Roman collar are extremely common for parish priests in the United States but are certainly not required. Depending on the community in which a priest is serving, he may never wear them or may wear them only on special occasions. Some priests may choose to dress in black and wear a Roman collar when they are at work, and then to wear different clothes when they are out of the office or away from the parish, as a sign to others (and to themselves) that they are taking a day of rest. Others may prefer to wear the Roman collar even on their days off. (Keeping to the uniform certainly makes shopping for clothes easier!) But, in general, priests should dress in a dignified manner that respects the culture and the community in which they minister.

The Author : Neela Kale
Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Brother Mark

    You are right MaryAnn about being off duty. The way I see it is this, for a priest, their Sabbath obligation does not occur on Sunday, but usually on another day of the week. Sundays are usually a day of a lot of work for priests. I know a few priests who had nervous breakdowns because people never stopped insisted on them not having Sabbath rest. Priests are also required, by Canon Law to take retreats, and our community requires us to take a day off. This is because, generally, priests are more fatherly, and care too much about their parochial needs to even take care of themselves. Priests need to be reminded, because generally they don’t want a Sabbath rest. I hope every mother still knows the value of being taken care of by a spouse, but in a practical sense a priest has to do a little extra to take care of themselves.
    I can only wear the Roman Collar when I am in the capacity of ministry. Otherwise, I might wear it when I am traveling or driving to ministry, and will probably wear it more when I am a priest. It helps me to be a more courteous driver. LOL!
    Our habit is only worn within the context of our functions within the Religious Order, special celebrations, or ministry in one of our inistitutions. I find when I am in my habit in public, I am not a witness to the sacred, but mistaken for the Grim Reaper, a Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Matrix character.
    I hope one day, God will give me the grace to wake up in the middle of the night for a priest emergency. I find most of the time if I don’t get enough sleep or rest, I am not the best witness. God can write straight lines with crooked pencils, however it is foolish to live demanding extraordinary miracles from God to the point of being irresponsible to myself.
    Anyways hope that helps put some insider perspective.

  • MaryAnn Gaffney

    True that we all should dress in a dignified manner with modesty in mind, but the notion the priests are ever “off duty” is as absurd as saying mothers are “off duty.” Every mother knows that we are always “on duty”, I’m just saying.

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