I tell you someting. Listen. Whenever I see a priest in a hat it gives me what do you call it? Goose bumples. I get this shiver go right down my back and for the longest time I don’t know why. Any other priest comes marching into mass and I maybe just yawn and flick my fan out and chase away a fly.
Mantilla the Hon on Clergy Hats
Then we get this new priest in the parish and he’s wearing the biretta. Wow! I give my friend Salsarita an elbow in the ribs, “Salsa, will you look at that new priest! He’s wearing a biretta!” I haven’t seen one these in years and it makes me think about priests in hats. I like it when a priest wears a hat, and maybe, you know, this is one of the nice things about being Catholic, that the priests put on headgear.
So many hats! So little time! There’s the little beanie called a zuchetto, they come in different colors for the different rank. Any priest can wear the biretta. Three fins on a square hat and a pom on top and if you’re a monsignor or a doctor in theology you can wear a red pom. A bishop and cardinal–they wear purple and red ones. I think some of the other clergy wear white and even blue. Then the saturno. Just a good hat for keeping the head warm, and the bishop wears the miter with the zuchetto underneath. You know hon, I get all excited just thinking about it.
So I start thinking you know? Why do I get goose bumples over the priest wearing a hat? I think it is because the hat makes him different. He wears the special clothes not because he’s so special, (but let me tell you, I love some of our priests and they are very special people hon!) but anyway, they wear the hat because their job is special. They are set apart for a special role so they wear a special hat.
Why do people think this is strange maybe? The policeman, he wear a different hat than everybody else. Nobody think its crazy when the graduate wears that funny flat hat with a tassle. No. That’s because on that day the kid is special. The matador wears a special hat. So does the Knight of Columbus and the park ranger.
Another thing is that the hats are traditional. It reminds you of the past. That priest wearing a biretta–he’s like something out of the old days, and that makes me feel like I’m in touch with a religion that’s older, and for me hon, older is better. At Salamanca when I was doing my degree in ecclesiastical haberdashery they told us. “Be suspicious of any enterprise that requires new clothes.” I think you can take it further…”Be suspicious of new clothes.” Same thing for hats. Older is better.
Last thing is this hon. Think about it. The hats are also just a little bit ridiculous, you know? Sometimes we Catholics are blamed for taking all this too seriously. This heretic from Germany once asked me at Salamanca, “Vhy do your priests have to wear zese silly hats?” I say to him, “They wear them because they want to, not because they have to.”
He scratches his head. “But zey look absurd!” So I poke him with my fan pretty hard and say, “That’s also why they wear them. Because they are absurd. Do you think our holy priests want to look all serious and sensible and self righteous and be dressed up in a suit like some lawyer or accountant? How boring is that? No our priests are more absurd than that, and also more serious.” You know what I mean hon? I told him the truth, but I don’t think he understood it. He was just a German studying something useless like brain surgery or how to build a better septic tank or someting.
So maybe when your priest has a birthday coming up, you go ahead and buy him a nice biretta and read up on it and tell him when he should wear it. Maybe it will not only change his head, but change his mind.