On February 2, Feast of the Purification of Our Lady, nine seminarians received the cassock before His Excellency Bp. Bernard Fellay, and among them was Joseph Budds from Co. Cork.
Conferral of the Cassock and Tonsure
It is the practice of the Society to give the cassock and tonsure on the day when the Church commemorates the presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple. This is because both ceremonies, of cassock and tonsure, express the giving of one’s life to the service of God. On the day of his presentation in the Temple, the Christ child offered himself to the Father with a generosity that surpasses our understanding, embracing in advance the sufferings and sacrificial death that He knew this offering entailed. In this way our Lord provided an example of magnanimity to be imitated by all who aspire to participate in his priesthood. The very rites of the reception of the cassock and tonsure call for this magnanimity.
The Cassock—A Visible Change
Firstly, the change in clothing of those who take the cassock signifies the interior transformation of the heart—contempt for the world, death to self, and a new life in Jesus Christ. In the blessing of the clerical habit, the Church prays that “these thy servants, having put on this garment, may likewise put on Thee.” The language is taken from St. Paul: “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences” (Rom. 13:14).
Black for Death
The black color of the cassock signifies death to the world and to self. The world, in this sense, is nothing other than the rebellion of creatures against God, which always springs from disordered self-love and is fomented by the attractiveness of created goods when they are sought after without any reference to the divine Goodness. Concerning this, St. John says, “Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world…for all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:15-16).
This mystical death is an aspect of the Christian life stressed by St. Paul. “Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death? For we are buried together with him by baptism into death…Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer…So do you also reckon, that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:3-11). The cassock reminds the one who wears it, as well as all around him, of the necessity of this self-renunciation, after the example of Christ. “Christ died for all, that they also who live, may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).
Let us keep Joseph Budds and the other Irish seminarians in our prayers, asking God to give them and many more the strength to answer His call in a world that so deperately needs priests.