Vestments describe the clothing that Catholic priests wear. Understanding what the clothing is called and what each piece symbolizes helps children gain a deeper understanding of their faith and the Mass. Turning activities into games helps children explore their faith in a fun, hands-on way.
Tour the Vestry
Every church has a vestry. This is a small room usually near the altar where the priest dresses for Mass. It usually also houses the vestments when not in use. Ask your local parish for a tour of the room. Explore the closet where the longer pieces are stored such as the alb, a long white robe, and the chasuble, a large colored piece that covers the priest from neck to toe. Look in the drawers where the stoles, cinctures and amices are folded neatly away. The stole is a long piece similar to a scarf that is worn around the neck of a priest and across one shoulder of a deacon. The amice is a vestment sometimes worn over the shoulders of a priest instead of an alb. The cincture is a simple rope-like belt. The surplice, worn by altar servers and other clergy, may be kept in the vestry or in another storage area. Ask your priest or deacon to show the child each piece and demonstrate how it is worn. If possible take pictures of each piece.
Name That Vestment
Print pictures of each of the vestments. Look for photos online for vestments that your child may not see on a regular basis such as the Cope and the Humeral veil, a long or short cape used primarily for benediction. Bishops, cardinals and the Pope all wear the zucchetto and mitre. The zucchetto is a colored skull cap and the mitre is a tall pointed hat worn by bishops and the Pope. The biretta is a square hat worn by cardinals. Glue each picture to an index card. Write the word for each piece on a separate card. Give half the vestment pictures to the child and keep half for yourself. Spread out the vestment name cards face up on the table. Race to choose the correct names for each of the vestment pieces.
Use the same picture and name cards to play a game of Memory. Shuffle the picture and word cards together. Turn the cards face down and lay them out on the table. The first player flips over two cards, attempting to match the picture with the name. If the cards do not match, turn them back over and remember their placement. If the cards match, the player keeps them and takes another turn. Continue to play until all the cards are claimed.
Vestment Color Calendar
The colors chosen for Catholic vestments correspond to the liturgical calendar: green for ordinary time, purple for Lent and Advent, and white for joyful feasts such as Easter and Christmas. Red signifies a special feast day such as the Passion of Christ and Pentecost. There are also special Sundays such as Gaudete and Laertare that use rose- or pink-colored vestments. Some parishes also use black vestments for funerals and All Souls' Day. Gold vestments may also be used in place of any vestment except black and red. All this may be confusing to your child. Help your child explore the seasons for the church. Draw small stick figures on the Sunday block of a calendar. Cut triangles of colored paper or sticker material in green, red, purple, white, gold, rose and black. Place these shapes in a baggie taped to the back of the calendar. After Mass each Sunday, ask your child what color the priest was wearing. Allow your child to “dress” the stick figure on the calendar with the correct color. As the year rolls by, look back at the different colors and ask your child to look for correlations and patterns.