HEN ROBERT E. LEE surrendered to Grant, he wore his finest uniform, immaculately clean. Grant wore a muddy private’s uniform, with nothing but a pair of shoulder straps to designate his rank. Some claim Lee’s choice of attire signified how much he valued honor and proper behavior, while Grant’s clothing showed him as a “pragmatic” person.
When I was teaching high school, priests from the diocese would offer Mass for the students: a different one each week. Some were “infamous,” like the SOLT priest who gave a homily lasting 1.5 hours, causing students to miss their classes. (He was never invited back.)
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When Bishop René H. Gracida offered Mass at our school, two things happened which I’ll never forget.
IRST, a whole bunch of priests from the diocese showed up (which was rare), and they all wore the Roman Collar. Several came wearing a cassock! One priest in particular shocked me. He showed up wearing a lovely black soutane. I had no idea this priest even owned a cassock, because he normally dressed in a Hawaiian shirt. But for some reason, he didn’t wear a Hawaiian shirt for Bishop Gracida.
ECOND, Bishop Gracida arrived early and did something no other priest had ever done. He stood right in front of the sacristy Crucifix and prayed—very devoutly—for a significant period of time. The priests were astonished and didn’t know what to do! I could see the look in their eyes: “Bishop Gracida is … praying!” Some of them began to pray, too, while others were more quiet than normal.
I doubt Bishop Gracida remembers that Mass, because he followed his normal routine. But I’ll never forget that day, because I saw what it means to be a true leader.
LADIES DO NOT REQUIRE an explanation as to why priests wear distinctive garb. Have you noticed that women always pay attention to what they wear and how they look? They place a value upon one’s attire, just like Robert E. Lee did.
We had a Franciscan pastor during the 1990s named Fr. Valentine Young. He always wore his brown Franciscan robe, except one time, when he came to visit our house. That time, he wore a black clerical suit. I was shocked! I didn’t realize Franciscans were allowed to wear “clerics.” But it turns out Fr. Valentine does not wear his Franciscan robes when he travels long distances by car, because the robes make it difficult for him to drive safely. On those occasions, he wears the Roman Collar.