Generally, I'm a firm believer that priests should always wear their clerics. Now I don't mean when they are working out and getting sweaty or playing basketball or golf or working on a car. But I don't see why they can't wear their clerics around town, to the food store, etc.
Personally, I always find it a joy to see a priest in his collar at the grocery store or filling up his car with gas or on his way somewhere. I see that Roman collar as a sign of who they are. To me, their collar is like my wedding ring, and I almost never take that off.
Today, out of the mouths of babes, Cecilia gave me one more reason why priests should wear their clerics.
Today, James had a meeting to go to at CUA, so I thought it would be a great opportunity for all of us to go to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The girls would get the joy of looking at such a beautiful church and I could take advantage of the opportunity to go to confession. Afterwards, James went to his meeting, and I took the girls to Mary's Garden. Elizabeth and Felicity were in our double stroller and Cecilia walked beside me. As we were walking to the garden, we met an older Asian man. He was wearing a light blue shirt and light pants and greeted Cecilia with a friendly, "Well, Hello there." Cecilia said hello back. He asked how she was and she said she was fine. Pointing to the stroller, he asked if those were her brother and sister. (How that works is beyond me as Felicity's hair has gotten so long and Elizabeth was dressed in all pink floral, but there it was.) Felicity immediately pulled the canopy over her face to hide. After I informed him that they were her sisters, he said, "Oh, I don't think she wants me to see her." We wished each other a good day and continued walking. It was only as he was leaving I noticed, almost blending into the light blue shirt was a white roman collar open and undone near his neck. Had I seen it before, I would have addressed him as "Father."
As we were walking away, Cecilia turned to me and said, "Mommy, I talked to the boy."
Now, granted, he was certainly a man and not a boy, but I have to wonder what he would think if he knew not wearing his collar properly reduced him in the recognition of this four year old girl to simply, a "boy."
The ordained priesthood is not an office to be disregarded or taken lightly and it becomes much harder for people to recognize it when it is there and give the respect that is due if the priest is not wearing his clerics, or in this case, not wearing them properly. It likewise denies the faithful the joy and support that seeing their priests outside of church affords. To see a priest at the food store in his clerics is to see him bearing witness to his faith in public, and, indeed, even in the mundane. How inspiring is that to the rest of us!
I understand clerics are black and it can be hot. I understand the collar goes around your neck and not your finger. When I'm pregnant, I get hot and uncomfortable (understatement?) but that doesn't make it any less worth it!