Everyone in Rome has a uniform and a title; and that’s if you are a nobody. If you are important, you also have a stamp, a wax seal, and most likely a signet ring. Perhaps this is why electronic means of communicating, providing identification, registering for classes, paying bills, and the like are so difficult and considered downright foreign here. I’ve gone through i don’t know how many hard-copy pictures of myself, and every correspondence to everyone needs to be an original letter, signed, co-signed and countersigned, then stamped in duplicate or triplicate.
But back to the uniforms: One of the many blessings of being in Rome is seeing the life of the church in all its profound diversity. You cannot maintain the illusion of a monolithic Catholicism very long in this capital of the church. I’ve seen habits for orders i had heard of but never met: Norbertines, for example, dress in a white simar and fascia looking almost identical to the pope. Then there are those i did not even know existed: the Teutonic knights, apparently, are back as a diocesan order, and looking very medieval.
Even most of the lay people around here are in ecclesiastical garb, particularly seminarians and lay religious, even during classes. So, naturally, I am on a mission to discover the appropriate ecclesiastical garb for a lay ecclesial minister. After all, if a student candidate for ministry gets a uniform, so too should someone already in sacred ministry, no?
(The current favored title is “Almost Reverend…”, or “Your Mediocreness”, and the garb is a white or black dress shirt with banded collar, though I am open to suggestions. But, I digress.)
Allora… I decided to peruse the ecclesiastical shopping district near the Pantheon with Stian, an Anglican seminarian and friend of mine who shares that you can get four clerical shirts in Rome for the price of one in Norway.
We picked up a couple new friends on the way, Matthew, from Australia, and Cosima, from Germany. While Stian was being fitted for his clericals, the rest of us were perusing the mitres, zucchetti, and birettas that seemed to be available over the counter.
Did you know that with an ecclesiastical doctorate one is entitled to wear a biretta with the appropriate color trimming? For theology, it’s scarlet; canon law is green, etc.
As we were about to leave in search of a pizzeria and gellateria, America’s lone representative to the Synod for Africa, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, walked in for some shopping of his own. He was kind enough to stop for a brief chat about the Synod, and exchange a warm greeting before we moved on for pizza and gelato. At least now we know we were in the right shop!