Q: Is it still permissible for the priest to wear a maniple?
A: Here’s a bulletin insert I wrote several years ago for Ministry and Liturgy magazine.
By Paul Turner
The maniple is a narrow cloth formerly worn by Roman Catholic clergy during the liturgy. It resembled a tiny stole, draped over the left arm and tied or secured with a pin.
Typically its ends flared out with decorative fringe. Clergy selected a maniple made in the liturgical color of the day, thus matching the chasuble, dalmatic and stole.
The maniple probably originated in homes as a kind of handkerchief or napkin useful at meals. As with other vestments, its secular origins helped establish its purpose as it was adopted for use in the liturgy. In fact, while putting on the maniple, the priest offered a prayer that called it “the maniple of weeping and sorrow.” Hence, it may also have originated in the secular world as a cloth to dry one’s tears.
In 1967, just a few years after the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the use of the maniple became “no longer required” (Tres abhinc annos). Effectively, this made the maniple optional, but it immediately fell into widespread disuse.
In the description of the vestments worn by the priest and deacon in the post-Vatican II liturgy, there is no mention of the maniple at all. Hence, the 1967 instruction that permitted its use has changed. The priest wears an alb, stole, and chasuble; he may wear an amice and cincture (General instruction on the Roman Missal 119, 336-337). No other vestment is mentioned. The option of wearing the maniple is no longer given.
The simplification of vesture worn by Roman Catholic clergy helps the faithful focus more clearly on the rank of the minister, the nature of the day’s celebration, and the solemnity of the ritual.