Seminarians “in choir”

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Thank you for all your guidance and insights into the liturgy, Fr. Paul. Many of the questions posed by others are ones I would have posed myself. Here’s a question I have based upon recent experience. I notice that some seminarians–ordained or not–attending a particular parish liturgy desire to be seated in the sanctuary “in choir(?)”.  I explain that if someone doesn’t have a specific function to perform in the sanctuary, that it doesn’t make sense to have them seated there.  I’m not even sure if the term “in choir” even applies to them. 


A: Thanks for your comments on my work. 

I don’t know of any legislation calling for seminarians to vest in cassock and surplice and be seated in the sanctuary for Mass. When I was in the major seminary in the 1970s, we all wore cassock and surplice for Mass every day. The custom may have originated from the number of seminarians in minor orders at that stage of their academic life. (Minor orders came to an end right at the time I entered major seminary.)

I guess I’d agree that those seated in the sanctuary should be those who are exercising some function. Seminarians without specific liturgical responsibilities during the Mass fulfill the same responsibilities as the rest of the faithful and would more logically dress and be seated accordingly. There are provisions for priests to dress “in choir” for Mass, but I’m unaware of current liturgical documents using that term for the vesture of seminarians.

But maybe someone else who follows my blog knows something more about the custom and any documents explicitly permitting it.