Baptismal Garments

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAWhat do I wear?! That’s a question I get often when I’m planning liturgies. Whether it’s the confirmation candidate, the newly-ordained, or even the bishop, himself, we have a natural concern over what to wear.

The baptismal rite in the RCIA gives us at least one answer: Put on Christ. Therefore we physically clothe the newly baptized with a white garment. As we do so, we say them:

You have become a new creation
and have clothed yourselves in Christ.
Receive this baptismal garment
and bring it unstained to the judgment seat
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
so that you may have everlasting life. (RCIA, #229)

This white garment should then be:

  • white (although another color may be used according to local custom, cf. RCIA, #229)
  • unstained
  • dignified
  • fitting to the person’s height and size
  • preferably new
  • preferably theirs to keep.

It should not be:

  • stained
  • dingy or ragged
  • wrinkled
  • flimsy or small
  • a dalmatic (vestment worn by a deacon)
  • a chasuble (vestment worn by a priest).

Nor should you add a stole to the garment. This and the last two items above are reserved for the ordained.

One option is to sew your own garments for your elect. This can be a ministry of the parish and a creative way to involve more people in the ministry of initiation. Invite especially the homebound who have sewing skills and those who prefer to serve “behind the scenes.”

A simple and elegant pattern for a baptismal garment can be found in the appendix of The Three Days: Parish Prayer in the Paschal Triduum, by Gabe Huck (Liturgy Training Publications, 1992). You can also purchase a pattern from the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Syracuse here.

Other options can be to gift each neophyte with an alb, the common ritual garment used by any baptized minister. (“Alb” comes from the Latin word, alba, which means “white.” The alb is worn by any liturgical minister, from the altar servers all the way up to the bishop, and serves as a reminder of baptism.) This would be an appropriate gift from the godparents, parish, and catechumenate team. A white choir robe can also work. An alternative to a full-length alb or choir robe, and a less expensive option, would be a surplice (without the cassock), such as this example.

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  1. About Baptismal garments — for years we have used the “Confirmation robes” from Robert Gaspard company that come in three sizes, — and we have even trimmed down the small size for some of our younger children celebrating initiation.
    The robes are “open” in that easily fit over the street clothing of our neophytes and are open on the sides, thereby less constraining than albs might be. THAT is especially important since our neophytes wear their white garments each time they come to the parish for Mass during the entire Easter season. Because we sometimes include persons in our process from other parishes, those neophytes have taken their garments to their home parishes to wear and witness their initiatory journey. The neophytes taken them home at the end of the Easter season to wash and return to the parish, preparing for those who will follow in their spiritual footsteps. would be the website to check out.

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