Monday, October 22, 2012


"Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52).
In honor of the reappearance of the Holy Father donning the papal fanon on Sunday, here are some images of the garment being worn by his predecessors. It is a white shoulder cape with thin gold and red stripes worn by the pope at solemn Mass.

The fanon was last seen on John Paul II who wore it once in 1980. That chasuble ain't half bad either. I'm not aware that Papa Luciani ever wore the fanon, but then the "September Pope" didn't have time to do very much during his pontificate.

Pope Paul VI looks very dignified wearing pinstripes on the throne of St. Peter.

Pope John XXIII kneels for prayer in St. Peter's Basilica while wearing the fanon.

Pope Pius XII takes in the moment while wearing the papal fanon (which might have been his coronation).

What is the significance of seeing it again? Although it is interesting as a matter of historical curiosity, the real significance is as a visible sign with continuity with the past. It is especially fitting in this "Year of Faith" and 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council as it highlights Pope Benedict XVI's emphasis on a "hermeneutic of continuity" in interpreting the council as a continuity of tradition rather than a break with tradition.

On a personal level, there is also a tender feeling in pulling out an old garment with its own history and wearing it during divine service. There is something comforting in knowing that "Father so-and-so wore this back in the day." It gives you a feeling of connection with the faithful who have gone before and with that faith they believed, taught, and defended.

The fanon worn by the pope on Sunday was probably new since popes are buried in the garment (though I don't think John Paul II was). But the feeling is the same--joining with those who have gone before us in a shared life of faith.

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