I was innocently working away on a blog post—a kind of memoir—when I needed to recall the names for an altar boy's vestments. I remembered the cassock, the long button-front robe (invariably black in my home parish, but sometimes red in others). I could not, however, remember what the lace-trimmed white top was called.
It's a surplice, as I discovered after a quick Google search using the key words “altar boy cassocks.” But I got more than I bargained for, which is often the case with an Internet search. There is so much out there! It was still pretty surprising.
One of the hits was on the website of the Southern Africa affiliate of the Society of St. Pius X. You don't know the Society? It's a group of schismatic Catholics associated with the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, excommunicated by John Paul II for his intransigent insistence that only the old Tridentine rite of the mass was valid. (The Society is all excited about Benedict XVI's motu proprio re-establishing general availability of the Latin mass.) The members of the Society, by the way, who have prided themselves for decades as being more Catholic than the pope, would strenuously deny being in schism. They're merely guilty of being old-fashioned and faithful to tradition.
Well, they're retro, all right. The Southern Africa affiliate of the Society of St. Pius X provides on-line access to blocks of text from the 1960 book by G. C. Davy, The Christian Gentleman. Here is what Davy has to say about altar boys in Chapter 12:
Altar-BoysSorry, but “lace-clad angels”? Was it possible to write that unselfconsciously even back in 1960? And the little rascals “wriggle and bounce around”? Yeah, they probably all need a good spanking.
Those lace-clad angels that wriggle and bounce around our altars are privileged beings—more privileged than most of them seem to realise. An altar-boy has an important and necessary part to play in the liturgy of the Church.
And would a sensible religious organization keep such text posted on its website?
I know my answer to that question.