Catholic Activity: Receive the White Garment
Article by Therese Mueller from Orate Fratres: A Liturgical Review, Vol. XVIII, November 5, 1944, No. 12.
Discusses a design for the white garment, dalmatic style, with embroidery details.
Some time after the article "On Celebrating Baptism" was printed (cf. O.F., XVIII, 6), a pastor wrote me: "Whenever I put the little purificator on a baptized child, saying the solemn words, 'Receive the white garment....' I blush. After reading about the priestly garment, the dalmatic-shaped baptismal robe, I wonder whether you would help design a baptism garment for use in my parish."
This was some response! Although taken by surprise and, not being an artist, quite diffident as to the outcome, I found myself toying with paper, pencil and scissors, looking up books on baptism and dalmatics and symbols. Then, with a prayer for help to the Holy Spirit, I made some simple sketches, good enough, I thought, to become a basis for further discussion. Without waiting for critical afterthoughts I sent them off, together with a lengthy letter and numerous questions, that very same night.
The final design was soon agreed upon. The dalmatic-like white garment (two yards of material are needed) has two stripes lengthwise, bordered by hemstiched drawn out lines. Right under the neckline a connecting stripe of the same width carried the word CREDO, while the long stripes from the shoulder-line downwards spell the words RESURREXIT (He is risen) and ALLELUIA. Thus is formed a middle field for the symbols of the Holy Ghost, the downward flying dove, "hovering above the waters," indicated by stylized waves. The Greek characters for the Alpha and Omega (the Beginning and End), are on either side of the dove's head.
All the embroidering is to be done in bright red thread, for the sake of the baptismal party. To be sure, the pastor will explain not only the rite of baptism itself but also the meaning of the robe and its design to all present. Best of all, the garment is to be sewn and embroidered in all its details by the women of the parish!
But this is not all. There will be a steadily growing border of neatly arranged (perhaps even carefully chosen?) Christian names, a record of names and dates, on the front piece as well as on the back part. And for some years to come children will be shown their own (unabbreviated and un-nicked) names and the date of their adoption as children of God. Seven or eight years from now there may even be a solemn renewal of the baptismal vows, and the priestly garment, once used in baptism, will now be laid upon the shoulders of the First Communicant.
Perhaps, too, the pastor, called to administer the last rites to a dying child, will take along the baptismal robe, and with this symbol of preparedness for the heavenly wedding feast impress upon the child and his parents that the very threshold has now been reached, where eternal communion with Christ in His glory will begin.
Since this is an "apostolate" note, I would like to emphasize that there is no patent on this idea or design. And to be even more practical: do you suppose your pastor would accept a baptismal robe like this, thoughtfully and carefully worked out by the members of your women sodalities or societies?
It should be stressed, however, that the parish-owned baptismal robe must not replace nor discourage the individually owned one, the one godmother or mother prepares for the expected child as a priceless possession for his life-time. On the contrary, it can and will help to make people mindful of this great symbol of the greatest good we own: sanctifying grace.
Therese Mueller St. Paul, Minnesota
Activity Source: Orate Fratres: A Review Devoted to the Liturgical Apostolate , The Liturgical Press