The biretta has been enjoying a recent renaissance and bloggers have highlighted the trend, writes Simon Cotton

Where are those in the Anglican tradition who have been seen to be obsessed with externals, which in the late nineteenth century led to the comment by Bishop Mandell Creighton, ‘With the cry sounding in our ears, ‘Arise, shine’, how can we waste time by disputing about the shape of our lanterns?’

Whilst blogs have been very concerned with the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, from Ex Fide we have also learned of the imminent conversion of the City of London, through the reintroduction of the folded chasuble at St Magnus the Martyr, whilst Father Ray Blake has reminded us that the maniple has never been abrogated.

Blog list

(camouflage biretta)


Growing popularity

Now of course, some are convinced that birettas are old hat. I thought that I had witnessed the sunset of the biretta, as worn by the late Fr Brian Brindley at the Walsingham National Pilgrimage in 1969, when Fr Brindley combined it with sunglasses and mutton-chop whiskers. But it seems that it has been enjoying a renaissance. The domus birettarum site has been featuring all sorts and colour of ’em.

The trend has been picked up by one of Fr Dwight Longenecker’s star contributors, Mantilla Amontillado:

‘I have to tell you this hon. I am talking to Mother Agnes at the Carmelite convent where the sisters are busy making Mantilla’s line of birettas, and she tell me that we have competition over in England. That’s right hon. You have to take a look at this website [http://domusbirettarum.] which is all about the biretta. They are having pictures of many priests wearing birettas, and they have the different kinds of biretta and some of them in different colors! They are even making the Spanish biretta! Then I am hearing from the gossip that they are getting attention from some kind of big time journalist named Damson Thomas who is an ecclesiastical fashionista in London and likes to write articles about the Latin Mass and high class Catholics from Oxford and vestments and he is friends with the people at Watt and Co and Wipples and all these things.

So now because of Damson Thomas these British biretta guys are getting some attention from all over the world and the gossip tells me that they are having lots of orders for their birettas and they are even making them in camouflage colors maybe for army chaplains.

What are we going to do hon? Next thing you know they will be having a movie about birettas with Mel Gibson. It will be some kind of action movie about a Catholic priest who is also a secret agent. Maybe they even call it The Beretta in My Biretta. Mel Gibson will be riding around Rome on a Vespa in a cassock and biretta chasing the bad guys.’

Causing confusion

But of course, some people get confused between birettas and berettas. Never mind, once someone had raised the question, the great Father Z dealt with the matter in one of his quaeritur blogs:

‘Can a beretta be used in the OF? When would it be used?’

‘Yes, without question! But make sure that it is clean and in good working order so that it doesn’t misfire.

I would use the beretta primarily when there are too many extraordinary ministers charging the altar. Another possible moment would be when the choir sings On Eagle’s Wings or another ditty of that sort.

The best way to use the beretta is to rise… first removing your biretta – which is perfectly correct to use in celebrations of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite – and, taking aim, go for head shots.

I have learned through hard won and tough experience that you should immediately reload!

To save you and everyone else that embarrassing hitching up of the alb and digging in the pocket for a clip … errrr…. magazine…, have one … or more … ready on a silver salver covered with a linen cloth about the size of a corporal.

The altar boy, or if it is a more solemn occasion, deacon, can bring you clip s magazines as you should need them.

The beretta should be cleaned after the purification of the chalice and before the final prayer and dismissal.

The congregation will be quite patient and will not leave before that final blessing, believe me.’ ND