Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Lost Customs of Military Chaplains, Restored on TV

We recently highlighted Matthew Plese’s book “Restoring Lost Customs of Christendom,” a compendium of articles about Catholic customs which have fallen into desuetude, and in some cases been almost wholly forgotten. We were therefore very pleased to see how the currently running show Masters of the Air, about bomber pilots in the European theater of World War II, has documented an old lost custom of Catholic Air Force chaplains. (Episode 3, at the 6:10 mark.) When blessing the men before they departed on a mission, they would wear an alb with no cincture, and a chasuble turned backwards. One of the things which the show highlights is how dangerous bombing missions were, and so the backwards chasuble symbolizes the intention of the blessing, that the men come back safe and sound.

The chaplains also wore a stole on the outside of the chasuble, in reference to the words of the vesting prayer which calls it “the stole of immortality”, since the mortality rates of bombing missions were often very high.
(A bit more than two years ago, we noted a similar revival of the odd use of vestments, an even more thoroughly disused custom of the Sarum Rite, on the BBC’s Father Brown series.)

By the way, I would add that this series is genuinely very well done, an Air Force iteration of the deservedly famous Band of Brothers from 2001, and while it is not a major feature, the religiosity of the characters is really portrayed with sincere respect.

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