Pallia, Pectoral Crosses and the Colour Purple.

A Poem by Michael Maginn
I have rarely felt the need of one
in more than thirty years of pastoral ministry,
but if our Shepherds want to wear a soutane
let them ditch the colour purple for simple black.
And if they need to wear a ring,
let it be a plain commitment band.
And if they need to wear a pectoral cross
to announce their episcopal identity,
let it be of wood, not some adornment
in gold or silver the size of a barn door.
Similarly with the pastoral staff:
a crook of wood will do.
As for the wearing of mitres,
that crowning frippery from a bygone age,
the next time our Shepherds gather for a group photo,
let them toss their hats in the air,
never to be retrieved.
Like a class of young graduates
exuberantly tossing their graduation caps
to the four winds.
Given the dreadful and continuing trauma of recent decades,
let our Shepherds lead by example,
modelling the kind of humble Church
that we now need to build.

Similar Posts


  1. I like the witness of habits, it lets you know that you’re not the last Catholic. I like the beauty of Catholic churches rather than the drabness (boastful humility) of the Calvinist ones.

  2. Kevin Walters says:

    Given the dreadful and continuing trauma of recent decades,
    let our Shepherds lead by example,
    modelling the kind of humble Church
    that we now need to build.
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  3. Mary Vallely says:

    I love Michael’s poem and nodded my head, smiling in agreement all the way through it. There are some men who are rather too fond of the bling and whilst I don’t mind looking at a bit of bling myself I sometimes wonder at the motivation behind wearing it. If it is indeed for the honour and glory of God, so be it. If it is for the honour and glory of the wearer, well, let God judge. I’m afraid I’m much too quick to rush into judgement myself at times but I reckon those addicted to dressing up in more ostentatious apparel could take a garment out of our present Pope’s wardrobe and reflect on the very positive effect that has had on people, Catholic and non-Catholic, worldwide. Pax. 🙂

  4. The habit does not make the monk.

  5. john dwyer kirwin says:

    Good words, well put. About the only useful item is the shepherd’s crook and that like every story has two sides, the crook to gently call the errant home and the end to firmly prod the laggards. The remaining items will only hamper the shepherd’s work. Keep on writing.

  6. Richard O'Donnell says:

    I wonder about the beauty of Roman Catholic churches and indeed any church from which the homeless are locked out at night.
    Well written Michael.

  7. Richard, it you haven’t read it then you might be interested in Tattoos of the Heart by Fr Greg Boyle SJ. He describes how he allowed the homeless sleep in the church. He also set up Homeboy Industries.

  8. Fr Ronan Kilgannon says:

    Whatever about the colour purple, but I would not like to see the mitre dismissed.
    I may be wrong here, but I have always thought it symbolised the open scriptures, with the two “tails” representing the old and new testaments. The Bishop is teacher, it is good to see him standing humbly under God’s Word when He is preaching. Correct me if I am wrong. Symbols are important to faith.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.