Non Solum: Clothing and the Catechumenate

In the RCIA, there is an optional clothing of the newly baptized at the Easter Vigil with a (most often) white robe to symbolize their new baptismal purity. (Para. 229) It has become increasingly common to mirror this white robe with a colored robe during the rites associated with catechumenate and up to the baptism itself.

What is your experience with this practice? Is it only for baptism or for all of the liturgies of the catechumenate? Is it done at all?

Below is a picture of this practice in St. James Cathedral in Seattle, WA.




  1. In my experience we only used the white robe at baptism.
    I knew of a parish where they had the elect wear a bathing suit with a brown robe over it as they stepped into the baptismal pool and had water poured over them. While the assembly renewed their baptismal promises the newly baptized and confirmed (note: a lot of oil was used) went to another room where accommodations were made for them to change into “Easter clothes” not white robes.

  2. At an Easter Vigil I attended in 1992 (as a pew-dweller, not in a particularized ministry), the number of blow dryers being used during the changing time for newly-baptized blew a fuse. They had to finish changing in the dark. Check the wiring!
    (Another item for the Vigil checklist.)

  3. We’ve used a colored robe when adults are immersed to ease catechumens’ concerns about modesty and practicality. Children usually are immersed in lightweight summer or swimming clothing. I’ve never thought of the colored robe mirroring the white garment. Something to consider.

  4. At our place the catechumens wear muted clothing and enough layers to be not-see-through. Fleece to be avoided since it sags badly when soaked. Then they dress in their easter finery (suites, dresses) and come out with their lighted candles.

  5. In two of the parishes where I served, those to be baptized at the Easter Vigil were given a long, dark tunic (black or blue) tastefully made out of bed sheets or king-pillowcases (for children) to wear over clothes of their choice (usually swimsuit) as they were baptized; after confirmation, they changed into a white alb. The visual change had meaning, not only for the newly baptized but also for the assembly present.

    1. @Jeanne Wiest, OP:
      From someone who worked at an African American parish for a long time, I’d strongly encourage you not to use black. I feel sorry for the visiting priest who made the statement of “from black to white” when he should have said “from darkness to light.”

      We use maroon robes. Ugly ugly maroon robes.

  6. Our parish is Franciscan and has used brown hooded robes for our full immersion baptisms of adults at the Easter Vigil for a long time. After baptism, the neophytes put on a white alb over their own clothes. It’s been a great symbol of “before and after”

  7. I became a great fan of opaque dark colored robes about 30 years ago. I told the four women to wear something they could wet in and found I was hosting a wet t-shirt contest. True story.

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