1. Name. — 2. Use. — S. Shape. — 4. Different Sorts. — 5. A Sign of Jurisdiction. — 6. Removable Rectors. —7. The "Zimarra" of Seminarians.
1. Encyclopedias are generally very incomplete, often Inexact, in their articles on the Catholic Church. Since the sixteenth century, the English tongue has been mainly Protestant. Hence, the necessity of recurring to foreign or improper terms when we wish to speak of certain things pertaining to the Liturgy of the Church.
We see this exemplified in the case of the ecclesiastical garment of which we are treating in this Chapter. For lack of a proper English word, the terms cassock and zimarra have been adopted by ecclesiastics and tailors. The former designation (cassock or "home-cassock") is not exact, this garment being somewhat different from the cassock properly so-called. The word "zimarra" is the Italian name of this garment, and has the same etymology and all the different meanings of the English word simar. So let us take at least this opportunity of doing away with an improper and a foreign word, and of adopting the English word simar, with its Catholic meaning of an ecclesiastical vestment resembling the cassock, but differing from it in that it is adorned with short, buttoned false sleeves and a small unclosed cape adhering to the collar.
2. Strictly speaking, the "simar" should be a house garment, a kind of ecclesiastical morning gown. However, during the past century, it became customary to wear it outside of the house, and even at Papal audiences. (a) Prelates may wear the simar at home, and even, in Catholic countries, outside as a street dress. (b) But it should not be worn in church, especially for public services, the cassock only being the proper vestment for the church.
Nevertheless, a certain custom admits the simar to be worn in the church, not, however, for public functions. It may be worn also, for the celebration of Low Mass, both in the private chapel of the Prelate and in church. (c)
3. The shape of. the simar is the same as that of the ordinary cassock, with the few aforesaid exceptions. It never admits of a train, and is always, with the exception of the Pope's, black, and of woolen material.
4. The Pope's simar. is white. He generally wears it all day, except when he puts on his choir habit. The many portraits of Pius IX., Leo XIII., and Pius X. have made the shape of this garment familiar to us.
The Cardinals' simar is black with scarlet trimmings.
The same black simar, trimmed with amaranth red, is also worn by Bishops and by the Prelates di mantelletta on ordinary days. But Bishops and the Prelates di mantelletta, on penitential or mourning days, and the Prelates di mantellone at all times, wear a black simar trimmed with purple.
Religious properly so-called, when appointed Cardinals or Bishops, adopt a simar of the same color as that of the religious habit of their Order, an exception being made for the Franciscans, who, then wear an ash-colored simar like their cassock.
Clerics Regular wear a simar like that of secular Prelates.
5. Certain dignitaries wear an entirely black simar as an external sign of ordinary jurisdiction or authority. These are the Vicars General, the irremovable parish-priests, and Rectors of Seminaries. (d)
6. Removable Rectors of Churches, Curates and other priests are by no means entitled to wear a simar. (e)
7. According to Roman etiquette, Seminarians should wear a purple cassock in church and even, in Catholic countries, out of doors. But in the Seminary, they wear as their ordinary dress a simar peculiar to them, which has no false sleeves, thus indicative of inferior dignity. It is understood that this simar must be the regular house garment and not a kind of winter overcoat.
(a) Un Eveque Suffragant, op. cit., pp. 18, 14.
(b) Ibid.—In this country, clerical tailors call "gimarra" a sort of surtout, which partakes of the simar and of the overcoat or "douillette," but has nothing in common with proper etiquette.
(c) Barbier de Montault, op. cit., pp. 89, 90.
(d) The simar of these priests being a token of dignity or Jurisdiction and not simply a house dress, they may wear it in church, but never with the choir-habit or for sacred functions. This simar must be of black woolen material. A silk simar would be in opposition to the most elementary rules of etiquette. It is understood that, if they are Prelates otherwise, they wear the simar trimmed with red or purple, according to their rank in the Prelature.
(e) It is, therefore, a mistake to consider the simar as a "cassock for priests," as is done in some dioceses of Great Britain, where seminarians wear an ordinary cassock, and, as soon as they are ordained, put on a simar.— (Cfr. the decree of the Council of Westminster, quoted by Taunton in The Law of the Church under the heading "Habit.")