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In the Catholic Church, there is a long tradition of priests wearing different color vestments to highlight the particular spiritual theme of the day. This would often reflect how a saint died (red for a martyr, for example), or a day of festivity in the Church (gold could be worn for most celebratory feast days).
Why do priests wear different color vestments?
Over time there also grew other local traditions where priests would celebrate a Mass for a particular group. According to the John Carroll Society, the “Red Mass,” is the oldest of these traditions.
The Red Mass enjoys a rich history. Originating centuries ago in Rome, Paris and London, its name also exemplifies the scarlet robes worn by royal judges that attended the Mass centuries ago. The Red Mass historically marked the official opening of the judicial year of the Sacred Roman Rota, the Tribunal of the Holy See. During the reign of Louis IX (Saint Louis of France), La Sainte Chapelle in Paris was designated as the chapel for the Mass. In England, beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing even through World War II, judges and lawyers have attended the Red Mass, which today is celebrated annually at Westminster Cathedral.
The priest often will wear red vestments as well, celebrating a votive Mass in honor of the Holy Spirit.
Following in a similar tradition, a “White Mass” was started in the United States in the early 20th century for members of the medical profession, who typically wore white when on duty. This Mass is often celebrated on the feast of St. Luke, patron of doctors, on October 18.
A “Blue Mass“was similarly started in the United States in the early 20th century, not based on the vestments of the priest, but on the blue uniform traditionally worn by members in “public safety,” such as police officers and firefighters.
Most recently a “Gold Mass” was initiated by the Society of Catholic Scientists. According to the Catholic Herald, “Catholic scientists chose the color gold because it is the color of the hoods worn by those graduating with a doctorate in science and because the patron saint of scientists, St. Albert the Great, was an alchemist who worked to turn base metals into gold.”
These vesting prayers before Mass remind priests of their unique vocation