Why do priests wear different colors of robes?

Why do priests wear different colors of robes?

Why do priests wear different colors of robes? Have your kids or somebody you know asked this question to you? priests wear different colors

As a Catholic, you certainly have seen priests in your parish wearing different colors of robes. There is white, green, red and violet. Sometimes, you will also see pink/rose or black.

It is good to understand the significance of these colors. So, you know what to say when your friends ask you. You will also stop wondering and become more well informed when you enter the church at any occasion.

We follow a liturgical calendar in the church, different from the Gregorian calendar that is widely accepted in the world. The Gregorian calendar is the civil calendar that consists of 12 irregular months from January to December as we know it.

The liturgical calendar, on the other hand, is the calendar used by the church. It consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in the entire year in the church. This determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed. Thus, these celebrations are also the basis of which color of vestment the priest will wear for the day.

One liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent and ends with the Feast of Christ the King. The liturgical calendar also determines which Scriptural passages are to be read on each day of the entire liturgical year.


Here are the explanation from The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

GIRM #345 says:

Diversity of color in the sacred vestments has as its purpose to give more effective expression even outwardly whether to the specific character of the mysteries of faith to be celebrated or to a sense of Christian life’s passage through the course of the liturgical year.


Meaning of liturgical colors and their usage according to GIRM #346:

1) WHITE – signifies purity, innocence, light, joy, celebration, victory and glory

  • used in the offices and masses during the seasons of Easter and Christmas
  • on celebrations of the Lord, other than of his passion (e.g. Ascension of our Lord, Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, Christ the King)
  • on celebrations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels, saints who were not martyrs
  • on the solemnity of All Saints (November 1)
  • on the feasts of the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24), John, apostle, evangelist (Dec.27), the Chair of Peter (Feb.22), and the Conversion of Paul (Jan. 25).

2) RED – signifies the Holy Spirit, the Passion/suffering of the Lord, blood, martyrdom, fire and God’s love

  • used on Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) and Good Friday
  • on Pentecost Sunday
  • on celebrations of the Lord’s passion
  • “birthday” feasts of the apostles (e.g.Sts. Peter and  Paul -June 29), evangelists (e.g. St. Luke – Oct. 18), and celebrations of martyrs (e.g. St. Stephen – Dec.26 and St. Lawrence- Aug.10)

3) GREEN – signifies hope and everlasting life

  • used in the offices and Masses of Ordinary Time

4) VIOLET – signifies sorrow, mourning, repentance and penance

  • used in seasons of Advent and Lent
  • also in Offices and Masses for the dead

5) BLACK – signifies mourning and death

  • may be used, where it is the custom, in Masses for the dead

6) ROSE – signifies joy, but often a subdued one

  • may be used, where it is the custom, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).

7) GOLD AND SILVER – same symbolism as that of WHITE

  • used as a substitute for white on most solemn feasts


Colors are expressions of moods. Colors can easily tell what kind of occasion we are celebrating.

Our Church is a festive church. Celebration is in its nature because we have a very rich faith that deserves to be celebrated. And we have a church that deeply desires to connect with its members explicitly through celebrations.

Therefore, if we know the significance of each color that our priests wear, we can better unite ourselves to the church’s action. We can be one with our priests in offering our praises and thanksgiving to the Lord more meaningfully.

Whether we are at home, at work or travelling from one place to another, these liturgical colors can remind us of our faith. We belong to a beautiful church that has a very rich expression of faith. Our Catholic church holds a vast and deep connection to the heavenly in all its expressions of faith. 

So, now we know.

Priests wear different colors of robes to give a more effective expression of the mysteries of our faith. The different colors of robes or vestments portray every Christian’s wonderful journey with the Lord throughout the liturgical year. 


Why priests wear different colors of robes?


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