Stoles

Liturgy We Live by Dr. Gil Haas

A stole is a scarf-like garment hanging from a priest’s neck. Stole means “cloth” and may be the origin of the phrase “man of the cloth.” It was derived from an insignia of rank by Roman officials which was originally a symbolic towel indicating that the magistrate was sweating on behalf of society. A priest’s stole either hangs down in front (over a white surplice), or the ends are crossed (over an alb). If a rope-like girdle is worn, the stole is placed through it. A deacon’s stole is tied near the right hip and is hung over the left shoulder. When pronouncing a marriage, the officiant may bind the right hands of the couple with the stole. The wearing of a stole separates a candidate for ordination from an ordained priest. Since a minister always wears a stole when officiating, a “stole fee” was paid in England for any baptism, marriage, or funeral performed by clergy. The British monarch is invested with a stole of gold silk at their coronation. A middle of a stole has a small cross which may be kissed before donning as a sign of bearing Christ’s yoke and cross.