QUAERITUR: Pastor tells me, a deacon, to omit dalmatic on weekdays

From a reader:

I am a transitional deacon on pastoral placement.  Please include me in your prayers for thorough preparation for the priesthood.  [Will do.] The Parish Priest has said that I should not wear the dalmatic for weekday Masses.  When pressed, he says that the people do not understand the symbolism of the dalmatic, but would understand the stole worn as deacons do. 

The GIRM indicates that the dalmatic may be omitted for reasons of necessity or lesser solemnity (GIRM 119b, 338), but seems not to indicate who regulates the permission for the dalmatic to be omitted. 

To the best of my knowledge, the local bishop and episcopal conference has not specified anything on the question.  Can you or your readers help?

Could it be that the pastor is worried that greater liturgical decorum will be required if there is … greater liturgical decorum?   What next?   Gregorian chant?

First, do what the pastor says.  

Second, the pastor’s reason – at least the reason you say he gave – is ridiculous.

Having a transitional deacon available for weekday Masses is a spectacular opportunity for a little catechesis.   This doesn’t mean I that I think there should always be sermons at weekday Masses.  Not at all.  But, there could be very brief comments which teach people about:

  • the sacrament of holy orders
  • the difference between deacons and priests
  • what deacons did in the early Church
  • how the first deacons were chosen and why
  • deacons who were saints
  • what the word "deacon" means
  • what a deacon’s ordination is like

and… wait for it…

  • what a dalmatic is!

If the pastor thinks people won’t understand what a dalmatic is, then he must either have a low appreciation of their intelligence or his own ability to teach.

But… no… hang on… deacons can preach at Mass, can’t they.

I bet that a newly ordained deacon might has some of this stuff fresh in his mind, too.

And were the pastor to say, "Okay, sonny, read the Gospel and then preach for no longer than 5 minutes.  Any more than 5 minutes and you’ll be sleeping in the basement in a cardboard box with a little piece of lettuce."

Now for the Latin texts from the GIRM:

119. In sacristia, pro diversis formis celebrationis, parentur sacræ vestes (cf. nn. 337-341) sacerdotis, diaconi et aliorum ministrorum:
a) pro sacerdote: alba, stola et casula seu planeta;
b) pro diacono: alba, stola et dalmatica, quæ tamen, ob necessitatem vel minorem gradum sollemnitatis, omitti potest;

So… the dalmatic can be omitted because of necessity (which probably means there is no dalmatic or that it is 130F degrees), or because it is a weekday Mass, which is of less solemnity for sure.   It can be omitted.  That doesn’t mean that it should be omitted.

Buy WDTPRS stuff!If the chasuble is the proper garment of the priest, the dalmatic is the proper garment of the deacon.  The priest celebrant has to wear his chasuble for Mass.  The deacon… ergo

So… we know what the GIRM says.  But what about a more reason document of the CDW, Redemptionis Sacramentum?

[125.] The proper vestment of the Deacon is the dalmatic, to be worn over an alb and stole. In order that the beautiful tradition of the Church may be preserved, it is praiseworthy to refrain from exercising the option of omitting the dalmatic.

Soooo… John Paul II tells the Congregation for Divine Worship to prepare a document dealing with liturgical issues, especially liturgical abuses.  The CDW prepares and the Pope commands it to be promulgated.   

It states that, yes, you can omit the dalmatic, but if there is no good reason to don’t omit it.  This is a good and beautiful tradition.  It is praiseworthy to use it.


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  1. btdn says:

    When nearly every Mass is a “Low Mass”, does anything ever good come out of this idea of progressive solemnity?

  2. lucy says:

    It’s sad that a deacon or newly ordained priest has to listen to the pastor when his ideas are awful. Will our newly ordained priests remember what they were so on fire about when the old guys pass away ? I hope so.

  3. Tim Ferguson says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, the pastor’s reasoning on this issue is wrong.

    However, as you said, do what the pastor says. Since it is a legitimate option to omit the dalmatic because of necessity or because of a desire for lesser solemnity, I think it is the pastor’s legimate right to determine to omit it for weekday Masses, foolish though his reasoning may be.

    This can also be a moment of great virtue for our transitional deacon (for whose perseverance and potential ordination to the priesthood I pray!). By humbly consenting to the pastor’s request, he can demonstrate the docility of spirit that will serve him well later in the priesthood (Deo volente) – when his pastor tells him to do something disagreeable, but not illicit; and when, as a pastor, his bishop tells him to do something disagreeable – or illogical – but not illicit.

    The virtue of obedience is generally easy when we agree with the logic of the one to whom we owe obedience. It is even more salubrious and meritorious when the logic of our superior is absent (again, as long as that which is being asked of us is neither immoral nor illicit).

  4. Gwen says:

    The priest at the parish I left never even wore a chasuble. I never saw him wear one, not even on Easter. Alb and stole only. My understand is that this is licit only if the priest in question is a concelebrant?

    Of course, he also never washed his hands after the preparation of the gifts, during daily Mass.

  5. Having a transitional deacon available for weekday Masses is a spectacular opportunity for a little catechesis.

    Catechesis is good. At Mass on Sunday, a deacon preached the homily, and I could hear the elderly couple behind me debating whether or not he was a priest.

  6. basilorat says:

    I must admit…I’m not a huge fan of dalmatics for weekdays. I think the Old Mass had that approach… I must also admit I don’t like deacons of any kind preaching at Mass at all. The documents seem to indicate that is the primary duty of the priest. It just doesn’t seem that in liturgical history, they really ever preached at Mass.

  7. TJerome says:

    Gwen, I would have reported the priest to the bishop. I probably would have taken a photograph too on my I-phone, just in case.

    It’s unfortunate that the priest has no respect for the intelligence of his parishioners by thinking they would not understand the symbolism of the dalmatic. That’s the beauty of the old Missals we used to carry to Sunday Mass. They had pictures of all of the liturgical vestments with explanations. I was 7 when I received my first Missal and discovered what a dalmatic was by reading the explanation in the Missal. I guess people were smarter then.

  8. kallman says:

    Well the parish priest where I used to attend does not wear the chasuble for weekday Masses at all, just a long stole. Now I only attend TLM of the FSSP where appareled albs and Gothic chasuble are the norm

  9. yatzer says:

    Um, OK, so what is the symbolism of a dalmatic?

  10. TNCath says:

    Fr. Z: “The priest celebrant has to wear his chasuble for Mass. The deacon… ergo…”

    Yeah, but…As kallman says, A LOT OF PRIESTS omit the chasuble for weekday Masses. It’s very disheartening.

  11. roamincatholic says:

    For those wondering about the “Dalmatic”


    got to love ye olde newe advente.

  12. In the traditional Dominican Rite the deacon did not (and does not) wear the dalmatic on ferials and 3d class feasts (what today are “memorials”). These were also the days when only two candles were lighted (as opposed to three on 1st class feasts and two on 2d class feasts). And also the days on which no incense was used. As the major Mass was to be sung every day in priories, this is how “progressive solemnity” was achieved.

    Frankly, I am much in favor of use of the broad stole on memorials and ferials. Today when every Mass tends to be a random mixture of recited and sung parts, with virtually no logic as the rank of the feast, it would be nice to have some kind of regularly in the vestments used.

    I am not about to defend the pastor, but I suspect that what he meant was that people in the pews did not immediately see any difference between a chasuble and a dalmatic. I think he was right about that. Whether this can be fixed by catechesis I am not so sure. People tend to understand what they are interested in.

    My one recommendation to the deacon is that he not out-dress the celebrant.

  13. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Father Augustine makes a good argument, as always.

    On the other hand…

    This reminds me of comments on a thread at Rich Leonardi’s blog, about priests wearing clerical dress. And one commenter cried crocodile tears about the trauma of someone mistaking a seminarian for a priest, and thereby feeling “absolutely rejected.”

    Similarly, people have made the argument that deacons should never wear clerical attire, because of the terrible “confusion” that supposedly ensues.

    I don’t deny folks can be confused; but I don’t see the big deal. A deacon shows up, dressed like a deacon, and the priest can explain. Folks will figure it out. When I was a seminarian, living in a parish for a year (and I only wore a clerical shirt one time, not at Mass), folks always called me “Father”, especially after Mass. It had to do with my preaching, no doubt (it was allowed, that permission since rescinded); but it also had to do with–as someone said to me–not knowing what else to call me.

  14. Norah says:

    Bottom line – the deacon should obey the parish priest. When he is ordained and parish priest (pastor) of his own parish he can let his deacon wear a dalamtic or whatever else the Church permits but until then he should keep his head down and do what he is told if the matter is within Church guidelines. Presumably the priest will be reporting back to the seminary about the deacon and he doesn’t want a report which may rebound negatively on him.

  15. TJerome says:

    Father Thompson, did you overlook my post about the Missal? When I was 7 I knew what a dalmatic was. I’m getting a bit tired of priests, like this pastor, who refuses to educate his flock. If I knew at 7 what a dalmatic was, there is no excuse for this kind of behavior. I bet the pastor also doesn’t know what Sacrosanctum Concilium says about the use of Latin, chant, and the organ either. I call it willful ignorance, something the younger clergy doesn’t seem to be guilty of.

  16. Jayna says:

    That’s alright, my priest doesn’t even wear a chasuble during the week.

  17. jcn0903 says:

    I too knew what a dalmatic was early on (I think I might have been 8, the earliest I could serve as an altar boy in my parish. It was when the now extraordinary form was the ordinary form. I have always wondered the origen of vestments. I have heard they derive from Roman senatorial garb, does anyone know?

  18. Geoffrey says:

    “…my priest doesn’t even wear a chasuble…”

    I have never seen this! Not even here in crazy California, where I’ve seen just about everything!

    Sadly, I know of one local parish where the deacon does not wear the dalmatic on Sundays… only on Christmas/Easter.

  19. tzard says:

    Am I reading between the lines correctly? It seems this seminarian is allowed to wear the dalmatic during Sunday Mass!

    That’s not bad as it is – and perhaps the Sunday mass or afterwards is an opportunity to teach about that vestment – one parishioner at a time if necessary.

  20. Moscatelli says:

    “[125.] The proper vestment of the Deacon is the dalmatic, to be worn over an alb and stole. In order that the beautiful tradition of the Church may be preserved, it is praiseworthy to refrain from exercising the option of omitting the dalmatic.”

    The problem is in the provision itself, that gives an option while stating that it would be better not exercising it. If the dalmatic is to be used, the norm must say “use the dalmatic”; legislation providing “A” and “non-A” at the same time is in fact equal, in practice, to no legislation at all.

  21. Dave N. says:

    Sorry but after a very, very long day of grading undergraduate final summer term essays, the CDW-ese gave me a little chuckle:

    “…it is praiseworthy to refrain from exercising the option of omitting the dalmatic.”

    Microsoft Word > Insert > Comment——Suggest you should replace with “It is praiseworthy to wear the dalmatic.” :)

  22. Fr Martin Fox says:


    Not disputing your whole point, but–a deacon is ordained. He receives the sacrament of holy orders.

  23. robtbrown says:

    Two points:

    1. The pastor’s decision is a sterling example that in a vernacular, versus populum mass, it’s hard to tell who is who.

    2. Even the dalmaticless deacon is still going to confuse people. It seems that every time one priest comes to visit another, there is concelebration. And concelebrants usually are without a chasuble.

  24. Leonius says:

    Since when did peoples understand dictate what the right thing to do was?

    This is the same argument they tried to use against having the Mass texts actually convey correctly what us actually going on at Mass.

  25. FrCharles says:

    My wisdom on this, and similar issues: Obey one’s pastor or superior on those matters for which there are legitimate options. As has been said, this is an opportunity to practice humility. But it also establishes one as loyal, obedient, and easy to get along with, so that, when something comes up when you are commanded to omit or add something for which there is no option, you can stand your ground and up a fight.

    In other words, pick your fights. Sometimes it means letting go of what you might want to do, but it builds up the good reputation needed to stand your ground when a pastor tries to make you omit something required or do something against your conscience.

  26. Winfield says:

    In my experience, there is a directly proportional relationship between the deacon’s use of the dalmatic and the fastidiousness of the priest. In my current parish, the priest wears beautiful Gothic-style vestments, but never a stole. The deacon never wears a dalmatic. The only Mass ever said (never sung) is Eucharistic Prayer II, and incense is never used. I have never hear a word of Latin at this parish. That isn’t to say that the liturgy is casual–all involved maintain a high degree of solemnity.

    We also have, at each Sunday Mass, two adult men who wear albs and cinctures and who essentially carry out most of the duties of the altar servers (of which there are two at each Sunday Mass), including ringing the altar or sanctus bells (we have bells, but no smells). I haven’t seen such participants at other parishes.

    I posit that the effort required to move things up a notch–to sing the Roman Canon (with some Latin), use incense (at least on feast days), and vest appropriately–is rather small, especially when compared to the significantly heightened sense of mystery and beauty that would result from implementing such practices.

  27. Oneros says:

    Wait…why would it be okay on Sundays but not on weekdays?? I would think that weekday mass attendees would be MORE informed than Sunday-only mass goers. If people can “understand the symbolism” on Sundays (even accepting the premise that that is important)…they could on weekdays.

    It’s one of those things I’ve never understood. For example, many parishes seem to think that the people will have no problem with a Latin Agnus Dei during Lent. But if they can handle it during Lent, they could handle it all year.

    If the people can handle “hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done”…they could handle hieratic thee/thou/thy English during ALL parts of the Mass.

    If people can handle something one day, they can handle it another.

  28. Oneros: people will have no problem with a Latin Agnus Dei during Lent. But if they can handle it during Lent, they could handle it all year

    Good one.

  29. Stephen Morgan says:

    I’m a Deacon and I’m pretty much with Fr Charles on this one. It is of critical importance to pick your battles. There is an option in GIRM (notwithstanding what Redemptionis Sacramentum has to say about the prudential wisdom of exercising it) and the pastor here is exercising it. You won’t win this fight – I’d go so far as to say that you can’t win it – so don’t have it. Buckle under, create the impression of being co-operative and keep your pwder dry: the time will come when you’ll need it.

  30. Fighting uphill battles can be taxing…don’t fight this one, obey the pastor…

  31. dcs says:

    I suspect that what he meant was that people in the pews did not immediately see any difference between a chasuble and a dalmatic.

    I’ve noticed that they are difficult to distinguish in some of the modern vestment styles.

  32. yatzer says:

    OK,I looked up the New Advent article. Thanks. That reminds me that the pictures I have seen in our diocesan newspaper of newly ordained deacons show them in chasubles. What’s up with that?

  33. Ulrich says:

    afaik in part, yes, but maybe someone else could help?

  34. idatom says:

    Transitional deacon:

    Obey the pastor, pray for him and offer it up for the Kingdom. We all know what the church’s position is on this subject but it is his parish given to him by your Local Ordinary.

    Save your strength for another battle in another place at another time, God knows there will be many more. You are in a position of weakness at this time.

    Do not let your mind dwell on this problem, it is the work of the devil. Move on!

    Thanks for giving your life to the Church.

    Keep the Faith

    Tom Lanter

  35. Mitchell NY says:

    If people do not start to buck back a little, things will not change..I would give it about 1 year, then bring it up again and arm yourself with the document from the CDW. Compliance with all the ridiculous has run its’ course. Time to follow the rules. If the Dalmatic is supposed to be worn then every way will have to be attempted to wear it. Maybe telling someone in the parish about the issue and letting them bring it up will work. Encourage someone to ask for it. I can’t see just doing nothing. Doing nothing seems to have a funny effect over the years, one of complacency and mindset. Unfortunate but true. If you can’t do something about a vestment then what will happen in 10 years time and you feel like instituting Ad Orientem worship in your Parish? If you do not start finding strength in the small things, you will never find it in the face of bigger adversity.

  36. Jayna says:

    “It’s one of those things I’ve never understood. For example, many parishes seem to think that the people will have no problem with a Latin Agnus Dei during Lent. But if they can handle it during Lent, they could handle it all year.”

    My thoughts exactly. The parish I just recently joined (though I have been attending Mass at for some time now) does Agnus Dei in Latin during Advent and then during Lent, we do Agnus Dei and, for some reason, Sanctus in Latin is tacked on as well. Don’t know why Sanctus can’t be sung in Advent just as well as Lent.

    As Fr. Z said, though, parishes are afraid to step it up too much on a regular basis because, well, what on earth would they do on the really important days? As it stands, they gussy up the place on holidays with a bit of incense here, a little Latin there and then every other day is…whatever.

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