ASK FATHER: Deacon wore the priest’s stole

From a reader…

I am a sacristan at my parish. This past Friday we had Stations of the Cross and Benediction led by our Permanent Deacon. The strange thing was that the deacon wore the priest’s stole with the cope and not the deacon’s stole. I showed him that there were purple deacon’s stoles in the draw, but the deacon told me that it was no big deal and that he wears the priest’s stole every time he does benediction at the parish.
I did all I could to convince the deacon to wear the proper stole, but he refused. Is this a liturgical abuse or any violation of liturgical norms in the GIRM?

A couple things must be clarified.

How the Roman priest traditionally wears the stole under the chasuble for Holy Mass.

First, the priest wears the stole “straight”, around the back of the neck, over each shoulder and either down straight in front or, as when celebrating Mass, crossed over his breast.  If he is vested in the surplice as, for example, during a baptism, he the stole hangs straight down on either side in front.  The stole is more properly worn upon the shoulders, rather than hanging from up against the neck.  Thus, it hangs down a bit in back.

Bishops wear the stole straight, not crossed, under the chasuble.

The deacon, on the other hand, wears a stole upon the left shoulder and then draws it across both back and breast like a sash so that it joins at the right side, usually near the hip.  It goes diagonally across front and back.

Deacons must NOT wear a stole in the manner of a priest.  PERIOD.  To do so would look like he is impersonating a priest, which is a serious problem.  At one time, it would be considered a wrongful usurpation of a higher order and it would have made the deacon irregular for ordination to the priesthood.  So… yes… it is a big deal.

If the deacon persists in doing this, inform the pastor.  If nothing comes of this, inform the local bishop.  If nothing comes from that, send copies of your correspondence to the Congregation for Clergy.

The Directory for Deacons says:

30. […] The deacon is to observe faithfully the rubrics of the liturgical books without adding, omitting or changing of his own volition what they require. Manipulation of the liturgy is tantamount to depriving it of the riches of the mystery of Christ, whom it contains, and may well signify presumption toward what has been established by the Church’s wisdom. Deacons, therefore, should confine themselves to those things, and only to those things, in which they are properly competent.  For the Sacred Liturgy they should vest worthily and with dignity, in accordance with the prescribed liturgical norms.  The dalmatic, in its appropriate liturgical colours, together with the alb, cincture and stole, “constitutes the liturgical dress proper to deacons”.

[The notes specify a stola diaconalis.]

The GIRM says:

340. The stole is worn by the Priest around his neck and hanging down in front of his chest, while it is worn by the Deacon over his left shoulder and drawn diagonally across the chest to the right side, where it is fastened.

Pretty clear.

However, it may be that what is meant in the question, above, is that there are some stoles set apart for priests and that the deacon, taking one, then arranges it in the manner of a deacon.  Liturgically that’s okay.  Whether or not that’s okay as far as the arrangement of who uses which stoles at that parish is concerned… that’s an internal matter amongst the clergy.  That’s more of a “don’t use my stuff” issue.

By the way, the vesting prayer said by the deacon and the priest when vesting with the stole is the same:

Redde mihi, Domine, stolam immortalitatis, quam perdidi in praevaricatione primi parentis: et, quamvis indignus accedo ad tuum sacrum mysterium, merear tamen gaudium sempiternum.

Lord, restore the stole of immortality, which I lost through the collusion of our first parents, and, unworthy as I am to approach Thy sacred mysteries, may I yet gain eternal joy.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. steve51b31 says:


    (As a Deacon, I am both embarrassed and ashamed to read this. God grant us all the humility and love to conform ourselves to Christ !)

  2. Regarding your second scenario… When I served in a parish that lacked deacons stoles in all the colors and occasionally had deacons arrive on short notice, I’d occasionally do a bit of sewing just before Mass to turn a “priest’s stole” into a “deacon’s stole” for the occasion by putting a stitch in it to allow it to be easily worn crossways over a surplice.

  3. Persistant says:

    What if it’s the other way around? I’ve seen once or twice a priest wearing a deacon’s stole while concelebrating.

    [The only time when a priest wears a stole in the manner of a deacon is when he acts as the deacon in a Solemn or Pontifical Mass in the traditional Roman Rite.]

  4. Bthompson says:

    When I was a deacon, if a place or vestment set did not have straight stoles, I occasionally would do scenario two. I’m rather tall and large and so deacon stoles with a built in “bend” never fit me right. Also, I don’t like the look of Deacon stoles with a bend on anyone (straight stole crossed over the hip and secured by the cincture looks much better in my book, although I would not compel a deacon to use one style or the other)

  5. mharden says:

    On our pilgrimage in Europe (not very many permanents deacons there), the only sacristy that had a deacon stole was at Lourdes. In all the other cases, we used priest stoles, but safety-pinned to the side as a deacon’s stole.

  6. Hans says:

    I am with steve51b31 in being embarrassed for my own kind. Alas, there are more than a few of us permanent deacons who think they should have more and more of a priest’s roles, and not all of them are of ‘a certain age’.

  7. Hans says:

    Oh, and thanks for the vesting prayer. I keep meaning to look it up and never getting to it …

  8. paednoch says:

    I am a deacon. I know my role and place in all forms of worship and liturgy. I am very thankful that my diocese required extensive training, including a Masters degree in theology for training. I simply cannot fathom how a deacon could think that pretending to be a priest is an OK thing to do. Just amazing!

  9. paednoch says: I simply cannot fathom how a deacon could think that pretending to be a priest is an OK thing to do.

    The person who wrote the question at the top entry sent me a follow up. Apparently the deacon in question nearly became violent when it was presented to him that he is to wear a deacon’s stole.

    So, even after correction he persists.

Comments are closed.