ASK FATHER: Are deacons required to wear the dalmatic at Mass?

saint-lawrence-lyon-france enamel smFrom a reader…


Father, last year we began attending a more traditional parish in our diocese. It struck me just today that I’ve never seen our deacon at Mass without a dalmatic, whereas we saw the deacon frequently without a dalmatic at our previous parishes. Is the deacon required to wear the dalmatic at Mass in the same way that the priest is required to wear the chasuble?

In 2009, the USCCB promulgated the Directory for the Formation, Life and Ministry of Permanent Deacons, which is largely drawn from the 1998 Directory issued by the Congregation for the Clergy. (It has several unfortunate statements that defy logic and tradition…. but I digress…)

The Directory states,

“For the Sacred Liturgy they should vest worthily and with dignity, in accordance with the prescribed liturgical norms. The dalmatic, in its appropriate liturgical colors, together with the alb, cincture and stole, ‘constitutes the liturgical dress proper to deacons.” (83)

The proper liturgical vestment of the deacon is the dalmatic.  Parishes which have the service of deacons should also have the proper vestments for deacons.  And deacons should put them on.

This isn’t hard.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. Z: Aren’t you being a little “rigid”? LOL!

    [Dig… dig…]

  2. lucaslaroche says:

    How do we combine this with par. 338 of the GIRM, which states: “The vestment proper to the Deacon is the dalmatic, worn over the alb and stole; however, the dalmatic may be omitted out of necessity or on account of a lesser degree of solemnity.”
    It would appear the GIRM allows the dalmatic to be omitted.

    [The GIRM’s other name is “Book of Options”. “This or that or this.. or … or… or…” Whatever. Let deacons wear dalmatics, as priests wear their chasuble. It’s the right thing to do.]

  3. amg910 says:

    The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (CDF, 2004) states quite clearly in no. 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.”

  4. Deacon Bill says:

    I am in complete agreement with Father Z on this point: the dalmatic is to the deacon what the chasuble is to the priest. What I tell deacons and candidates for the diaconate is that if Father is in a chasuble, he should be in a dalmatic.

    Unfortunately, the one big reason that many deacons do not wear the dalmatic is that — until the National Directory on the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States was released in 2005 by the USCCB) — most deacons had to buy their own vestments. Obviously, albs and stoles can be purchased rather reasonably, but most dalmatics, especially if they are to match the priest’s chasuble, are extremely expensive and far beyond the means of most deacons. This is particularly true when considering the need to be at least five sets in the appropriate liturgical colors. The National Directory reminds pastors and bishops of the need and obligation to provide suitable vesture for their clergy — ALL their clergy.

    Thanks, and God bless,

    Deacon Bill Ditewig

  5. Deacon Don says:

    Exactly Deacon Bill.

    I have served in four parishes now and at each Mass watch the plethora of vestments the Priests have coming out of the multiple cupboards. There are even matching concelebrant sets. Despite years of having a Deacon present, you won’t even find a single deacon’s stole in the drawers.

    My family, wife’s family (with the help of friends) bought me a set of Dalmatics, Alba, amice and cinctures as an ordination gift which I prayerfully carry to and wear at every liturgy. As such, I am one of the few who even has access to a dalmatic, although still looking for a nice rose color.

    I receive no remuneration, drive thousands of miles each year at my family’s expense, arrive early, stay late and am back later in the day for whatever meeting is taking place. Every expense for my ministry comes from my familiy’s sacrificial charity. Vestments, worthy of the liturgy, at not inexpensive. Had I not been blessed at the time of ordination, I fear I would not having the blessing of remembering each benefactor as I vest.

    Deacon Don

  6. Imrahil says:

    Well, there is an actual difference. Liturgically, the dalmatic is not what the chasuble is to the priest. It is what the cope or pluvial is to the priest – with the detail that other than deacons, priests do not wear a cope for Mass.

    That said, let there be dalmatics, and for that matter, copes (outside Mass).

    (However, if someone wished to revive the ancient custom of leaving the dalmatic away in, say, passiontide, and is in accordance with the present rubrics… who am I to judge.)

  7. iamlucky13 says:

    Good to know. Unfortunately, seeing a deacon wearing a dalmatic is so rare I thought it strange when I saw the deacon at our current parish wearing one for major feasts.

    @ lucaslaroche
    “however, the dalmatic may be omitted out of necessity or on account of a lesser degree of solemnity.”

    A necessity like poverty is easily understandable, although in the US I’m pretty sure most parishes can afford to change a few minor spending priorities to procure a set. I’m pretty sure most don’t have a set simply because their appropriateness has been underemphasized for several decades on end.

    I’m at a loss as to what a “lesser degree of solemnity” is with regards to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  8. Poor Yorek says:

    This isn’t hard.

    Obligatory “… and you hate Vatican II!”

    [Yikes, Yorek! I plum forgot for a moment.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. jbazchicago says:

    I don’t get it, I think the dalmatic is “the coolest” vestment in the church! Why would any deacon not want to wear one, or any priest not want him to wear one?

  10. jbazchicago says:

    PS, as someone who has designed vestments for some major occasions with a practically unlimited budget, the dalmatics are the most fun to design. So many possibilities.

  11. jbazchicago says: the dalmatic is “the coolest” vestment

    They are also the hottest! In the temperature sense. I recently wore a dalmatic as deacon for the Pontifical Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was laden with gold and – dang! – it was warm under there! Some videos HERE.

    But I do agree… the dalmatic is very cool.

  12. Deacon Bill says:

    Imrahil, I respectfully disagree: the deacon’s dalmatic is equivalent to the priest’s chasuble for the celebration of the Eucharist. And, as Redemptionis Sacramentum corrected, the omission of the dalmatic, although permitted by the GIRM, should be avoided.

    Yes, Father Z, dalmatics are definitely cool, but you’re also correct about some of the styles/materials out there. During one ordination in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, at which I was serving as one of the Deacons, I swore that they got the dalmatic set from the Scarlett O’Hara Institute of Diaconal Drapery Design. Oy, it was so heavy that it was almost difficult to move.

  13. Blackfriar says:

    Just a note that the dalmatic is not worn on ferial days in the EF of the Dominican Rite, nor usually for the Asperges (the exception being when a solemn procession preceeded it, as on Assumption or Ascension, for example.) For a fuller description of when it is and isn’t worn, see

  14. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Blackfriar is correct on the Dominican Rite rubrics for the dalmatic. Nor does a Dominican priest wear the chasuble for the Asperges but only the stole *and* maniple, unless a procession has preceded.

    At the Dominican Houses of Study in Washington DC and Oakland CA (neither a bastion of liturgical irregularity), deacons, taking advantage of the GIRM option and following Dominican tradition, wear the dalmatic only on feasts and solemnities. Suitable “progressive solemnity” in my opinion.

  15. Gerhard says:

    Over here in France the run of the mill permanent deacons wear a sort of amorphous white dress with a sash. Dumbed down to the point of eliding the difference between an ordinary (sic)EMHC and a Man in Holy Orders.

  16. un-ionized says:

    Deacon Don, Richard Luzar in the UK has nice rose vestments. He will send you fabric samples on request, I saw four different ones. I know a parish that got a whole set from him. Chasuble, dalmatic, priest and deacon stoles, altar fall, tabernacle veil, etc. etc. Price was reasonable.

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  18. Seppe says:

    While not related to the topic of diaconal vesture, deacons could present these new birettas to their ordinaries (who are cardinals) for Christmas… Maybe Fr. Z could help with graphic… “Fac iterum Vaticano Magna” New zucchettos and miters with this design are forthcoming…

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