From a reader…
Recently, while we were away on a vacation, my husband, children and I attended a NO Mass as that was what was available to us at our vacation destination. At the time the Gospel was to be read, the presiding Priest said that the Deacon had tested positive for COVID-19 that morning, so was not there to read the Gospel and instead the lay person, a woman, who had just read aloud the second reading would proclaim the Gospel. After she read the Gospel, the Priest came to give his homily, and before beginning provided the explanation that his eye sight is poor and he can’t read the small print of the Gospel, showing the congregation his homily notes which were printed for him in rather large font.
It has always been my understanding that in the presence of a Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, a lay person is not permitted to proclaim the Gospel. I understand that there were unusual circumstances afoot what with a Priest with poor eyesight and a Deacon unavailable owing to illness. I know that there was another Priest in the Church building during Mass, as he came out of the confessional during announcements at the end of Mass to remind people that he was there hearing confessions and the opportunity for confession would continue after Mass as long as the people needed.
Still, I am left uneasy by the laywoman proclaiming the Gospel during Mass. I wonder if it was licit for her to do so and what other solutions could have been found under such circumstances.
Thank you for all you do, Father Z. I remember you daily in my prayers and thank God that I came to find your blog, as it was instrumental in my re/conversion.
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
It is not licit for a layperson, man or woman, to read the Gospel. The Mass was still (presumptively) valid, but this is something that should not have happened. Still, one has to take into consideration the circumstances. If the priest truly can’t read the Gospel (though one wonders, if this is an ongoing situation, why doesn’t the parish have a large-print lectionary or evangelary? – perhaps such could be a welcome gift from parishioners, or even someone passing through on vacation), then it sounds like he made do the best he could, or at least, the best he thought he could. The other priest, who was hearing confessions could have (and perhaps should have) come out for the brief time needed to proclaim the Gospel, but still, it’s good that he was engaged in priestly ministry, hearing confessions and thus saving the world, rather than simply sitting back in the rectory cracking a beer and catching up on Tivoed baseball games. The priest who was offering Mass, who had obviously prepared a homily, surely could recite a line or two from the Gospel by memory, even if it wasn’t the Gospel of the day, apologizing to the congregation for his lack of ability to read the fine print.
At the end of the day, this was illicit, but not the sort of thing that would seem to require a phone call to the bishop’s office and rallying the pitchfork and torch brigade outside the rectory. It seems to me the best resolution to this scenario would be for a well-meaning parishioner, or vacationer, to purchase for Father a large-print lectionary, lest the scenario repeat itself.
FR. Z RESPONSE:
I get that “things happen” and sometimes those things are truly at 11:59. I really do. Still, I’m having a hard time buying the priest’s scenario and explanation. If Father could have “homily notes which were printed for him in rather large font”, then he could also have the Gospel reading “printed for him in rather large font”.
It might be interesting to see if this is some sort of running gag that he regularly uses precisely in order to get a woman to read the Gospel. Still, having a priest hearing confessions at that time rather militates against that.
That’s pretty cynical of me, isn’t it. Such are the days we are in. Keep in mind some recently posted videos of crazy goings-on in churches.
For sure, it would help to have a large-print book for Father. That’s an investment that should be made right away. In the interim, print out the readings for him head of time just in case.
Finally, there will never be sacramentally ordained female deacons. Can’t happen.