GILM 49-50: Other Ministries of the Word

There is a hierarchy for the reading functions at the Liturgy of the Word:

49. Liturgical tradition assigns responsibility for the biblical readings in the celebration of Mass to ministers: to readers and the deacon. But when there is no deacon or no other priest present, the priest celebrant is to read the Gospel [86] and, when there is no reader present, all the readings. [87]
50. It pertains to the deacon in the liturgy of the word at Mass to proclaim the Gospel, sometimes to give the homily, as occasion suggests, and to propose to the people the intentions of the prayer of the faithful. [88]

Does this mean that it is ideal for a non-presiding priest to read the gospel?

Also, handling the situation in which a lector is not present: rarely have I seen a priest do the readings. But it’s not unheard of. Is it better to have a decent proclamation by a lay person instead of the priest reading?

Note that it is the deacon’s task to “propose” (love that term!) the intentions. I’m not sure I see the benefit of that. Any liturgical scholar out there with the story on its history?

… or other comments?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in General Introduction to the Lectionary, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to GILM 49-50: Other Ministries of the Word

  1. Rev. James DeViese says:

    In response to your questions…

    First of all, it is always preferable for a deacon to proclaim the Gospel. It is that ministry to which he is called, and it is his proper liturgical role. When no deacon is present, a concelebrating priest takes on the various roles of the deacon, including the proclamation of the Gospel, the preparation of the chalice, etc. (cf. GIRM 212).

    The proper minister for proclaiming the other readings from scripture is a duly instituted Lector. As this is a rarity (outside of those in formation for Holy Orders), extraordinary lectors (commonly called “readers”) are commissioned for the task. It is always preferable that the ordinary minister perform the ministry. As the priest is also a lector (having been duly instituted as such prior to his ordination as a Deacon–a ministry which is not lost by ordination), it would technically be more fitting for the priest to fulfill the ministry in the absence of an instituted Lector or a commissioned reader. That having been said, the priest has the authority to commission an extraordinary reader for a singular instance–and this is almost always the case, though rarely is the form for temporary commission utilized.

    Finally, with regard to the Prayers of the Faithful, the latest translation of the GIRM by the USCCB (#177) states: “…it is the deacon himself who normally announces the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful…” This wording is peculiar, but is in keeping with the nature of the Prayer of the Faithful. It is not a simple call and response like a litany. Rather, the nature of the PotF is a list of General Intercessory Prayers for which the deacon summons the assent of the People of God to pray for. In this way, he indeed is “proposing” them to the people. That is why the formulary “Let us pray to the Lord” is used…it is an invitation, a proposal to prayer. The people express their assent to the prayer “either by an invocation said together after each intention or by praying in silence” (GIRM 71).

    As far as a particular history of the PotF goes, Jungmann makes it pretty clear that the practice had all but been abandoned in the Roman Rite by the end of the Patristic period, with some vestiges remaining up until the reforms after Vatican II in both the liturgies of Holy Week, as well as in the Roman Breviary. They have continued to be present in several Eastern liturgies, and it is that influence which prompted the adoption of such prayers in the Roman Rite during the liturgical movement in the 1940s–which ultimately gave it a mention in article 53 of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

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