GIRM 92-94: The Duties of Those in Holy Orders

Bishops, priests, and deacons each have a distinct role in the liturgy. Here’s what the GIRM has to say about them:

92. Every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is directed by the Bishop, either in person or through Priests who are his helpers.[cf. Lumen gentium 26, 28; Sacrosanctum Concilium 42]

When the Bishop is present at a Mass where the people are gathered, it is most fitting that he himself celebrate the Eucharist and associate Priests with himself in the sacred action as concelebrants. This is done not for the sake of adding outward solemnity to the rite, but to signify more vividly the mystery of the Church, “the sacrament of unity.”[cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 26]

If, on the other hand, the Bishop does not celebrate the Eucharist but has assigned it to someone else to do this, then it is appropriate that he should preside over the Liturgy of the Word, wearing the pectoral cross, stole, and cope over an alb, and that he should give the blessing at the end of Mass.[cf. Caeremoniale Episcoporum 175-186]

93. A Priest, also, who possesses within the Church the sacred power of Orders to offer sacrifice in the person of Christ,[cf. Lumen Gentium 28; Presbyterorum Ordinis 2] presides by this fact over the faithful people gathered here and now, presides over their prayer, proclaims to them the message of salvation, associates the people with himself in the offering of sacrifice through Christ in the Holy Spirit to God the Father, and gives his brothers and sisters the Bread of eternal life and partakes of it with them. Therefore, when he celebrates the Eucharist, he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he pronounces the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ.

94. After the Priest, the Deacon, in virtue of the sacred Ordination he has received, holds first place among those who minister in the celebration of the Eucharist. For the sacred Order of the Diaconate has been held in high honor in the Church even from the early time of the Apostles.[Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem; Pontificale Romanum, De Ordinatione Episcopi, presbyterorum et diaconorum, 173] At Mass the Deacon has his own part in proclaiming the Gospel, from time to time in preaching God’s Word, in announcing the intentions of the Universal Prayer, in ministering to the Priest, in preparing the altar and in serving the celebration of the Sacrifice, in distributing the Eucharist to the faithful, especially under the species of wine, and from time to time in giving instructions regarding the people’s gestures and posture.


Even in a cathedral parish, the bishop is not a weekly presider for parishioners. The challenge is that the bishop’s “direction” is largely a theoretical experience for most Catholics. And when they do see the bishop at liturgy, it’s usually in a situation in which the “outward solemnity” is part of the worship experience. The association is undeniable.

GIRM 93 is a good reminder for parish priests, especially the importance given to the “bearing” of his leadership style, and that conveying “the living presence of Christ” is as much about actions as it is about words. The hope that MR3 will be an occasion of renewal will fall flat on its face if clergy do not attend to what is beyond the words.

GIRM 94 on the liturgical ministry of the deacon: good reminders here, too. It should be one of the guideposts for discerning a vocation to the diaconate. Indeed, all three of these sections should be required for the files of every seminarian and deacon candidate. Authentic vocations for Holy Orders must take into account these listed qualities and responsibilities; they would be minimum requirements to serve.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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