When to Wear a Dalmatic | EWTN (2024)


When to Wear a Dalmatic

By Father Edward McNamara, LC

ROME, 23 September 2014 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q:I never assist in Mass wearing just the alb and the stole. I insist in wearing the ordinary vestment for a deacon, my dalmatic. In case of Communion services, should I or shouldn't I wear a dalmatic? Is this a vestment reserved only in case of a sacrament, such as the Eucharist? Also, may a deacon wear a dalmatic when celebrating a baptism or presiding the sacrament of holy matrimony? — J.M., Tampa, Florida

A: The proper vestment for a deacon at Mass is an alb (with an amice if required), cincture, stole worn in the diaconal manner, and dalmatic. The stole and dalmatic should be of the corresponding liturgical color.

This vestment is a knee-length, sleeved garment. It was originally developed in Dalmatia, modern-day Croatia, and was imported into Rome during the second century.

At first the dalmatic, which was originally longer, reaching the heels, and more ample than today, was not well received, being seen as somewhat effeminate. Later, however, it became popular among Roman senators and imperial officials as a substitute for the toga and was even used as the proper garb for the consecration of the emperor.

From this it became a habit proper to the pope and to bishops. Finally it was introduced as a vestment for the deacons of Rome by Pope Sylvester I in the fourth century and gradually became their proper vestment. For a time, especially during the ninth to 14th centuries, bishops and even priests would sometimes wear the dalmatic under the chasuble. This use persists today, but only for bishops, who may vest a light dalmatic underneath the chasuble in solemn celebrations, especially ordinations.

According to current practice, priests celebrating according to the ordinary form never use the dalmatic. In the extraordinary form there are certain solemn celebrations in which a priest substitutes for a deacon and is vested accordingly. Likewise on exceptional occasions cardinal deacons serve the pope dressed in dalmatic.

With respect to its habitual use, we may say that the dalmatic is to the deacon what the chasuble is to the priest. Therefore, in most cases the deacon may use the dalmatic only when the priest would use the chasuble.

An exception to this rule is when a deacon accompanies a bishop or priest who wears a cope in a solemn celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours or for Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament.
As far as I have been able to ascertain, there are no ritual situations in which a deacon would use the dalmatic on his own. It would seem that it is only used when carrying out his functions accompanying a bishop or priest.

Therefore, just as a priest would not use the chasuble for a Communion service, the deacon would not use a dalmatic. The same can be said of other celebrations of sacraments and sacramentals, such as funeral services, outside of Mass.

The proper vestment for celebrations such as baptisms, weddings, funerals and the like outside of Mass is alb (or surplice over a cassock), stole, and cope of the appropriate liturgical color. In most cases the appropriate color will be white, although violet may be used for funerals. These vestments may be used by both priests and deacons with the only difference being the manner of wearing the stole.

* * *

Follow-up: When to Wear a Dalmatic [10-07-2014]

In the wake of our Sept. 23 article on dalmatics, a reader asked for further clarifications regarding the vesture of the deacon: "Can a permanent deacon wear a cassock for house visits etc.? Also, is it OK for him to be addressed as "father," "brother," "deacon"?

A deacon, permanent or transitory, may wear a cassock in those liturgical situations where it is worn with a surplice. Regarding other situations, it depends on the norms issued by the bishops' conference and/or the local bishop with respect to clerical vesture of permanent deacons. These norms vary widely from place to place.

A similar situation reigns with the mode of address for a deacon. In some places it is "the Reverend Mr. Deacon Smith"; in others, simply "Deacon Jones." In some places "Father" is used, but this is not very common and is used only to refer to transitional and not permanent deacons.

Another reader, from Maine, asked for a clarification regarding the Liturgy of the Hours: "My parish prays Morning Prayer before the weekday Mass and adds 'The Word of the Lord' with the response 'Thanks Be to God' after the Reading, just as we would during Sunday Mass after the First and Second Readings. I have found no reference that this is a mandatory addition when praying the Divine Office privately. Would you kindly clarify?"

The customary practice for proclaiming the short reading during Morning and Evening Prayer is to omit any salutations or conclusions. The reader or cantor either goes to the ambo or stays put in the pews and simply proclaims the text. There is no "A reading from" at the beginning nor "The word of the Lord" at the end. This holds true for both public and private recitation.

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