Instituted Lectors

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I observe a gulf between what the liturgical books say about Instituted Lectors and what happens in practice.

1981 Lectionary, General Introduction: “54. During the celebration of Mass with a congregation a second priest, a deacon, and an instituted reader must wear the distinctive vestment of their office when they go to the lectern to read the word of God.”

2010 Roman Missal, General Instruction: “101. In the absence of an instituted lector, other lay people may be deputed to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture, …”.

1989 Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 31: “But in celebrations presided over by the bishop it is fitting that readers formally instituted proclaim the readings …”.

My observation is that Instituted Lectors are rarely the ones to read at Mass. On the rare occasions that they do, they do not wear vestments or sit in the sanctuary. Do you think this is something that members of the church should be ashamed of and repent? Can you suggest any approaches for improving compliance?


A: Thanks for gathering these citations. Permit me to add GIRM 194 and 195, which also call for the reader to wear approved attire and to occupy a place in the sanctuary. This probably refers to the instituted lector by design, and the deputed reader in practice.

“Appropriate attire” is left somewhat vague, and GIRM 339 provides a place where conferences of bishops may determine what is appropriate or dignified clothing. You may have better information than I do on the Australian conference, but I think the bishops there do not require an alb even of instituted lectors, which is also true in the US.

Now that bishops may institute women into these ministries, we may see more compliance with the desire of CB 31. There haven’t been many instituted lectors available for all the different places where bishops celebrate Mass. But that could change over the next few years.

Regarding shame and repentance, I’m not in a position to judge motives. My general impression is that those responsible for ministers truly want to serve the liturgy and aim to involve the People of God in ways that put their gifts to work for the sake of the Church.