Homilist on Holy Thursday and Good Friday

Date: March 23, 2024
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Question: For Good Friday and Holy Thursday, the Roman Missal states the priest gives the homily. Does the priest have the option to delegate the homily to a deacon on these days? I've seen some information that one of the reasons it may say this explicitly is that since Good Friday isn't a Mass, this directive avoids the potential of the homily being delegated to a layperson. -- G.P., Ann Arbor, Michigan


Answer: The overall norms regarding the possibility of the deacon giving the homily are found in the General Introduction of the Roman Missal (GIRM):


“66. The Homily should ordinarily be given by the Priest Celebrant himself or be entrusted by him to a concelebrating Priest, or from time to time and, if appropriate, to the Deacon, but never to a lay person. In particular cases and for a just cause, the Homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate. On Sundays and Holydays of Obligation there is to be a Homily at every Mass that is celebrated with the people attending, and it may not be omitted without a grave reason. On other days it is recommended, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and Easter Time, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers. It is appropriate for a brief period of silence to be observed after the Homily.”


The first part of this paragraph is new with respect to the earlier GIRM. This addition establishes a certain priority of the presiding celebrant as homilist, followed by a concelebrant and, occasionally, a deacon.


In the case presented by our reader, I think we need to examine the analogous rubrics in Holy Week to guide our interpretation.


On Palm Sunday, after the reading of the Gospel before the procession, the rubric states, “After the Gospel, a brief homily may be given.”


After the reading of the Passion, the missal says: “After the narrative of the Passion, a brief homily should take place, if appropriate. A period of silence may also be observed.”


For the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the rubric is quite detailed: “After the proclamation of the Gospel, the Priest gives a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated in this Mass, namely, the institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the priestly Order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.”


Again, after the Passion on Good Friday: “After the reading of the Lord’s Passion, the Priest gives a brief homily and, at its end, the faithful may be invited to spend a short time in prayer.”


Finally, the indication for the Easter vigil Mass is quite succinct: “After the Gospel, the Homily, even if brief, is not to be omitted.”


It can be noted, therefore, that only on Holy Thursday and Good Friday is it specified that the homily be delivered by the priest.


The reasons behind this specification would seem to be due to the intimate relationship between the ministerial priesthood and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper as explained in the rubric.


Likewise, given that the Good Friday liturgy is intrinsically connected to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, so much so that it cannot be celebrated independently if the evening Mass has not been celebrated in the same church, I think that it follows that a priest should also give the homily that day.


In other words, the specification would seem to stem from the fact that, on these two days, delegating the homily to the deacon would not be deemed as “appropriate.”


In the light of this, I do not believe that the remote possibility of lay preaching on Good Friday was envisaged as a relevant factor in composing the rubric.


That said, however, I do not think that the rubric as such constitutes an absolute prohibition on the deacon preaching on these two days should there be truly exceptional circumstances in which a priest could celebrate but not preach.


Such circumstances are probably quite rare, but not nonexistent; for example, a situation in which the Holy Thursday and Good Friday celebrations were in Latin or another language that was unknown to the majority of the faithful, and the priest did not know the local tongue. If nobody was available to translate the priest’s homily, then a local deacon could be delegated to preach in such circumstances.


* * *


Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

Return to Liturgy

At ePriest, we are dedicated to supporting Catholic priests as they serve their people and build up the Church.

We invite you to explore our resources to help your own ministry flourish!

Sign Up Now