In a Missa Solemnis there is a celebrant, a deacon, and a subdeacon. However, the minor order of subdeacon was suppressed by Pope Paul VI in the motu proprio Ministeria Quadem in 1972. Nevertheless, since the reform of the Mass in 1969, the Tridentine Mass has been celebrated at different times, still having a subdeacon at all Solemn Masses.

So, after the minor orders were abolished, how is it that these groups can still have a subdeacon for Solemn Masses?

2 Answers 2


The answer is straw subdeacons.

A "straw" subdeacon is any subdeacon who has not been at least ordained to the minor order of the same name. There are two ways this can be:

  1. A man who has been instituted an acolyte under the provisions of Ministeria Quaedem
  2. A seminarian who "wears clerical clothing" 1

This practice is carried over from prior times, when it was tolerated that a man not ordained to the subdiaconate could act as a subdeacon, with some rubrical changes.

letter to Michael Sternbeck from the PCED

Some differences are:

  • The sub-deacon would NOT wear the maniple
  • The sub-deacon does not pour water into the chalice at the offertory, but must let the deacon do so
  • SD does not touch the chalice infra actionem [during the Canon], nor cover it with the pall, nor uncover it
  • After communion, SD does not purify the chalice, and the priest must do it instead
  • After the priest purifies the chalice, then SD covers the chalice with veil and burse and transfers it to the credence table. 3
  • Is straw subdeacon coined by you?
    – Ken Graham
    Mar 27, 2022 at 2:08
  • @KenGraham I've heard that (colloquial?) term before.
    – Geremia
    Mar 27, 2022 at 2:16
  • Nope. In link 3 the term also appears. It's not new.
    – user54757
    Mar 27, 2022 at 2:44

After Ministeria Quaedem, who may be a Subdeacon for a Missa Solemnis?

There seems seems to a be about four possible solutions to this question in regards to who may perform the duties of a subdeacon (in ifficium subdeaconis) at a solemn high mass as required according to the Rite of Pope Pius V.

  • An properly instituted acolyte may perform the duties of a subdeacon, although he is to be deprived of the maniple. It is now tolerated that a man not ordained to the subdiaconate could act as a subdeacon, with some rubrical changes. This practice existed prior to the reform of 1969.
  • A validly ordained subdeacon, recognized by Rome, such as the Fraternity of St. Peter are not affected by the general provisions of the Motu Proprio *** Custodes***, since the use of the ancient liturgical books was at the origin of their existence and is provided for in their constitutions. (FSSP not affected by Traditionis Custodes)
  • A validly ordained priest may perform the duties of a subdeacon at a solemn mass.
  • A validly ordained deacon may also perform the duties of a subdeacon at a solemn mass.

In the Solemn High Mass form of Tridentine Mass and the Ordinariate Mass, the duties of a subdeacon include those of crucifer, singing the Epistle, holding the Book of Gospels while the deacon sings the Gospel, carrying it back to the celebrant afterwards and assisting the priest or deacon in setting the altar. The subdeacon's specific vestment is the tunicle, in practice almost indistinguishable in form from the deacon's dalmatic (the tunicle is sometimes somewhat longer than the dalmatic or had slightly less elaborate decoration, but this is often unnoticeable by the casual church-goer). Unlike deacon and priest, he never wears a stole. In the Tridentine Mass he wears a maniple and also wears a humeral veil while holding the paten from the Offertory to the Our Father; and, if the chalice and paten with host are not already on the altar, he also uses the humeral veil when bringing these to the altar at the Offertory. In practice, the roles of deacon and subdeacon in Solemn High Mass have generally been performed by men already ordained as priests, wearing the subdiaconal or diaconal vestments. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter uses instituted acolytes in the role of subdeacon, but also uses men ordained as priests or deacons for the subdiaconal role. - Subdeacon

On Saturday, February 9th, His Excellency the Most Reverend Robert Finn, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, conferred the subdiaconate on nine men from Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary. Seven of the new subdeacons are from the Fraternity and two are from the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer in Papa Stronsay, Scotland.

The subdiaconate is one of the final stages in a priest’s formation, usually occurring the year before priestly ordination. The duties of the subdeacon include preparing the bread and wine and sacred vessels and chanting the Epistle. These duties are evoked during the ordination ceremony, when the Bishop presents the chalice, paten, cruets and book of Epistles to the ordinandi and they place their hands upon them. - Nine Ordained to Subdiaconate

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