Omitting a reading

Yesterday, which was a Holy Day of Obligation, I attended Mass at a local Catholic chapel and not at a church, and the Chaplain asked the Lector to omit the first reading from the Old Testament and proceed directly to the Psalm. He explained that, because attendance was unusually high, he wanted to save time to accommodate the crowd – he anticipated a long line at communion. Following the Psalm and Response, the second reading was then read as was the Alleluia and then the Gospel. Question: Can a Pastor or Chaplain omit a reading from the Lectionary at their discretion? A second question related to the first: If the Chaplain/Pastor is not entitled to omit a reading, was the Mass licit? I look forward to your response. Thank you.

From the GIRM:

  1. In the readings, the table of God’s Word is spread before the faithful, and the treasures of the Bible are opened to them.[60] Hence, it is preferable that the arrangement of the biblical readings be maintained, for by them the unity of both Testaments and of salvation history is brought out. Nor is it lawful to replace the readings and Responsorial Psalm, which contain the Word of God, with other, non-biblical texts.


  1. Sundays and Solemnities have assigned to them three readings, that is, from a Prophet, an Apostle, and a Gospel, by which the Christian people are instructed in the continuity of the work of salvation according to God’s wonderful design. These readings should be followed strictly. In Easter Time, according to the tradition of the Church, instead of being from the Old Testament, the reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.

So for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the 3 assigned readings should have been read as given.

If the celebrant was concerned with the length of time the distribution of communion would take, he could have deputized (if necessary) laypersons as extraordinary ministers for just that Mass.

Skipping a reading doesn’t save time. Even if there’s a lot of rigmarole about getting up to the ambo up on the altar and back down again, you would save maybe five minutes by omitting the first reading and the psalm. Omitting the first reading would save you about two minutes. Whoooo, what a savings!

If Father really wanted to save time, Father could say Mass faster, or read all the readings himself. Father could cut to the chase on his homily. Father could do a lot of things. Mass is under his control.

I’ve been to airport Masses, for instance, where nothing was skimped or rushed. Mass took less than 15 minutes. (Albeit the homily was about five sentences long, but they were strong sentences and to the point.)

That said, a lot of people do stuff like this because they see a big crowd and don’t have time to think, “Oh, yeah, this is no big deal.” Calmness is a great skill for priests, but mostly they gain it by experience. Let’s pray for your parish’s priest!

I don’t think it would be useful to consider the whole Mass illicit because one thing was not done right. Illicit things may be done in a Mass. The setting or minister of Mass may make its celebration illicit. The omission of a reading falls into the former category. I wouldn’t worry too much about illicit things done at Mass, unless they are listed as grave matters in Redemptionis Sacramentum para. 173. This abuse is not so listed.

[quote=“Redemptionis Sacramentum”][62.] It is also illicit to omit or to substitute the prescribed biblical readings on one’s own initiative, and especially “to substitute other, non-biblical texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God”.[138]


It was not licit…you may be confusing valid with licit…while licit is incorrect in format, the graces afforded by the Mass are not in question. Validity deals with the possible foregoing of the graces that would come from the Mass.

Example, if a priest does something like a violation of the rubric, well, the entire harm is due to his neglect (if willful), but does not impact the graces received by those attending the mass and receiving the sacraments in good faith…if someone, say, is not ordained as a priest, and administers a sacrament, that sacrament is invalid, as opposed to illicit…which does keep the person receiving the sacrament from receiving the grace, even though it was no fault of their own.

No, I’m not confusing them. I am just saying that it’s not appropriate to say “This whole Mass was illicit” because of one thing that happened in it.

If one thing was illicit, then the whole Mass was illicit. Holy Mass is an integral whole. It is not made up of separate things that together make up the Mass.

So if the priest’s Roman collar is showing above his vestments, the whole Mass is illicit?

In doing a bit of research, I’ve found the opposite is true: a Mass is properly considered illicit if it contains anything that was itself a liturgical abuse.

On the other hand, Masses can never be invalid; only the confection of the Eucharist itself can be considered valid or invalid. (Although it seems to be the case that this a technical distinction that isn’t always followed in colloquial discussions on the topic.)

If you have information to the contrary, I’d be interested in seeing it. But in the things I’ve looked at, it seems entirely correct to refer to a Mass in which the rubrics were not properly followed as being illicit.

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