Say It like You Mean It: When a Lector Shares the Word of God Passionately, Even If Not Perfectly, It Can Inspire Catholics in the Pews to Explore Scripture as Well

By Dinn, Jim | U.S. Catholic, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Say It like You Mean It: When a Lector Shares the Word of God Passionately, Even If Not Perfectly, It Can Inspire Catholics in the Pews to Explore Scripture as Well


Dinn, Jim, U.S. Catholic


MY INTRODUCTION TO BEING A LECTOR CAME through the invitation of another parish minister--not the pastor or another lector but the choir director. She encouraged me to minister at the lectern rather than in the choir loft. People familiar with my singing suggested that her discernment spared the whole parish.

The role of lector seemed to suit me, and I was encouraged by comments of fellow parishioners. Several years passed without incident. But my turn as lector one Sunday a half dozen years ago stands out because that morning I messed up the reading. Somehow I momentarily lost my place after glancing at the assembly, and I skipped a whole paragraph of the text. When I realized my mistake, I apologized to the assembly, returned to the correct place, and completed the reading uneventfully.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

To my surprise, my lapse convinced one listener to volunteer as a lector. As he explained to our parish administrator, he had appreciated hearing me read other times but was sure he could never do that himself. My faux pas, however, gave him courage. He saw that it wasn't a disaster and realized he could probably handle that himself. It was a modest taste of what St. Paul discovered: God's power works just fine when we are at our weakest. We can't take ourselves too seriously or measure success by how we feel.

THE ROLE OF LECTOR, HOWEVER, DOES DESERVE TO BE TAKEN seriously. It stands to reason that if the church "has always venerated the scriptures as it has venerated the Body of the Lord," as the Second Vatican Council's Dei Verbum (Constitution on Divine Revelation) puts it, then anyone reading scripture to the worshiping assembly must do so with deep reverence. Since they are "engaged in the ministry of the word," lectors should participate in the injunction to priests, deacons, and catechists to "immerse themselves in the scriptures by constant spiritual reading and diligent study." Obviously a lector needs to personally and prayerfully assimilate the message of reading before trying to proclaim it to the rest of the parish.

In the retirement community where we now reside, my wife and I are both lectors again. And we never presume to read at Mass without preparing in advance, usually the previous day. That time alone in the chapel suggests new meaning for the expression "practicing Catholic."

What's involved is more than the obvious necessity of getting familiar with the text and resolving any pronunciation issues. It's also the chance to discover the flow of the passage, catch its tone, and identify the climax.

Scripture scholar Father Gerard Sloyan encourages lectors to be "so at home in the sacred stories, commands, and exhortations that they never miss the rhetorical intent of the writings or the Anglicized pronunciation of Hebrew and Greek proper nouns." A challenging standard!

My prayer always is that I will not get in the way or distract people from the message I proclaim. …

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