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Proclaiming the Word: Does Your Parish Need to Raise the Bar for Lectors?

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By George Miller
5/31/2012 (6 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

The first in a number of articles on this great lay ministry

In many churches, the highest demands for excellence and professionalism are put on the presiders, deacons, musicians, sacristans and greeters; but not enough on the lectors. You can have the most passionate and ambitious lector coordinator or liturgy director who'd love to raise the performance bar for the church's lectors, but without the support and comparable enthusiasm of the parish hierarchy, nothing ever happens.

Highlights

By George Miller
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
5/31/2012 (6 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Bible, Lectors, Proclaiming the Word, Holy Scriptures


DeBARY, FL (Catholic online) - The Mass begins with a captivating entrance hymn. The priest, deacon, lectors and altar servers process in with dignity. The presider greets the congregation warmly, the choir sings the Gloria beautifully, and the congregation is primed for an enriching liturgical experience.

Next, the lector rises from the pew and approaches the ambo as the parishioners say to themselves, "Great! I just love to hear Beth proclaim God's word. She always conveys it in a way that touches my heart and makes it easy to relate it in some way to my life.

As Beth begins to read, the parishioners quietly in their minds respond to her with, 'That's so right, Beth, or 'Isn't that the truth' as if they were actually conversing with her. Even if they've heard the reading many times before, they always get a fresh and engaging experience from Beth as if they were hearing the reading for the first time.

Then there's the other church up the street where it all begins the same way. Great music, a warm presider's greeting and a beautifully sung Gloria, all moving along nicely until the first reader approaches the ambo. And with a same ol' mundane "A reading from." introduction followed by a fair-to-mediocre reading, the mood of the congregation fizzles as they say to themselves, "Oh well, that's just Joe."

Hopefully the second scenario doesn't happen often in your church. But the churches where it does happen is when the parish leadership, after nearly 50 years since the institution of the Lay Office of Lector (Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dec. 1963), still has not come to grips with the seriousness of the lector ministry and its potential to dramatically heighten the liturgical experience of the parishioners.

In this revered celebration so many parishioners look forward to for their weekly nourishment, the lectors are being handed the baton in a similar way as a relay team member. And depending on their performance, they can either brighten or dim the whole liturgical experience.

In many churches, the highest demands for excellence and professionalism are put on the presiders, deacons, musicians, sacristans and greeters; but not enough on the lectors. You can have the most passionate and ambitious lector coordinator or liturgy director who'd love to raise the performance bar for the church's lectors, but without the support and comparable enthusiasm of the parish hierarchy, nothing ever happens.

As a past lector ministry head, I can recall times where my pastor agreed to make regular lector training and enrichment meetings mandatory. And when only half the lectors showed up despite his requirement, the reaction among the church's hierarchy was, "Oh well. It is what it is."

Mediocrity is the norm for lectors in too many churches. There are usually "a few good lectors" in every church, but there's no reason why more parishes can't take more steps to grow that remnant of good performing lectors. But what does it take to light the fire?

The voice of the parishioners is a good place to start. By letting the pastor know their feelings in the greeting line after mass, via parish surveys, suggestion boxes or personal letters and emails, it could be just what it takes to start raising the performance bar of a church's lectors.

But parishioners shouldn't be too quick to single out individual lectors because their lack of performance may not be their fault. Without sound lector training and support from the parish, many lectors never get the chance to become the proclaimer God has called them to be, or even know of all the resources available to help them do so.

The standards parishes and dioceses set for their lectors vary all over the board. Some require extensive training, mandatory attendance at preparation meetings and periodic re-certification, while others make few demands aside from following proper procedures and giving a quick brush of proclamation tips and techniques.

Unlike ministries where participants meet regularly such as choir, youth ministries, various committees or small faith groups, lectors in many parishes are on their own when it comes to their own personal improvement and growth. And though much of their preparation and study does require internal "alone" time, regular meetings with their presiders and other lectors for preparation and training should be encouraged.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in his 1999 Gather Faithfully Together pastoral letter, put it plainly saying, "Lectors for each Sunday should strive to be part of the group that meets with the homilists early in the week, say, Monday evening to read, pray with and talk about the scriptures for the coming week."

Another hindrance to a lector's performance is multiple ministries. Often we see some lectors doing something every Sunday: Eucharistic minister, usher, greeter, carrying the gifts, etc. And when they approach the ambo, the tendency is for parishioners to think "Here comes Joe again. Does he ever sit in the pew?" Nothing terrible about it, but nothing great either.

When ministers of God's word scamper from one ministry to the next: Tuesday evening here, Sunday afternoon there, etc, etc, Satan is just lovin' it! Diversity is his "Plan B" for lectors. And if he can't get them to distance themselves from God by actually sinning, he'll keep them busy being a "jack of all ministries" so they never have time to focus on the one ministry that's such a huge threat to him.

When a lector's concentration is spread across too many ministries, it's tough to offer God that "unblemished lamb" of a proclamation that results from sufficient preparation time and prayer: that perfect lamb that will please him and be digested by worshippers with earnestness, devotion and joy.

Lectors are an open book. The moment they start to read, their amount of preparation, knowledge and love for the Scriptures, and true desire to wash the feet of their fellow parishioners with God's word is on display. And if the lector drops the baton during his part of the celebration, perhaps it's time for parish leadership to help him carry it more successfully.

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George Miller is a 20-year Catholic lector, trainer and past ministry head. He has held leadership roles in multiple ministries since the 1980s. His website, www.lectorresources.com, offers extensive training and enrichment tools for lectors in pursuit of excellence.

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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2018
Priests and their Pastoral Ministry.
That priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.


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