Guidelines For Lectors At Liturgy
During the Eucharistic Liturgy Jesus Christ is the unique Word of God spoken across all times and ages revealing the fullness of God. Jesus is present in the gathered assembly, the priests, the ministers and the consecrated bread and wine shared in communion by the faithful and in the spoken word. All aspects of Christ’s presence are to be taken seriously, solemnly and sacredly.
Treating the proclamation of the Scriptures seriously, solemnly and sacredly means to be conscious of the Scriptures’ aim at commemorating the meaning of Jesus and his life. The Scripture reader, the herald, must seek to fulfill this aim by praying with and studying the Word of God and must proclaim the Scriptures clearly to provide the people with a meaningful encounter with that living Word.
The ministry of Lector is “a genuine liturgical function”, as stated in Sacrosanctum concilium, and is proper to the laity since this office is a ministerial and not a presidential function. The following procedures are normative for the Diocese of Albany:
- The designation and commissioning of Lectors for the liturgy is considered a local parochial matter. A Pastor or Parish Life Director with their staffs and committee will discuss and make appointments based on the needs of the entire parochial community.
- Non-parochial ministry (schools and hospitals) should follow the same principles. The chaplain or spiritual
director, after consultation with administration, will follow the same procedure.
BECOMING A LECTOR FOR THE LITURGY Those selected should:
- Demonstrate a mature Christian life style, which is characterized by faith, charity, prayerfulness, morality, service and stability.
- Be practicing Catholics who are actively involved in the sacramental life of the Church.
- Be qualified and carefully prepared, i.e. be able to make good public proclamation of the written word.
- Reflect a cross-section of age*, ethnic and cultural differences which exist within the parish or facility.
*Regarding children or young people reading, the Introduction to the Lectionary for Masses with Children states (#23) “Some younger children are able to read the Scriptures competently, but the witness of older children, teenagers, or adults…is more conducive to the children’s growing reverence for the word of God, than the peer ministry of embarrassed or ill-prepared children.” The Directory for Masses with Children (#22) encourages children’s participation as lectors and (#29) states “children should be carefully prepared beforehand”.
Formation of a Lector for the Liturgy
- A person must participate in a program of theological and practical formation.
- It is the responsibility of the pastor or chaplain to see that those selected are properly prepared before they undertake the ministry. (See appendix)
- This formation may be done in an individual parish, institution, cluster or deanery or through the Office of Prayer and Worship.
- Those selected to teach in the formation sessions should be qualified academically and pastorally.
- Length of service is to be determined by the local pastor.
- If the person moves from the parish or institution in which he or she was commissioned.
- At any time by the Bishop, in consultation with the local pastor or by the pastor himself, for good reason.
- Former Lectors for the liturgy must go through formation and be re-commissioned.
Need for Ministers at Mass
- The number of candidates should be commensurate with the established need. Ideally, there will be a different lector for each reading in a liturgical service. In the absence of a deacon during the Eucharist, a lector proclaims
the general intercessions.
- Sufficient lectors are to be commissioned in each parish so that no lector is called upon to minister at more than one liturgical service of a given Sunday, Holyday or weekday celebration.
- If a person is involved in more than one ministry, ideally they serve in only one of those ministries at any given celebration.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE MINISTRY OF LECTOR
- Liturgy of the Hours
- Baptism or Marriage Outside of Mass
- Funeral Rites
- Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest
- A Liturgy of the Word in conjunction with the Anointing of the Sick
- Liturgical services in nursing homes and residential facilities
- Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
- Liturgy of the Word for Children
Theological, Pastoral, Ritual Formation For Readers
Formation for lectors for liturgy must include parts I, II & III. Yearly ongoing formation should include highlights of parts I, II & III.
PART I THEOLOGY OF THE WORD
- Importance and significance of the Word of God in liturgical celebrations
- An introduction to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum)
- An introduction to the Lectionary for Mass: Introduction
- Appropriate terminology
PART II THE LITURGY AND MINISTRY
- Nature of Liturgical Ministry
- Brief discussion of each of the liturgical ministries
- Required ministerial nature of lector for the liturgy (see above opportunities)
- Need for separation of ministries
An introduction to the structure of the lectionary, the three-year cycle
An introduction to the various kinds of literature in the Bible
PART III PRACTICAL FORMATION (Appendix Two as needed)
APPENDIX TWO Practical Formation For Lectors
Practical Information on Procedure in this Diocese includes the following points and any others which apply to a specific parish.
- The Lector is first and foremost a minister of hospitality.
- Lectors should dress in a manner, which reflects the dignity of their ministry.
- During the eucharistic liturgy a lector should:
- in the absence of a deacon, carry the Book of Gospels in the entrance procession .
- when carrying the Book of the Gospels, enter the sanctuary without bowing, placing the Gospels
book on the altar.
- at the appropriate time approach the ambo, may bow toward the altar, open the Lectionary and begin reading.
- return to their seat for the singing of the psalm. If the psalm is not sung, the lector remains at the ambo and leads the people in the recitation of the psalm.
- at the appropriate time approach the ambo for the second reading .
- If a parish has a Book of Gospels, ideally after the second reading the Lectionary should be
closed and moved to a place of honor before the reader returns to their seat.
- in the absence of a deacon, after the Creed the reader approaches the ambo or other suitable place before the invitation to proclaim the Prayer of the Faithful (also called the Universal Prayer)
remaining there until the priest has concluded the closing prayer.
- The Book of Gospels or Lectionary is not carried in the recessional procession.
- Any concerns or questions are to be referred to the pastor or parish life director
- Ministers should be given scheduling information.
- Rehearsal of the Ritual: Ministers should be given an opportunity to walk through the ritual and to practice public speaking.
Principles of Oral Reading
Oral reading is an act of interpretation and a form of communication that make passages vivid and meaningful. It requires practice.
- Pray with the text.
- Set aside time at home over several days to prepare the readings.
- Become familiar with the scriptural text.
- Identify the type of passage: narrative, poetry, dialogue, letter etc…
- Identify the characters.
- Study the meaning of the passage.
- What words need emphasis?
- What ideas need to be given at a slower or faster rate?
- Where are pauses needed?
- Where are changes in volume or voice needed?
- Where does the phrase move to its climax?
- Consider the tone of the passage: comforting, scolding, warning, intimate…
- Become familiar with unusual names.
- Read ideas not words.
- Possibly use available technology to practice and listen to oneself.
- Be conscious of lengthy sentences, particularly in the Pauline letters.
- Ask for feedback.
Presence and Proclamation
- Having reflected on the tone of the passage use a voice quality that dynamically illustrates the reading.
- Avoid speaking too low, too loud, in a monotonous tone or a sing-song pattern.
- Avoid dropping the voice at the end of phrases and sentences.
- Respect punctuation marks.
- Indicate, by changes in the vocal tone, the various speakers in a passage, including the narrator.
- Be conscious of consonants and use them. Diction helps propel the text forward.
- Articulate the consonants properly particularly at the end of words.
- Be aware that the acoustics of the space will affect tempo, pauses, and diction.
- Walk upright and with confidence to and from the ambo.
- Do not carry anything in your hands.
- Stand straight and comfortably.
- Hands may rest lightly on the ambo; do not grab the sides tightly.
- Do not lean on the ambo or sway back and forth.
- Facial expressions help convey the message.
- There is no need for gestures.
- Do not fidget with tie, hair etc, as it can be distracting
- Look at the assembly for a moment before beginning.
- Maintain eye contact as much as possible, particularly at the ends of paragraphs and sections.
- Breathe regularly and from the diaphragm, not the chest.
- Make sure the microphone is turned on before the liturgy.
- Inquire if your microphone is unidirectional, bi-directional or non-directional.
- Position the microphone appropriately. A voice, may become distorted if the microphone is too close or a reading may be inaudible if the microphone is too far from the speaker.
- Be aware of the acoustics of the space.
- Use only a Lectionary or Bible for proclaiming the Word. Do not use missalettes or loose pieces of paper.
- When introducing a passage do not use such phrases as, “The first reading is a reading from…”
- Proper English diction pronounces the “A” in the phrase “A reading from…” as a short “a” (uh) versus the long “a” (aey).
- Pause a few seconds at the end of a passage before declaring “The Word of the
- The Alleluia/Gospel Acclamation and its verse are omitted if it is not sung.
- Silence is critical in order for the Word of God to take root. A period of silence follows each reading and the psalm.
- For the General Intercessions or Universal Prayer, approach the ambo after the Creed, before the priest’s introduction/invitation and do not leave until after the completion of the closing prayer and the assembly has
- If a mistake occurs, do not apologize, repeat the phrase and continue reading.
- Remain standing in place until the assembly has responded, “Thanks be to God.”
- Attend training sessions geared toward improving public speaking skills.
- Participate in Scripture study to develop a better understanding of the Scriptures.
- Workbooks for lectors are available through: Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN and Liturgical Training
Publications, Chicago, IL.
- Arrive at the church with plenty of time to check the Lectionary, General
Intercessions, and announcements.
- Take your place in the procession.
APPENDIX THREE Concerning Special Circumstances
Ideally, trained lectors should proclaim the Word during all liturgical rites, however, due pastoral regard should be given in such circumstances as funerals and weddings that the selection of lectors is truly ministerial and enhances the liturgical celebration. This might be accomplished through:
- a core of parishioners who are trained and would offer their time for such rites.
- rehearsal, a suitable time before the rite, for either trained lectors from another parish/diocese or untrained family/friends ministering for theses rites.
It is presumed that individuals of other Christian denominations respect our Catholic traditions and share in the Scriptural faith proclaimed. It is, therefore, permissible for members of other Christian traditions to serve as lectors.
Since ministry flows from the Sacrament of Baptism, non-baptized persons would naturally not serve in a ministerial capacity.