Competent and Well Prepared Readers

“In the Liturgy of the Word, maximum attention should be given to a clear, understandable proclamation of the texts …. . This requires competent, well-prepared readers who, for this purpose, need to be formed in schools, even ones which might be established by the diocese.”

Peter Ingham, Bishop of Wollongong and President of the Federation of Bishops Conference of Oceania, used this quote from the preparatory document for the Synod of Bishops on the Bible held in Rome in October to introduce his intervention at the gathering.

Bishop Ingham lamented the poor standard of proclamation by the laity and by some clergy that he had experienced during his 40 years of ministry. This standard needs to be greatly improved, he said, “otherwise the Word of God will not have the impact of God speaking to us, which the Church envisages and which we all desire”.

Amongst the obstacles to good proclamation of scripture that he went on to enunciate were issues that frequently arise with regard to Ministers of the Word: reading too fast, lack of emphasis on key words and phrases, failure to project the voice, not using the microphone correctly and mispronouncing words.

Bishop Ingham went on to offer these suggestions to help readers to become better proclaimers of God’s word:
1. Prayerfully read the Word of God with a small group or as a private study with resources to help you understand the context, meaning and sense of the passage.
2. Imagine or visualise the congregation to whom you will communicate God’s Word. Pray God will touch their hearts. Be yourselves, in your own life a witness to the Word of God.
3. Always look at the reading you are assigned in the context of the whole Liturgy of the Word for that day.
4. Read and re-read the Scripture text silently several times to get a sense of its meaning, its pace and its flow.
5. Identify the type of passage – is it historical, prophetic, a parable, an instruction, poetry, etc?
6. Consider the meaning of the passage in its context. Where is the climax or punch line? Is its tone and spirit comforting, or warning, or informing, or intimate?
7. Check the pronunciations of proper names.
8. Practise reading the passage aloud several times or record your reading and play it back to yourself.

Being an effective reader requires faith as well as good preparation and public speaking skills. An authentic reader is someone with a love of scripture who believes that it is indeed the living word of God which provides guidance for Christian discipleship.
The only contact that many Catholics have with the word of God occurs at Sunday Mass. It is vital that this encounter be a positive experience so that they will develop over time a warm and living love of scripture. In Bishop Ingham’s concluding words: “The reader has a very vital ministry!”


Elizabeth Harrington