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Liturgical Ministry, Readers (and Listeners!)
All Christian ministry is about service, not power or prestige. It carries on the saving work of Christ in the world and finds its source in the risen Christ. All those who minister in the Church act in Christ’s name.
Jesus offered the Church a model of true Christian service shortly before his death when he took off his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, got down on his hands and knees and washed his disciples’ dirty, smelly feet.
The term ‘liturgical ministry’ refers to service within and to the worshipping community. Members of the community are called to perform particular liturgical ministries in order to facilitate and support the assembly’s liturgical prayer. These liturgical ministers include the priest celebrant or presider, ministers of communion, sacristans and servers, readers, ministers of music and hospitality ministers.
People are called to different ministries depending on their particular gifts and their individual personalities. Someone should only perform a certain ministry if she or he has the skills and qualities needed to serve the community well in that role.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states clearly that all involved in liturgical ministry ‘must be deeply imbued with the spirit of liturgy…. and trained to perform their functions in a correct and orderly manner’ (CSL 29).
The question for all liturgical ministers to ask themselves after carrying out their role is ‘Did I help the community to pray?’
Readers (and Listeners!)
The second Vatican Council reminded us of the central place of scripture in public worship: ‘Christ is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church’ and ‘The Church is nourished spiritually at the table of God’s word and at the table of the Eucharist’, for example.
The only contact that many Catholics have with the living word of scripture 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’.
Those who are called to be readers at Mass, then, take on an important ministry. In fact they are not ‘readers’ at all. Almost everyone can read, but only some can effectively proclaim the word of God. Those people who serve the liturgical gathering by proclaiming the scriptures are best described as ‘ministers of the word’.
Carrying out the role well requires faith in the word of God, a love of scripture, thorough preparation and the skills needed for reading aloud in public.
Proclaiming the word is a two way process which requires attentive listeners for it to be effective. We will hear the word of God better if we prepare by reading the texts before coming to Mass then put our Missals aside during the Liturgy of the Word and engage in dialogue with the word. Readers are channels of God’s word, but channels don’t work well if there is a blockage!