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Readers in Church are really important, says Liturgy expert

By Susan Gately - 09 February, 2018

Papal catechesis highlights deficiencies and need for preparation, as 'God speaks through Scriptures'.

In a recent catechesis on the Mass, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of having good readers. When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, he told pilgrims on 31st January. “We must look for good readers!” he said “not those who mutter and nothing is understood. They must be prepared and rehearse before the Mass in order to read well. And this creates a climate of receptive silence.”

According to Fr Danny Murphy, Director of the National Centre of Liturgy in Maynooth, it is easier to be a Eucharistic Minister than a Lector, though both are equally important. “The task of reading is really a bigger task and to do that, they [lectors] do require formation and this realisation that  God is speaking through them, that they are an instrument.”

He advised discernment in the choice of readers, but warned it was not just a question of having confident speakers, or elocution. “They need to have the faith dimension as well,” he told CatholicIreland.

Fr Murphy, who is also Secretary of the Bishops’ Council for Liturgy advised lectors to speak slowly at all times, and after announcing the reading, to pause.  “Then are they reading a piece of poetry or a story? -to be able to capture that as well and if it is a very short text, 3 or 4 lines, they need to go really slowly because we often only start listening to something in the second sentence and we get away with that if it’s a long passage” but  not if it is short.

He advised reverence for the ambo. “The priest must be conscious of what word is spoken at that ambo – are they announcements? Or is that space reserved for the Word of God or is it used for any sort of old thing?” he asked. The person singing the psalm or reading the intentions is also a Minister of the Word, he explained.

The Word is a real presence of Christ, said Fr Murphy. It is “God speaking to God’s people”. Readers need to “realise they are really important”  but they also need support and formation coming from their dioceses.  “Ideally dioceses are sponsoring or sending people [to courses] with a view that when they come back they will have some role in facilitating courses [for others].”

The National Centre of Liturgy in Maynooth has been in operation since 1973 helping in this area. “Each diocese needs a certain team of people that can go and do the work on the ground but they need to tap into the fuller picture of what it [Scripture] is about and go home confident that they are being supported in their ministry,” he said.

Referring to the training that occurs in the Church of Ireland where both ministers and lay readers are intensely trained in reading the Word of God,  Fr Murphy asked  “Did we have that training? In parishes do we realise that we have to put the time in, or that other members of the parish who have the skill to train people, are put in place to do this.”

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