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The Word of the Lord: How to Proclaim the Word of the Lord

30 November, 1999

The recent Synod on the Word of God (October 2008) highlighted ways of more effective proclaiming the Word of God in today’s world and Have it inspire the lives of Christians. In anticipation of this, the Cloyne Commission for Liturgical Formation last year produced two beautiful companion booklets, of which this is the first.

To purchase this book – it cannot be sold without its companion volume (see next), The Ministry of the Word: A Compilation of Sources, write to [email protected] 


Meditation and Prayer

  • Introduction: Bishop John Magee
  • On the Church’s Liturgy
  • On the Celebration of Mass – Centre of the Liturgy
  • On the Liturgy of the Word
  • Spiritual Preparation (Lectio Divina)
  • Good Diction Makes Sense

How to Proclaim the Word of the Lord

  • Preparations
  • The Introductory Rites
  • Getting Started at the Ambo
  • The First Reading Concluding the First Reading
  • The Responsorial Psalm – Sung
  • The Responsorial Psalm – Recited
  • The Second Reading
  • The Gospel Acclamation
  • The Gospel
  • The Homily
  • The Profession of Faith
  • The Prayer of the Faithful

For Fruitful Ministry in the Garden of God’s Word 
Eligibility for Service as Lector or Psalmist/Cantor 
Dress Code 
Ministers of the Word – Who they are
Lectors, Psalmists/Cantors for the Celebration of Baptisms, Marriages, & Funerals
The Places of Ritual Focus in the Celebration of the Eucharist 
Summary of the Procedure for Ministers of the Word 
Pronunciation Guide – Breaking into Syllables 


 Proclamation of Sacred Scripture is
the reading of Sacred Scripture aloud,
with faith and with appropriate animation

You are ready to exercise your ministry as lector if you have done the required preparation for it before coming to the church.

Arrive in good time. Check in with the presider. Recheck the rota.

In the Lectionary, note the layout of texts that are assigned to you. Insert the ribbons as appropriate. Note, also, if a text runs overleaf.

Ideally, there is a second lector. If so, share out the tasks according to local custom. There may also be an extra minister to lead the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful.

Check if there are exceptional circumstances; namely, that a psalmist or cantor will not be leading the responsorial Psalm.

If a deacon is not present and you are to announce the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful in his place, note the wording of these and the chosen dialogue invocation.

Put the Lectionary and the text for the Prayer of the Faithful in place at the ambo before the Entrance procession begins, or have an altarserver, or equally, another minister of the word, do so.

If applicable, adjust the microphone. Do not tap it to check if it is live? Instead, ask the sacristan.

Always, read from the Lectionary; never from a leaflet, booklet or pastoral publication.

Ideally, you are a participant in the Entrance procession.

Having passed through the assembly, take your assigned seat outside of the sanctuary.
Why not have your family/ friends join you here, but you situate yourself nearest the centre aisle?

Before going to this seat, reverence the altar with a profound bow. However, if the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament is situated in the sanctuary, make a genuflection.

Alternatively, you may have been asked to carry the Book of the Gospels in the Entrance procession. If so, go as far as the front of the altar and, without reverencing the altar, place the Book of the Gospels on it. Standing as you are, make a profound bow. Now turn and go to your assigned seat outside of the sanctuary.

The Liturgy of the Word follows the Collect (the Opening Prayer).
For it, all will sit down, except yourself. Instead, you go to the ambo.

On your way, join the second lector and the psalmist or cantor in a central designated place in order to reverence the altar with a profound bow. Do not genuflect, even if the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament is situated in the sanctuary. The second lector and the psalmist/cantor sit to the side, as local circumstances suggest.


If the First Reading runs overleaf, insert a finger under that leaf, in order to make a smooth turnover, when necessary, and not disrupt the flow of your delivery.

Now look to the others in the assembly and check that all are seated and settled.

When they are settled and therefore, free to listen, announce the introduction to the First Reading: i.e. ‘A reading from…’.
As you do, look to the assembly for, at least, part of this introduction.

Do not add extra words to this introduction such as; the heading above the text given in italics nor phrases such as, ‘First Reading…’ or ‘the First Reading is…’.

Because this introduction, e.g. ‘A reading from the prophet Isaiah’, is not part of the Scripture text that follows it, do not begin proclaiming the Scripture text just yet.
Instead, after announcing: ‘A reading from the prophet Isaiah’, create a pause by taking one deep breath! It is with your next breath that you will begin proclaiming the word of God.


Your words are clearly spoken.

They are phrased together with meaning.

You are raising and lowering your voice, much as in ordinary conversation.

You are comfortable in your own accent.

You are careful about your tone, the pace of your words; their rhythm. Indeed, you are a true ‘mouthpiece for God’!


Just as the introduction; ‘A reading from…’ was not part of the text of Scripture you have proclaimed, neither is ‘The word of the Lord’ part of this text.

Therefore, allow a similar deep breath of silence to pass at the end of a reading in order to signify this separation.

Note: While the current Lectionary has ‘This is the Word of the Lord’ as the conclusion to the readings, the revised translation of ‘Verbum Domini’ reads ‘The Word of the Lord’ and this is what should be used in future.

Look to the assembly while doing so and use a different tone of voice from the last sentence of the reading.
Always await the assembly’s reply: ‘Thanks be to God’, before making way for the psalmist or cantor, if this applies.


It is now the psalmist’s or cantor’s role to come to the ambo and lead the responsorial Psalm.

However, he/she will go to the ambo only when a silence of three good breaths has passed following the conclusion to the First Reading.

If the Psalm is led from a place other than at the ambo, e.g. by the entire choir, still remove yourself to the side. This will avoid the impression of ventriloquism.

Join in singing the refrain each time.

If, regrettably, a psalmist or cantor is not available, the recitation of the responsorial Psalm will be led by you. This means that you will remain at the ambo following the First Reading.

If the text of the responsorial Psalm runs overleaf, insert a finger under that leaf, in order to make a smooth turnover, when necessary, and not disrupt the flow of your speech.

Before you begin the responsorial Psalm, allow a pause of three deep breaths to pass after the conclusion to the First Reading.

This silence ensures time for people to absorb and linger with the message of that reading before moving to respond to it, by way of the responsorial Psalm. As the assembly will get comfortable with such silence, it may be extended a short while longer.

Now, contrary to common practice, do not initiate the Psalm by saying: “responsorial Psalm” or “the response to the Psalm is” or both.

Instead, announce the text of the refrain directly; e.g.: ‘Praise the Lord who heals the broken hearted’. Wait on the assembly to repeat this refrain. Do not join in this refrain.

Next, slowly proclaim the text of the first verse. Use a meditative pace of delivery. Follow the text’s poetic rhythm. With your slow prayerful pace you wilL enable the assembly to pray the Psalm.

After this verse, engage the response of the assembly again, but only by looking to them; i.e. cease the customary practice of saying: ‘response’!

Follow the same procedure with subsequent verses.

Sometimes, in weekday liturgies, the Psalm response is a longer, somewhat unfamiliar text. Speak these refrains most distinctly and, on the rare occasion, you may need to assist the assembly by joining their second response, but importantly, only that second response.

When the recitation of the responsorial Psalm has been completed, i.e. after the final response of the assembly, it is time for the Second Reading to begin; but, importantly, it will not begin just yet!

If there is a second lector, he/she will come to the ambo instead of you. He/she wilL take his/her place there after allowing a pause of three breaths to pass.
If, however, the Psalm was sung but there is no second lector, you will return to the ambo after you have allowed a pause of three breaths to pass.
If there is no psalmist or cantor nor any second lector, then, in fact, you are at this point already in place at the ambo.

After the Psalm and before the Second Reading is begun, it is essential to leave a pause of, at least, three good breaths.

Again, the second lector approaching the ambo from the side need not go to the ambo until this pause has taken place.

Otherwise, if there is no second lector and you have had to lead the recitation of the Psalm yourself because there is no psalmist or cantor, then you will create this pause while standing at the ambo.

Effectively, when the Psalm is completed, a silence of at least three breaths will pass before the introduction to the Second Reading will be announced.

If the text of the Second Reading runs overleaf, insert a finger under that leaf, in order to make a smooth turnover, when necessary, and not disrupt the flow of your delivery.

As with the procedure for the First Reading, it is necessary to look at the assembly, when sayin ‘A reading from…’.

Again, do not add extra words to this introduction such as; the heading above the text given italics, nor phrases such as, ‘Second Reading…’ or ‘the Second Reading is…’.

Also, because this introduction; e.g. ‘A reading from the letter to the Hebrews’, is not part of the Scripture text that follows it, do not begin proclaiming this text immediately after the introduction.

Instead, after announcing: ‘A reading from the letter to the Hebrews’, make a silent pause by taking one good breath! With your next breath, begin proclaiming the word of God in the letter to the Hebrews.

As always, at the end of a text, leave one breath of silence pass before changing tone an( announcing the conclusion: “The word of the Lord”.
Look to the assembly as you do so and await their reply; ‘Thanks be to God’. Do not move until you have heard this reply.
If the Book of the Gospels is to be used for the proclamation of the Gospel, carefully place the Lectionary on the shelf of the ambo underneath, if this applies, or place it in some other appointed appropriate place.

If the Book of the Gospels is not being used for the proclamation of the Gospel, leave the Lectionary as it is; opened on the ambo.

After the conclusion to the Second Reading or, if necessary, after removing the Lectionary following on that conclusion, go to your seat at the side and sit down.

After a reflective pause on the Second Reading, the psalmist, cantor, or choir now leads the assembly in joyful acclamation of the Gospel. The assembly follows this lead by repeating the acclamation. Otherwise, it participates in the acclamation from the beginning. The verse, however, is sung by the psalmist, cantor, or choir.

The acclamation should be sung at a pitch which facilitates a joyful rendition of this rite.

Even in the celebration of the Church’s funeral rites, the Gospel acclamation is to be sung brightly and with joy, though its setting may be a solemn one.

If, neither the psalmist, the cantor nor the choir is present, some other member of the assembly, not excluding the presider, or yourself should take up this song. However, whoever leads it should not preface it with: ‘Please stand for the Gospel acclamation’!, or with ‘Gospel acclamation’!

If, regrettably, there is not any person or persons to lead here, the Gospel acclamation is omitted and arrangements are to be made for its singing in future. It is not prescribed to merely recite this acclamation in Mass celebrated with a congregation.

The lector(s) participate(s) in singing the acclamation before the Gospel while standing it his/her/their place at the side of the sanctuary i.e. Immediately, after the Second Reading, do not return to your seat outside of the sanctuary because, to do so, could distract from the Gospel procession and from the singing of the Gospel acclamation. Instead, stand and sing where you are!

Because you may also have been charged with announcing the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful, you need to remain, at hand, near the ambo.
Thus, the appropriate time to leave the sanctuary is when the Prayer of the Faithful has been concluded by the presider, and preparations are being made for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This applies to both lectors, to a possible extra minister of the word called upon to lead the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful and also to the psalmist/cantor.

The Gospel is now proclaimed by the appropriate minister; either by a deacon, by a concelebrating priest or by the presider himself.
If a deacon is present, he is blessed by the presider. In the absence of a deacon, and when a priest concelebrant is available, this priest concelebrant asks for and receives a blessing only when it is the Bishop of the Diocese or another Bishop presides.
Ideally there is a procession to the ambo with the Book of the Gospels in which the thurible and candles are carried.
At the ambo, the minister sings or says, with hands joined; ‘The Lord be with you’… ‘A reading from the holy Gospel according to….’. He incenses the book if incense is used.
After the minister has proclaimed the Gospel, he sings or says the acclamation: ‘The Gospel of the Lord’. When the assembly has responded with: ‘Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ’, he then kisses the book, lifting it if necessary.

Lectors and the psalmist/cantor sit, during the Homily.

There is to be a Homily when the liturgical rites call for one; it may not be omitted without a serious reason. The Homily is to be given by the presider, by a concelebrating priest or, occasionally, by the deacon. The presider may give the Homily at the chair, standing at the ambo or, when appropriate, in another suitable place.

The Homily should flow from the Sacred Scriptures which have been just proclaimed, or, more broadly, from the Sacred Scriptures from which particular prayers and actions of the current celebration derive.

The Homily enables the assembly to better participate in the Church’s Liturgy with faith.

The goal of the homilist is to break open God’s Word in ways that interpret and form people’s lives, such that their relationship with God and with the human family is nurtured, healed, and ultimately celebrated at the table of the Eucharist.

The purpose of the Creed is that the assembly may respond to the word of God that was proclaimed in the readings, and explained in the Homily, and that it may also call to mind and confess the great mysteries of the faith before these mysteries are celebrated at the table of the Eucharist.

The Creed is to be sung or said by the presider together with the people on Sundays and on Solemnities.

The intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful are normally sung/said by the deacon.
In the absence of a deacon, this role falls to the lector. This is the lector who has already proclaimed the First and/or Second readings.
On occasion, however, this role is filled by an additional minister who comes forward from the assembly at the conclusion of the Creed. On his/her way, at the designated central place, this person reverences the altar with a profound bow. Do not genuflect.

Note: It is preferable to have one minister of the word only to announce the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful.

The Prayer of the Faithful, ordinarily included in all Masses, is conducted as follows:
If the Homily has been delivered by the presider at the ambo, he should always return to the chair and, ideally, sit for a while in order to allow time for reflection. Afterwards, he stands and, when prescribed, he leads the Profession of Faith (the Creed).

Next, while still at the chair, the presider introduces the Prayer of the Faithful. During this, the lector (or the additional minister) should come to the ambo. Recall how you or another person already placed the text at the ambo. Now, reposition this text on top of the Book of the Gospels or on top of the Lectionary as applies.

With the presider’s introduction complete, sing/read the first intention. Follow this intention with a silent pause. Create this pause by privately counting to, perhaps, ten. Afterwards, begin the dialogue invocation, e.g. ‘Lord, in your mercy … hear our prayer’. Repeat this format for every intention, as it allows the faithful to take each one to heart; they get to exercise their priestly ministry in this ‘universal prayer’.

After the final intention and time for intercession, remain at the ambo until the assembly gives its final invocation, e.g. ‘hear our prayer’. Remain, also, until the presider concludes all the petitions with a prayer. After ‘Amen’, go with the other minister(s) of the word to your seat outside the sanctuary. On the way, and in a central place, all reverence the altar with a profound bow. Do not genuflect.

Whoever prepares the text of the Prayer of the Faithful should note that the Hail Mary is not a constituent part and so its recitation is never to be included, even by a priest. Secondly, that there is a prescribed framework of intentions, namely: the needs of the Church, public authorities and the salvation of the whole world, those burdened by any kind of difficulty, the local community. However, in the Liturgy which includes Confirmation, Marriage, or Funeral rites, some intentions may more closely reflect these elements.

Equally, when composing the Prayer of the Faithful, it should be noted that the presider’s invitation to prayer and the various intentions which follow are addressed to the assembly and not to God; i.e. these texts are not themselves prayers. Furthermore, intentions are best conveyed in short sentences that are consistent in format and simple in style.

Finally, note that there is variety of texts which can be used in the dialogue invocation. Among others there includes: ‘We pray to the Lord … Lord, hear our prayer’, ‘Let us pray…Lord, show us your love’, ‘Let us pray …Kyrie eleison’, ‘Let us pray… Remember us, O Lord’. All          choices may be utilised, on rotation, according to the liturgical season.



You are ‘painting’ the word of God onto the human heart and mind. ‘Paint’ slowly for a full and even ‘coating’.

Think of ‘diction’ as: All that goes into enunciating words in an appealing and understandable way.

The following points contribute to ‘Good Diction’:

  • Pronounce the final letter in every word; do this in order to be understood.
  • Be proud of your own accent; do not contrive another.
  • Put words in groups that make sense to you, and which allow you catch your breath; i.e. be conscious of your phrasing and rhythm. Commas and full stops are to help you with phrasing and rhythm. Commas expect us to pause, briefly, in our story, but we can soon move off again. Full stops are always ‘red Light’ instructions. With these, you have to stop.
  • Keep a special eye on ‘action’ words (i.e. the verbs). You can emphasize these, by pausing briefly before and after them or by raising/lowering your voice. Names of persons and places, also need attention. Carefully emphasize these too.
  • Do not worry about the unfamiliar names and places. In every case, break the word into its syllables. To do this, find what vowels are in each word – i.e. A E I O U. Note the sound these vowels make; most likely, but not always, with the letters (i.e. with the consonants B C D F G H J K L M N P Q R S T V W X Y Z) that are situated closest to them. Each of these sounds, in fact, is a syllable.
  • Now, pronounce every syllable in sequence in order to produce the problem word. Remember, next time the same word features in your reading, you must pronounce it in the same way. For example, the name ‘Zechariah’ has four syllables: ‘Zech – ar – i – ah’. The next time ‘Zechariah’ features in your text, it should sound the same four-syllable way.
  • With the place-names, treat these as the ‘station areas’ of the bible lands. Recall how the strange sounding station areas of your own parish are always pronounceable. These bible places, therefore, are pronounceable too…. by using the same ‘break into syllables’ approach.
  • Even though you have silently read a Scripture passage several times in your spiritual preparation (Lectio Divina), read it out loud, now, in order to hear yourself speak. Are you loud enough for others to hear you? Remember good volume depends more on pushing air to the vocal chords from your diaphragm, than on the amplification a microphone gives. Remember, too, never to shout.
  • Now, how is your pace and speed? Going too fast? Slow down! Remember, the pace needed in the proclamation of Scripture is, generally, a slow one. This is to evoke the wonder and awe of being in the presence of God. This is, also, to allow your hearers to tune into your voice and especially, to tune into what God is saying through you. In addition, when a passage of Scripture is no longer than five or six lines, the assembly needs you to speak very, very slowly, throughout.
  • Also, what ‘note’ do you normally speak on? Hopefully, this is not a high-pitched note? Best to have a low middle-range note and then to raise and lower your voice (i.e. inflect it) through a range of several other notes. This inflection gives your proclamation a conversational-style and so, makes things appealing and interesting for your listeners.
  • Finally, be conscious of the particular acoustics that characterise your church building; churches vary in the amount of time needed for your voice to come back to you externally. Know this time and respect it. Be mindful, not to begin a new sentence on top of a previous one that is still in the process of being heard and absorbed.


After the assembly has made their response: ‘Thanks be to God’, leave the ambo and sit to the side, as local circumstances suggest.
When the text of the First Reading has been proclaimed, leave one deep breath of silence pay again before announcing the conclusion: ‘The word of the Lord’.
If you have prepared appropriately at home for your ministry, you now find yourself proclaim this text successfully and with faith.

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