Readers Preparing Together
"As readers exercise the privilege of proclaiming God’s word, God speaks to the assembly through them..."
"Readers therefore have a personal responsibility for the way they prepare and carry out their ministry. They will benefit from regular opportunities to pray together and be renewed in their ministry..."
Many of us have taken part in small groups to reflect on the Scriptures, pray and discern during Advent or Lent. Such groups are, of their nature, short lived. Why stop there? A group like this would be a wonderful way for liturgical ministers of the word to share together as a regular means of formation. In the early Church, the ministry of reader was not only prized but also recognised as an ecclesial office or appointment. Sometimes today a laissez-faire approach is taken towards the ministry: reading is simply something to be done on the day– reading the words with little preparation or formation.
As readers exercise the privilege of proclaiming God’s word, God speaks to the assembly through them, and, the impact of God’s message will depend significantly on their conviction, their preparation, and their delivery. The reader has responsibility for not simply reading the word, but assisting the assembly to hear the word. Thus said the Bishops Conference of England and Wales whose Liturgy Office prepared guidelines entitled ‘Ministers of the Word’.
Readers therefore have a personal responsibility for the way they prepare and carry out their ministry. They will benefit from regular opportunities to pray together and be renewed in their ministry. In this sense the ministry of reader is truly a work of evangelisation. When they hear the word of God and reflect deeply on it, the faithful receive the power to respond to it actively with full faith, hope, and charity through prayer and self-giving, and not only during Mass but in their entire Christian life (Lectionary Intro 48).
Attitude of Mind, Action, Heart
The Second Vatican Council sought to promote a warm and living love for Scripture among the faithful (SC 24); this attitude begins with the reader and is the special responsibility of those entrusted with this ministry. As we prepare to hear the Gospel, all trace the sign of the cross on their forehead, lips and heart, providing a template for shaping the right attitude for receiving God’s word.
A Group Model
In addition to individual preparation, group preparation for the ministry of the word can be most helpful and enriching. Meeting during the week before the Sunday celebration, readers can usefully join with musicians, the preacher and others to prepare the Scriptures. They might follow a familiar pattern of discussion and prayer taken from Lenten groups.
Another helpful model is Lectio Divina which flows through the four ‘R’s – slowly reading, silently reflecting, prayerfully responding, and simply resting in God’s presence.
Working in a group can help readers with their biblical, liturgical and technical preparation. The purpose of their biblical formation is to give readers the ability to understand the readings in context and to perceive by the light of faith the central point of the revealed message. The liturgical formation ought to equip readers to have some grasp of the meaning and structure of the liturgy of the word and of the significance of its connection with the liturgy of the Eucharist. The technical preparation should make the readers more skilled in the art of reading publicly, either with the power of their own voice or with the help of sound equipment. (Lectionary Introduction 55).