Improving Lector & Priest Speaking?

In our parish many lectors and some priests are not clear when they speak at Mass. I’m not addressing content but just the clarity of what they are saying.

I am certain that everyone wants to deliver the Word so that it is clear. However that is not the case with many in our parish and is not the case in other parishes where I have attended Mass.

In our parish there is no feedback or coaching and consequently little understanding of how readings are being understood.

I believe this is a critical issue.

My question is - do any of you belong to parishes that have addressed this issue and come up with approaches that are effective and do not offend those delivering the Word?

Your perspectives would be greatly appreciated.

God bless you.

Clear as in you can’t hear them or is there no microphone?

If so, I think it is important that when talking to a large audience that you speak in a loud tone.

Fortunately our parish has a retired priest that speaks with passion so he speaks very loudly and clear.

It would be great if we could always hear/understand the Word being proclaimed. Often I cannot, due to sound issues or accents that I have difficulty following. However, one prepares for Mass by reading, at home, the readings and the Gospel and prayerfully reflecting on them. Then when one is at Mass, it doesn’t matter so much if the Word proclaimed isn’t always understood because one already has committed to memory what was going to be read.

Sorry if that sounded terribly pedantic, I struggled with how to express my thoughts.

We have a sound system however we have a beautiful old church with poor acoustics.

However we have one priest that has overcome the problem and is clearly understood because he “pays homage” to every word, doesn’t read too fast and doesn’t slur his words.

I agree that preparing for Mass by reading the Epistles and Gospel beforehand is the correct approach but in most cases it isn’t done.

In addition that will not help in understanding the homily.

I am a lector and getting honest feedback is not easy or often desired.

I’m not certain I understand how a lack of enunciation implies no one is preparing for proclaiming readings. Are you saying that the priest(s) aren’t preparing, too? :hmmm:

In addition that will not help in understanding the homily.

For which, of course, they do prepare. :wink:

I am a lector and getting honest feedback is not easy or often desired.

Have you considered asking your pastor about ways that you and the other lectors might more effectively prepare? Have you considered volunteering to start a program for lectors, or asking permission to contact the diocese and finding out if they have any resources that you can use to improve your effectiveness at proclaiming the readings at your parish? :wink:

I read the scriptures prior to mass, so that I am familiar with them - usually the evening before. As well, I have a St. Joseph’s Missal and can read along if Babawawa or Elmer Fudd is lectoring.

Question: How is your hearing? Consider also that acoustics play a big part in understandability. DW is hearing impaired and she hears more clearly on one side of our parish than on the other. Also, sound systems can be adjusted to compensate for less than optimum acoustics.

Churches tend to have acoustics that favor singing or acoustics that favor the spoken voice. It’s not unusual that what works well for one does not work well for the other.

When my relatively new parish church was constructed we had a horrible problem with the acoustics such that sound cancellation was causing every third spoken word to be unintelligible. Our then pastor (who had a media background) knew how to regulate his speech to overcome the problem and regular lectors and associate priests did a reasonable job of being understandable. The next pastor, who had overcome a serious speech impediment as a child could not defeat our poor sound setup. The parish was getting all kinds of complaints. So we eventually had a sound remediation company come in to do some serious (and expensive) fixing.

I don’t know what the underlying problem is at your parish. But I do know that my parish makes intelligible speech a priority. Lectors don’t so much volunteer as they audition. I am not a lector but I have had to make announcements at Mass and I sing in the choir where we try hard to make the words understandable. It takes a lot of practice to get the diction to be clear. I have found that crisp consonants and pure (no diphthongs) vowel sounds help. (I don’t know where you live but Americans tend toward lazy consonants and/or sliding vowel sounds.)

And of course lectors need practice. They need practice in the church. They need to practice both when there are people in the church and when there are no people in the church. The sound will be different. Speaking is a skill that can and (in my opinion) should be developed by lectors.

I am a Lector too. Our Parish Priest holds occasional workshops for both established and prospective Lectors. They are very useful - the only problem being that those who might find them helpful are not usually those who are able to attend ! Youngsters are also particularly encouraged to participate and their enthusiasm is very pleasing - they are our future.

Our Priest is exceptionally good, his homilies being some of the best I’ve ever been privileged to hear.

It is very easy to praise those Lectors who have no problem with Reading. It’s those who have difficulty in projecting their voices who can become very easily discouraged - ( but the greatest challenge can be presented by those who have been Lectors for many years! )

Thank God that in His mercy He accepts with love our best efforts.

God bless you. :slight_smile:

I realize that your parish likely would not implement my solution, but I would suggest that the parish begin to chant the readings. It really does work to make them more understandable.

It all comes down to what the Priest and or Lector studied when it came to English class. If the classes were effective, the priest and or lector would have learned how to communicate their ideas effectively. Ultimately it depends on their skill on writing and public speaking along with their passions for the subject. Sometimes, it is nearly impossible for me to write up an essay within a week because the subject is something I am not passionate about, in the case of a priest and or lector they have the same scenario except they preach a sermon. However there is always a way to improve public speaking and writing… Encourage the priest and or lector to continue their education, or request permission to continue their education in the subject matter. If worse comes to worse tell the Bishop.

I also forgot to say, the more they practice public speaking, the better. Have Shakespear workshops or something.

From my experience, it appears that very few, if any, parishes and seminaries teach elocution. I had the honor, one year, of teaching an elocution class to seminarians and parish lectors. It was enthusiastically received and many expressed their appreciation for what they were taught.

One of the things that can make it difficult for a congregation to clearly what is being said is that very few people know how to use a microphone. Too many have only seen how pop singers use one to sing, and that is totally wrong for speech. In fact, it is also totally wrong for singing intelligibly!

Also, just because someone is using a microphone that does not mean that they will be clearly heard. Too often the speakers are unable to project their voices, getting the sound right out of their mouths. The result is frequently that of just a louder volume of muttering!

Recently I have discovered a priest who has no idea where to place emphasis in a sentence. I do not know him well enough to address this with him. The problem is that when emphasis is placed on the wrong word or words in any sentence, the meaning of the sentence can be completely changed.

I ensure that I always follow the readings of the gospel in my missal, thus ensuring that I know exactly what is being said.

If we find ourselves characterizing our lectors as ‘Babawawa’ and ‘Elmer Fudd’, is it any wonder that people aren’t lining up to assist at Mass as lectors? :frowning:

There are several possible scenarios here - what exactly are we dealing with?

People with strong accents - they cannot be understood because of their accent?

Literacy issues - people who don’t know how the words are pronounced, or substituting words where they can’t read what’s there, and/or inventing their own punctuation?

Carelessness - people saying what they think the words should say, instead of what they actually say?

Speaking too fast or too slowly? Not using the microphone correctly, and either can’t be heard or are too loud?

Thank you for the many helpful suggestions in how to deliver the Word more effectively.

However what I’m asking is to connect with parishes that have an existing successful program to help those delivering the Word improve in their delivery.

Thank you for not being impatient with me.

Readers at our Church have mandatory meetings. I am going to one next Saturday the 12th.

I will be given a practice reading to read and several experienced readers and the ministry leaders will stand about the Church and listen. As I read they will begin to give me feedback by yelling commands in response to the way I read such as “Slow down” and “Speak louder” and “Don’t be so dramatic” and “You are mumbling” and such things.

The first time I did it a man yelled “Louder” and a few sentences later he yelled “Louder!” and a few sentences after that he yelled, “SHOUT!!!” We worked through it and it turned out that I was not speaking directly into the microphone.

That’s what we do. Read and get yelled at. Some call it coaching. Whatever it is called, it works pretty well.


best way to start go to the pastor and tell him the issues you are having understanding what people are saying. This should help to resolve it, now the priest may ignore you and do nothing but at-least you made the effort.

It is not clear from your post if there are acoustic problems which can play a role as well as the quality of the lectors you have. I am a lector and my experience is that there really is little training and suggestions given. Again as in any volunteer activity, the quality is going to depend on who is willing to step forward. Since lectors stand in front to read, usually the people that do step forward to lector most likely are going to have to have their public speaking fears under control.
The biggest issue I’ve witness is reading too fast and with women lectors being too soft spoken even with a microphone. I would suggest that you speak to your priest about your concerns.

Yes, we have a great way of fixing this problem. The epistle and gospel are sung by the priest in Latin while the congregation follows along in their hand Missals in the vernacular. Works like a charm.

“In the 27th episode of the Rebuilt Podcast, Chris Wesley and Tom Corcoran welcome their audio engineer, Jeremy Travlos, who oversees the music production and audio quality at Church of the Nativity.” At

It is not so much about lector training, more about the audio engineer operating “the board”, the mixer, so that the volumes of things is suitable. There is also a lot about music in this podcast.

I have made a video about doing the readings which is at .

The focus of it is on what the reader should read and what is optional, rather than how to read. To summarise:

  • Reader does not read the caption or heading that is in the Lectionary.
  • A cantor can sing “The Word of the Lord” instead of the reader saying it.
  • A deacon should do the Prayer of the Faithful, a lay reader is the extraordinary minister who does this when there is no deacon.
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