Lector style critique

We have a lector at our parish who instead of saying “A reading from…” says something like “The reading this morning is a selection from…” She also uses a lot of gestures when she proclaims the Word.

Both of these are somewhat irksome to me, although I’m sure she has good intentions. Changing the standard introduction comes across as arrogant – “I’m running the show now, and I like my way better”. And while using gestures is usually encouraged in effective communication, it doesn’t seem appropriate to me when proclaiming the Word. It seems to change, for instance, “A reading from St. Paul” to “A reading from Ms. Lector”, and that comes across as phony since everyone knows it isn’t her letter. Although St. Paul is in a sense speaking through the lector, it seems like there’s a fine line between proclaiming St. Paul’s letter and taking on an acting role and “becoming” St. Paul. The latter seems to cross the line and turn it into a performance.

I’m not 100% convinced of this critique though, so I’d like to solicit your comments and opinions. We have an upcoming workshop where the lectors will have an opportunity to critique each other.

Father Z (Bless his heart) has some interesting takes on this; I’m sure I read a post of his recently on the subject which you could Google.

Say the black. Do the red. Ms. Lector needs to do exactly that. . .not ‘personalize’ what is written, not ‘add on’ to dramatize. Certainly we don’t need monotone robots but one can make the words have their own appropriate emphasis without theatrics.

Maybe she should use both hands to hold the book in order to eliminate gestures. . .

Provided you’re in the appropriate venue and can legitimately bring up critiques (and not solely on Ms. Lector unless she is the only problem), and you phrase your words respectfully, I don’t see a problem. Very likely she wants to do the best job possible for God and just didn’t realize that the type of speech and gestures etc. that would be appropriate for the theater or dramatic reading society are not appropriate in the Mass setting, and she will be grateful for guidance.

Our local NO parish has a couple of women that tend to “dramatize” the readings with voice inflections. Most of the men tend not to do this sort of thing.

You might suggest to your pastor the possibility of having a lector training/re-training. As readers, we need to proclaim what is in the text in front of us, as is, and not insert our own indiosyncracies into the readings. Saying the black and doing the red applies just as much to us as it does to the celebrant and deacon.

It would not be a bad idea for those who proclaim the readings to study this section of Redemptionis Sacramentum:

[58.] All of Christ’s faithful likewise have the right to a celebration of the Eucharist that has been so carefully prepared in all its parts that the Word of God is properly and efficaciously proclaimed and explained in it; that the faculty for selecting the liturgical texts and rites is carried out with care according to the norms; and that their faith is duly safeguarded and nourished by the words that are sung in the celebration of the Liturgy.

[59.] The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

In my opinion, the reader needs to realize that it’s not about her; it’s about Him (as in God).

I’m always amused by how some people suddenly forget their place once they are put in a position of even modest authority. That’s why I am a firm believer in the ancient principle that the best leaders are those who don’t want the job. Sadly, I think I see this in religion more than in other areas.

At a (Protestant) church I used to go to, we had a sharing time at the beginning of the Wednesday night service where people would come up on stage to share briefly about something the Lord was doing in their lives. At least once a month there would be someone who just didn’t get it and would try to turn a brief announcement-like message into a personality-centered sermon with big arm gestures and opening rhetorical questions and audience participation.

I think the root of the problem is that these people are sorely out of touch with how they are perceived by the audience. For me personally, I don’t care who the lector is, and I find all the decorations like dramatic pauses and the presumptuous eye-contact and the self-conscious high-school-play-like intonation incredibly annoying and distracting.

I remember one epistle reading (Catholic church) where the text was one of those lists of how different people should treat one another, I don’t remember the book exactly. But the lector, a woman, and I don’t mean to be sexist but it’s always a woman who does this sort of thing, she read one sentence about one kind of person and looked to the left side of the congregation. Then, with a sing-songy intonation and a theatrical nod and head-tilt, she read the next sentence about the next kind of person and looked to the right side of the congregation. And then with big beaming a stage smile, back to the left for the next sentence. Honestly it was like watching the wrap-up monologue at the end of a high school production of a Shakespeare play.

I think St. John the Baptist’s advice is very appropriate here:
“He must increase; I must decrease.” - John 3:30

During ‘lector training’, new readers at our parish are encouraged to make eye contact with the assembly throughout the reading. And the lector workbook we are given to help us prepare for the coming week’s readings actually indicates which words to emphasize (high school play-like intonation) and when to give ‘dramatic pauses’.

If you are also a lector, maybe you should bring up your concerns with the person in charge of lectors? Or with your priest? This sort of thing wouldn’t fly at our parish because our priest would have nipped this in the bud after the first time.

Who does the training in your parish?

The director of Liturgy for the parish does the training.

I don’t mind some eye contact; I think it helps to show that this reading is for “you out there” and not “let’s listen to what someone wrote long ago that may no longer be relevant to you”. On the other side, excessive eye contact again puts the lector in the phony position of pretending to read his own letter (an acting role), or communicates to the congregation “Are you impressed? I memorized the whole thing!” So there’s definitely a balance between the two. Same goes for the intonation. I think some is good, but too much makes it look like you think you might be in contention for an Oscar (or a Benny?), or at least expect some applause. Thankfully I haven’t seen that yet.

The lady would do well in a Toastmasters or book club, but she needs to recognize that her style needs to be *appropriate for the venue *(Toastmasters would actually teach that principle - though they might not be aware of what is appropriate in a church).

I emphasized “reading” and “selection” in her words. They are redundant in this case.

There’s a lector at my parish whose style of reading drives me nuts. When I know she’s reading, I just don’t attend that particular Mass. She manages to turn the Word of God into something all about her.

I don’t think your critique is wrong, milimac. It isn’t you, it really is the lector. From these other posts here, it appears that this isn’t an isolated incident, either.

Would that be a priest, deacon or lay person?

Every one I’ve met was a lay person. BTW - this is the workbook I’ve always been given (various parishes) - it has notes on intonation, emphasis and pauses.

I don’t think it’s necessarily inappropriate to have a dynamic range so long as you don’t end up … Sounding … Like … CaptainKirk. :rolleyes:

Or like someone reading a bedtime story to a three year old.

Different readings are done differently. You proclaim a reading from Genesis very differently from one from a letter of Paul. One’s a narration, the other isn’t. You also don’t proclaim a poetic text in the same way you proclaim a narration or letter.

We also use that same Workbook from LTP.

They’re *told *to do that? :mad:

If you could see a video of the woman I was talking about, with the sound turned off, you would think she was delivering a prepared laudatory speech at an awards luncheon. I know I sound like I’m overstating it.

If there is NO eye contact/intonation/emphasis/etc. at all, you’re left with a lector who stares down at the lectionary and reads everything in a monotone. Those bother me as much as the overly-dramatic ones.

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