Proclaiming the Gospel vs Reading


I have seen statements on CAF at times stating that Proclaiming the Gospel is different than just reading the Gospel (obviously for a Priest or Deacon). Can someone provide more information on this? Are we just saying that the Priest or Deacon is officially announcing the Gospel or is it going deeper than that?

Thanks all,



Theologically, Christ is present in four ways at Mass: 1. In the congregation gathered together as the mystical body of Christ on Earth; 2. In the person of the priest who is ministering “in persona Christi”; 3.of course in the most profound way in the Eucharist, the body blood soul and divinity of Christ; and 4. (relevant to this post) in the “proclaimed” Word.
In Genesis, we are told that God “spoke” creation into existence. Gen: 1, 3-26 (God said let there be …)

As the Gospel of John states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

In Hebrews we hear that the Word is “living”. Heb: 4:12

The living spoken word, not the dead writing, is literally Christ, the Word.

The Jewish people always held that there was power in the spoken name. That is why it was prohibited to “say” the name of God (YHWH), because no one was worthy to “speak” it. Likewise, there is power in the spoken word. The Gospel is the word of Christ, and he is present in the living word proclaimed (not the writings in the book).


Thanks Deacon Jeff. I think the question is if a layman can ever proclaim the gospel rather than just read it out loud. In other words is there something in ordination that makes the Word manifest when proclaimed by a member of the clergy.


A layman may never proclaim the Gospel at Mass. It is primarily the deacon’s role, if a deacon is present. If not, a priest or bishop MUST proclaim the Gospel at Mass. I’m not really sure if some aspect of ordination makes the Word manifest when proclaimed by a member of the clergy, but the GIRM very clearly states that the Gospel may only be proclaimed by clergy.


Right. I think it relates to when a member of the laity is reading the Gospel during a communion service or at a bible study. So outside of Mass when a non cleric is reading the Gospel out loud is it simply reading or is it a proclamation? Perhaps it’s better to ask if the Word is manifest only when proclaimed by the clergy during liturgical functions.


Let me come at your question in a different way. In a mass, the non-gospel readings may be done by a layperson, but my comments would apply to both laypeople and clergy (bishop, priest or deacon). To proclaim the Word of God, you not only speak clearly, slowly and loudly enough for everyone to hear, but you also convey the meaning and significance of the reading. How you do so depends on the reading, of course, but a lector who has prepared properly – who has read and reflected on the reading, taken note of the most significant words and phrases and determines how to give them emphasis, etc. – can breathe life into the text. If the text conveys anger, sadness, joy, or other emotions, they convey that emotion (without turning the reading into a performance). Better yet, if the lector is utterly convinced that God’s Word is true and life-giving, that comes through in the reading, too. You can tell if the lector is merely proficient but doesn’t believe or truly care about what he or she is saying. You can also tell when the lector realizes that God meets us in the proclamation of the Word and can change us.

I have seen a church fall silent and every eye fixed on the lector as God speaks to them through the scripture as proclaimed by a well-trained, intelligent and Spirit-filled lector. The bible is not just a book. It is God’s living word, food for the soul, a light that illuminates, a sword that judges. Bringing God’s Word to life is much, much more than mere reading.


I instruct new lectors for our diocese. There are few things that I always stress with them with regard to proclamation vs. reading. If you look at the definition of proclamation, it is an announcement of great importance, so it must be conveyed as such. So many times I hear lectors read the scriptures as if they are telling a story to little kids or trying to “act out” a story through inflections in their voice. That is not a proclamation. The scriptures should be read with authority, conviction, and if needed, with boldness. Yes there are different genres in the scriptures that call for perhaps a difference in the way they are proclaimed (a psalm vs a letter, the prophets vs an historical account), but they are not dramatic readings. That doesn’t mean that the proclamation has to be flat and monotone (I have heard some people say that this is how they should be proclaimed). A good lector or priest knows how to proclaim so that the message is heard but the attention is on the Word and not the person proclaiming.

Also it is important that lectors be well trained, are familiar with what they are reading, not just quickly going over it right before Mass starts, and keeping up front in their mind that they are proclaiming God’s words. I also don’t like little kids as lectors, since most of them are simply reading and not proclaiming. Yes, it is cute, but that is not what we are trying to convey. Besides most of them don’t understand at all what they are reading, and can’t read with authority and conviction that is needed. That’s just my humble opinion.


Thanks Deacon Jeff, this is sort of what I was figuring with regards to the priests and deacons. I never really thought of Christ present in the Gospel, but that really makes sense… those were His words, so of course He would be there.




DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit