Reading Vs. Listening to Scriptures


A large number of us in our parish have been having an on-going silent feud with our priest of about a year. When he came to the parish, the first thing he did was to remove from the pews the version of the Daily Missal that had the entire mass proper and all of the Scripture readings He espoused that we (the attendees) should be listening to the reading rather “than flipping pages.” There are many issues here in my opinion. First of all, personally I know that I receive more benefit from reading and listening to the word at the same time. Secondly, the quality of lectors varies widely, and honestly, some are such poor readers that if I were to listen only, I would soon drift off, or tune them out because of their poor reading skills. In fairness to others they might be hearing imparied. I immediately purchased a yearly subscription to the Daily Missal, and deducted the cost of the subscription from my weekly offering, going so far as to include a note in the envelope saying that was why my offering was short that week. As time goes by, I notice that more and more parishoners are coming to Mass with Missals that have readings.

Tha latest shot over the bow was Father’s weekly letter in the bulletin, and I have cut and pasted a small portion where he as much as proclaims that reading the scripture is as discourteous as getting up and going to the toilet during the Gospel.

“Some people in the pews insist on reading the readings along with the proclamation. The Liturgy of the Word however is meant to be a communal experience, a public event of announcing the good news of salvation. Reading is a private experience. Allowance must be made for those who cannot hear well, but otherwise those who can hear should hear! The scriptures were meant to be proclaimed. They ought to be read at home before you come, to prepare for the celebration.”

Is anybody else experiencing this and if so is there any Canonical suport for this?


I don't know of the canonical resource, but I remember about 30 years ago having a priest in our parish who got on the 'proclaiming" bandwagon. While I believe it is the ideal, the reality is that most lectors are fair to awful. I was on parish council at the time and we commented to him that if he was going to take the missalettes away then HE needed to make sure the lectors were well trained and the audio equipment was up to date.

Also, cognitive psychologists will tell you that the more senses you use the greater likelihood memory will take place.

Of course, in my old parish this became moot as Father had other "problems' and was taken away to the "funny farm" a few months later. Hopefully, your parish's solution will not have to be so drastic.


It seems a bit inconsiderate of the older parishioners who may not be able to hear as well and miss out on the readings because they cannot follow along in the missal. My pastor even prints out written sermons for the very hard-of-hearing (though I am not Catholic).

I know following along helps me stay focused on the Scriptures. I just don't understand why a priest would be against this.


Having the prayer and reading texts available has been helpful to at masses where priests or readers have expanded texts with their own language. It's easier to read along with the more familiar texts.
Like previous posters, I also find that I internalize the prayers and readings more effectively when I can read along as well as listen.


I think your priest is being rather heavy-handed about it, but basically I agree with him. This happened at our parish many years ago and after a period of adjustment, people got used to it and started to prefer it. They also memorized the prayers and responses rather quickly.

Now the parish did and does provide a few missalettes in the back of the church for those who wanted them and for visitors, but they aren't used too often. But at least they are there as a courtesy for those who need them, and none of the priests has said people shouldn't use them.

I think if there are a few for people to use who really want them, things might be better accepted. In any case, not having them has worked out well for us, rarely are there any complaints, and people are very attentive at Mass. It also saved a lot of money, as we are a large parish.


This presupposes everyone in the congregation understands spoken English or whatever vernacular is used. The missalette has obvious advantages, especially if you miss a proper name or there is some verse you want to reread.


I am not a big fan of using the Missal during the Mass itself, but I surely don't begrudge those that do.

I prefer to read the readings prior to Mass, and pray about them during the moments before Mass begins.

One thing that does drive me nuts though (it is my own hang up), is when the reading is long enough that it requires 500 people turning the page at the same time. :D

We had a priest a few years ago that would literally take minutes to unfold his homily. All you could hear was paper crinkling through the sound system. We nick named him Fr. Krinkle. :p


My pastor is another who doesn't like missalettes. He has commented that if everyone is reading rather than listening to the readings then we might as well get rid of the lectors and just say "read the first reading on page whatever and then we'll continue."

I basically agree with him. And even recognizing that some people prefer to read along rather than listen, ideally people will have reviewed (and even better, prayed with) the readings long before Mass ever started.

There are inexpensive missals available such as these: Bringing your own is always an option.


By the look of the first few posts I may be a bit outspoken on this, but I'll say it anyway:

Recently I've started listening to the readings at mass with my eyes closed and I've found that this helps me to focus on what is being expressed in the readings much more closely than when I had my eyes open, whether looking at a missal or not. I've found that reading the texts from the day's mass afterwards is very beneficial. I even find this makes the reading mean more to me than when I read them out loud as a lector.

As a teacher I did a lot of study about different 'types' of learners, including auditory learners, who like to hear things told to them and visual learners, who like to see/read things. I've never really been an auditory learner, and of course there is much more to appreciating the readings than remembering them, but listening is a big thing for me when it comes to readings.

Closing my eyes has led me to a whole new appreciation of the readings, as something to be meditated upon, both as they are heard and afterwards. I personally find it virtually impossible to think deeply about a text as I read it, regardless of the material.

I do however think the priest is being a little heavy-handed. I think he will probably relent for those who really need it (I think the letter implies he already has), and there will be those who insist on buying their own missal, and for many of those it will benefit them by allowing them to re-read the readings and they will get a lot out of that. For the majority of the congregation however, who do not have, and will not buy, a missal, encouraging them to listen and think on the readings as they hear them is, I believe, a good thing. The idea of having a few available at the back for those who 'really want them' or for visitors is not a bad idea, but a year or two of doing without is necessary, otherwise everyone who likes having something in their hand will pick one up out of habit.

All the best



I very much like having the missals available. I go about a half hour earlier than Mass begins and like to go over the readings.

Because I have a bit of a hearing problem, I like to read the readings while the proclaimers are reading them to the congregation.

For those two reasons it is a good idea, in my opinion. to have missals available.


I am certainly not trying to be disrepectful, but I find that I retain more of the readings when I read and listen at the same time. It can be done after all. I have always been that type of learner, particularly in college. If I had a particularly hard test coming up, I usually wrote my notes again and read them out loud to myself before the test. I usually read before mass, read and listen during the reading and often go back during the Homily if the priest refers to some part of the reading. Often for the "Ah Ha" moment.

I guess I more resent the "my way or the highway" attitude. I feel that he is trying to make those of us who prefer a Missal stand out in some shamefull, almost sinful way. And I resent it.

This is the same priest, citing Canon Law, who always puts out way less than the expected number of unconsecrated hosts for the size of the crowd. Almost every Eucharist, the minister's run out of bread, and somebody has to go back to the tabernacle to get more. I am willing to bet that the numbers at the Mass I attend seldom vary by more than 5%.


[quote="jim6918, post:1, topic:295009"]
Is anybody else experiencing this and if so is there any Canonical suport for this?


No, I have not experienced this. But the Code of Canon Law has in Canon 846: "The liturgical books, approved by the competent authority, are to be faithfully followed in the celebration of he sacraments." (page 197, of ISBN 000599375X ).

One of these liturgical books is the Roman Missal. It has quite a lot about listening to the readings. The following are from an earlier draft of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for the USA, so may not be the exact wording of the latest Roman Missal published. I have made some of the text bold.

"29. When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel.
Therefore, all must listen with reverence to the readings from God’s word, for they make up an element of greatest importance in the Liturgy."

"46. The rites preceding the Liturgy of the Word, namely the Entrance, Greeting, Act of Penitence, Kyrie, Gloria, and Collect, have the character of a beginning, introduction, and preparation.
Their purpose is to ensure that the faithful who come together as one establish communion and dispose themselves to listen properly to God’s word and ...".

"60. The reading of the Gospel is the high point of the Liturgy of the Word. The Liturgy itself teaches that great reverence is to be shown to it by setting it off from the other readings with special marks of honor: whether the minister appointed to proclaim it prepares himself by a blessing or prayer; or the faithful, standing as they listen to it being read, through their acclamations acknowledge and confess Christ present and speaking to them; or the very marks of reverence are given to the Book of the Gospels."

"101. In the absence of an instituted lector, other laypersons may be commissioned to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture. They should be truly suited to perform this function and should receive careful preparation, so that the faithful by listening to the readings from the sacred texts may develop in their hearts a warm and living love for Sacred Scripture."

"128. After the Collect, all sit. The priest may, very briefly, introduce the faithful to the Liturgy of the Word. Then the lector goes to the ambo and, from the Lectionary already placed there before Mass, proclaims the first reading, to which all listen."

"360. At times, a longer and shorter form of the same text is given. In choosing between these two forms, a pastoral criterion must be kept in mind. At such times, attention should be paid to the capacity of the faithful to listen with understanding to a reading of greater or lesser length, and to their capacity to hear a more complete text, which is then explained in the homily."

Another liturgical book is the lectionary. The General Introduction to the Lectionary has similar instructions:

"6. ... Accordingly,the faithful’s participation in the liturgy increases to the degree that as they listen to the word of God spoken in the liturgy they strive harder to commit themselves to theWord of God made flesh in Christ."

"8 By Christ’s own will there is an ordered diversity of members in the new people of God and each has different duties and responsibilities toward the word of God Accordingly. the faithful listen to God’s word and dwell on its meaning, but only those expound the word of God who have the office of teaching by virtue of ordination or who have been entrusted with exercising that ministry."

"32. ... The place for the readings must also truly help the people’s listening and attention during the liturgy of the word. Great pains must therefore be taken, in keeping with the design of each church, over the harmonious and close relationship of the lectern with the altar."

"38. The one presiding at the liturgy of the word brings the spiritual nourishment it contains to those present, especially in the homily. Even if he too is a listener to the word of God proclaimed by others, the duty of proclaiming it has been entrusted above all to him. Personally or through others he sees to it that the word of God is properly proclaimed. He then as a rule reserves to himself the task of composing comments to help the people to listen more attentively and to preach a homily that fosters in them a richer understanding of the word of God."

"44. Christ’s word gathers the people of God as one and increases and sustains them.‘This applies above all to the liturgy of the word in the celebration of Mass: there is an inseparable union between the proclamation of the death of the Lord, the response of the people listening, and the offering through which Christ has confirmed the New Covenant in his blood."

"45. ... For their part, the faithful at the celebration of Mass are to listen to the word of God with an inward and outward reverence that will bring them continuous growth in the spiritual life and draw them more deeply into the mystery they celebrate."

"47. ... The Scriptures, and above all in their liturgical proclamation, are the source of life and power. As Paul attests,the Gospel is the saving power of God for everyone who believes. Love of the Scriptures is therefore the force that renews the entire people of God. All the faithful without exception must therefore always be ready to listen gladly to God’s word."

"55. ‘It is necessary that those who exercise the ministry of reader, even if they have not received institution, be truly qualified and carefully prepared so that the faithful may develop a warm and living love for Scripture from listening to the sacred texts read.' "

"80. ... The main consideration must be the capacity of the hearers to listen profitably either to the longer or to the shorter reading; or to listen to a more complete text that will be explained through the homily."

So I think there should be an emphasis on listening to the scriptures being proclaimed in the Mass. How would it look if for the first reading the priest, instead of looking at the reader was instead reading it? How would the reader feel?

I think there is a difference with texts in the Mass that we are proclaiming. If we are proclaiming part of the psalm then I think its reasonable and helpful to read the part we will say. And also read the part being proclaimed by the psalmist, so that we know when to say our part.


No official rejection of listeners opting to read along with proclaimers thus far.:thumbsup:


Reminds me of a workshop for readers that I did about 30 years ago. The priest started to read and then suddenly his volume changed. We all looked up from our missalettes to see him standing at the ambo with his back to us. Once he was pretty sure we were all looking at him he turned around and said "If you aren't going to look at the reader who is talking to you why should he bother to look at you."

Personally, that's why I always hated the version of the Passion that had a part for the community to say. I hated the feeling of not really listening to the Passion, but simply following in the missalette, waiting for my cue to jump in with my response. I was thrilled when the new Canadian Lectionary (ca. 2009) had the Passion only in three parts (instead of the 5 in the old Lectionary) so that now we can sit and listen and not have to read along.


Training the laity to LISTEN will only be successful when lectors are PROPERLY TRAINED and audio systems are conducive to listening.


The major way the Word of God has been handed down throughout history has been orally, even in recent centuries. People do need to be trained to listen, but blaming their inability to not listen on poor lectors and lack of audio systems doesn't cut it. There were no microphones until electricity was invented. Those proclaiming God's word were not always great speakers, either. Only a few people have been noted to be great preachers. The majority of people could not read. They did not depend on the written word to communicate the way we do today.

We don't know how to listen, even face to face with one another. Just observe people sometime--today especially. They often don't make eye contact. They often are not paying attention to what others are saying, but looking around, or texting, or on a cell phone, or fiddling with something. How many people can repeat accurately what you have just said? Yet the ancients did it, without sound systems, the printed word, great speakers, books to read, etc. And they transmitted things extremely accurately for thousands of years before they were finally written down. They knew how to listen. That is the value of silence. You learn to listen.

I doubt we will ever regain that ability again in this country unless some major disaster happens and we lose our ability to communicate as we do now. But it really does not hurt to try to develop listening skills. I stated earlier how in my parish we got rid of the Missalettes, except for those who really needed or wanted them years ago. We do not have extraordinary lectors and the acoustics in our church are poor due to the carpeting and padded pews, but we are learning to listen. I have had discussions with fellow parishioners regarding this subject, and it is remarkable how well received it is. People have told me (and I have noticed in my own life) that they are much more aware of what is going on and are more mentally alert once they learned the art of silence and listening. They did not believe at first that it would work, but it does. It is really quite amazing.

I urge people to give it a try, a serious try, to develop silence and listening skills if you have the physical ability. You will begin to hear things you never noticed before. Any non-sighted person will tell you that--they do it all the time. It is remarkable how poorly developed some of our senses can become when we are not forced to use them.


Thank you for the many thoughtful and highly informed replies. I asked for Canon Law reference, and "Ask and you shall receive."

I am not sure that I will change my personal reading/listening habits, despite the glaring looks from father up on the altar.

I remember many years ago when I was an altar server still doing a Latin Mass; that certainly dates me. I used to snicker at all of the old ladies who would pray the rosary during the entire mass, either too lazy or unimformed to follow along with the English translation of the Mass in the Missal.

Perhaps I am slowly becoming one of these grouchy, crotchety types too stuborn to change. Oh well.


[quote="jim6918, post:17, topic:295009"]
Thank you for the many thoughtful and highly informed replies. I asked for Canon Law reference, and "Ask and you shall receive."

I am not sure that I will change my personal reading/listening habits, despite the glaring looks from father up on the altar.

I remember many years ago when I was an altar server still doing a Latin Mass; that certainly dates me.** I used to snicker at all of the old ladies who would pray the rosary during the entire mass, either too lazy or unimformed to follow along with the English translation of the Mass in the Missal.

Perhaps I am slowly becoming one of these grouchy, crotchety types too stuborn to change. Oh well.**


I'm getting there too. But more active listening is a change I'd welcome.


Depending on the reading skills of the lector and the complexity of the reading, people in the pews will have different degrees of necessity for the missalette.

I tend to look at the readings before Mass. I may follow along with the First and Second Readings, but rarely with the Gospel. It really does depend on who is lectoring that day, because some lectors do not appear to be familiar with what they are reading and skip, swap, or mispronounce words -- sometimes important words! There have been a few times I felt like a Berean at Mass. (Acts 17:11, if you don't get the reference. Trust me, it's funny.)

If it were up to me, I would not forbid people from reading along, but I would promote -- or at least recommend -- reading them ahead of time and then just listening as the Scriptures are read at Mass. I would also see to it that all the lectors were duly prepared to read the texts; that is, that they are not just "good readers" in general, but can read the Scriptures for the given day.


[quote="japhy, post:19, topic:295009"]
I would also see to it that all the lectors were duly prepared to read the texts; that is, that they are not just "good readers" in general, but can read the Scriptures for the given day.


That is a good point. Not everyone who can read the Gospel really well can do justice to a letter from Paul. I try to be the First reader when I can because I find that Paul usually takes much more and longer practice to get it right.

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