Lector Terms

The following terms used in the annotated “Proclamation Format” of the readings are discussed, below:

Lists

Pace

Parenthetical

Expressions

Pausing

Pitch

Quotations

& Speeches

Underline

Voice Tone

Volume

Character Voice

Proclaiming the Word from the Lectionary is seldom easy, as experienced lectors know full well! However, we believe the skills required for effective proclamation can be learned, particularly when coupled with how one understands the scripture text as well as one’s commitment to the faith that grows from that understanding. Few of us are Scripture scholars; but we believe we are sincere followers of Jesus Christ.

The “Proclamation Format” specific to each of a particular Sunday’s readings included in this web site is designed to help you attain increased effectiveness as a proclaimer of God’s Word.

There is no miracle pill in these pages, however. You have to give yourself time, make the commitment and effort, and accept “God’s Time” when preparing yourself — all of which combine and become your journey as a disciple of our Brother, Jesus, and a minister of God’s Word!

The annotated “proclamation format” is NOT intended to replace the Lectionary page.

The proclamation format is designed to help you organize your preparation effort. Neither the notations nor the suggestions are intended to be the definitive way a given passage can be proclaimed. Each lector brings his or her own personality, intelligence, understanding, and physical and emotional strengths and weaknesses to this ministry. The uniqueness of each of us is a very significant factor in effective proclamation.

Our preparation to proclaim – practice, study, prayer and meditation – over several days or weeks before our scheduled reading provides the basis for effective proclamation. Finally, a firm dedication to and belief that we are Christ’s instruments to be used as the Spirit wishes, not as we wish, is necessary if the person in the pews who most needs to hear God’s Word will in fact hear it that weekend. Jesus is counting on us for this!

The version of the Lectionary we use for this site is the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Lectionary For Mass (2nd Typical Edition) [Vol. 1: Sundays, Solemnities, Feasts of the Lord and Saints] Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1998)

LISTS:

St. Paul favors lists! Other Scripture writers do also. They are easy to read silently but difficult to proclaim without losing the hearer’s attention. Take your time! Vary the volume of your voice from item-to-item in the list. Vary the pace at which you say the words in a list Change the emotional content in your voice for an item. Use all of these techniques, where appropriate, as you proclaim the list.

PACE:

The speed with which you say the words of a sentence or phrase is “pace”. Some phrases and sentences should be proclaimed fairly quickly. However, for the most part, we tend to speak much more rapidly than our listeners in the Assembly can comprehend. So… SLOW DOWN! Remember, the Scriptures are relatively unfamiliar to most of the members of the Assembly. They must not only hear the words but process them so that they make sense. Speaking too quickly deprives the Assembly of valuable time to process the significance of the words. On the other hand, as mentioned above (and depending on the context of the words, the emotional content you want to give them, etc.), some phrases or parts of sentences can be spoken more rapidly. An example could be the words or phrase of a parenthetical expression, especially when the phrase is not absolutely necessary to understanding the sentence. The opposite is also appropriate: some phrases or words should be spoken much more slowly and deliberately. For example, when God promises, “and I will do it!” this is not idle conversation. He means it! and you want the Assembly to understand you mean it, too, as you speak the words. Slow down, even to the point of saying each word very distinctly and separately from the others in the phrase.

PARENTHETICAL EXPRESSIONS:

A parenthetical expression is usually a short phrase that, if taken out of the sentence, would not destroy the meaning or understanding of the sentence. Its inclusion is intended to add a qualification to the sentence and/or paragraph. Use your voice (i.e. lower voice volume, matter-of-fact tone, even a very short pause) to set this expression apart from the general tone, volume, intensity, etc. you’re using for the sentence as a whole.

PAUSING — Very Short, Short, etc.

When we silently read something we rarely are aware of the small moments of time we give our mind to absorb what we are reading, yet, we do this all the time. The same is true with oral speech as it relates to the one listening to us speak. We’ve all had the experience of pausing while we try to recall a name or a word that “fits” with what we want to say (and the listener helps by suggesting a word). No doubt, too, you may be in the habit of asking a conversational listener: “Are you with me?” to make sure they understand what you’re trying to say. We use pauses to help the listener. With proclamation we need to build into our speaking these “processing moments” in order to add a dimension to the meaning of what is being said. In the annotations we’ll refer to “very short pause,” “short pause,” and “Pause”. By inference we are suggesting that at the point in the passage indicated the proclaimer needs to intentionally add one of these processing moments. There is no formula we can suggest as to how long these processing moments should be (and we definitely do not believe such pausing has much if anything to do with a set amount of time [i.e. 1 second, 3 seconds, etc.]). We do mean, however, that “Pause” indicates a longer period than “short pause.” It is very noticeable given the pace of your speaking to that point. “very short pause” implies more than just closing your mouth and then opening it again to continue speaking. You must decide for yourself how the pause will be included based on your sense of and feeling for the passage you are proclaiming. Keep in mind, though, that pausing is necessary to help the listener better understand what you are proclaiming.

PITCH

In music, pitch refers to the “key” in which the tune is played, often interpreted as a high or low tone. We refer to it in a similar way in proclamation. There are passages where the emotion being expressed (i.e. “excitement”) mounts as more and more of the sentence words or phrases are proclaimed. We sometimes note it as “voice goes up” or “voice goes down” to indicate the direction of the tone, the pitch of the proclaimer’s voice. Used in this way it seldom if ever refers to volume. “Intensity” might be another way of interpreting this notation.

QUOTATIONS & SPEECHES:

Making clear that you are reading/saying a quotation takes some work. Pause briefly before beginning the quote. Then, change your tone of voice so that it is a bit different from the tone you’ve been using. After the quotation ends pause briefly, again, before picking up with your normal voice tone. Many times, the quote can be emotional, too – be sure to express that emotion!

USE of UNDERLINE

A word in the annotated text may be underlined (no words are underlined in the Lectionary, itself, however). We’ve done this to indicate that you should be attentive to how much emphasis or other kinds of “word stress” you should consider giving to this word. It is selected because it is a significant term in the sentence (and sometimes in the passage). If the underline is under more than one word that immediately follow each other then our intent is that you place the same stress on those words. Where the underline is separated, word-for-word, we mean that you might consider stressing each of the words differently from the other underlined words in the string.

VOICE TONE:

This refers to the overall attitude you have about the sentence, section of the passage or the reading as a whole which is reflected in how you sound. A passage that is joyful should sound differently to the listener from one that is sad. Similarly, if you are merely reporting several facts in a scene as opposed to describing the characteristics and activity within the scene you will sound differently. Are you generally a “serious” person? If so, you may have to work hard at building into a joyful and excited St. Paul! Does the passage reflect a stern, concerned, or disappointed author (i.e. parts of St. James’ Letter)? Your voice tone should be different for each. You aren’t God; but what do you think God sound like? We pay little attention to this quality of our sound in day-to-day conversation — it comes naturally. However, you are not having a conversation with the Assembly. Take time to practice how you sound. Ask another person you trust to listen to you as you practice and tell you whether or not you are being successful. You’ll also find that recording a practice session and then playing it back will help you zero in on whether or not you accomplished what you intended.

VOLUME:

Most of us must contend with the degree to which members of the Assembly can hear us! Most churches have sound amplification systems — some of them better than others. Every large space, which a church building is, has acoustical qualities and shortcomings. Your task is to ensure that everyone hears you. Blowing them away with loud volume is not the answer nor is hoping they’ll listen by speaking softly. In addition, not paying attention to the capabilities of the microphone can undo your best efforts — some mics allow you to turn slightly away from dead center and they pick the speaker up very well, others are very unidirectional and you are bound by this limitation. You’ll do better, even if you turn slightly away from the microphone from time to time, if you can position the mic at a level an inch or two below your mouth (letting your chest act as a sound reflector back up to it). Remember, too, that the sound system is meant to amplify your voice — getting too close to the mic can distort sounds (the “popping” sound when you say a word with a “p” in it, for example). While the mic will amplify your voice there is the need to “project” (loudly enough and distinctively enough) to be understood by the listener. Experiment with speaking from the front of your mouth vs. deep from within your throat — you should feel and hear the difference.

Finally, the passage you are proclaiming occasionally will indicate the level of sound to be used. For example, when it says “Moses spoke in a loud voice” and then quotes Moses’ speech your volume should be up above normal — because you just told the Assembly to expect loudness! Your best approach is to raise your voice volume without too much help from the sound system. This will give you better control and avoid “popping” sounds. Similarly, there are several passages that refer to very slight volumes (i.e, whispers). If you can, try to “whisper” as you say the speech (but if you are the least bit uncomfortable with this idea just softening your volume will do nicely, particularly if you move your mouth closer to the mic while lowering your volume). In a word, stand at a comfortable distance from the mic and project your voice into it as needed.

CHARACTER VOICE: “What does __(Person)__ sound like?”:

This refers to quotations of speeches, responses, etc. by specified persons. For example, what do you imagine God sounds like when He’s angry, compassionate, concerned, or affirming? We think you cannot be neutral, here. When St. Paul describes the “thorns” he has had to suffer with in his life he is not the young, aggressive missionary of his earlier days. He’s almost worn out with journeying, age, and his concerns for the churches he’s established in his travels. Can the Assembly hear the difference of his age and experiences? Or what about the time that God confronts Adam and Eve when they’d eaten the forbidden fruit? Was God “quiet” about it? Both humans admit they were afraid — how did they sound? And then the serpent is dealt with — the object of God’s anger shifts. Do you sense these differences? Do you think they’re worth your effort to reflect the emotions as you understand them is needed? We do.

Get White Paper What Makes A Lector Training Session Effective