… that I might know how to speak to the weary a word … (Is 50:4)
If you do not prepare much before you get up to proclaim you’ll have the guilt-feelings (and stumbles) normally associated with being unprepared and they will be reflected in the proclamation (and shame on you!).
Understanding the particular passage you are preparing to proclaim is very important:
- What is the author’s intent?
- What are the circumstances surrounding the situation described or inferred in the passage?
- What is the author’s tone? Is it argumentative? urgency? advising? anger? joyful? scheming? threatening?
- How does this tone “sound” out loud (it is often very different than when we are merely reading to ourselves!)?
- Is it a mix of tones? How do you intend to make distinctions between them? What will that sound like?
Appreciation for the content of the Scriptures is important and a lifelong pursuit. Take to heart the notion that to be truly a Minister of the Word you must accept the responsibility to spend quality time with the Scriptures — in prayer and study. Otherwise, you’re merely an oral reader of the text of the Scriptures.
An emphasis on understanding who “YOU” are is important, too. Effective proclamation involves the YOU of who you are:
- What you believe
- The depth of your faith in what you believe
- Your confidence that God Loves you simply because you are who you are
- Your conviction that Jesus and the Spirit will use you effectively if you agree to let them and accept their Will.
The use of “emotion” in your proclamation must not be confused with “dramatics” — nothing is further from the truth. If you approach your ministry with the idea that you are sharing your faith as you understand it and are living it, you will find that natural emotions come easily to you as you proclaim. “Do not be afraid” to use them!
Put all this together in your practice time repeated over several days. In each session, proclaim the reading out loud and then check your notes, etc. afterward and assess how well or poorly you think you did. Then, try again! If a trusted critic is handy ask for their opinion. Finally, give your mind time to evaluate how you “did” from one practice session to another.
Preparation to Proclaim a Reading from Scripture
It is recommended that you follow this methodology, step-by-step, each day over 3-5 days (or more) before your scheduled reading.
- Silently read the passage to yourself at least 2 times.
- Read the entire chapter in the Bible from which the reading is taken. Think about what the whole chapter is about:
- What is going on in the chapter – events, personalities, etc.?
- How does the selection of the verses in the reading “fit” with what you see as the
purpose(s) of the chapter? Do the verses leave out anything important? If so, can you imply the important missing parts through emotion, expression, etc. in your voice?
- What do the selected verses “highlight” in the chapter?
- Reread the reading to yourself 2-3 times but this time with some “meaning” – what you think the author intended and how he intended it.
- “Say” the reading to yourself, silently, in your head. “Hear” yourself proclaiming it.
- Did it sound right?
- What needs to change? Why?
- Do you sound sincere, convinced, etc. that you know what you’re talking about?
- Read the “notes” at the bottom of the page for this particular reading in the Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers or similar aid. Use the annotated “proclamation format of the reading as presented elsewhere on this web site to help you determine how you think the reading “goes together”.
- Say the reading out loud at least 3 times with as much expression as you can. After each of these “proclamations” ask yourself:
- Did it sound right to me? What do I want to change?
- Am I comfortable with myself proclaiming that way? If not, why not?
- Will the Assembly understand me (at this pace, etc.)? If not, why not?
- Then, hold a quiet, but audible, conversation with Jesus. Tell him what you’re trying to accomplish and ask for His help – Wisdom, Courage, Understanding, Love of my fellow disciples — whatever you think you need. And then be still for a few minutes while Jesus talks back to you.
- Check the marginal notations in the Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers for suggested pronunciations, word stress, etc.
- “Say” the reading out loud again, at least 3 times, as you now intend to proclaim it. Are you satisfied?
Repeat the above (but without rereading the entire chapter in the Bible unless you feel you need to) on successive days or nights before your scheduled reading then, let it go! Let your mind and the Holy Spirit do their work day-by-day! On the morning of your scheduled reading, go through the above exercise once or twice but stop at least a half hour before you leave for church! On the way to church, or just before you rise to proclaim, ask Jesus to help you be more aware of His presence throughout the liturgy: “Brother Jesus, not my will but yours be done!”
Gene Hayes, Director of Lectors
and Lector Trainer
St. Thomas Aquinas Parish