Ritual practices may differ from parish to parish. Determination in this regard comes under the Pastor’s authority. These guidelines, therefore, are not intended to impose absolute uniformity in liturgical customs. Instead, they are produced in a spirit of helping our parish experience the proclaimed Word of God as a powerful celebration by offering some basic, essential principles required by the very nature of the liturgy.
PROCLAMATION OF THE WORD
The proclamation of the Word of God is truly a service to the Church. Readers bring the living Word of God to the liturgical assembly. The ministry of the Word should, therefore, be treated seriously and with great dignity.
The Word of God is not merely read during the liturgy. It is proclaimed, yet not with theatrical show. Effective proclamation involves the delivery of the message with clarity, conviction and appropriate pace. It demands the ability to evoke faith in others by demonstrating one’s own faith. Proclamation is a special ministry which presupposes faith. It also rouses faith in those who hear the Word proclaimed.
Ideally, the assembly should listen to the proclamation of the Scriptures and not read along in a missalette. In the act of communal listening, the worshippers experience not only unity among themselves but also the presence of Christ speaking to them through the Word.
All liturgical ministers, especially readers, must be properly trained for their ministry. This ministry of the Word requires skill in public reading, knowledge of the principles of liturgy, and an understanding of the scriptures.
For pastoral reasons family members or friends may be allowed to read during funeral or wedding liturgies even though they are not formally trained and commissioned as readers. The parish should provide assistance to them so that God’s Word is properly proclaimed.
Readers are fully initiated, practicing Catholics whose lives witness to the Word which they proclaim.
To make the service of the Word effective, all readers are expected to be prepared for their ministry. Preparation should be spiritual, scriptural, and practical. Spiritual preparation involves prayer over the text and reflection on its message. Scriptural preparation involves understanding the text. Practical preparation involves mastering difficult words, learning the right pronunciations and practicing the delivery of the text aloud, ideally in the presence of someone who is able to critique the delivery.
Immediate preparation is also expected of all readers. This requires arriving in ample time before the liturgy, locating the readings in the Lectionary, arranging the microphone, making sure that the sound system is properly functioning.
In recent years sensitivity for inclusive language in the liturgy has been recognized. However, the reader is not at liberty to change the approved scriptural and prayer texts for the liturgy to accommodate a desire for inclusive language.
In the preparation of other texts, such as the General Intercessions or commentary of any type, language which is inclusive could be used.
MINISTRY OF MUSIC
An integral part of the celebration of the Word of God is the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia). Psalmody is designed to be sung: it loses much of its power when it is recited. Since the Responsorial Psalm at Mass is part of the Liturgy of the Word, it is appropriate that it be sung/read from the lectern. The psalm can be sung in a variety of ways – responsorial, antiphonally, part sung/part recited – readers should check with the musicians beforehand as to whether anything is expected of them.
The Gospel Acclamation is an acclamation and it is always to be sung. If there’s no Choire or Cantor, reader himself/herself initiate singing the Acclamation. If it is not sung it can be omitted.
In order to enable the assembly to ponder and reflect on the Word proclaimed, “haste that hinders recollection” is to be avoided. A pause should be made after stating “A reading from…” and before “The Word of the Lord”. Another period of silence should be observed after each reading before the reader moves away from the lectern; also, a brief period of silence should be allowed after the Responsorial Psalm.
Readers need to be seated in a place which allows for easy access to the lectern, preferably among the assembly. At the time of the Liturgy of the Word, the reader approaches the lectern slowly and with reverence. If the reader must pass in front of the altar, he/she bows to the altar before proceeding to the lectern. All movements in the liturgy are performed with dignity and grace; they are never hurried. After the reading, the reader returns to his/her seat in a similar manner.
When there are two readers, the first returns to his/her seat after the reading and before the Responsorial Psalm is intoned. The second reader would then approach the lectern after the Psalm and return to his/her seat before the Gospel Acclamation.
When only one reader proclaims both readings, he/she should be seated during the Psalm response.
Readers begin to read by saying, “A reading from the Book of …” as written in the Lectionary. It is inappropriate to add words such as: “The first reading comes from…”
If the Responsorial Psalm is recited, readers should begin the recitation with the antiphon. Announcing “Responsorial Psalm” is unnecessary.
Ministers of the Word should not add or change any words of the texts.