“Mediocrity is the norm for lectors”

If you’re dreading what you’ll hear proclaimed Sunday, you have plenty of company.

From George Miller, at Catholic Online:

As a past lector ministry head, I can recall times where my pastor agreed to make regular lector training and enrichment meetings mandatory. And when only half the lectors showed up despite his requirement, the reaction among the church’s hierarchy was, “Oh well. It is what it is.”

Mediocrity is the norm for lectors in too many churches. There are usually “a few good lectors” in every church, but there’s no reason why more parishes can’t take more steps to grow that remnant of good performing lectors. But what does it take to light the fire?

The voice of the parishioners is a good place to start. By letting the pastor know their feelings in the greeting line after mass, via parish surveys, suggestion boxes or personal letters and emails, it could be just what it takes to start raising the performance bar of a church’s lectors.

But parishioners shouldn’t be too quick to single out individual lectors because their lack of performance may not be their fault. Without sound lector training and support from the parish, many lectors never get the chance to become the proclaimer God has called them to be, or even know of all the resources available to help them do so.

The standards parishes and dioceses set for their lectors vary all over the board. Some require extensive training, mandatory attendance at preparation meetings and periodic re-certification, while others make few demands aside from following proper procedures and giving a quick brush of proclamation tips and techniques.

Unlike ministries where participants meet regularly such as choir, youth ministries, various committees or small faith groups, lectors in many parishes are on their own when it comes to their own personal improvement and growth. And though much of their preparation and study does require internal “alone” time, regular meetings with their presiders and other lectors for preparation and training should be encouraged.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in his 1999 Gather Faithfully Together pastoral letter, put it plainly saying, “Lectors for each Sunday should strive to be part of the group that meets with the homilists early in the week, say, Monday evening to read, pray with and talk about the scriptures for the coming week.”

Another hindrance to a lector’s performance is multiple ministries. Often we see some lectors doing something every Sunday: Eucharistic minister, usher, greeter, carrying the gifts, etc. And when they approach the ambo, the tendency is for parishioners to think “Here comes Joe again. Does he ever sit in the pew?” Nothing terrible about it, but nothing great either.

When ministers of God’s word scamper from one ministry to the next: Tuesday evening here, Sunday afternoon there, etc, etc, Satan is just lovin’ it! Diversity is his “Plan B” for lectors. And if he can’t get them to distance themselves from God by actually sinning, he’ll keep them busy being a “jack of all ministries” so they never have time to focus on the one ministry that’s such a huge threat to him.

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