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Supporting Readers


The Parish Version of The Wednesday Word is intended to promote a weekly prayer custom for parishioners to regularly encounter Christ through scripture. It is also an excellent resource to help Ministers of Reading prepare both spiritually and practically for the coming Sunday. It includes the text of each reading and a reflection for group or individual study. This offers readers an explanation of the biblical context and a short spiritual reflection.

An excerpt from: Ministers of the Word. Guidelines prepared by the Liturgy Office of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

In proclaiming the word of God, readers exercise their responsibility in mediating the presence of Christ. God speaks to the assembly through them, and, the impact of God's message will depend significantly on their conviction, their preparation, and their delivery. The reader has responsibility for not simply reading the word, but assisting the assembly to hear the word. This will require the reader to be attentive to the assembly, and careful to allow for times of pause and silence as the assembly prepares to listen and, once the reading has been proclaimed, as it takes the word of God to heart. It also requires that the diction of the reader is such that he or she can be readily understood by the assembly to whom they minister. The richness in the quantity and in the variety of readings in the Lectionary challenges those who are called upon to proclaim the Scriptures at Mass. Each of the individual sacred authors reflected on the meaning of God's action in history from their own perspective. They employed various literary forms to convey the message of salvation, ranging, for example, from narratives and the poetry of the psalms to prophetic oracles and parables, from theological expositions to apocalyptic visions. Those who proclaim the word of the Lord more fully and effectively if they have an awareness of both the literary form of a particular reading or psalm and its context. Both to assist the assembly to appreciate the genre and context of the different passages of Scripture and to involve more people in active ministry, it is better to have a different reader for each reading.

Please follow this link to see the full document:

Please also see below for more information about the Ministry of Reader.

Church documents, like 'The General Introduction to the Lectionary' (GIL) call for readers to have both spiritual and technical preparation:

"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. Their preparation must above all be spiritual, but what may be called a technical preparation is also needed."

"The spiritual preparation presupposes at least a biblical and liturgical formation. The purpose of their biblical formation is to give readers the ability to understand the readings in context and to perceive by the light of faith the central point of the revealed message."

"The liturgical formation ought to equip the readers to have some grasp of the meaning and structure of the liturgy of the Word and of the significance of its connection with the liturgy of the Eucharist."

"The technical preparation should make the readers more skilled in the art of reading publicly, either with power of their own voice or with the help of sound equipment."

Spiritual Preparation: Connecting with the Word

Spiritual preparation involves understanding the text, so as to connect with the Word.

We need to reflect on the three contexts of the Word:
- scriptural (where it comes in the Bible)
- liturgical (where it comes in the Mass)
- lectionary (where it comes in the Church's cycle of readings)

We also need to understand what the text is saying to us today: in prayer.

All the readings at Mass come from the Bible. In the past, Catholics may have been reluctant to approach the Bible - but readers need to understand the context of the texts they read! It is essential for those who proclaim Scripture at Mass to understand and love the Bible - so that they help those who listen to understand that it is the story of our life.

The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are the 2 main components of Mass. The GIL states how they are related:

"The Church is nourished spiritually at the table of God's word and at the table of the Eucharist: from the one it grows in wisdom and from the other in holiness. In the word of God the divine covenant is announced; in the Eucharist the new and everlasting covenant is renewed. The spoken word of God brings to mind the history of salvation; the Eucharist embodies it in the sacramental signs of the liturgy."

The gospel is the highpoint: for this the other readings prepare the assembly.

"As a rule, the responsorial psalm should be sung. When not sung, the psalm after the reading is to be recited in a manner conducive to meditation on the word of God." Thus, if not sung, the psalm is to be proclaimed with the same preparation and care as the other scriptural texts in the liturgy.

Does your Mass sing - or recite - the Alleluia?

The reader has an important role in encouraging reflective silence!

The General Intercessions need to be prepared and delivered with the same care as the readings!

We use 2 books during Mass: the Sacramentary (Altar Missal) = the prayers said by priest & people; and the Lectionary = extracts taken from books of the Bible, organized for use during Mass throughout the liturgical year.

Both books have introductions. The General Introduction to the Lectionary is helpful to readers. It can be found at the front of the Lectionary for Year A. The revised Lectionary was introduced in 1969 (following the 2nd Vatican Council) and revised in 1981. A further revision is expected soon. At present it uses the Jerusalem Bible, a translation of French scholarship: but this may change. Always read from the Lectionary - never from a Missalette!

"The principles governing the Order of Readings for Sundays and the solemnities of the Lord are called the principles of 'harmony' and of 'semi-continuous reading'. One or the other applies according to the different seasons of the year and the distinctive character of the particular liturgical season."

Technical Preparation: Proclaiming the Word

Technical preparation involves improving proclamation, so as help the assembly listen to, and understand, the Word.

The Bishops' Conference Guidelines make it clear that it is best to have one reader for each reading: so you should only have one text to prepare. Try to begin your preparation early: at least ten days before you read. Is this possible for you?

The reader can be thought of as a storyteller: the Scriptures that we read at Mass are the really important stories of our faith.

A storyteller needs:
- knowledge of the story (from spiritual preparation)
- skills to tell the story (from technical preparation)
- and passion in the telling (from the Holy Spirit, via prayer)

How to begin: don't say 'The first reading is…'; do say 'A reading from…'

How to end: Pause; then say 'The Word of the Lord' (not 'This is…..)

Readers will proclaim the word of the Lord more fully if they are aware of the style of a reading or psalm: eg story / teaching / appeal

Volume: adjust to your audience/venue/sound system. Avoid dropping your voice at ends of phrases. Use vocal energy; project - don't shout.

Melody: vary inflection to clarify meaning, keep interest, and add passion.

Speed: most readers go too fast - for the assembly to be able to listen and understand.

Pauses: pausing in the right places is critical. Be guided by punctuation, and by making sense. Break up long sentences.

Stress: psalms have obvious rhythm. Use stress to bring out meaning, emphasizing parallels and contrasts in the text.

Body Language
Stance: walk and stand with confidence and reverence

Eye contact: make eye contact with the congregation. Look down in pauses, and up as you read.

Facial Expression: use your face, with your voice, to convey the tone and emotion of the Good News.

Silence: "The dialogue between God and his people taking place through the Holy Spirit demands short intervals of silence, suited to the assembly, as an opportunity to take the Word of God to heart and to prepare a response to it in prayer." Pause at the end, before saying 'The Word of the Lord.'

The Ministry of Reader
The Reader has his or her own proper function, and the General Introduction to the Lectionary reinforces this - and stresses the need for "qualified lay persons who have been trained to carry out this ministry." The GIL also recommends "whenever there is more than one reading, it is better to assign the readings to different readers, if available." The GIL gives clear instructions about the need for both spiritual and technical preparation, for readers.

The Bishops' Conference Guidelines stress the importance of having a system, in each parish, to advise ministers of what is planned; and a co-ordinator, to help the parish priest develop good practice in ministers.

The Bishops' Conference guidelines recommend: "Those called to assist as ministers of the word are required to be formally commissioned for a given period, or deputed for a particular occasion. The formal commissioning of ministers may be carried out by the Bishop himself, or at his delegation, by the Dean or by the Parish Priest of the parish in which they are to serve. In such cases these ministers are always commissioned for a particular place and period of time. The commissioning Minister should make clear the nature and the duration of the mission being given."

'Wednesday Word':
Fr Adrian Graffy:
The Society of St Gregory:
Catholic Bible School:

Handbook for Readers at Mass CTS Do803 £1.95 shop or online
A Handbook for Readers Marian Tolley Decani Books £4.99
Diocese of Leeds May 2014


"Go out to the whole world, and proclaim the good news to all creation"

Mark 16:15