Make Fear Your Friend
The late Benedict Hardman in his book, Speech and Oral
Reading Techniques for Mass Lectors and Commentators,
notes, "The primary cause of fear is thinking of yourself
instead of the importance of delivering the material."
Most professional speaking coaches would agree that our
audience wants us to succeed; that our fellow parishioners
are on our side. They come to Mass to hear the word of God;
not to judge how good we look or perform. Though there
may be an occasional friend, relative or Toastmasters Club
fanatic judging us by our speaking skills, it's their loss for paying more attention to the messenger than the message.
We should also know that we're not alone when fear creeps in. The greatest celebrities, politicians, business leaders and paid professional speakers often get tense before their appearances; not because they're afraid of flubbing, but because they care for their audiences. They see themselves as servants who want to give their listeners nothing but the very best.
Some fear and tension is actually good because it gives us extra energy. If we're too calm, cool and collected at the ambo, we may not have enough "oomph" to move or excite the assembly into savoring and digesting God's word. When we read with a lack of intensity as if the passage is just another block of words on a page, it's a sure way to draw attention to ourselves... the wrong way.
Hardman cautions, "Beware of being too placid or under-stimulated when reading. If the words on the page merely enter your eyes, by-pass your mind and issue from your mouth, they are usually meaningless."
But when we harness and re-direct our fear toward the intention of the reading and the emotion we need to deliver it effectively, we'll no longer have time to think about ourselves... and the fear will drift away.