The Catholic Church's Invisible Crisis
Hidden beneath the visible crises in our church that garner
the most attention such as sex abuse, runaway Catholics,
plummeting numbers of priests, etc.; there’s also an unseen
crisis in the Ministry of Lector.
Since the green light for lay readers was given by Vatican II
more than fifty years ago, the ministry has gained little
traction toward its potential to uplift the Liturgy of the Word
In the eyes of many Catholics, the readings are something
they merely endure while waiting for a hopefully more
exciting homily from the priest, and before getting to the real part of the Mass:
the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
An Unsung Ministry
Over the years, the Ministry of Lector has been "just another ministry" in too many parishes; dealing with attitudes of indifference, low priority and lip service. Requirements for entry have been loose as a goose, so they say, with far less stringent standards than those set for priests, deacons, musicians, cantors and catechists.
Unlike the quality and professionalism most parishes demand from other liturgical ministers, few make similar demands on their lectors, leaving them on their own to find sources of self-improvement and enrichment. It’s a loner ministry.
Though there are many publications and tools covering the ministry's 101 basics, there is no one comprehensive document; a lector ministry Bible, concordance, catechism or GIRM type guide from any authoritative source such as the USCCB or other major Catholic publisher for parishes to set their standards by.
No Trickle-down Here
Even in Pope Benedict’s brilliant exhortation in 2008, THE WORD OF THE LORD, VERBUM DOMINI, where he stressed his passion for the Holy Scriptures and more attentive listening to the Sunday Mass readings, it garnered little media coverage or serious trickle-down encouragement from dioceses to parishes.
The Ministry of lector has been a trickle-up ministry. If lector coordinators want to raise the bar of the ministry in their parish, they usually have to sell the pastor on its importance and priority among the parish’s many other endeavors.
For parishes to back-burner this ministry is a shame, and its time is long overdue to elevate it to the level of recognition and respect it deserves.
It’s time to stop embarrassing ourselves in front of our Protestant brethren with poor deliveries of God’s word from the ambo.
And it’s really time to stop saying “It is what it is” and change what it is to what it can become.