Emulate the Media

Mining some of the synod results from around the world’s Catholic web sites, I found a news item of an address delivered by an Australian bishop, Wollongong’s Peter Ingham.

If the Liturgy of the Word is to be given the chance to arrest the attention of the Liturgical Assembly, the selection of suitable and competent people to proclaim the Word of God is vital. This is not a ministry just any one can exercise.

Liturgical readers can well learn better vocal communication skills by observing the general clarity, the enunciation and the good diction of radio announcers, TV presenters and stage professionals so as to become more proficient announcers themselves of the saving message of God.

Bishop Ingham conceded that many clergy lack the necessary skills to proclaim the Scriptures effectively. He also noted that more background in understanding a biblical text was needed, citing that the key idea of a Lectionary selection may be overlooked by the lector or priest, and the people in turn, may miss it too.

In my days as a radio announcer, I had to prepare in order to do a good job. One of the more demanding bits was the turnaround from engineering the 4:30 to 5:00 local news broadcast to reading a news summary from 5:06 to 5:09 after the network news feed at the top of the hour. Our station manager instituted a new policy that our news staff was free of that three-minute spot and the board op would cover. I had six minutes to review the news staff’s text, edit what I thought was important, and take a quick check of the news wire to see if a regional story might be of interest. Plus a public service announcement and a weather report.

My amendment to Bishop Ingham’s suggestion is to listen to a documentary announcer’s delivery. It’s a carefully texted script. It’s done in a studio with retakes to get the very best result. If you can imitate it in the ambo, you’ll be doing very well indeed.

“How do you and I become a better proclaimer of God’s Word?” Bishop Ingham asked.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Emulate the Media

  1. During my tenure as choir director and as the one who selected who read the Apostle (aka, the Epistle, in parts West), I got rather early into the habit of getting the text of the reading to the readers at least a week before they were to read. Our Deacon Irenaeus, who has taken over that job, has wisely continued that practice.

    Of course, we also have the readers chant the reading. The Eastern Church has long found that one attends to the reading if you sing it as well as say it. This is something that I think that youze guyz from the West should remember.

    I entirely agree, however, that in what ever way that you read the Epistle, Gospel, etc., preparation is best.

  2. Anne says:

    I know of a parish that calls in the high school drama teacher as part of the lector formation program. It’s been a successful endeavor.

  3. + Alan says:

    I would agree that readers should pre-read the readings, get their pronunciations right, etc. Here’s one problem though: that we need to be careful not to create a culture of “performance” when it comes to these things. When it comes to readings and even homilies, I’m not sure we want to make actors out of these people. I know for me, that kind of thing shows and it generally makes my eyes roll. It comes off as “fake” – I hope that makes sense. I would guess a lot of other folk in the pews might think similarly. I haven’t taken a survey or anything.

    I’d rather hear someone read clearly, not too fast, not too slow, and not butcher word pronunciation, than for the reading to be performed. The real live people of God in the community, reading His Word – that’ll do fine.

    And for Priests or Deacons to become overly concerned about how “gripping” their homilies are, how “moving” they are, is a mistake I think. Moving homilies or sermons aren’t going to transform the hearts of God’s people. They may be a small part of that process, but we need not push their status up too far. OK, enough rambling from me. Just a few thoughts. Peace.

  4. Anne says:

    The drama teacher isn’t teaching acting as such in the case I mention. He’s teaching people to “proclaim” effectively and read clearly.

  5. Jimmy Mac says:

    ” Moving homilies or sermons aren’t going to transform the hearts of God’s people. ” However, dull ill-prepared homilies or sermons can, over time, have a deleterious effect on the hearts and minds of all in attendance.

    Anyone who has spent any amount of time attending Protestant services knows the effect of the good sermon and that of the bad ones. People can be spell-bound by a well crafted one, no matter how long the length, and totally put off by a poorly crafted one, no matter how short the length.

  6. + Alan says:

    Well, I’m certainly not advocating poorly crafted homilies or sermons. That doesn’t necessarily follow from what I said. Part of my point is that we shouldn’t put too much weight on this part of the life of the Church. I’m not sure it was designed to carry that much weight.

    Also, I’ve been deep inside the Protestant world for quite a few years. I’ve seen good and bad preaching. And overall, I much prefer a Catholic-style homily over a long, even well-crafted Protestant-style “sermon.” There are different reasons for this. One of which is that there seems to be a different philosophy behind the shorter homily (even well-crafted, of course). It’s more of a long-haul idea of spiritual formation – the work of which is done by a whole life, not even primarily by a sermon.

    I wouldn’t like to see us emulate what seems to be some kind of success in the Protestant world of preaching and loose some of what is great about Catholic ecclesiastical spirituality. Peace.

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