From a seminarian:
I wanted to know if the lector should keep eye contact while
proclaiming the word of God at Holy Mass? Many parish guidelines say that it’s important to keep eye contact.
Keep eye contact… presumably with the “audience” to which the lectoress is “playing”?
Here’s my view. There is a thin line between reading the Word of God in an articulate, intelligible, thoughtful way, and a performance. While Holy Mass is the greatest drama even in earthly terms, our roles are not dramatic roles.
I was an actor in a former life. I know the temptation to “play” the crowd. Keeping eye-contact, for most people, will lead them into problems, in my opinion. Unless they are quite disciplined, they will lend to their reading the overtone that that reading is about the reader and not the Word. In all our reading in Scripture, the Word is both speaking and being spoken, raised to the Father.
“Keeping eye-contact” is not something that I would push. I would push proper pronunciation of the words, the phrasing, the meaning.
Perhaps we can, under the gravitational pull of the Extraordinary Form, take a cue from how the priest was trained to say Holy Mass. Even though the priest knows most of the texts by heart, he is to keep his eye in contact with the texts printed on the pages of the Missale Romanum or on the altar cards. A priest does well, for the sake of prudence, to follow the printed texts even when they are something he has said everyday of his life for decades. The texts are important. They are Christ speaking. The priest ought not stumble over them, scramble them, lose his place.
I think all of us have had the experience of poor readings by poorly prepared or simply untalented readers. We have also have the experience of readers who read as if for a Victorian melodrama. They soon become ridiculous and, sadly, don’t realize it.
Women religious of a certain age, I have noted, easily fall prey to this. Could they be channeling their years of teaching elementary school? They sometimes are involved in the training of readers in parishes and they pass along all their skill in “reading with meaning“.
Okay, that last part was a digression, a shot leveled from my battle-scarred personal experience. I’ve had to watch, listen to, suffer from ghastly, overblown, prating proclamations from women religious, with their Sears’ pants suits and lapel pins and hairdos, usually named Sr. Randi, now grinning, now frowning, sawing the air, thus, vivisecting the texts with pregnant pauses, pivoting their aggressive eye-contact from side to side with the intensity of a coastline lighthouse in a fog, who clearly wanted to be at the altar, not the ambo.
I’ll drop it now. And yes, I have heard some men do the same. But not, by far, in the same numbers. Nowhere like. And I have heard many women, even religious, read well.
Moreover, no matter how well some people may read, there are some men who are officially installed as Lectors. They read with a difference.
On an additional point, I will also give a little advice to readers.
LISTEN TO YOURSELF when reading. Tune your ear to listen to the sound of your voice for a few seconds when you start to read. Listen for whether or not your voice, by itself or amplified, is filling the space. Are you to soft? Too loud? Therefore, mind your use of the microphone. Some mics require that you be positioned immediately in front of them. Some need you to be very close. Some are more sensitive. Mind the sound of your voice coming back to you. Once you have the right balance, and this should take no more than two or three syllables, not words, then pay attention to your text again.
Finally… unless the book, the Lectionary, is set to the wrong page and you can’t find the text, use the Lectionary and not the missalette.
Bottom line: Focus primarily on proper diction, phrasing, comprehension, not the congregation – they aren’t in a theater – and not, with the exception of checking your sound, on yourself. And remember the old actor’s adage: less is more.
And when Mass is over….
… why not enjoy some Mystic Monk Coffee?
Many parishes have coffee and doughnuts after Mass. Wouldn’t some Mystic Monk Coffee be a nice way to follow Mass? Click HERE and order coffee for your parish after Mass gathering now.
And, while you are at it, how is your coffee supply?