QUAERITUR: Am I being selfish for not reading at Mass?

From a reader:

I am newly back to the Church (just over a year) and attend daily mass frequently (NO). [Great!] I have been approached twice now asking to either regularly do the readings or help out as a Eucharistic Minister. I politely declined each time stating that I am not comfortable and don’t feel called to do that. I am female btw. I’m sensing a bubbling frustration from those who do because it’s the same small group of people who are filling these positions and the rest of us “won’t help”. My questions are: Should I feel guilty for not helping? Am I obligated to? What happens when no one steps forward, will daily mass discontinue? I really dislike feeling this pressure. I just want to go to mass and quietly worship God and not feel stressed out about not helping or if I do end up helping, stressing out about when it’s time for me to go up, etc. Am I being selfish?

Should I feel guilty for not helping?


Am I obligated to?


Will daily mass discontinue?


Am I being selfish?


If you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to do this.

Furthermore, it is not obligatory to have a lay woman read at Mass.  If a Mass is cancelled because there is no woman to read or distribute Communion… well… that priest might just be the stupidest priest in the world.

You might tell Father that you want to be left alone and simply participate at Mass with full, active and conscious participation by being quiet and receiving what the Lord has to give.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. iPadre says:

    I have never seen a daily Mass where there is a true need for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Even many Sunday Masses don’t justify the need. However, many priests feel pressured into allowing laity or even a deacon assist in the distribution of Holy Communion. The clericalization of the laity.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. LarryW2LJ says:

    You have to feel comfortable in your role. I am a reader at our parish and I am comfortable with that. I take great care to prepare and do my best to proclaim the Lord’s word reverently and respectfully. I guess the reason I was asked is that I have a voice that kind of naturally projects well. People rarely have trouble hearing me, even should the microphone go out.

    I have been asked to be an EM several times and have declined each time. That’s not my role and I do not feel like that is something I should be doing. When asked why I was declining, I simply stated that the distribution of the Holy Eucharist is best left to Priests and Deacons. IMHO, that is their calling, that is why they are there.

    If you’re called to some sort of ministry, that’s all well and good. If you’re not, that’s all well and good, too.

  3. MaterDei says:

    I think having laity in the sanctuary is distracting. A priest I used to know did daily Mass by himself. He read all the readings and distributed Communion alone. It was much more prayerful that way.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Jesus Christ died to make us free, not to make us slaves. And enslaving unwilling women is not something that Mother Church approves of. (And I don’t care if it’s a man, a church lady, or a priest who’s attempting it, or how good their intentions are.)

    Once or twice a year, asking people if they’re interested in doing some activity is appropriate. Leaning on them or guilting them is wrong wrong wrong.

  5. Heather F says:

    That is the reason I don’t sing in the choir anymore. When I did, my mind was always on what do I need to do next, am I in tune, how do I sound, me, me, me, me, me. My participation in the music was interfering with my ability to actually participate in the mass. So I don’t do it anymore, and feel no guilt at all.

    I am a reader at my parish now and it doesn’t affect me the same way. I can just get up, do it, go back to my seat, and be done. The only thing that annoys me about people “not helping” is when the people who are actually scheduled to read don’t show up half the time so every week is a game of “who’s actually doing the readings.”

    If you don’t feel comfortable doing it, you’re under no obligation to do so. If it would detract from your ability to participate in the mass, don’t do it.

  6. pmullane says:

    I’d be surprised if any priest could argue with ‘I’m terribly sorry Father, however I believe that my reading/Extraordinary ministering/etc would compromise my full, active, participation in the Mass’.

    Which is not untrue either, I have been reading at Mass for many years and am relatively unruffled by it, but I will admit that when I am reading at Mass I am far less concentrated in preparing properly for Mass and participating properly, as I am usually checking/double checking that I have prepared the coorect reading, that I dont look a mess, etc etc.

  7. Nan says:

    I just tell people I don’t think women belong in the Sanctuary, which is where the readers and EMHC’s sit.

  8. Elizium23 says:

    Personally as a single man, I would be overjoyed to be asked to help out as a Eucharistic Minister. I could hardly wait to prostrate myself in humility, make my promises before the bishop, put on my vestments, get out the Missal and say the Eucharistic Prayer as all Eucharistic Ministers do.

    However, I am shocked that a parish would ask a woman to do so. Is this parish in good standing with the Church?

  9. sw85 says:

    There is a certain presumption to it all, isn’t there? Once while quietly praying in Church after daily Mass, someone who coordinates readers approached (interrupting my prayer) to ask if I wanted to serve. I politely declined and she walked away, visibly annoyed — as if I owed it to her, or was mooching, etc. That I object to this sort of lay participation in principle didn’t come up because no one who was ever tried to get me to volunteer for this stuff has ever made any effort to get to know me or ask my opinion about anything, etc. We’re all just warm bodies waiting to be harvested for this or that lay ministry, huh?

  10. suedusek says:

    Dear Reader: How exciting to hear that you have returned to the Church! That’s wonderful! And being fully present to the Lord at Mass is no small thing or passive activity. I tell my children, often, that we are participants, not spectators, and my husband and I model that during Mass attendance and through commitment to service within parish life.

    That said, it is important to be involved in other ways, too. Like you, I also do not read or distribute Holy Communion. But there are a lot of other things that you can do to help out at church (helping to serve meals at funerals, fundraising events, teaching religious education, etc.). I feel for that “same small group” of parishioners you mentioned. They do get tired and feel unappreciated sometimes. It takes many hands to make things go. Find some way you can be involved with which you feel comfortable. Don’t be pressured into multiple commitments. Just pick one thing to start and see how it goes.

    Our parish puts out a fairly comprehensive time and talent survey. Perhaps your parish has something similar? You’d be surprised at some of the many ways you might help out. It’s a very good inventory. I am reminded, when I peruse the survey, that we are a parish family and that we each have a responsibility to the whole and to each other. That is best expressed in our willingness to be actively involved.

    Hope this helps. Enjoy this wonderful season of Advent!

  11. Ben Yanke says:

    In my situation, I end up “doing” a lot. I frequently serve or act as MC, other times I direct my schola, cantor alone, lector occasionally, sacristan, and other various duties. I really do it all. And because of that, I often find myself going to a second Mass on the weekend, or making an extra effort to go to daily Mass, just to make sure my spiritual needs are met and I can just quietly actively participate from the pews.

    Don’t underestimate the importance of that.

  12. James C says:

    When I get approached to be a “Eucharistic Minister”, my response: “My hands have never come in contact with the sacred Host, and I’m not about to stop now…unless God calls me to be a priest.”

    I’ve lectored a couple of times, but I got pretty self-conscious up there. Lay readers are too frequently unintelligible or else Mr. or Mrs. Dramatic. It’s distracting when one isn’t good. The one lay reader I wish I could have heard was Bob Sheppard (Yankee Stadium’s public address announcer for 60 years; aka “the Voice of God”). Right up to near his death at 99, he read at his local parish on Long Island. Shivers just thinking about it.

  13. rroan says:

    I used to be a lector at my Novus Ordo parish but now I mostly attend the TLM.

    Having said that, if I were approached to be a lector (as the OP was) my response would be something along the lines of “Sure, as long as I can use the appropriate Prophecy or Epistle tone.”

  14. liquidpaw says:

    Another reason EF is superior…it avoids all of these needless distractions. Unfortunately, not enough of our leaders yet realize that, as evidenced by continued suppression of the Franciscans of The Immaculate to use the TLM. That was an unprecedented act. According to the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI, no priest is required of the need to ask permission to say TLM if they wish to do so. Keep praying, as eventually this destruction will stop, and it is stopping, despite the efforts of the hierarchy. Sooner or later, they will see that those religious orders / parishes who devoutly pray TLM are flourishing while everywhere else things continue to dry up. Sooner or later the hierarchy will focus on the restoration of Tradition instead of being men of the world, trying to be offensive to no one while hob-nobbing with politicians. Had they the guts to stand up to Obamacare and forbid any Catholic to participate or Catholic organization to do so, it would not have passed. When our leaders regain their focus, the flock will strengthen. What happened outside the Cathedral in Buenos Aires is coming soon to every diocese, and unfortunately many will not have the backbone to stand up for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  15. Joseph-Mary says:

    Since daily Mass at my parish moved to 6:30 am, the attendance has dropped dramatically. Sometimes there are only 20 or 30 yet Father has 3 (usually the same women) extraordinary Eucharistic ministers every day. NO need! I do lector on Wednesdays and have declined to be an EMHC even though I do take the Holy Eucharist to the retirement home.

    At another parish one priest does not offer the Precious Blood for the people to partake and thus eliminated the need for the ladies to do this.

  16. FrDulli says:

    I’ve got a cute story. When I was a seminarian, I was traveling in France by myself. I found a local parish to attend daily mass. When it was time to prepare for mass, a lay sacristan invited us two or three guests to sit on benches in the sanctuary behind the altar rather than in pews. Including regulars there were no more than twenty.

    Anyway, a priest from India emerged from the sacristy and approached the sanctuary from the side aisle. Mass continued in the normal way. It was interesting hearing French in an Indian accent. As the collect was read, I remembered thinking that I could have pronounced it in better French. Is this an irony? When masses are offered in the vernacular, what becomes of the church when the clergy available no longer speak the vernacular correctly? Father was doing his best, but still was learning on the job.

    After the collect, the people sat down. The sacristan approached the ambo, but at the last minute, he paused and pointed at me as if to suggest that I should do the reading. I slowly and firmly indicated no with my head. The sacristan/reader rolled his eyes as if to say, “You young people need to start getting into your faith.”

  17. Mariana2 says:

    Thanks, Father. I have felt guilty for refusing our parish priest’s pleas for my reading, well, no more!
    (I’m too nervous, it would spoil Mass for me, and also, I don’t think reading should be done by women. I’d prefer only the clergy to read, lay readers are never that good at reading slowly and clearly.)

  18. SpesUnica says:

    A slightly different angle: What if you are having trouble finding a SERVER for the Mass? I have seen plenty of Masses where the priest is alone in the sanctuary after the reading is finished. He sets the altar, prepares the vessels, and even does the oblution alone (which always looks a little awkward, I think). When I say a private Mass (which isn’t too often, I usually have a public Mass every day), of course I do all that because I’m the only one physically present (until Jesus arrives!).

    On a totally different note, this is just about a confusion/frustration I have, and I don’t mean to pick on James C, but your comment brings it up again. I totally understand wanting to receive on the tongue, and that is every person’s right, and I would prefer having an altar rail and doing that across the board–though that is not presently possible at the parish where I live now (I’m not the pastor, the altar rail is long gone). I know that the priest’s hands are consecrated in a way the laity’s aren’t, but I just don’t understand why you would think that you CAN’T or SHOULDN’T touch the Eucharist. I mean, what if, God forbid, an elderly priest flinched or missed his mark and the server missed with the paten (I know these things are there for a reason, to prevent this, but you don’t always have all these things neatly in place) and the Host fell on the floor. Would you just gawk there, helpless, while old Father tried to get down and pick the Blessed Sacrament up for you? Your tongue wasn’t ever dipped in chrism, was it? I just have never quite understood this. If you want to recieve on the tongue, awesome, that’s been done for centuries and centuries, but to think that you CAN’T touch the Host when you EAT the Host? That doesn’t compute with part of my understanding of the Incarnation and the giving to us of the Eucharist in the first place. Then again, maybe I missed a chapter somewhere in my training.

  19. Ellen says:

    I have been a reader and a communion helper in the past. I quit both posts, but have been tempted to read again. I’m pretty good at it – I try to disappear and just let the word of the scripture be.

    When I retire, I think I will volunteer to take communion to the sick. There’s only one priest and he is busy and I know how much my mother looked forward to the communion helper every week.

  20. Nathan says:

    SpesUnica: Father, I can’t speak for others, but I don’t think the fundamental issue is touching the Host. I would venture to guess that in an emergency any one of us would try to go to extraordinary measures to protect the Blessed Sacrament, or to even pick up a dropped Host in specific cases. There is a fairly big difference between performing that function and distributing Holy Communion. Distributing Holy Communion, IMO, is the issue.

    Why not distribute Holy Communion? First, obedience. The Church is quite clear that the primary ministers of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist are priests and deacons. This works, IMO, the same way that it would be disobedient for a layperson to frequently baptize (even if invited to do so by their parish priest or their bishop), even though they may do so in a life-threatening situation. Second, the connection between the priesthood (and diaconate) with the Holy Eucharist is a clear manifestation of the what the recipient is doing–an Alter Christus is distributing Our Lord to the Faithful. Third, the practical result of the widespread misuse of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. It is very easy for this uncatechized generation to get from seeing that Fireman Joe or Mrs. O’Shaugnessy giving them Holy Communion to conclude “They don’t really believe what they say It is.” Why not stick the Host in your pocket if the ceremony implies that it is not important enough to get Holy Communion from a priest? Fourth, the long term effects of EHMCs. There is a demonstrated correlation between the widespread introduction of EHMCs and the widespread lack of belief in the Real Presence, and enough supporting evidence to link at least partial causality between the two.

    A number of years ago my parish priest asked me to consider becoming an EMHC. I refused him not because of touching Our Lord, but because it is not my place as a layman to distribute Our Lord in Holy Communion.

    In Christ,

  21. SpesUnica says:

    Nathan, I agree with you totally in regard to EMHCs, I should have clarified that I was referring to an abhorrence of touching the Blessed Sacrament with their hands at all.

  22. Nathan says:

    Thank you, Father! I will remember your intentions at Holy Mass tonight.

    In Christ, Nathan

  23. Priam1184 says:

    Lol Father are you sure that it isn’t obligatory to have a lay woman read or distribute Holy Communion? It seems to me, in practice anyways, to be Article 1 of Canon Law. And I 1000% agree with iPadre: there is NEVER a need to have ANY Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at ANY daily Mass EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And congratulations Deo gratias for the reader who came back into the Church. Don’t let the nonsense like this cause any problems. Just put your head down, grit your teeth, and worship the Lord.

  24. Charivari Rob says:

    To the original poster, I would say “Definitely don’t feel compelled to fill these roles if you don’t feel called/qualified/appropriate.”

    At the same time, I would recommend a little more consideration for those “same few people” who seem to be doing that all the time. THEY would probably “just want to go to mass and quietly worship God and not feel stressed out about not helping” once in a while (and they are ASKING for help, which is much better than the all-too-common type that carves out & jealously defends their own little fiefdom).
    If those particular roles aren’t for you (for any number of legitimate reasons), so be it, but consider that those same people are probably also the same people who fill a lot of behind-the-scenes roles to make things possible in the parish – sacristan, laundry, coming over early before Mass to unlock the church & turn on heat/lights/etc…, pick up bulletins from the printer, remove burned-out votive candles, dust, etc… If you aren’t the answer for reading or EMHC, maybe you can help out in one of those other ways.

    To James C.: Yes, Mr. Sheppard was fabulous. All those things (the football Giants PA man, too), and Professor of Speech at St. John’s University.

  25. Priam1184 says:

    @Ellen What you described (taking Communion to the sick when there is only one priest) is the true role of an EXTRAORDINARY minister, not the way it is practiced at 99% of parishes in the Western world.

  26. msc says:

    If you would be good at it, I urge you to consider reading. It seems to have been a general rule at my last few churches that those that want to read generally do so poorly. About half the regular lectors at my current church are bad enough that it distracts from the text of the readings. It’s often bad enough that the readings get altered in minor but annoying ways. Very recently the lector omitted some minor words (including a “not”) that in effect changed the meaning of one of the passages.

  27. Cathy says:

    Every year there is a clarion call for EMHC’s and lectors in the parish bulletin. Every year my mom would encourage me to volunteer. My flat refusal was the sanctuary is God’s gift to the service of men, and I am not a man. This year, a new priest was ordained from our parish, and he came to celebrate his first Mass in our parish. It was awesome! All men in the sanctuary, and priests, and only priests distributing Holy Communion. After Mass, my mom thanked me for refusing to volunteer. The Mass was the Novus Ordo, but it was the Novus Ordo of my youth.
    I just don’t get it. We have a plethora of EMHC’s as well as some 13 permanent deacons. I understand why a deacon, who is a husband and a father would desire the opportunity to sit with his family during the Mass. What I do not understand is why they do not, at least, assist in the distribution of Holy Communion. Am I misunderstanding the office of the deacon?

  28. Konichiwa says:

    I’ve declined twice at my parish to bring up the bread and wine during the offertory. The first time I was given a puzzled look as though he wondered if I really do love Jesus. The second time they just assumed that I accepted even after I said that I was not comfortable doing it; when time came they sqirmed and ended up bring up the gifts themselves. I think that’ll be the last time I’ll be asked.

  29. Mike says:

    I declined a request from my pastor to be a EMHC. I wrote a polite no-thank you note.

    On a related comment: sure, if necessity warrants, laity can rescue a sacred Host, but that isn’t the norm, traditionally speaking. I remember once seeing, at the end of Mass, a consecrated Host half under a person’s shoe. I got up, said excuse me, and lifted the guy’s shoe, picked up the Host, and gave it to a EMHC near the side-altar who consumed it. I can still remember the young girl’s voice who saw it the same moment I did, saying aloud: “The Body of Christ! The Body of Christ!”

    God forgive such carelessness!

  30. dans0622 says:

    IPadre: I agree that there is seldom a daily Mass that has any extraordinary quality that would require an extraordinary minister and some Sunday Masses are only extraordinary in how few people are in attendance. You could be right about some pressure being exerted. But, since deacons are ordinary ministers and aren’t laity, I guess I part company with you on your concluding remarks.

  31. iPadre says:

    Speaking of EX Mins. I no longer have them on Sundays because there is no “genuine reason” and the number of the faithful present is not “so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.”

  32. Rich says:

    There is a sort of reverse clericalism at work in trying to get more and more laypeople to do the work of which priests or deacons are ordinary ministers. It’s like saying that being a lay person is not good enough unless you are acting like a priest. This sort of attitude is also anti-Vatican-II if you think about it. According to the Council,

    “The laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.” (Lumen Gentium, 31).

    None of the above claimed that the roles of the laity have anything to do with performing sacred functions at Mass, nor that a layperson’s fidelity to his or her calling should be judged according to what degree he or she is carrying out such functions. These priests who are so intent in getting laypeople to carry out more and more sacred functions in the Mass should do the laity a real favor by teaching them how the laity is to really live out its calling according to the Council, by acting as leaven within world by faithfully carrying out their daily duties according to their state in life.

    Conversely, it is no wonder that there are vocation shortages in some places when the identity of the priest has been so blurred by pushing the idea that laypeople can do pretty much anything a priest does.

  33. Sandy says:

    So many great comments, such as iPadre and others! It’s all been said, but I would just add again, as Father Z stated, say NO! You’re listening to the Holy Spirit guiding you, with the inner voice we often ignore. I’ve been there, done all that, when I was asked. After years of spiritual growth (and being led into deeper conversion by the Blessed Mother also) I knew that was not where the Lord wanted me – at the altar.

  34. robtbrown says:

    Once I was asked to read at a daily mass. I cheerfully said that I do it . . . if I could read it in Latin.

    I was not asked again.

  35. WGS says:

    Be more forthright about the influence of the Holy Spirit. I have used the response “Sorry, the Holy Spirit told me not to” when asked to serve as an EMHC. How can anyone argue with that?

  36. VexillaRegis says:

    LOL, robtbrown!

  37. Bedens says:

    If women are going to read at Mass, I believe the priest needs to ask them to please dress appropriately. There is one woman lector at our parish who goes up on the altar looking like a hobo. I’m not kidding. Last weekend she wore baggy, worn jeans with flip flops (no socks) and a wind breaker. Sometimes she is in sweat pants. It’s really disgraceful.

  38. pelerin says:

    I was amused at robtbrown’s reply guaranteeing him not to be asked again! It has reminded me of when I was once asked by a nun in the congregation if I would do one of the readings. I refused as I knew that I would be far too nervous but later felt relieved that it had not been the Parish Priest who had asked me as I think I would have felt very awkward saying ‘no’ to him! Reading above of people who have refused requests for various reasons has given me the confidence to refuse should I ever be asked again.

  39. Sword40 says:

    This problem is relatively easy to solve IF you have an EF Mass nearby (within 75 miles).
    I have not been pestered to do anything except help pay the bills.

  40. kat says:

    Cannot the NO Mass be said by the priest each day in the same way a daily low Mass is said in the EF? One server making responses and assisting, and the priest doing everything else? Is it necessary for the few people who end up doing it every day to do it at all? Couldn’t all those people get their spiritual fill by kneeling in the pews too? Or is this a requirement of the NO to have several people doing different things?
    I am genuinely asking…I have never been to a “daily” NO Mass.

  41. James C says:


    Father, it’s not that I think I CAN’T touch the Host, it’s that I won’t unless I had no other choice. Like in the example you’ve stated—thank God it’s never happened to me (which is why I try to receive from the priest, I’ve had some near-misses with stubborn/inexperienced/careless EMHCs).

    Recently I was called at the last moment to serve a TLM celebrated by the great Fr. John Hunwicke (whose blog is now active again, Fr. Z!). I have little experience serving Mass, but I got through it despite some mistakes.

    Anyway, one of the things I did at the Mass (for the first time) was hold the paten at the altar rail while Fr. Hunwicke distributed the Host to the communicants. Now THAT’S a real Eucharistic ministry! To inch along with Father as he gently placed Our Lord and Savior down into the open mouths of kneeling men and women, old and young, rich and poor—all the while the antiphon was being chanted—was an overwhelming experience. I nearly broke into tears!

  42. Cincinnati Priest says:

    One thing I’ve observed as a pastor is that the use of lay ministers to read and serve as EMHCs in OF Masses causes a lot of completely unnecessary consternation.

    For instance, when the regularly assigned lector for daily Mass is on vacation or doesn’t come due to bad weather or her grandson’s special occasion or …. and forgot to tell the sacristan in advance, this inevitably sits a tizzy of last-minute commotion and concern (thereby disturbing pre-Mass preparation prayer) over who will fill in for them and what we could possibly “do” if there is “no one” to serve as lector.

    After decades of bad catechesis (often by priests of a previous generation with an agenda), I think they genuinely believe that the Mass “can’t happen” or would at least be seriously impaired without them. And for some of the older folks (the usual daily Mass attendees) no amount of explaining that, really, the priest can do this without you, and the Mass is still perfectly complete and valid, ever seems to set their minds at ease.

    . It will be a long time before the ill effects of the 1970s mis-catechesis, and the feminist and Protestantizing agendas are eliminated.

  43. Mike says:

    James C: that’s really wonderful for you to serve in that way. And Fr. H is awesome.

  44. lana says:

    I used to lector, but I found that, after spending 15 minutes of preparatory prayer and getting really ready for Mass, the bonhomie and joking in the sacristy just before Mass completely destroyed whatever recollection I may have had.

    Not to be a grinch, and I know our pastor’s warm style has brought many people back to our parish. God’s joy seems to burst from him all the time! But it is not where I am at right now spiritually. Maybe later I will be able to handle it.

  45. lana says:

    I would (perhaps selfishly) be very happy if the priest did everything at Mass. The pressure of ‘having to be there’ for whatever function, of being extra early so others don’t worry because you are not there, of calling if absent, etc etc…… All that energy is much better spent on other ministries: CCD, homebound visits, etc.

    I see sometimes people want to ‘do something for God’, and they pick up one of these altar ministries, lectoring or EMHC’ing at Mass, etc. It seems to me better NOT to have these positions available, so that they can look for and do something truly useful.

  46. adeacon says:

    In response to iPadre, I do agree, I have attended Masses where there were enough concelebrating priests and the need for Extraordinary ministers was unnecessary. In my view, part of the problem lies here: If the celebrant of the Mass “knows” there will NOT be a need for Extraordinary ministers, he, or at his direction the leader of that ministry, should make contact with the Extraordinary ministers “prior” to Mass time. In my experience, this “rarely” if ever happens. The Extraordinary ministers come to Mass and are ready, willing and do make their way to the sanctuary at the appropriate time – then it is too embarrassing for the celebrant to advise them that their service is not needed at this particular Mass. I do not believe that THIS is the time for a “teaching moment.”

    In response to your following comment..
    “many priests feel pressured into allowing laity or even a deacon assist in the distribution of Holy Communion.”

    According to the GIRM…

    (The deacon) “assists the priest celebrant in distributing Communion, especially as minister of the Precious Blood.”

    Is not the deacon an Ordinary minister of the Eucharist? I am lost on your comment.

  47. Michelle F says:

    If the woman in Fr. Z’s post wants people to quit pressuring her to get into the Sanctuary, all she has to do is cover her head with either a scarf or a traditional mantilla. I started covering my head with a scarf in the latter part of 1999, and no one has asked me to do anything since then – not even to carry the gifts to the Sanctuary.

    This has worked no matter how I am dressed at Mass, whether I am in jeans, a pantsuit, or a skirt.

    Of course this isn’t the reason why I cover my head at Mass, but it has been an added bonus.

  48. Would that instituted readers restored to the Church!

    In the meantime, lectors are the reality. Although I agree that selfishness isn’t really the issue, there is often a legitimate need. Others have mentioned Masses where few are present. I celebrated a daily Mass this week with just six people. While the priest can do the reading(s) and psalm, that isn’t the intention of the Church for the Mass (at least in the Novus Ordo).

    Consider being a lector. Pray for the restoration of the instituted Reader.

  49. eben says:

    I’m genuinely surprised and delighted to see this topic addressed. My wife and I recently retired and in the process moved to our retirement home in west Texas. We signed up with the local Parish and all seemed well until we were repeatedly asked to serve as readers. My wife declined, but they wouldn’t let up on me. So, I tried it and did “o.k.” but it was an extremely unpleasant and distinctly stressful event. A public speaker, I am not. After having done so, one of the “locals”, (for lack of a better term) commented that sometimes people have to step up. To understand the lay of the land in west Texas, one needs know that the Catholic church is largely Hispanic. What few Anglos might have once been Catholic have either died out or moved on, or moved over to the largely Anglo Baptist church. Catholicism has always been a “Mission” faith in west Texas. That’s all quite well with me, I’m a cradle Catholic and Texan, so I’m used to this. However at this Parish, the Priest speaks only broken English and most all of the services and music are in Spanish. That doesn’t bother me either. It is………..what it is.

    After this unfortunate experience, I realized two things. First, that there are so few people left in the Parish, (Catholicism is pretty much dying out here), that whomsoever is last selected to “read” is probably going to have to read until they shuffle off their mortal coil. Second, my wife and I are probably the only two people left in the Parish that speak English only. Therefore, they feel compelled to have some of the mass in English and since we’re “the problem”, they feel like we should step up to read. As it is, only the first reading and the Psalm are read in English anyway. When we first started attending this Parish, intermittently on vacation trips, there were 5 or 6 other “Anglo” families and, with kids, but they have since left the Parish, or the area altogether.

    Its heartening to know that Fr. Z understands that I’m not obligated or being selfish in not reading. For me, its extremely unpleasant and unsettling. As to a solution, I’m unsure. We haven’t returned for three Sundays now due to illness. There’s a much larger Parish 34 miles south of us that has a full schedule of English language masses and I guess we should simply retreat to that location for Mass, thus we would no longer present a problem to the local Parish.

  50. RichardT says:

    I also decline to read (even though public speaking is a large part of my professional life and so I am comfortable with and reasonably competent at it). That is partly because , like the original questioner, I would find it a distraction from my own prayerful participation in the Mass, and partly because I, as a layman, feel out of place serving on the altar and that it is not my calling.

    But it is also partly because it seems that, under the post-VaticanII system, reading at Mass is intended to be done by an instituted Lector, and only by someone else when instituted lectors cannot be found.

    Now my diocese seems to make no attempt to encourage or institute lay lectors. It therefore seems wrong to fall back on what is clearly regarded by the Church as the second-best option of having a non-lector doing the readings.

    Is that over-scrupulous of me?

  51. amenamen says:

    RichardT : “It therefore seems wrong to fall back on what is clearly regarded by the Church as the second-best option of having a non-lector doing the readings.”

    It does seem peculiar that Ministeria Quaedam has been almost universally ignored in the matter of instituting Lectors. Except for seminarians, almost none of the people who read at Mass are actually instituted as Lectors. Perhaps we should not even use the term Lector (or Reader, which is the same thing) to refer to those who are given “temporary delegation” to read, in those (rare) cases in which an instituted Lector cannot be found. It would be much easier to find instituted Lectors if they actually exist.

  52. Kathleen10 says:

    FrDulli, what an uncomfortable moment that must have been. Things like that are why I would much rather not be noticed (or asked) at all.
    One time, at a daily mass (not many people at all) the priest asked, while up on the altar, if someone could volunteer to help with Holy Communion. (!) No one said yes, so out of sympathy to Father alone I said yes. He didn’t know me, and I was not trained in how to carry out such a holy responsibility. I did as Father instructed me, and it was a singular and surreal honor I will not forget, but I would never do it again. Ever.

  53. Terry1 says:

    After two years of reading and through the grace of God I am finally comfortable and have become a competent reader. Shortly after I became a lector an emergency arose and I had to read the Gospel and preach a short sermon to (gulp) about 50 parishioners, since both our priest and deacon are no longer spring chickens instructions for doing a communion service begins after the holidays.

    I would just as soon we didn’t have women readers, whose soft voices become unintelligible through our sound system and the only gentle way for us to end the need for women readers is for the men to become much more involved, such as being adult servers and then read as part of their service.

    We have one instituted Reader that comes from a bygone era in our parish who will only do communion service or act as an EEMC. Stemming from some ancient (?)and apparently Jesuit practice that there should be at least one native American EEMC for communion, this instituted Reader rushes up to the altar takes the chalice and then either the priest or deacon sits down, an act that upsets more than a few people. No wonder reverence for the sacred mysteries have been lost, especially since reverence disappeared into political correctness.

    Recently in a discussion with our deacon about ways to signal reverence for the sacred mysteries I mentioned that if I have my way no one will be allowed in the sanctuary during mass without proper vestments.

  54. robtbrown says:

    Father Maurer says:

    In the meantime, lectors are the reality. Although I agree that selfishness isn’t really the issue, there is often a legitimate need. Others have mentioned Masses where few are present. I celebrated a daily Mass this week with just six people. While the priest can do the reading(s) and psalm, that isn’t the intention of the Church for the Mass (at least in the Novus Ordo).

    Consider being a lector. Pray for the restoration of the instituted Reader.

    Actually, I have been installed as a Lector, which is why I was more than willing to read. Of course, there is the little matter of dimissorial letter resulting in the reception of a lay ministry.

    And I would prefer to pray for the restoration of the minor orders and subdiaconate.

  55. James says:

    Thank you for posting this, Fr. Z!

    “Full, conscious, active participation” doesn’t mean that everyone at Mass needs a job to do.

  56. Konichiwa says:

    Regarding the NO Mass, can priests read the first and second readings as they do in the UA? If they could then there wouldn’t be a need ever for lay readers right?

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