Practical Advice for Sunday Mass Readers

  1. Rota Make sure you have received or collected the next readers’ rota before the previous rota finishes. Note the dates for which you are scheduled to read. If you are unable to read on a scheduled date, contact the Readers Coordinator to arrange for a substitute. If you are able to arrange a substitute by yourself, from one of the other readers, inform the Readers Coordinator so that everybody concerned will know who is to be reading at each Mass.

  2. Preparation before coming to church During the preceding week, make sure you have the text of the first and second readings, the psalm and the gospel acclamation. When two readers are scheduled, the first named is expected to take the first reading and the psalm, and the second named is expected to take the second reading and the acclamation and the bidding prayers. This distribution may be varied by agreement between the two readers. In any event, you should prepare all the readings in case the other reader fails to appear. Read the texts a few times in quiet, thinking about the context and what are the most significant phrases. It may be helpful to look at the preceding verses in the Bible. Try to make the text your own. If there is a long sentence, plan where to place the pauses so that the congregation may better absorb the meaning. Check and practice the pronunciation of unusual words and names. Aim to dress in a manner that will not distract attention. Make safe arrangements to arrive at church at least ten minutes before the Mass time.

  3. Preparation before Mass Make sure the Sunday Mass Warden, or other designated responsible person, is aware that you are present as a reader. Take a Mass leaflet and go to the lectern. Make sure the lectionary is open at the page for the first reading. When the lectionary offers alternative Gospel acclamations, note which one is to be used according to the Mass leaflet. Check that the lectionary readings, including the psalm and the acclamation, match the version in the leaflet. Where there are differences, the version in the leaflet should normally be preferred, in order to minimise distractions for the congregation. But, to the maximum practicable extent, the lectionary and not the Mass leaflet should still be used for the readings. If you are due to read the bidding prayers and have not received a copy of them beforehand, take the copy from the lectern so that you may read them and make yourself comfortable with them. Take a seat near the front of the congregation.

  4. Approaching for the readings Approach the lectern at the end of the opening prayer. If there are two readers, both go to the sanctuary at the same time, bowing to the altar together before ascending the steps. The second reader takes a seat to the side of the lectern, and the readers change places when the first reader has finished. If the psalm is sung, both readers sit together until the singing is finished.

  5. Reading Take two or three deep breaths shortly before you are due to read. Make sure the microphone is turned on (the slider switch is up) and aligned towards your face. Announce “A reading from … “ as printed in the lectionary; don’t say “The first (second) reading is …”. Read much more slowly than you usually speak, so that each syllable can be sounded clearly and the congregation has time to take in the significance of the words for themselves. Use pauses to reflect punctuation, to mark changes of paragraph or speaker, and to highlight important phrases. But don’t be over-dramatic or artificial: read in a way that is natural for you to convey the meaning and significance. At the end of the first and second readings, pause before saying “The word of the Lord”. Note that the preceding “This is …” should now be omitted, although it is printed in the lectionary. The reading of the psalm should not be announced: just read the response once for the congregation to repeat, but be prepared to give them a lead. Before the Gospel acclamation, if the Alleluia is not being sung then introduce the acclamation by saying “Alleluia, alleluia” – do not tell the people to stand. If the Alleluia is being sung, allow time for the congregation to draw breath before starting the acclamation. At the end of the acclamation, return to your seat among the congregation. If there are two readers, they should leave the sanctuary together, turning at the bottom of the steps in the centre to bow to the altar.

  6. For the bidding prayers Move to the lectern at the end of the Creed, bowing to the altar in the centre if you have to cross in front of it. After each petition, pause for about five seconds to allow people to join themselves to the prayer, before making the prompt for their response. At the end of the petitions, invite the people to add their personal petitions in silence; after a sufficient time, make the prompt for their response once more. Then invite the people to join in the recitation of the “Hail Mary”. Remain at the lectern while the celebrant makes the concluding prayer, then return to your seat among the congregation.