A recent article in The New York Times listed two things that Americans fear the worst: Death and public speaking. Getting up in front of large groups or even small groups can be a daunting task for many.
However, it can be one of the most fulfilling experiences as well.
Proclaiming the Word of God during the Mass is a church ministry that most would not even think to become involved with.
Our children who attend the school here at St. Raphael learn very quickly how to participate and overcome this fear while serving God’s Church. As first graders, they begin their experience of reading in front of the congregation during weekly Liturgy.
In addition, our middle school children have an opportunity to expand their participation in this church ministry by reading at the Sunday masses. The purpose is to have the children grow up understanding the importance of proclaiming God’s word and how best to proclaim it, serving the Church as part of their spiritual journey and learn some basics of public speaking while they are at it.
It is also very special when a parent and their child proclaim God’s word at the same Mass.
Ashley Fox, one of our adult Sunday readers, recently read with her daughter Lauren.
On October 10, both mom and daughter were our readers for the Sunday 9:30 a.m. Mass. Lauren is a 7th grader at St. Raphael and has this to say about participating in this ministry:
"I've enjoyed the experience of reading at Mass. I really do believe it helps us as young people to overcome fear of being in front of a large group."
A chance to study the word of God
By Ashley Fox
I started reading at Mass shortly after I participated in the Christ Renews His Parish formation program. I wanted to get involved with a ministry that would allow me to participate more fully in the Mass. In doing so, I had hoped that I would gain better understanding and appreciation for the celebration of the Mass.
In the ten years I have been a reader, I feel like I have learned more about my faith than in all the years before. Not only do I understand the actual celebration of the Mass better, but I’ve had a chance to study the word of God, as I prepare for each reading I’ve done. The workbook that we use to prepare for reading gives some excellent background information and explanation about the specific scripture so that we really understand what we are proclaiming.
Some people have said to me “Oh, I could never do that. I am too nervous speaking in public.” I think we all have some nervousness at one time or another, but I also believe this is a perfect time to pray to God asking for His help in calming your nerves. It is so nice to have that feeling of answered prayers each time you finish reading. Every time you do it, you get less and less nervous. What a gift to see God shaping and transforming you to be used as a tool in His ministry.
I’ll never forget my very first time reading. I was so nervous! As was the custom back then, I was assigned to just do the first reading. There was a senior reader assigned to do the second reading, which meant his responsibilities also included the announcements, and the prayer intentions .
I had studied and practiced the first reading and I knew when I was supposed to go up to the ambo. I got there 20 minutes before Mass began to sign in and review everything a few more times.
I knew the name of the person assigned as the second reader, but I was not familiar with him and I was anxiously waiting for him to arrive so that I could double check on the details of my assignment .
Every time someone walked in, I asked if they were “so and so” and each time they said “no”, I began to panic.
With every passing minute I panicked more and more as I realized I didn’t know the order of the announcements, nor would I be sure of when I was to approach the ambo if I had to do the second reading and especially wasn’t sure of when and how to do the prayer intentions.
Nobody was showing up and there was only five minutes before mass was going to begin! I ran out into the church and found an usher and asked him to help me find an experienced reader who knew what to do.
Fortunately his wife was a seasoned veteran and she jumped in to help me, much to my relief.
From that point on, I prepared for each Mass as if I would be the only reader – just in case I was.
I’ve enjoyed reading over the years and I’m happy that my daughter has had the opportunity to join this ministry. I know that she is gaining valuable experience in public speaking, while actively participating in the Mass and growing spiritually.
If you're interested: Please contact Marybeth Finster at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about participating in this ministry.
Photos by Jane Winstead