Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a lector at Mass. I consider it an honor and a privilege to proclaim God's Word, and it uses the talents God gave me. I credit my father for inspiring me in this calling; he's been a lector for decades, and one Holy Thursday, we lectored together.
I admit, however, that I went through a time of getting melodramatic with the readings, and it was rightly brought to my attention. I was turning into more of a performer than a proclaimer, and that takes away from the impact of the Word . . . and puts the spotlight on me. (That's also why I'm a Recovering Worship Leader.) Now, I try to provide emphasis, but not too much.
Some general pet peeves I have about lectors:
- Reading too fast. What plane do you have to catch? This is the Word of the Lord, not one of my two-minute newscasts. There is no need to rush it. If you do, you all but guarantee the congregants will not take away the meaning of what you just read . . . even if they're reading along in their missals. The only lectors who read too slowly are kids, who generally read a word at a time, punctuation be damned. Also in this category is rushing right from one reading to the next, or into the Psalm, but that may be more a function of what the priest or the Liturgy Committee wants. Ten seconds between readings bowed in prayer never killed anyone.
- Being unprepared. Now I concede that you may be filling in at the last minute, but I bet more often than not, if you're stumbling over a reading, you simply haven't read it before going on the altar. It doesn't take a long time to prepare, maybe only half an hour or so. Read the context of the reading in the Bible, so you know how to approach it. Find out how to pronounce those tough names. And if you're on the lector roster, it doesn't hurt to look over the readings even if it's not your week, so that in an emergency, you don't sound like you just got pressed into service.
- Reading as if it were the phone book. If your name isn't James Earl Jones or Ross Mitchell, this approach won't work. As I mentioned above, too much drama isn't a good thing, but neither is complete emotional detachment. This and reading too fast are why teenagers, for the most part, make lousy lectors. Preparation will help prevent this.
- No eye contact. Another corollary of being unprepared. You should be able to lift your head from the text every so often and make eye contact with the congregation. Now, the priest doesn't do this as often on the altar because his prayers are to God and not to the people (don't get me started on ad orientem vs. versus populum).