“By Heart”

by: Sister Pauline MacDonald, RSHM
Los Angeles, California

The theme for this article took me right back to the days when I worked in parish ministry in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.  I had the pleasure and challenge of “Training the Lectors” for their liturgical ministry.  The lectors in training were as diverse as the parishes they came from; they were all a little nervous, and curious as why they had to be trained to read in church.  

Before we started working, we needed to have two important conversations.  The first was about the people to whom they were sent.  The second was about the Scriptures and what the Scripture needs to be for them, before they attempt to proclaim the readings.  The learning that I shared with them was not my original insight.  I had some very wise teachers and mentors who formed me.   

First, we talked for some time about the parishioners to whom they were being sent.  Like us they come to Eucharist to be nourished, comforted, and strengthened.   They are neighbors, friends, and strangers who were caring for a sick relative, laid off from work, the parent of a troubled teen, parents of a new born, addicted to drugs, just diagnosed with cancer, going through a messy divorce.  They come to that Sunday Eucharist with their fears, hopes, joys, disappointments, losses. We reflected in silence and called to mind the people we see at Sunday Mass. When we proclaim the Sacred Scriptures we are proclaiming it for these people.  Reading the scripture aloud is not enough.  It is Christ reaching out through us.  What does he want to give them?  Will my proclamation help or hinder the good news? 

The second conversation was more challenging.  It was about allowing this Good News to find its way into their hearts.  I invited the Lectors to come to know the scriptures by heart.  As Lectors they were to prepare to proclaim the Sunday readings throughout the entire week by reading, reflecting, walking with, and praying with the Sunday readings. Memorization had nothing to do with this exercise. They needed to take them to heart by allowing themselves to be touched, challenged, or encouraged by the readings.  When they could begin to do this kind of heartfelt preparation, they were ready to proclaim the Scriptures to the parish community because they had come to know them by heart.

Written by: Pauline MacDonald, RSHM

Currently, Sr. Pauline is part of the Provincial Councillors for the Western American Province. Additionally, she is a board member of South Central LAMP.