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October 08, 2007

Fumbling Doctrine

I enjoyed reading Father Jim McDermotts erudite and insightful piece on church doctrine in Of Many Things (9/10), despite his animosity toward one of pro sports most sacred institutions, the Green Bay Packers.

Father Jims admission that doctrinal issues are slippery and elusive things recalls the numerous fumbles of which Rex Grossman, the Chicago Bears quarterback, has been guilty in the preseason games he and the Bears managed to muddle through. Heres hoping we can all get a firmer grasp of the issue, whether it is interpreting church doctrine or hanging onto a football.

By the way, Im looking forward to Father Jims take on the New Orleans Saints and the dark night of the soul.

Stan Stoga

Madison, Wis.

Training for Lectors

In Liturgy 40 Years After the Council (8/27), Cardinal Godfried Danneels writes that prior to the Second Vatican Council, active participation was first promoted through the circulation of what were called peoples missals, which contained the texts of the Sunday liturgy. Later in the article, he comments, How can we speak of hearing the message if everyone is sitting with heads bent reading the texts in their missalettes when they should be listening?

There is a twofold problem here. One book has been replaced by a little booklet. Often the lector has his head bent reading a somewhat bigger book, the Lectionary. Far from proclaiming the Word, the reader often seems intent on reading to the book, oblivious as to whether the congregation is listening or not.

There is need for more intensive training of lectors in proclamation short of theatrical performance, but a real outspoken rendering of the Scriptures arising from an understanding of the texts. When this is accomplished, pastors could cancel orders for missalettes.

Victor Whelan

Saraland, Ala.

Imagining Jesus

Over the years, Ive enjoyed articles by William J. OMalley, S.J., and his recent piece, Accessible Holiness (7/30), is among his best. Encouraging us to realize how holiness and humanity can truly belong together, Father OMalley reminds us that Jesus is as fully grounded in our world as he is gloriously divine in the world that remains for us unseen. The mystery of Jesus incarnation is impossible for us to fathom entirely, of course, and it seems that we tend to resolve our cognitive tension in favor of Jesus, the true eternal God, significantly more so than in favor of Jesus, our true and fully human friend and companion. It is as if our faith in the truth that he is like us in all things but sin diminishes our felt friendship much more than Jesus desires.

I sometimes wonder how many of us ever imagine friendship with a Jesus who is not very tall, is less than fit and whose crooked teeth do nothing to diminish his warm smile and strength. Is it because we think such physical attributes are in some inexpressible way related to sin? Or if not so drastic as that, do we recall the familiar phrase that grace builds on nature, somehow implying that the pinnacle of human nature, Jesus Christ, must embody fine physical stature and attractiveness? Or is it that we know that our male leaders must be tall and lean and photogenic, because of course thats how the world works?

I sometimes wonder if the preacher on the mount was short, balding and soft-bodied, and if the powerful life-changing words of that man, who caused no one to take notice of him ordinarily, were magnified inexplicably by his ordinariness. Who knows?

Robert B. Murray

Braintree, Mass.

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14 years 9 months ago
As a lector of almost four decades, I would like to make two related points on the letter "Training for Lectors" (Oct8). Training can improve the technical delivery of the text. But to achieve the goal of proclamation, more is needed. I am told I am a good lector by congregants. I know that in my first decade of lectoring I "white knuckled" the ambo. When the fear was past, I was not yet proclaiming. Somewhere in the last decade I started doing that. I don't know what happened, but I have experienced a sense of the Word entering me. Perhaps it is related to being an RCIA catechist doing the Bible study. While I was attempting to break open the Word, I was broken open by the Word. But I know that something "formed" me beyond training. Training was not enough. Mr Whelan's phrase "short of theatrical performance" is reversed. Theatrical performance is not enough. I have seen the Gospels "performed" on several occasions, both in a theatre and in a church. I have also had the blessing of having John McCarthy (now the retired bishop of Austin) as my pastor. His proclamation skills far exceed the techniques used by actors. His welcome at the installation of Joe Fiorenza as the bishop of Houston (which still echoes in my mind's ear) can be best described as wrapping with words as if hugging with joy. There is a minor order of lector. It should be revived as a stand-alone ministry. Proclaiming is not a role. It needs to become part of one's life.

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