Liturgy of the Word (Oct. 18)


Return to main menu

Theological Question

How does the Liturgy of the Word lead us to the table of the Eucharist?


The goal of this session is for students to learn what resources are available for forming lectors, shaping the homily, and catechizing on God’s Word.


Students will discuss the meanings and uses of “logos,” “word,” “Scripture,” “Bible,” “proclamation,” and “homily” in the context of liturgy.


Lector Training Resources
Lector-Homilist Faith Sharing Process


(after the class has been completed)

Idea starters

  • What are the three best things about the Liturgy of the Word in your parish?
  • What makes those elements strong?
  • What are the three things that most need improvement?
  • Write down a concrete next-action you can take to improve each item on your list.


  • Download this form, and evaluate the Liturgy of the Word in your parish.

Read (in preparation for Oct. 25)

 Posted by at 6:37 pm
  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Gary. You make a good point about the varieties of homilies and levels of talent. Sometimes a preacher we perceive as less talented may be just the homilist someone else needs to hear. I do think there is a minimum level of standards that every homily must meet, but the bar is pretty low. Still, it’s surprising how many miss it, even so.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Maggie. I think it’s great that you are beginning to see all the moving pieces. You observation of the presider waiting to leave is a perfect example of the conflict between good liturgy and good pastoral practice. He did make the liturgy more awkward, and yet it was probably the right thing to do. Those kinds of decisions have to be made at every liturgy, and not always by the presider. The challenge is knowing that there is a decision to be made in the first place and having the a strong foundation in liturgical principles to be able to (usually) make the right call.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Jerry. Now that you are starting to see what the strengths and weaknesses are in your liturgies, you can help improve them. That’s a great thing. Keep up the terrific observations.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Dan. That’s a great analogy. The only difference I can see is that once a painting is finished, it is what it is. Liturgy is ongoing, however, and continually growing into a masterpiece.

  • Christine Tran

    My favorite point from last week learning is that the flow from liturgy of the Word to liturgy of Eucharist is very important because if Word is weak then Eucharist will weak. And because they are structures of liturgy they decide whether liturgy success in changing our lives for the better & nurture our faith or they will be boring & unfruitful. I am trying to apply the principle that liturgy of the Word should be a non-stop cycle of revelation leading to living it out and continue to get ready for another revelation to live it out again…Hopefully thru that we make our lives the witness of God present in our lives as well as in this world .
    In observing myself as well as my relatives & friends, I see that the majority of us go to mass – and even the stories in Gospel we have heard as many times as we have aged – we are still ‘outside’ of the Gospel ‘zone’, with not much really implanted in our lives; mainly because our brain can only concentrate in a short period of time making us easily being distracted during ‘hearing ‘ the Word. As a result, we gather some words, some thoughts here and there which most of the time – not enough to become Foods and Lights for our faith journey. Then if it is followed by a ‘homely becomes sermon’ we walk out the church feeling good that we fulfill an obligation but we will fall back to our “doing business as usual”.
    The same with lector if they only read the text in advance for a smooth speech without letting the Gospel stay in their soul and heart and reflect in their living then how could they convey any truth to the congregation, how could they proclaim that what they read are what have touched
    and transformed any bit of their lives. …And if congregation could not be fulfilled in liturgy of the Word then the flow to liturgy of Eucharist is disrupted.
    My action would be suggesting that lectors in my parish making reading & meditating in Gospel as “food of the day” and on the assignment date they should read & pray with the Gospel in private before they appear proclaiming it out loud in front of the congregation.

  • Katherine Cottingham

    Once again Nick and class, I have missed the Monday cut-off for receiving your comments, which I first learned about last class, and I will do my best to get next week’s blog comments in sooner! Nick, I apologize to you and to the rest of our class.

    At St. Frances Cabrini I am involved in several various ministries, so I have probably been looking more intently at the liturgical settings than it sounds like some of the class (not all of course), but I know I, too, still have a great deal to learn. I have attended Mass at many different churches and Missions, so I have a lot of comparisons. I’ve attended very large Mass Liturgies and very intimate small ones. One of the smallest and very unique ones was in December 2008 the night before a group of us were going to Mexico City for a pilgrimage over the week of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where we encountered a SUPER HUGE Mass Liturgy on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the new Basilica there.
    Anyway, we pilgrims were all going to fail our Sunday obligation, so our pastor celebrated a private Mass just for us the evening before our journey. We all stood right in the Sanctuary in front of the altar! Thinking back on it now, I can imagine some of the earliest Mass celebrations might have occurred also in such a similar and intimate manner.

    At Cabrini, as a lector/commentator, I pay very close attention to every lector. In my mind, I consider the strong as well as the weak attributes of each proclaimer –and sometimes I am moved to share with them my thoughts as I hope others would share with me when it’s my opportunity to proclaim God’s holy Word. Because that’s what it’s really all
    about, right? …supporting and growing together as “one mystical Body of Christ” just as our own human body and mind and soul works together to fight disease and stay healthy as temples for the Holy Spirit.

    Our parish seems to go through cyclic periods when we’re struggling to cover all the bases at Mass… Upon recruiting, often many people say, “Oh, I am not worthy to distribute the Body of Christ!!” Let’s be honest: NO ONE is worthy! Not even the Pope, however, he is sure a lot closer than the rest of us!!! However, Christ wants us to use our hands and feet, especially in the presence of a declining number of priests. Sure, ideally to have four or more
    priests at every Sunday celebration would be heaven, right? But most parishes are fortunate to have one celebrant, so we NEED the Lay to serve as Extra-Ordinary Ministers. At Cabrini we have five Sunday Masses, one of course is the Saturday 5-pm vigil, then Sunday concludes with a one o’clock special liturgy for our beautiful Assyrian community. We have three Jesuit priests who help us out on a regular basis to whom we are very grateful for the loving care they bring to us. Their homilies are always so well prepared and so enriching.
    And we are presently so very blessed with an amazing, constantly self-giving pastor, Fr. Michael, –he has so much insight and education, not to mention passion. Our vicar priest, Fr. Eddie, whom our parish is currently grieving his upcoming transfer, has provided us with such great love and warmth—his homilies are always full of his passion for our salvation and ongoing evangelization.

    Only the past couple of years I have occasionally served as Sacristan at the 5-pm Mass. That is truly an extra mile one goes for the Lord, but I am most glad to do it now and again. I have great admiration for our Daily Sacristan’s devotion.

    As a member of our parish’s “Environment Committee” I have been brought to a great appreciation of everything the eyes of our parishioners take in and I am a bit of nit-picker as I can barely sit undisturbed at Mass when I see the candlesticks not equidistant, or the altar cloth or other Sacred cloths hanging lopsided… I dislike see the white metal folding chairs
    stacked up against the wall beneath the statue of our patroness… and I pick up things when I see them out of line and I throw away St. Jude Xeroxed Novenas placed all over the church! etc. etc.

    Fortunately, I was asked to be a part of the Cabrini Liturgy Committee a few years ago, so I am able to bring my thoughts to the table once a month. And at our last Liturgy meeting it was brought up about the length of our concluding “announcements” which I learned week is “secondary language” and should ideally be kept to a minimum; however, precious few people seem to read our bulletins and if we want to engage people in the “going-ons” of our parish and diocese, sometimes the verbal announcement make a big difference. I am trying to decrease the announcements (every organization and cause wants a spoken announcement!)… and to instead encourage bulletin reading…. but as you know, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink…….

    Nick, sorry I write so long… and I’m not sure I am really posting what you’re ideally looking for here and I know I am too late to get your reply (apologies again!)… but, I do so love the Mass Liturgy! Even when it is less than perfect, it is still somehow perfect because we receive Jesus as we praise and worship our Lord God with all the heavenly angels and saints and as we wait in hope for the coming day of Eternal Perfection. :)

  • Christopher Pacifico

    Catholics, especially the cradle Catholics, really pay attention and understand
    what is going on in the mass, they will be moved and will have a heart, mind
    and soul conversion and even more so during Lent season. My wife and I volunteers for Generation of Faith
    and RCIA. The program starts before
    Advent and ends in Easter time. What
    we’ve noticed is that lent is rich with liturgical symbols, both primary and
    secondary symbols. It is a grand ritual
    celebration starting with Ash Wednesday.
    We Christians are particular with prayers, penance, repentance of sins,
    atonement and self-denial during lent. It
    is during lent that many of the
    faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. Lenten season is heightened in the annual
    commemoration of Holy Week especially starting with the washing of the feet in
    Holy Thursday. During Holy Week we
    recall the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The faithful are more prayerful during this season. They visit and pray at the Stations of the
    Cross. There’s the baptism of the
    converts which is a very beautiful celebration.
    The mass celebrations during Holy Week are extra ordinary. There are so many symbolic things that are

  • Gina Pacifico

    After our class last week, I now have a new perspective about mass, the liturgy of the word, how important it is that the Lectors proclaim the word well and how important each piece to the celebration is. The mass is not just a celebration of the Eucharist and listening to the scriptures from the Bible. I didn’t see it, meaning the whole structure of the mass, as ritual. I used to refer homily as sermon. Maybe because that’s what I heard my parents, aunts and uncles referred it as. I always thought sermon was when priests explained what the readings and the gospel meant and reminded and scolded the congregation as to how people are living their lives. It wasn’t pleasant, nurturing, inspiring, moving and I certainly did not see it as something that met the needs of the community. Sure the homily needs to make us understand how Jesus, God, wants us to live our lives and what we have to do as Christians. But it also needs to help us to open up our hearts and minds and encourage us to do self check – are we living in line with the church teachings and are we spreading the good news as evangelizers of God as our baptism called us to be. I remember during homily (they were referred to as sermon then because they were really sermon) in the Philippines my dad and uncles, basically the men, would go out of the church during homily. They would be smoking, telling jokes – just talking and they came back in after the homily. I guess they were not inspired otherwise they would not have left during homily.

  • Vince Duong

    In last class, Nick
    raised the question, “Do we use rituals in our liturgy?” This
    question had made me pay more attention when I attended last Sunday mass.
    Yes, our liturgy is filled with ritual. We make the sign of the cross and put
    holy water on our head when we enter the church. We also sit when we hear the
    first and second reading and we stand for the Gospel. We sing hymns, Psalms,
    and offer the sign of peace after praying the Our Father. We speak ritual
    responses in dialogue with the priest during the opening and closing rites, in
    response to the sacred scripture readings, and throughout the Eucharistic
    Prayer. We engage in ritual, sacred silence as we pause after the readings, the
    homily, and Holy Communion. We have ritual offertory and Communion processions.
    We receive the Body and Blood of Christ with reverence. When the Mass is ended,
    we all bow our head to receive the blessing and then, we leave in peace to take
    Christ to the world through our witness.

    forms a common culture which connects Catholics from all parts of the world and
    gives identity to successive generations of Catholics throughout the history of
    the Church. In a single instant the ritual allows us to draw a cultural
    connection to fellow believers separated by time or space.

  • Luis Cardoso

    During last week’s meeting Nick Wagner gave us a simple “formula” to create our prayers. It follows this structure: God (You), Blessing (Who), Need (Do), Son/Christ (Through). My example follows: Almighty God, you who bless us with all that is good, we ask that you open the hearts of our family members who have turned away from you, bring doubt into their certainty that they can live without your love and mercy, this we ask through your Son, Our Savior Jesus Christ.
    I need to go to Mass, not out of obligation or duty but from desire. Jesus wants me there and I have to go. A bit of personal history: born and raised Catholic; devout parents; 18 to about 24, one foot in the Church, the other out; adult conversion to Christ and the necessity of being with Christ and fellow brothers and sisters in Mass.

  • Patricia

    The best thing about our Liturgy of the Word in our parish is that it is planned well. Everything always appears to run smoothly even if there are some minor glitches, not enough readers or ministers, or other last minute changes. The Liturgy of the Word has a set procedure for the timing of when to walk up to the ambo, bow to the Book of the Gospels, read, and bow again which all results in a good flow and consistency for all of our masses.

    What is done very nicely in my parish (and probably everyone else’s parish) is how we show the importance of the Gospel reading. The Presider holds up the book of the Gospels for the people to see then he walks to the ambo flanked by the two altar servers holding the two candles while the choir sings the Alleluia. The entire congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel while the candlebearers stand beside the presider. For any visitor, newcomer or parishoner, this clearly distinguishes this moment as leading up to the high point and the climax of the Liturgy of the Word and clearly marks this time as the focal point and time to pay attention.

    Our priests have greatly improved in their homilies over the past few months. We have excellent priests that typically have a very well thought-out homily that relates to the Gospel or the readings and our everyday lives. They usually deliver their homily in about 10-15 minutes. With the priests keeping their homily short, it holds the people’s attention and makes it easier for the people to remember something special they learned from the homily.

    What needs improvement would be more preparation from many of the lectors so that they understand what it is that they are saying. The lectors need to deliver the reading in such a manner that they are not reading but more proclaiming something of great importance. They should be less monotone and robotic in their readings. The lectors should be proclaiming with great joy from the Word of God. They should not always read directly from the book but look out to the whole congregation so the people feel more connected to the reader. They should not speak too quickly. The lectors should try to capture the attention of the congregation so the people are engaged and listening and not reading or writing.

    The announcements at our parish are too long, wordy and redundant and as a result slow the flow of the liturgy. The majority of the beginning and ending announcements are repeated each week and are also listed in the bulletin. The Prayers of the Faithful are longer than the suggested 4-5. The announcements are secondary words and should not be read from the ambo but read from a different location, i.e., the musician’s area. Our parish needs to change the location of where the announcements are read from and also shorten the announcements.

    My sons tell me they can arrive 15 minutes late for mass and still be on time! Of course
    arriving late for mass is never acceptable but what they meant was that the choir finishes singing the “Gloria” fifteen minutes into the mass because the choir sings the refrain of “Glory to God” twice at the beginning, two times in the middle and once at the end. It is beautiful to praise the Lord but this is a pattern the choir has throughout the mass of singing not just one or two verses but singing all of the verses of a song. The choir seems to be over performing in their role and not being transparent because they are bringing the focus and attention to them and away from the altar. This is something the pastor needs to handle… with care.

    It is very interesting that all the Liturgy of the Words celebrated have the same order and readings but can vary greatly depending upon preparation and the four elements of drama: environment, movement, music, word. One celebration can come together so beautifully
    that it is inspiring and uplifting and another can unfortunately be disappointing and frustrating.
    Thank you, Nick, for helping us to know the difference.

  • Bella Arnaldo

    At Church last Sunday, I arrived 15 minutes early to ensure that I ready my mind, body and spirit for mass. Sitting in the front pew, I enjoyed the few minutes of silence before mass. I looked forward specially to the Gospel reading and the Homily. Last week’s reading assignment, I learned that the reading of the gospel “constitutes the high point of the the liturgy of the word” and that the homily is recommended as it is “necessary for nurturing of the Christian life”.
    Although all other parts of the liturgy are equally important, for me the Gospel reading and the Homily holds a special place in the celebration. Although the Gospel readings are sometimes not that easy to understand, a good homilist can bridge the gap of the Gospel from
    only being a part of the liturgy to a food that nourishes our spiritual growth and broadens our understanding of what God is teaching us. I consider a good Homily to be one that taught me something new about God’s words; something that relates to me and my life and one that lets me see God’s teaching in a new light.

  • Karen Pelosi

    Having missed a couple classes, I have been spending a lot of time doing the reading and trying to catch up with everything. I so appreciate this Blog. I realize when we write papers it is between us and the teacher. This Blog is so wonderful, because we all learn so much from each other. I had done some of the initial readings and I can’t tell you how much it helped me in planning my mother’s funeral. It made it easy to work with my family in making sure the Liturgy was everything it was supposed to be. My 10 siblings are all church going, but only a few are involved in their parishes like I am. There were things they wanted to do during the Liturgy that were not appropriate for a funeral Mass. For example, songs they liked that were not at all religious. I suggested using those songs for the reception if they wanted. There were other issues that came up, but they did listen to what I was saying. I was thankful I had been reading about Liturgy, so I could explain it more clearly than I could have before. Everything turned out perfect.

    On Saturdays, I usually attend the 4:00pm Mass at our little “historical” Church in New Almaden. We have 2 churches in our parish. I also attend the 8:30am Mass at our larger Church on Sunday morning. Our pastor is very passionate about making sure that every part of the Liturgy is done properly, Our main problem is with some of the Liturgists. They do not come prepared. To me, it is so distracting that I don’t think most of us pay attention to what they are saying. I end up picking up a book to read it myself, as fast as I can. This should not happen. One other thing that I did mention to our pastor, is when someone is a lector, I believe they should sit in an area near the Ambo. Some sit all the way in the back and we have to watch them walk the length of the Church to the Ambo. This too, to me, is very distracting. Our pastor is reluctant to say things to people, as most of them have been in the parish for years. I feel badly as our pastor does work so hard and wants everything to be done properly.

    I have been asked to be on the Liturgy committee and I am going to join. I can learn a lot being on the committee and hope I can make a difference. Some of these things, I have mentioned, should be brought up in the meetings. If we are all on the same page, it will make it easier for our pastor to confront people and explain what the committee is requesting. It will take the pressure off of him. I know our pastor plays the major role in the celebration and we need to make sure this happens. In our reading is says “In true celebration each sign or sacramental action will be invested with the personal and prayerful faith, care, attention and enthusiasm of those who carry it out.” It is such a prayerful time and it doesn’t take but a few distractions to ruin it for all of us.

    While a lot of what I talked about is negative, they are only observations and not what our parish is about. All in all, I look forward to Mass and attend daily, as often as I can. Starting the day with scripture, theology, prayer and Eucharist is everything to me.

  • Anai

    This passed week I got a better understanding of the difference between primary and secondary words, and that the liturgy is designed to build up to that climatic moment,which is the gospel. Since taking this liturgy class, I have been having conversations about the new information I’ve been learning. As the conversations go on with whoever I’m talking to, there is new insights for both me and the person I am speaking to about the liturgy. I’m very grateful that this is happening and know that this class is already helping me and my ministry out.
    When attending mass there are things that I thought were just pet peeves of mine. An example would be when the choir coordinator goes over new songs with a member during mass. It makes me think that if I notice it how many others do too. From one of the conversations I had, I was told that choir is not there to do a performance and that the choir should be attentive to the mass. That makes sense. Another is, after the homily, which can be up to 15 minutes, is done the assembly claps. I figure that there’s members of the community have been moved in some way or form and claps which creates a chain reaction. And that also makes me think, is the celebrant doing his homilies for Christ or for his own glory. Its not suppose to be about “me,” it supposed to be about the liturgy, the Pascal Mystery (correct me if I’m wrong, please.) Lastly, I learned from our last class that the pulpit is not to be used for announcements. Since the second pulpit was removed both the primary and secondary words have been from the same place. Mass is a beautiful celebration, and I don’t want to seem negative in any way, but the first two situations just irk me.
    I wouldn’t know what my concrete next-action would be, not being a minister of liturgy, I find it a bit difficult. The choir situation, I would think the pastor should take a notice and say something and about the homily, well I’m open to suggestions. But I have started to put the word out with a few ministers regarding the pulpit, just by saying “guess what I learned in class.” Look forward to our next class.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Luis. This is a good example of a You Who Do Through prayer. Thanks for sharing it. And thanks for sharing a little of your story.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Patricia. You have a really good feel for the flow of the Mass and some of the things that can inhibit that flow. I liked that you were able to see both what is working well and what needs some improvement. Thanks for your detailed and careful analysis of your parish liturgy.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Bella. You did a good job connecting your personal experience to the the readings and the teaching of the church. Thanks for sharing this and for your participation in the class.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Karen. Good for you for stepping up to join the liturgy committee. Your parish will benefit from your experience and what you are learning from the class. Keep on observing and noting what can help your parish celebrate better. That’s not negative. In the long run, it’s a blessing to the community.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Anai. You really have a good sense of the difference between primary and secondary language. I think sharing what you know is a great next action. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  • Laura Barker

    “Liturgy is the force/reason change happens to us.” I love how we step off the edge of chaos each week at mass and this class is there to guide us. In answer to the above questions: Three best things about Liturgy of the Word at our parish — I would have to say 1) the homilies are always very stimulating and closely connected to the scripture readings; 2) lectors take their role seriously, are well prepared, and they come from various age groups; 3) liturgy (such as the Our Father) is sometimes sung, particularly at the children’s mass. What makes those elements strong? The priests are extremely well prepared before each mass. They invest a lot of energy and intellectual discipline, especially when preparing the homily. They are able to reach a wide audience on many different levels. They really care about their role and the importance of the mass. Their devotion and discipline is a role model to others participating in the mass. What are the three things that most need improvement? 1) People need to come prepared to mass and not merely passive receptors to the liturgy. They need to read the scripture ahead of mass – their intellect. Parishioners need to prepare their heart for mass — they need to be open to the word of God and the love of God. 2) Depends on the mass but sometimes how the liturgy is performed musically. 3) Spreading the wisdom shared in the homilies so it has a longer shelf life than just that one day. Concrete steps: First, I can read the word ahead of time. I don’t always do that. I can sing. Join the choir once I graduate from ILM! Suggest that the priests homilies be posted on the web site.
    Just a question from last class. I believe Nick said that he didn’t think Bible studies were necessary. Our parish is investing a lot of time and effort to get people into the Word of God and there seems to be a genuine hunger for it. Does anyone else want to comment on that? Or did I misunderstand Nick? Thanks!

  • Daniel Lesieutre

    Great class on the Liturgy of the Word and its depth and importance within the Mass. The point which struck and has stuck with me is “The Word of God is creating!” The active verb ‘creating’ is appropriate over the ‘Word of God is creative.’ What a great insight and a great truth. Have I ever heard this stated explicitly in this way? Maybe, but it struck at a deep level in class relating to liturgy. The prologue of the Gospel of John was quoted: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, …, all things were made through him …”. Then the creation narratives in Genesis were recalled where God speaks and the elements of creation are called into being and created. The deeper realization that hearing the Word of God is ‘creating’ within myself, in others, and within community gifts such as grace, love, mercy, peace, communion, service, … is encouraging and empowering. The Word helps bring to fruition the personal and service gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    My reflection questions (without answers) are: Are my words creating? Do they reflect the Word of God? Are they words of encouragement like Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles? Do they draw others to seek to know God personally and to know God’s Will in their lives?

  • Jeanette

    Like Karen, I missed the last class and reading many of the conversations helped me understand some of what transpired in the class and also opened up some of the assigned readings. I am grateful for joining this class since it is expanding my understanding of Liturgy.

    In our parish the “three best things” about our Liturgy of the Word come from our Lectors :
    1) Our lectors are well trained, and most of those trained lectors adhere to what they have learned about how to proclaim the different types of scriptures of Literary forms from narratives to parables to visions; 2) They reflect reverence in their movement between the pew and the Ambo; 3) They encourage the participation with gestures and body movement.

    To participate as a Lector, new lectors go through a training process to teach them about the different types of Literary Forms and how to proclaim each, along with time before a microphone in front of peers who provide tips to improve. There is also direction and education on the movement between the pew and the Ambo, when and where to reverence the Altar in the transition, how to lead the Universal Prayer and engage the assembly in response, sung or spoken. How to process in with The Book of the Gospels, and process out with the Priest and other ministers. During the year there are two additional trainings all lectors attend to review areas needing improvement and to address any changes.

    One area for improvement for Lectors would be how to address those lectors who are “aging out” yet desire to continue no matter what. When a person is no longer able to proclaim so that the assembly can follow along, hear, or when a lector seems to lose their place (for a longer time than would be expected) would indicate it is time to retire or be gently encouraged to another ministry where the changes in their life do not effect their participation, such as the Lay Pastor Ministry, Stephens Ministry, etc.

    I am working with the Student Lectors from the school and one concrete change I am working on with the Teachers is to change their mindset that these students are NOT “readers”. By calling them “readers” they reduce the importance of the Word of God that they are to bring alive to the assembly. Whenever I am addressing the teachers I am working to call all of them Student Lectors, always saying they Proclaim the Word of God.

  • Jocelyn

    The class last week on the Liturgy of the Word gave me a lot of insights. Just as Christ is present in the Eucharist, Christ is present in the Liturgy of the Word and that is why it is very important that lectors and priest presiders be able to proclaim the Word with utmost reverence and clarity. When one is proclaiming the Word, there must be transparency, that is making the listener feel that Jesus is present and speaking to us.
    The structure of the Liturgy of the Word (Vatican II) on Sundays are as follows: 1. First Reading (from the Old Testament); 2. Responsorial Psalm (preferably sung); 3. Second Reading (from the New Testament); 4. Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia); 5. Gospel; and 6. Homily. All of these should be proclaimed in the ambo.
    I am a lector in our parish and I can say that we have been given proper training and guidance to proclaim the Word. We are given a lot of resources through workbooks, online links, and actual practices. When one is assigned to read on a Sunday, our preparations start one week before by reading, reading aloud, reflecting on the readings and understanding the readings to be able to know when to pause and what to emphasize. I always pray to the Holy Spirit to make my voice be and instrument to speak to the hearts of the congregation.
    Last Sunday, I attended mass in Napa and I was very surprised to see that they have followed all the actions recommended in the Liturgy of the Word we have discussed in class. Even the Gospel Acclamation was sung on the ambo where the readings and the psalm were proclaimed. In our parish the cantor sings the Gospel Acclamation in the ambo by the choir. I just do hope that down the line, we can be able to change this, thus fulfilling the structure of the Liturgy of the Word all be done in the ambo.

  • Klarissa dela Fuente

    Last Wednesday, Nick told us a story about a lector who was a fairly good reader/speaker, but not one of the best. When he was not picked to lector for one of the more largely attended Masses, he asked Nick why that was. Afterwards, the lector worked hard to improve his reading/speaking skills and became one of the best.

    Oftentimes, we find it good enough to have lectors who can read the words out loud for people to understand. At Queen of Apostles, I do not believe we have any lector trainings or faith sharing meetings for them to grow in. These opportunities should be made available in order for our lectors to be transformed spiritually, and thus the parish community will be inspired to transform spiritually.

    I will make it a point to affirm the lectors when they are transparent, understandable, and moving in the way they read out loud. This is one step towards strengthening the liturgy of the word at my parish.

  • Luis Urias

    When we think about the liturgy of the word we think about the two Readings, the Gospel and the Homily. These can be called the primary words of God. The secondary words of God are
    the words related to the logistical aspects of the Mass, like the announcements. The homily is almost always connected to the Gospel reading proclaimed by the presider, the Father, pastor of the parish.

    It is the lector and the presider (inspired by the Holy Spirit) that deliver the word of God to the congregation and their delivery and/or presentation should be transparent, in that what is received is the message or concept of the words, which should inspire reflection as to how
    it applies to the individual/receiver. When the message is received, the congregation will actually feel the presents of God, delivered by the Holy Spirit. The presents of God is not only in the Eucharist but is in the word.

    We also learned that in order for the congregation to receive these holy gifts, that the other elements of liturgy need to flow and should be performed with God inspired perfection and how we get there is by practice, practice and practice; not just by the lector and presider but by the Ushers, Greeters, Choir, Cantor, Alter Servers and all who serve to bring those in the pews closer to the alter of God. If one of these elements fail, it puts more weight of the other elements of liturgy to deliver the grace of God.

    As servants of God we are to master the basics and to strive for perfection. It is said quite simply in Ephesians 6:7 “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”

    Let us continue to do our part to help build the kingdom of God.

  • Joseph Vu

    Liturgy of the Word.

    Again, this is a very interesting class and it helped me to know more about the important of the Liturgy of Word in the Catholic Mass. I understand that the Liturgy of the Word is the first major part of the Mass and it begins with the First Reading 1 and concludes with the Homily. Today, I believed still have many people weighed the Liturgy of the Word is less important than the Liturgy of the Eucharist when they must go to see mass. Therefore, they come to mass late in order to avoid the Liturgy of the Word. Some important points of the Liturgy of the Word I learnt in this class are:

    – The Liturgy of the Word is the point in the liturgy when God calls us to faith. Through the proclamation of the Scriptures and the homily, God speaks to us as a community, asking us to be faithful to his word. In the Readings, God speaks to his people and nourishes their spirit; Our Lord Jesus Christ is present through his word.

    – The reading of the Gospel is the high point of the Liturgy of the Word. The gospel, along with the other biblical readings, is the living Word of God.

    – After reading the Gospel, normally the presider/priest will preach we call as the homily. The purpose of the homily is to help us better understand how our faith shapes the way we see the world and the way we act in the world. The homily serves as a bridge between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, showing us how we put the faith we have received into action.

    – Finally, the Liturgy of the Word requires some silence to allow the Word of God to echo in our hearts. Silence is especially important after the proclamation of the Scripture readings and the preaching of the homily.

  • Semi Gurbiel

    This class is opening my eyes to a clearer view of the mass. Before taking this class I had complained about some of mi parish lectors of not doing a good job, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. Now I see that I was not so wrong. Now I know that there is no transparency in some lectors, but thanks God we have some lector that are absolutely awesome. The thing here is; that I am not involve in liturgy and even though, I know who directs them, I don’t really talk to him, so I don’t know how to approach the issue of providing more training to the ones who really need it without making them feel being judged.

    I liked the question raised in class about the connection between the first and the second reading of the word. It was interesting to find out that they are not always connected. That on week days the readings may not be in accordance with the Gospel; but that on Sundays mostly the first reading and the gospel have to connect, but overall the Gospel and the homily have to make connection. I have not realized this until now. I like to say that our priest is a very good homilist. The way he connects the gospel with the homily using examples of real life, and sometimes personal experience, gives you a chance to see the transparency of his talks and actions.

  • Luis Mariano Estrada

    On October 14 the class shared aspects that called their attention from the assigned readings.

    The Structure of the Liturgy of the Word was discussed
    Old Testament
    New Testament
    Acclamation of the Gospel

    The moment of the Gospel that is being proclaimed, is connected to the Homily and the Homily is influenced by the Holy Spirit.

    Nick also explained that the Homily can be from:
    The readings
    The prayers of the day
    The Feast of the Day

    We also touched on the 3 Cycles, (A,B &C)

    I learned that Christ is equally present in the gathered assembly, In the presence of the priest, In the Word, and in the Eucharist.

    The highlight of the class in my opinion was when Nick said, every time the Word is proclaimed the Word of God which is God, creates. Therefore, Creation happens.
    Cool stuff is created. Healing, mercy, evangelization, forgiveness, thanksgiving, etc.

  • John

    What an eventful and insightful evening!

    As a lector, I got to appreciate while being extremely thankful to the textbook readings we had that were focused on the Liturgy of the Word. Many of the textbook readings gave us the foundation and understanding of the Liturgy of the Word including what areas we can and can not be flexible with. For example, during Sunday Mass, the Gospel Reading and the Homily is essential. The Responsorial Psalm is strongly encouraged to be sung. The readings are to be done at the Ambo. And ideally, the altar should be fixed.

    During our class this past evening, one of the areas that stood out to me was when Marcy Golebiewski pointed out an awfully confusion section in the “Lectionary for Mass” #68. Although it took a number of us to read and re-read the paragraph, it was beautiful when our class understood it. From my perspective, I understood that it is wise not to have Sunday Mass during ordinary time to not have “theme” which would used to facilitate the homilies. Rather, it should be the readings during Sunday Mass used for the “genuine conception of liturgical celebration, which is always the celebration of the mystery of Christ” to organically allow the Presider to proclaim a homily meeting the needs of today and the community.

    Lastly, one thing that will continue to guide my mind and heart about liturgy is truly understanding the definition of a “flow.” For a Sunday Mass, we gather, tell a story (word, logos, to fully program that God is with us), give thanks (eucharist, bread and wine, communion, sacrifice), and sent on a mission. If there’s anything that interferes with the flow such as a sales pitch from a visiting organization or a four minute catechesis, we have to ask ourselves if it really “flows.” The other portion to ensure that things flow is between a ritual language and a non-ritual language. As I understood it, everything in the liturgy is (or should be) a ritual language to maintain the flow … and in my opinion, maintain a communion among our members.

  • Lee Campbell

    I enjoyed the one on one discussion on what we were drawn to from our reading. Then expanding it to my classmates and their observations. This opened up to me how it moves each of is in different ways. Physical, spiritual, ritual, emotional. I was first thinking about the physical i.e. chalice. Working with metal myself it has always amazed me the craftsmanship of each vessel. Then you mentioned the book of the Gospel and why it is so big and heavy. Because it has weight. After all it is the word of God. Then how the word is proclaimed and keeping us in a spiritual focus. Through the readings of the Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, Alleluia (which I overlooked), Gospel and Homily. This continuous ritual which God is present. I went to daily mass this morning and really concentrated on how everything flowed. It was awesome seeing the continuity of the celebration. The continuous ritual the constant prayer. I see how important that is to maintain. Non-ritual events no matter how well intended break up the prayer. At the end of mass I felt different knowing how it was supposed to be. I do see why you don’t agree with it being broken up for announcements, videos, catechisms or, whatever. My parish does these non-ritual things from time to time. This insight has given me a different perspective.

  • Greg Ripa

    Over and over again, the liturgy documents stress the importance of the homily so that the Word might be broken open for the assembly in their daily lives. The homily should take into account both the Word and the particular needs of the assembly. The homily allows the assembly to celebrate the liturgy more deeply, fully, and faithfully while also forming the assembly to be Christian witnesses in the world.

    This seems especially pertinent to this past weekend’s liturgies and homilies. There was ample opportunity to discuss how the Gospel, the Beatitudes, relates to the particular needs of our country at this time, the events happening around the nation, and so forth. I felt that solutions to these events need not have been proposed but there should have at least been acknowledgement of the events. After talking with some friends of mine, what saddened me was the lost opportunity that some priests took because there was not mention of current events, no relating the events to the Gospel, and instead, there was preaching about the Beatitudes in a vacuum, if the Beatitudes were even mentioned because in one friend’s instance, it wasn’t.

  • Greg Ripa

    I also think that due to the stressing of the importance of the homily, almost every liturgy should have a homily or homily-like reflection given by a priest, deacon, or layperson depending upon the specific liturgy. Some examples of liturgies that this might be applicable to include Lauds, Vespers, communion services, house blessings, etc.

  • Jane

    I enjoyed the class discussion last week. The approach of 1:1, then taking the topics to the larger group was helpful for me. Being able to voice an insight or question in a 1:1 allowed for discussion, clarification or perspective that can be pondered and internalized before sharing with a broader audience. On all the topics discussed it was a lively conversation that I wished could have gone on longer. It seemed 9:30pm crept up on us pretty fast.

    Nick closed by posing a question that has rattled around in my brain all week. First he stated “could children be Lectors?” My answer is, yes, children can be lectors (as long as they meet the same requirements as anyone else for the ministry). But the question that rolled around in my brain is “should children be Lectors?” This gets a lot trickier. Beyond the basic requirements needed to serve in the ministry a child needs to be able to read well; but after that it gets a little grayer. Is the child articulate, audible, and tall enough to be seen at the Ambo? Do they have a comprehension of the Word and what it is telling us so that they can convey this to the community with their voice? Are they composed enough to be able to go with flow, especially when it isn’t exactly according to plan? I think children have a harder time with all of these things but so do some adults. It shouldn’t shut them out of serving. Children are children of God just like adults and are called to discipleship and ministry just like adults are. Lastly, I say children require mentoring but so do adults. One thing I keep asking for in my parish is Lector training – and right now all our Lectors are adults! I’ll close this with a personal experience. We had for a while a boy around junior high school age who wanted to be a lector. He had all the abilities I’ve mentioned and did a decent job of proclaiming. There was feedback from some parishioners that he was too young to be a lector. I wanted to say to them, “You get up there and see all those faces looking at you and see how well you do it.” It isn’t as easy a job as some people think but he did it and he put his whole heart into it. God bless him for getting up there at that Ambo.

  • Marcy Golebiewski

    For this post, I will take on answering Nick’s question, “Should children be lectors?” Presuming, that the children are of the age of reason and have met the requisite sacraments and training on how to proclaim as lector and understand the context of the readings. I think it is appropriate and fitting that they represent the community especially if it is the Children’s Mass or a liturgy like First Communion. Similarly, Young Adults should be lectors when possibly at the Young Adults Mass. We have a children’s mass at 9 a.m. on Sundays and a Young Adults mass at 5p.m. on Sundays at Queen of Apostles.

  • Marcy Golebiewski

    In this week’s bulletin at Queen of Apostles, Father Rey Sarmiento contributed a piece titled, “Everything You Always Wanted to Ask about Your Faith but Were Afraid to Ask”. This pieces talked about being distracted during mass and missing what the readings were about. This title caught my eye due to our focus on The Liturgy of the Word in class last week and discussions about active participation in the mass….which requires paying attention! In the piece, Fr. Rey talks about the need to be mindful of what is that we are participating and reflecting and meditating on the readings ahead of time. He encouraged the reader to join in singing the opening hymn to channel the mind to the mass. “Pay careful attention of the mystery as it unfolds. Listen carefully to the prayers said by the priest, the readings proclaimed by the lectors, the gospel proclaimed by the priest, and the homily. What might the Holy Spirit be saying to me right here, right now?”

  • Anthony Ordona

    Great class discussion last week. I got a lot out of the discussion regarding interruptions such as announcements, videos, etc. At St. Thomas, we have had an increasing frequency of presentations over the past month, three weeks ago, i gave a 4 minute talk on a upcoming social ministry project and this Sunday, it was about the ADA. Nick, you brought up an excellent point of view, that such events ruin the flow of liturgy. After dwelling on it, i found it spot on. I want to talk to our pastor, Fr. Mercer and talk to him about possibly switching presentations to our website or better yet, a supplement in our bulletin. I also got a lot out of the discussion on children being lectors. At our youth mass, the lectors tend be of middle school age, the majority of them do rehearse the readings but i am not sure about their understanding. Overall, i think their participation is appropriate for a youth mass but would wait until their confirmation to let them read at other masses.

  • Paty R.

    This past weekend I had the opportunity to apply what was discussed in class about the flow and the ritual and non-ritual language. We have a kind of template for what we call the “Introduction to the Mass”, it’s a little choppy, one paragraph is ritual and the next one is non -ritual. Because we should inform the community about the cold and flu season adaptations I could change the order to improve the flow. Some of the parishioners noticed the difference, so I had an immediate feedback telling me that the introduction had much more sense now, even though this was a very long one.
    During the whole week, I have been pondering the question Nick made us at the end of the class: should children be Lectors? I have been torn between the yes and the no.
    My no is because among other things, as Nick mentioned before we need to know the basics, and I believe children are learning the “basics” of the Mass, so we should be helping them with that. But…again, some of the adult Lectors need to go to the basics too.
    My yes is because for the school Masses and children’s Masses, we have had children as Lectors and they did it very well.
    The Directory for Masses with Children (22,24,47) not only allow, but encourage children participation as Lectors. The GIRM does not mention any minimum age, only says that a layperson can be commissioned as Lector and should be suited to carrying out this function and be carefully prepared (101). The Introduction to the Lectionary goes a little deeper about the spiritual and technical preparation (55). So technically speaking as long as children fulfill these requirements they can be Lectors.
    I think this is one of those cases- as Dianna said- that we need, to not only check the hierarchy of the documents, but to see to whom they are directed and if they are reflecting the needs, customs and traditions of the that particular community.

  • John


  • John

    I’m glad my 1:1 with you went well. :)

  • Stella Lal

    As we discussed in the class and as Nick pointed out, the primary purpose of liturgy is to worship God as a community and consists of the components of beginning, middle and end, of sharing the story and being sent forth. The goals is to stay true to liturgical aspects and not distract/dilute it with unimportant non-liturgical components. To meets it objective, there is a need for liturgy to flow smoothly like a ballet or a movie, where everyone (almost) is fully engaged without being conscious of its technical aspects.

    However, a realty still exists, (I guess I will not get an A+ for bringing this up); that for a number of parishioners the only form of worship or prayer life is going for Sunday Mass and often as spectators. And, the only time when information can be passed on to them is at Mass.

    The challenge is:
    How do we engage these Sunday Church goers and get them to participate more deeply.

    I understand there will be a number of boiler plate answers to these. However, there is a need to go beyond that.

    There needs to be a dialog; a real communication with Church goers which includes listening to them and educating them.

    I state this, in spite of the fact that the Liturgy at my parish is one of the best.

  • miguel guzman

    Hello Nick, another great class. we talked about the Order of Mass.
    How Liturgy flows through the Mass..How, the Procession is led by the Priest and Deacon and other members of the Church. who bow to the Altar as a sign of Reverence After making the sign of the Cross together, the Priest and the Community greet one another. We acknowledge the presence of God. As the first dialogue between the Priest and the Community, the greeting and the response should be warm and reverent. The Music is used to reflect the tone of the Celebration. The Music should be easy for the Community to recognize and remember and understand what they are singing. How, the First and Second Readings should mesh together. The purpose of the Story = Is that it is the Living Word of Christ. When we do the Eucharist, Bead and Wine are a Sacramental Symbol. They are the elements for the Eucharist that we recognize. All are welcome at the Table of Christ We give thanks to God. . Before the final Blessing, Announcements are made.They should be short and informative to the Community, not a 4 minute video, that could be long and disruptive, for they can ruin a Mass.The presence of Christ is fully present. That creates an atmosphere suitable to the Mass. We talked about what is Ritual Language = Our responses, Prayer, It’s what you say every time, Structure, the flow of Mass. What is not Ritual Language = Announcement to a bare minimum, Reflection. Breaking the Ritual Language. = Greeting of Visitors. It breaks the Ritual flow, it disrupts the flow. The question of Children being Lectors, for me the answer is yes, they can be Lectors. .As, long as they’ve taken their Sacraments, to be able to understand and comprehend what is being read. To speak loud and keep the flow, so the Community is involved. I feel they can participate in a First Communion, or a Young Adults Mass. Of course, there should be a full practice. They should have the Guidance of a Youth Minister to be there with hem.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi John. This is a very good summation of our discussion. You have captured the key points, and you have a good grasp of the importance of liturgical flow. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Lee. It’s great to hear that you were able to observe the flow and the continuity of the celebration at weekday Mass. It really does make a difference. Thanks for giving us your insight on this.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Greg. I like your emphasis on the importance of the homily and the benefit of it at liturgies other than Mass. As you point out, this weekend was an especially important moment. And, apparently, one that was missed in many parishes, according to my Facebook feed. We still have work to do.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Jane. Terrific reflection on the role and qualifications of lectors. I think the role of reader is one of the most important — and most under-trained — in the liturgy. I hope you will keep advocating for lector training. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Marcy. What an excellent reflection by Fr. Rey! I hope you hug him next time you see him. I really like the line: “Pay careful attention to the mystery as it unfolds.” If we all did that, liturgy would improve dramatically. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Anthony. I’m glad to hear our discussion about interruptions was fruitful. I do think that some amount of this is necessary. There are some aspects of parish business that just cannot be handled in any other venue. But, in my opinion, we make that exception far to often and with very little reflection on the downsides. I hope your talk with your pastor goes well.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Paty. I’m very happy to hear that what we are discussing in class is already having an impact in your parish. Good job! And thanks for your insight about how to apply the liturgical regulations of the church. That’s always important to keep in mind.

  • Nick Wagner

    Hi Stella. I think it is very important to keep in mind the reality you point out. Many folks do come to Mass as spectators. I think it is a huge pastoral challenge to engage these folks, not just in Mass, but in their own faith development. There are lots of resources available for this (google Leisa Anslinger and Bill Huebsch), but it takes some disciplined effort by parish leaders to make it happen.

  • Marcy Golebiewski

    Thanks Nick. Fr. Rey is still stuck in Vietnam trying to get back to the U.S. He went there in November to officiate at his Father’s funeral. Unfortunately, his green card was too close to expiration. Everyone, please pray for Fr. Rey’s return. He is one of our newer priests, having graduated from seminary within the last five years. Our diocese needs him back!