The Order of Reader

The Lectorate -- the 2nd of the Minor Orders

The lector is a reader. Readings from the sacred books formed part of the divine services even in the Old Testament. In the Christian Church such readings were incorporated from the very beginning into the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery. The first part of holy Mass constituted the so-called Mass of the catechumens, or instruction service, for those who prepared for baptism and were not allowed as yet to assist at the whole Mass. The instructions were based on Holy Scripture, and the reader would read the text. 

It must be remembered that the ancient manuscripts were not as easy to read as a modern book. No distinction was made between small letters and capitals, words were not clearly separated, punctuation marks not used. Reading, therefore, required careful preparation in order to be done correctly, fluently, and distinctly. 

It seems that in the beginning capable laymen took care of this reading, but at a very early date readers were ordained; even boys possessing the necessary knowledge were admitted to this order. As the Mass of the catechumens lost its original significance, and reading at the divine services was taken over more and more by members of the major orders, readers began to form the schola cantorum and took care of the singing, probably before the seventh century. 

The rite mentions as another duty of lectors the blessing of bread and first fruits. The faithful as well as the catechumens would bring along these things to be blessed, and since the catechumens were dismissed before the beginning of the Mass of the faithful, it was convenient that the lector should perform the blessing before they left. Canon 1147 reaffirms this privilege of the lector. It is the only case where a cleric in minor orders is authorized to perform a blessing. 

At the present time it is customary in seminary chapels that a reader sings the Epistle during a simple High Mass; but the singing of the Epistle at the solemn High Mass is reserved to the subdeacon. Readers, however, sing the prophecies on Holy Saturday and the Saturday before Pentecost. 

If the lectorate is conferred during Mass, this is done: 
Saturday before Passion Sunday: after the Kyrie. 
Holy Saturday: after the Gloria. 
Saturdays of Ember weeks: after the second lesson. 
On other days, if the Mass has Gloria: after the Gloria; if the Mass has no Gloria: after the Kyrie. 


The Rite

The Call. The bishop, with his miter on, sits on the faldstool before the middle of the altar. The archdeacon bids the candidates come forward; the notary reads their names: 

Each one answers, adsum, goes before the altar and kneels, holding the burning candle in his right hand.

The Instruction. When all are assembled, the bishop address them as follows:

Here the candles are laid aside. 

The Bestowal of the Office. The bishop now presents to the candidates the book containing the lessons, that is, a missal, breviary, or bible. The ordinands touch it with the right hand, while he says: 

Prayer. The bishop rises and prays:  The bishop, with miter off, turns to the altar and says:  Turning again to the candidates kneeling before him, the bishop prays: