worth the sacrifice

So, after all my worrying about my voice, I’ve strained it again. I was the lector at this morning’s Mass and I had to push myself so I could project on the mike and not sound so shaky or high-pitched. It was worth it, though.

I first became a lector approximately 7 years ago, when I was at my lowest point, emotionally and morally. That was during my worst depression and when I was doing the worst things I’ve ever done to myself and others. Somehow, I forced myself to go to Mass every week with my parents, even if I felt numb. Then one Sunday, Father Ray was talking about stewardship about sharing our time, talent, and treasure. For once, his words were callling me to think and reflect. These little beige cards and golf pencils went around the pews in baskets. I reached for them, read the list of ministries on the card, and checked off “lector.” My mother was flabbergasted. She asked if I knew what I was getting myself into. I said no but that I would see what would happen. Just like that, I started talking to God again, like I had done as a little girl. That Sunday, all those years ago, I decided that any sacrifice of time or energy to the church would be worthwhile.

We had a lector training a few weeks later. I was scared. I wondered if the church wouldn’t collapse on me. I thought of all the choices I was making, of what a hypocrite I was. But I joined all those lectors that evening, most of them people I have known since I was six years old when we first moved to our parish. I sat with Mrs. East*(not her real name), who was my third grade catechism teacher with her husband. She was so proud and she told everyone around us that I had been her student and how she knew that I would someday minister in the church. She had seen my potential and my love of Scripture. I smiled uneasily, my anxiety increasing with each minute. Every lector had their turn at the microphone. One by one, they walked up the aisle, bowed toward the altar, stepped up to the ambo and proclaimed the Word. I was the last to go. With a lump in my throat and a thumping heart, I slowly made my way towards the Book. I took a deep breath and began to read from Leviticus. It was a passage about lepers and how they must proclaim themselves “unclean, unclean.” The voice that uttered those words was my own and yet not. That voice came from some place larger than me and my human failings. As I returned to my seat, I saw that the others were looking at me, stunned. The trainer had no comments for me, other than to commend me on my emotion and power. My ministry as a lector had begun.

Lectoring keeps me connected to the Church in a special way. When I proclaim the Word, I open myself up as a vessel. I turn myself over to God. This morning, I took a hot shower, hoping the steam would open my throat. I drank glasses of water. I sprayed Chloraseptic in my throat. I did not pray or sing aloud. It didn’t matter. It was obvious I still have laryngitis. But once I was standing before the congregation, I felt at peace. I marveled at the images of wild animals enjoying the water in the desert in the reading from Isaiah. I got teary-eyed as Paul proclaimed to the Philippians how he would leave his past behind and focus on his future with Christ in his life. The Word worked through me and in me. My voice will heal. I will heal.

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