How does the lector at Mass know what to say about the readings?

Question: How does the person doing the reading know to say “letter from Paul” when in the prayer book it just says Corinthians, etc.? I’d like to do the readings, but I don’t know these details.


Sister Clara Zhang Jin Ping serves as a lector during Mass. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Sister Clara Zhang Jin Ping serves as a lector during Mass. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Answer: Lectors who are doing the readings from the Bible at Mass read them from a book called the lectionary. The lectionary is formatted to show the lectors which Bible passages to proclaim in which order on which day. Printed above each reading is the preface, for example, “A letter from Paul to the Corinthians.” After the Bible passage the lectionary prints a conclusion such as, “The Word of the Lord” or “The Gospel of the Lord.”

If you are interested in doing the readings at Mass, simply approach the priest or any of the ministers whom you have seen doing readings and let them know you are interested. They will probably be thrilled to add a new voice to their ministry! Someone will arrange for you to have a training or orientation session to make sure you understand the procedures for the lectors at that particular church and to teach you how to find the correct readings on your assigned day. When it doubt, ask, because someone involved in ministry at your parish will be able to help you.

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