All through childhood, into my teens, and even through college, I have been on stage. I danced for many years before beginning to pursue theatre instead. I performed in various children’s theatre productions and community theatre productions. I even studied theatre in college and chose to make that my major. I performed in musicals, plays, and a few small commercials. My roles ranged from chorus to leading parts. I taught theatre classes to children in a wide variety of venues and for varying age groups and experience levels. Once I met my husband, I decided I wanted to focus on our family and life together rather than pursuing theatre. Because of this decision, I haven’t been on stage in about two years. And despite how much I enjoyed it, I have found that I don’t miss it. Perhaps at some point in my life I will perform again or will again teach theatre, but for right now, I am happy with my decision and truly feel this is where God wants me to be.
When we moved over the summer and joined our new church, I wanted to volunteer in some way. I decided to help out with the Confirmation classes but still wanted to help out with the Mass in some way. We are called to use our God given talents to give back to the Lord and so I decided that with my background in theatre, perhaps I could use that gift to give back through proclaiming the readings during Mass. I signed up to help out, went through the training session with our Priest, and quickly began being assigned to read during Mass.
It was surprising to me when I found myself so nervous to do my first reading! I felt so nervous that Sunday morning. I was nervous even as we got to church and took our seats. When the time came to do my reading, I went up front and began to proclaim God’s Word. I felt such peace while I was reading. I was so relieved! I sat back down with my husband who whispered that I had done a good job. After Mass our priest told me I had done nicely and several parishioners expressed similar sentiments. I thought to myself, now that I have done it once, I won’t be so nervous the next time!
Wrong. Since that first time I proclaimed the readings a few months back, I find myself feeling the same nervous-like feeling before each reading. And I again find myself at peace during the reading itself and afterwards.
I began thinking about this. I practiced, prayed, and certainly have been in front of people before. Why have I been feeling so nervous? Just because I haven’t been on stage in awhile? Then I thought of something else. The peace I felt while proclaiming. I thought of the people in the congregation watching and listening intently as I proclaimed the Lord of the Lord.
Then I thought back to the shows I performed in. I thought of the people in the audience who were there just for a good time. I thought of the lines I would rehearse and rehearse until they were memorized. One of the exercises we would do to memorize lines would be to repeat them so many times that you could recite all your lines without any thought whatsoever. We could go through our lines at lightning speed with no emotion attached or thinking involved. The purpose of this was so that during the show, we didn’t have to think about our lines, we could just act and it would come as second nature. And if we messed up a line here or there, we could fake our way out of it and no one would know the difference.
And that right there is exactly what makes it different. Proclaiming the readings in Mass is only similar to acting in that you are in front of a group of people and are speaking. But it is so much different. So much more. When I am doing a reading at Mass, I am not reading the words of a playwright. I am proclaiming the very Word of God. I am not simply reciting lines and acting excited as a performance to an audience who has paid money to be entertained. I am reading the Word of the Lord, carefully, and with His Spirit guiding me. Any emotion needs to come from Him and through me, to reach out to the congregation. I may have experience in performing, but this is not a performance.
God sends His Spirit to us in many ways. He calls us to many things. I could have signed up to be a greeter, to sing in the choir where I could blend in with others, or various other ways to participate in Mass. But I felt that I was called to proclaim the readings during Mass and I think now I know why. I have been given the gift of performing. I may not be the best actor around, and I may not pursue it anymore, but nevertheless, I am comfortable in front of people. I can speak clearly and loud enough for everyone to hear me. And I believe God was calling me to use these gifts in the Holy Mass. But more than that, I believe that I was called to begin proclaiming because through the nerves I felt preparing, through the peace I felt while reading, I gained a greater appreciation for His Word. I realized the reason behind my nerves is perhaps a small realization of how great our God is to speak His Word to us. Maybe it wasn’t a “stage-fright” type nervousness as I had thought at first, but instead a strong desire to adequately proclaim His Word so that the people may hear His message. I realized that the peace I felt while reading was truly His Spirit working through me. It was as if God was saying, “Do not be afraid, I am here.” It is God through His most Holy Spirit who speaks through me and sends me His peace so that I may share His Word with the church. His Word is Holy and should be treated as such. With this new experience, I feel I am truly seeing just how wondrous His Word can be. Our God truly is awesome and amazing and we are so blessed to have His love, His guidance, and His Word in our lives.