Monday, October 23, 2006

USCCB: No one should be reading along in the Mass, unless they can't hear

One thing some of us eventually learn - about learning, and comprehension - is that each of us is biased toward's listening or reading/visuals when being taught. Other's don't even give it much thought. I'm sensitive to the issue due to training I had as a trainer with my company. I am employeed in computer aided design engineering and they were looking for volunteers who knew about the product being designed, as well as the software, so I did my three year stint in the training department. It was a real blessing.

What does this have to do with a document put out by the USCCB? Well, the document in question is called: Hearing the Word of God. Now, since the USCCB is rigorously clamping down on anyone quoting from any of its texts, including the New American Bible, the Catechism and the GIRM I'll have to explain the issue and leave it up to you to read this relatively short document in the link I just provided. I take exception to the paragraph in which the Committee on the Liturgy says, in reference to those who read missals or other aids at Mass, that only the hearing impaired should be reading during Mass. They reason that we are suppose to be listening with reverence, and this cannot be done if we are reading at the same time. Properly, they encourage studying the readings prior to Mass so that we can listen.

This is all well and good, but does not take into account that people learn - including their faith - differently. A pretty good summary can be found on this page pertaining to learning styles (great for homeschooling parents to learn about). They group it this way (and you can hit the web-link to see descriptions of each). These are not disabilities, but just as normal as being left-handed or right-handed.
  • The Visual/ Verbal Learner
  • The Visual/ Nonverbal Learner
  • The Auditory/ Verbal Learner
  • The Tactile/ Kinesthetic Learner
I'm going to focus on the first and the third, because it is not practical, at Mass, to put up slideshows and not have any words in the liturgy. Nor is it practical to have a "hands on" approach to the liturgy (even though it seems this already takes place in some parishes today).

Now, each of us is predominate in one of these and, to a lesser extent, we can have traits in the others. Give "Jim" verbal directions from point A to point B, with 10 turns and he only needs to hear it once, and he's there. "Jim" is an Auditory learner. Give me those verbal directions, and I'm lost after the first turn and must ask 10 more times. Give me a map to look at, and it's burned into my memory for a very long time. Anyone entering the military who is given a list of verbal commands, then finds himself fumbling and trying to recall it all, can understand this. Then again, he may be the best map reader in the company.

As an aside, I fit the USCCB's criteria for person's qualified to be reading during the Mass. For those who do not know, I am hearing impaired with sensorineural hearing loss. In 1991, I was found to have a 10% hearing loss in both ears. About 3 years later, it was up to 30%. About 4 years ago, I was tested again, more thoroughly, and it was a 50% loss in both ears. Technically, I should be wearing hearing aids and have them, but only do so in certain conditions. This means, I have trouble hearing at Mass. I will often follow along in my Magnificat when I cannot be close enough to speaker.

But, I did not get my Magnificat because of my hearing problem. I got it after having confessed to inattentiveness at Mass - not listening to the readings. But, no matter how hard I try, it just doesn't happen for me. My confessor solved the problem for me when he recommended the Magnificat or some other source for following along. It aids me in reverently listening to the readings, which I can then "hear" in my heart and soul.

Hence, I hope the USCCB will revisit this issue and consider that for some people, the most reverent way of listening is with a Missal or a Magnificat in hand.

If this disturbs someone else's ability to concentrate, then perhaps they should consider where their focus is during the Mass, or get a missal of their own so they don't notice what someone else is doing during the readings.

The last thing I want to hear about is "uniformity" during the readings. It never ceases to amaze me how some will use this argument in favor of banning something like allowing people to kneel, sit, or stand following reception of Communion, or prohibiting some from reading along. I can't think of a better label than "rigid" for such applications.


Anonymous said...

So why DON'T you wear your hearing aids? They are nothing to be frightened of, as you have discovered on the odd occasion you DO wear them!

Diane said...

I wore my hearing aids all day, every day for a month. I tolerated nearly intolerable itching that I was told would go away with time, and that some itching was expected. Then, it got completely unbearable. It took six weeks for the itching to stop after they were taken out "for a rest". It is not known if it is an allergy to the material, or a fungus infection due to moisture build up (hearing aids don't allow the ear to "breathe" that well, and do make the inner ear sweat in some people, such as myself). After the itching ceased, I tried again using solutions provided by the doctor, to no avail. Now, I put them in when needed for short durations.

Hopefully, that answers your question.

Anonymous said...

I went to the USCCB link and read the document on listening to the readings at Mass instead of reading along in a missalette. Key word in the whole document for me was the authorship: COMMITTEE on Liturgy. It has all the earmarks of corporate committee work, doesn’t it—out in left field and divorced from the reality in the trenches? My experience with the banning of the missalettes at my parish, which was explained as necessary for our own good, and given the very reasons stated in the committee document, was that I and most of my friends with toddlers or small children at the time missed half the readings on a good Sunday. Now I’m firmly entrenched in middle age and I find that exchanges between my husband and me in close quarters are frequently followed by, "What?" with hilarity following clarity as one or the other of us says, "Oh, I thought you said..." and gives an explanation of what we heard the other say which generally shares a few vowel and consonant sounds, maybe even rhymes, but is totally off the mark. Neither one of us tests for hearing loss, but as with eyes there appears to be a loss of some kind related to hearing (or maybe it’s attention deficit) with normal aging. Hear ye, hear ye, committeemeisters, ever notice the graying of American churchgoers? On top of that I’ve heard told that one in four priests in the US now is foreign born. This certainly seems true where I live, and while most are exemplary in reverence and devotion, English is a hard language to pronounce if your native tongue is Korean or Vietnamese. Even native English speakers from Africa have accents that make it difficult to understand them. Trying to understand the homily following the readings can be daunting enough even with native speaking US priests. "Huh?" seems to be my frequent response to the explication of the Gospel regardless of any language barrier. And yes, readers should be well-trained and familiar with the readings ahead of time, and I should never have second helpings of pie, but as with me and pie, many readers(dare I say most?) are not well-trained and stumbling, mispronunciations, and rendering the sense of the sentence inaccurately due to misplaced punctuation emphasis are very, very common, let alone the intentional changing of wording or skipping over parts that don’t agree with the reader’s (or the pastor’s) sense of political correctness. In addition, of those laity who are trained many appear to be trained to try to make eye contact with the congregation while reading, and have a distracting bobbing of the head up and down to the text and side to side and around in an effort to accomplish this feat, for what end I have never understood. Is that what proclamation is suppose to look like? I don’t get it. The usual result is poor reading quality. But, all’s well that ends well: there was revolt in the pews at the parish where pastoral powers got rid of the missalettes and we got them back. Power to the prayers of the people.

Diane said...

Interesting comment - thanks for sharing your experience.

This key point stood out in what you wrote: People may more reverently "listen" by following along, if the priest is foreign born, and has an accent.

I think there are many reasons, besides people with hearing loss and this just adds more reasons for the USCCB to take into consideration.

I question whether it was truly the intent of the GIRM to ban following along in a missalette or Magnificat. Perhaps that question needs to be elevated.

v/p said...

Do I smell a USCCB agenda? Interestingly enough, when you follow the Tridentine Mass it is important to use a missal...

Of course, I believe those of us who truly desire to deeply unite with Jesus during Mass will utilize all that is available to us in the fashion that best serves our needs.

Diane said...

I'm trying to figure out when this document was actually released. Does anyone know?

I don't understand why they don't date their online material.

Terentia said...

I'm a nurse and I call these kinds of decisions "hospital gown decisions"-one size fits none and every one's rear is left hanging to the wind. My mother is very hard of hearing and even aids don't help her much anymore. Her parish got rid of missalettes a long time ago. They do provide them for those who need them but you have to get the attention of a "greeter" and have him go and get one for you. The books are not left where just anyone can get them. My mother is too embarassed to "make a fuss" and therefore hears almost nothing of the liturgy. I wish Magnificat would publish a large print edition.

Kathryn said...

I've discovered an online "missal" that I uploaded to my PDA which I use at Mass. It uses the current Lectionary, but I think the priest who runs it has permissions to use it. It's called Mobile Gabriel.