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.