Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


SenecaCherub — and a Rant!

June 22nd, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Today’s rant is about lectoring.  The laity is blessed to be permitted to lector at Mass. The rant is about those who seem to do nothing to prepare.  It is like coming to the feast without a wedding garment.  We could all cite examples, and hopefully some of you will.  For perspective, I am not criticizing someone who ‘steps in’ at the last minute because the scheduled lector didn’t show up; rather it is more about a lackadaisical attitude toward the awesome permission to proclaim God’s Word. And those in the pews know there is going to be big trouble when the reader looks down at the lectionary with a start, a deer-in-the-headlights look.

The latest offense, just yesterday, prompted this post.  The first reading began with the words “Sennacherib, king of Assyria….”  This is an exciting reading.  It’s not like God slays 185,000 people in one night with any frequency, to protect His Faithful. Sennacherib is not SenecaCherub (said 4x), and not sin-ache-rib (no matter how the lector might strive to find English words to help with the pronunciation.) And if the priest is going to speak about the reading during his homily, his choice is to propagate the error, or pronounce it correctly and hurt the lector’s feelings, or to preach around the issue by using a title or other descriptor, ad nauseum.  I even heard one priest “correct” a lector to a wrong pronunciation.  Yet she was right.

Sometimes, though, the homily helps when those in the pews have absolutely no idea what was said.  At one late afternoon Mass, the lector several times mentioned the OY-FREIGHTS and there was not sufficient context to identify otherwise unless (as I was) following along in a missal.  The priest deftly recovered without direct criticism by working into his homily the location — the Euphrates River.

What is the solution? I think it must begin with a holy respect for the Word.  The lectors should be reading the Bible themselves, at least a bit every day, else there is a disconnected sense.  At one Mass, a lector who painfully worked his way through at least 10 complicated names, declared “The Word of the Lord.” The response of course was “Thanks be to God,” to which he then chimed in “Yeah!  Thanks be to God.”  One solution at one church was to give each lector (a small group) a pronunciation dictionary.  Other churches keep such a dictionary in the Sacristy (works OK if the lector knows there is a problem, arrives early enough to get to the reference material, and the sacristy is unlocked.

A better solution and a quick solution (as when preparing the night before at home) is to use the USCCB website: and there is a calendar on the first page. Click on the date of the liturgy, and text for the readings will come up. Then under the calendar is a link to audio readings.  The lector can thus hear the reading and the pronunciation which is usually (but unfortunately not always) the preferred version. At least, if one falls short, there is a source to refer to, and to have made the effort.

Of course mistakes will still happen.  At one church I attend there is a lector who has mispronounced the same 4-letter word for years.  Now it is very awkward for anyone to correct her.  At another church, there is an elderly gentleman who gets prostate and prostrate mixed up more often than not. I think he is also the one who has trouble with the burning braziers.

Even when we know the mistakes and we’re prepared, human mistakes will still happen.  No matter how much I try, prophecy and prophesy still trip me up …. and to paraphrase St. Paul, ‘the good I want to do, I do not do’; the mistakes I want to avoid I do again and again. But at least we can try.

Hint on long Greek words: the accent is often on the 3rd syllable from the end, like Acropolis. It pertains to Philadelphia too, believe it or not, but Americans often say Phil-a-del-phua and that would make it seem to be on the second syllable from the end. But if we pronounce that Greek word correctly, the ending ‘phia’ is 2 syllables. Thus Phil-a-del-fee-ah is also pronounced with accent on the third syllable from the end.  Now for more illustration, here is a pronunciation link for Paul’s speech at the Areopagus*: and


*Areopagus, or Mars Hill, where Paul preached:

Areopagus with tablet showing P:aul's speech

Tablet shows Paul’s speech



5 Responses to “SenecaCherub — and a Rant!”

  1. avatar Ludwig says:

    If mass is being said for someone, let’s make an effort to learn how to pronounce their name as well …

  2. avatar raymondfrice says:

    Wise and well seasoned Roman Catholics always carry a small supply of Xanax with them in case these problems appear during the liturgy. The correct pronunciation of Xanax is: first x becomes a z and the rest sounds like nax. If you have recently taken one, you probably don’t care how it is pronounced..

  3. avatar Pianist9591 says:

    One of my favorites occurred last November. I learned something new when the lay liturgist, while reading from a Revelation passage, proclaimed in a strong voice so that all could hear, “Behold, he is coming…All the peoples of the earth will laminate him.” ?

  4. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Great Resource, Ben
    Thanks. I added it to the Cleansing Fire Resource Links:

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