This is taken from a series of emails from February 2017, the last of which was never written because… grad school happened. Hopefully it gives you a look into my process, and gives me (or someone else) a place to start a better writeup for a broader audience someday. Also see part 2 and my eventual translation notes.
I found out this morning that I'll be the Mass lector for Sunday, Feb 12 (6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary 76), so I thought I'd take notes on my prep process so you can see what I do.
Note that this is what works for me -- everyone is going to be different! I'm a native English reader who grew up mainstreamed oral deaf with a highly visual imagination, a grad student used to analyzing texts, and still a very new Catholic. I'm a young woman, I'm an engineer, I like cheese and love living in Boston, and ASL is my 4th language... all these things affect how I experience Scripture, and thus how I sign it. The Word reflects through me when I'm a lector, so *I* have to be in the Word, and it has to be in me, or... I really can't do anything. (Seriously. I don't actually know ASL. I'm painfully conscious of this.)
The first thing I do is read the readings, just to see what they are. Then I panic, usually because Paul is being densely theological again. Or because the Psalm is so gorgeous that I won't be able to do it justice. Or something. I totally have that moment of WHY DID I VOLUNTEER FOR THIS?!?!? every single time (actually, I volunteer as lector because I'm terrified of signing in public, so... really, I asked for it).
This is awesome, because it immediately reminds me that I need to pray. And it makes it completely obvious that anything I do is just going to be God's grace, not mine. And it's good practice in not hyperventilating too much. Which I still do. #notasaintyet
Pretty much the first thing I do is make hard copies of the readings so I can start carrying them around with me all the time. Sometimes I'm lazy and I use a printer. Tonight I had some time, so I copied them out longhand.
As I copy them, I read them out loud to myself, sentence fragment by sentence fragment. I play with and enjoy the sounds and feelings of the words in my mouth, because it's *fun.* (Thanks, speech therapists!) I mean... try saying Psalm 119 and *not* having fun! Or... do your best Paul voice on 1st Corinthians. Seriously. It's fun. Make God laugh. He absolutely has a sense of humor.
I guess I'm starting to do chunking already as I write them down. I never thought about that consciously before tonight, but it does help to imagine things piece by piece -- each of my lines is sort of like... a breath of images, the sort of little fragment you might pull out in Lectio Divina. In a way, this feels a bit to me like doing the first half of Lectio; I'm reading very slowly and letting it sink in, and the chunks fall out very naturally from the tiny Lectio-sized bits I need to take as input if it's going to sink in.
I really can't process more than a couple words of Scripture at a time, and I'm a strong, strong reader (written English is my native language; I learned speech later, so text feels like home, and I outread most of my professors). But Scripture is different. I have to take it slow, because I'm not so much reading it as I am letting it read me.
I've attached a photo of my writing so you can see the proto-chunking. (You'll see I'm not doing the Gospel, since our Mass is signed and our priest does that one.) If I eventually give notes to the voice interpreters (which I don't always do, because sometimes I don't have time to prep that well, because I'm human), it's basically this sheet, because it has my proto-chunking.
Also, as I copy them, I'm noticing words and references I don't know, so I have them in mind for later in the week when I go look them up. Or sometimes I become impatient (because I'm impulsive and impatient -- again, this is the process that works for *me*) and do a first-pass look-up on my phone with Google. For instance, tonight, I wasn't sure where Paul was pulling his quotation from. 2 minutes of Google later -- ah, Isaiah 64. That's good enough for now; I know there's a findable answer that I can investigate more deeply later, and I'll get to that. (Well, probably. Maybe I'll forget or run out of time. Again, I'm human.)
I also sort of can't help but imagine visual things while reading anything, so my brain has already started to generate images... but they're not signs. They're not even super clear images yet; they're just teaser trailers. I'm going to work more with those as I learn the readings; I'm not worried about those now. Right now, my goal is having hard copies to carry with me, and making the hard copies is an opportunity to think the Scriptures through, and whatever my brain does visually, it does. I'm not even thinking about signing right now. I'm just getting into the readings and letting them get into me.
That's all I did today. I just made paper copies of the readings. Lest you think I spend a ton of time on this... I don't. I have a full time job, and I'm a PhD student on top of that, and volunteer a couple places, and hang out with my friends (and probably should see my family more). This prep, when I'm doing it, effectively replaces almost all my daily prayer routine -- I set aside the other reading, praying, etc. I'm doing and just basically make my God-time into Sunday Mass and this. (I mean, I'd love to get to daily Mass and be consistent with Morning and Evening prayer, and all sorts of stuff, but that's just not how my life works right now, so -- this is me.)
Next: driving (yes, I do mean in my car). Stay tuned. ;-)
I probably won't be this detailed in all my descriptions, but... it happened tonight. Feel free to share this with whoever you like, and to comment and ask questions and whatnot. I'll do my best to keep this up if it is helpful to others; it certainly is helpful to me to think about my process.
See the next post in this series.