When I was younger, my mom read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy out loud to my younger brother and I. And it was amazing! Hearing my mom's voice weave together the story with the beauty of Tolkien's language was wonderful. There are many aspects of reading out loud which I enjoy, to name a few:
1. Hearing a story out loud brings it to life, moving from simply the sense of sight to the sense of hearing. This may not seem like a big deal, and I don't want to downplay reading words in any way. However, there is something special about hearing. When hearing a story that is read out loud, I use my ears to engage my whole mind in understanding the story. When a story is spoken or read, the reader's voice will many times change tones to express the different voices and feelings that the characters are using. Thus, hearing a story helps to bring the characters to life. (Incidentally, as I write this, I'm thinking more and more of Inkheart, where the reader's voice is quite powerful...)
2. Going further with this, hearing a story causes my ears, heart, and mind to focus more on the story as my eyes rest. Granted, there are times where it is much easier for me to visually see the words on a page to understand what is going on, but letting my eyes rest is a good way to train my mind to focus on various elements of the story. Also, letting my eyes rest while I hear the words being spoken is just plain relaxing.
I remember a time in high school where I was at a youth group lock-in, and one of my friends asked me to speak about my life. I was sitting there, talking on and on, and eventually realized that my friend had fallen asleep. When he woke up later, he explained that he didn't tell me to stop talking when he was falling asleep, because hearing me speak was so peaceful.
Being able to hear is a blessing, for it helps us to know our surroundings. In turn, knowing our surroundings through hearing also engages us in our community. When I fall asleep at night, hearing the gentle breathing of my husband is a reminder and reassurance of his presence. Sitting in the J.C. Williams center on campus enables me to hear a variety of voices, music, and other sounds blend together. Sometimes I will hear a distinct laugh or shout over the other sounds, which then gives me the knowledge that a household sister or friend is nearby.
3. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why I like reading out loud is what #2 began speaking about: person-to-person interaction. Reading out loud is a beautiful way for people to interact and engage in literature together. For instance, a father or mother reading out loud to his or her children. The father or mother is reading a story from a book, and the children are gathered around, listening, asking questions, and responding to the reading. I love reading books by myself, but when a group is reading out loud together, there is a special community that is created. I don't know how to describe it exactly, but it's awesome.
As I was reading Meditations Before Mass the other day, I came across a whole chapter about "Silence and Hearing" in regards to the Mass. I thought this chapter was really interesting, partially because Guardini addresses the act of following along in the missalette while the lector read (something which I have done sometimes, but am now thinking more about not doing based on Guardini's reflections.):
"What do those believers who love the Liturgy and wish to participate in it as fully as possible do? They take their missals in hand and read along with the reader. They mean well; they are eager not to miss a word; yet how odd the whole situation is! There stands the reader, continuing the service which the deacon once performed. Solemnly he reads the sacred words, and the believers he is addressing read with him! Can this be a genuine form of the spiritual act? Obviously not. Something has been destroyed.
Solemn reading requires listening, not simultaneous reading. Otherwise, why read aloud at all? Our bookish upbringing is to blam efor this unnaturalness. Most deplorably, it encourages people to read when they should listen. As a result, the fairy tale has dies and poetry has lost its power; for its resonant, wise, fervent and festive language is meant to be heard, not read...
The saving God who came to us was the eternal Word. But that Word did not come in a blaze of spiritual illumination or as something suddenly appearing in a book. He "was made flesh," flesh that could be seen, heard, grasped with hands, as St. Jon so graphically insists in the opening lines of his first epistle. The same mystery continues in the living word of liturgical proclamation, and it is all-important that the connection remains vital. The word of God is meant to be heard, and hearing requires silence." ~Msgr. Romano Guardini.
This excerpt really, really made me do a lot of thinking.
I love reading out loud to others, and I love listening while others read to me. So why have I ever (I don't do it so much anymore, but when I was younger, definitely did it a lot!) followed along with the readings in the missalette at a novus ordo Mass? To concentrate, I suppose. But really, hearing the Word of God being proclaimed is such an incredible gift, why would I not want to just focus intently on hearing what the lector is reading, what the priest or deacon is proclaiming? Furthermore, sometimes when I follow along with the readings, I find myself focusing more on the words in front of me than what the lector is reading, which--when I read at a different pace than the lector--is altogether distracting. If I--or anyone else--is reading from the missalette in order to "concentrate," the real area to be addressed may be our level of prayerful silence, both interior and exterior. If we are practicing interior silence during the Liturgy (something which I greatly struggle with!), we may find it easier to concentrate on the Readings by hearing them, not just by reading them ourselves.
God is talking to us at Mass. He wants us to hear Him with our ears, hearts, and minds!