'You're next' at the lectern

If you're at all into sports and over the age of 30, you probably remember Ken Beatrice, the host of a Washington, D.C.,-based sports talk radio show whose signature "You're next!" catchphrase and uncanny ability to recall rosters and stats kept him on the air for nearly 40 years.

Having hung up the microphone in 2005, Beatrice now lives with his wife in Haymarket, where he uses his vocal talents in other ways. Though it's no longer broadcast into households, Beatrice's characteristic voice can still be heard proclaiming the word of God as a lector at Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Warrenton, where he has attended Mass for the last year.

"I feel very strongly about people proclaiming the word," he said in a recent interview.

This, after speaking with him for all of five minutes, was evident. Beatrice is kind of an intense person. His hands, flying all around while speaking, only partially contribute to this intensity - most of which is reflected in his Boston-accented voice. What he is passionate about, he is passionate about.

"I'm Italian, I'm very emotional - what can I say?" he said, laughing.

Born in Boston in July 1943, Beatrice attended Boston College, where he majored in geology. He wanted to be a meteorologist.

After a college football injury ended what he called a "mediocre" sports career, Beatrice took his passion for athletics and transferred it to the radio. For a good portion of his 40 years on the air, Beatrice hosted "Sports Call," during which, he said, he wanted to help people better understand, and therefore better appreciate, the world of sports.

"The more you know about something … the more you can enjoy it," he said. "I figured if I can teach one person one thing that helps them enjoy the game a little more, I've done my job."

Beatrice approaches lectoring with the same passion. Through tone of voice, inflections, pace of reading and preparation, lectors have the responsibility of conveying the word of God to parishioners, he said. Officially a parishioner of St. Katharine Drexel Mission in Bull Run, Beatrice has lectored in many area parishes, including Holy Trinity Parish in Gainesville and St. Stephen the Martyr in Middleburg. He also has lectored at parishes in the Washington and Baltimore archdioceses.

"I think what a lot of people forget is that Jesus Christ … was a man," he said. "If you read the Bible, there are many instances where He displays human emotion. It's gotta be proclaimed in that way so it has some meaning."

At St. John, Beatrice currently helps train fellow lectors. He draws from his on-air experience - learned on the job, not in a classroom - and advises lectors on appropriate annunciation and pace, the importance of breathing and word inflection, and the value of changing the tenor of the voice to reflect emotion.

The character of the voice helps those listening understand who is speaking and what the situation is, he said.

"Am I happy? Am I sad? Am I joyous? Am I exhorting them to do something?"

He reminds lectors to use punctuation to take a pause and breathe before beginning again.

He emphasizes the rate and volume of speech.

"The lectionary will say to read faster and slower, read louder and softer," he said. "The difference between your loud and your soft (voice) gives that definition to the people who are listening to you."

More than anything, Beatrice stressed the importance of solid preparation.

"If going over it twice is good, going over it four times is better," he said. "When I'm lectoring, even if I've read a particular passage 15 times, I still go over it six to eight times before I do it."

Technically, Beatrice covers things like where to put the microphone and how to address all parts of the church without diminishing the sound quality.

"When you want to address the two apses, you gotta turn your shoulders," he said. "That I got from doing … (the talk show) from restaurants where there's chaos and babies crying and people dropping glasses. You have to stay on mic."

If he loses his audience while proclaiming, he'll stop speaking. The silence will bring the people back, he said.

"Just stop," she said. "Get to the period and stop. And count to five."

Anywhere else, he would rap the table to draw attention back, he said, but "I can't bring myself to rap on the ambo at church."

Father Francis Peffley, pastor of Holy Trinity, said that while at the parish, Beatrice was an example to others.

"He really loves the word of God and he reads it with great passion and with a real spirit of conveying God's message," Father Peffley said. "Many people would remark after Mass that they really listened when he read. He does have that gift. His love of the Lord and love of Scripture really comes across."

For Beatrice, serving the Church in this way that comes naturally to him is a no-brainer.

"It's a way I think I can give back," he said. "Nothing more than that."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2011