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Mar 24th
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako A Christmas Gift, a Christmas Story, and the Word of the Lord on Christmas Eve
A Christmas Gift, a Christmas Story, and the Word of the Lord on Christmas Eve PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 19:32


By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako



T his is my Christmas story, especially written for a teacher named Dawn.


I am one of the Lectors in our Holy Family Catholic Church in our little, quiet town of Auburn, Washington.  And for that, I believe I am blessed.


But let me tell this little story first how I became one. 


I started out as an usher at first.  We (my wife, Maribel and my two boys, Jon and Chris) have just moved in town from Palm City, Florida.  The only Catholic Church in town is the Holy Family.  I immediately liked this church.  And it's probably because of its small-town ambience.  It seemed that all the parishioners know each other.  It has the feel of "family."  And of "community."  We felt welcome on that first day we came to worship.


The parish priest then was Father Phuong, a Vietnamese, whose smile was so contagious, and whose memory of faces and names was extraordinary sharp.  There were a few hundred parishioners in this church, and it amazed me that he knew the first names of each one of his flock.  (Our parish priest now is Father Tim.  He's Canadian and retired chaplain of the U.S. Air Force, with the rank of colonel.  Before him was a German, named Father Otto).


I had a good feeling for this church when we started coming here to worship.  After several weeks, "it called me." I mean, I suddenly yearned to be of service to this church ... to do something, besides sitting down there on my favorite pew, week in and week out, mumbling the prayers. 


So, I volunteered to be an usher, and was accepted. 


Two elderly ushers of this church, named Jim and Leonard (both have passed away now, may they rest in peace) trained me what the duties entailed: How to pass the basket from pew to pew to collect the tithes and where the collections will be stored. They also taught me how to escort the parishioners to their seats and how to help the infirm. 


They also showed me how to control the flow of traffic and on what aisles the parishioners should go when approaching the altar to receive the Holy Eucharist (the Body of Christ) and the Blessed Wine (the blood of Christ) offered by the priest and Eucharistic Ministers, standing near the church altar.


In other words, how to keep things orderly and the church service flowing smoothly.  In between these duties, we would stand by the church doors and act as "guards."


These two elderly gentlemen who showed me "all the works" and duties of an usher, told me "to pay close attention" to their instructions for "in the future" I would be the" man in charge" of these duties.  So I took their instructions to heart, and soon I became very good at it.  For many years, we three made a "perfect" team.


Then ... my two old mentors passed away, one after the other.  I missed them.  So now, I thought I was gonna be the "man" now, and the prospect kind of scared me.  I mean, the thought of assuming all the responsibilities, kind of overwhelmed me.


New faces came to replace my two old mentors.  Where they came from, I don't have any idea.  I've never seen them before nor worked with them as ushers.  All of them were young.  Much younger than me.  No problem with that.  They seemed to know what they have to do.  I didn't have to tell them how.


POWER STRUGGLE: But then, bit by bit, I noticed some kind of a power struggle.  They wanted to be in charge and wanted to change the routine. I also noticed that these guys, after collecting the tithes, wanted to count the money right away, inside the sacristy, while the mass was going on. And they didn’t want me in there with them. I smelt something fishy, so I told the parish priest about it.


I didn't like working with this kind of ushers, whose utmost concern was counting money, while the mass was going on. I also didn't like the power struggle as to who should be in charge and the change of routine they wanted to implement. Why fix something that's not broken, I asked.


So, I quit serving as an usher for the morning mass and started going to the evening service. A lot less parishioners attended this service. It was quieter and lot more solemn. So, my wife and I settled in to attending this mass. But then I noticed again that THE usher was also the sole lector and the Eucharistic minister, too.  I mean, she was IT. A man and his son would help out now and then as ushers.


Since I really wanted to be of service to this church, I asked if I could be an usher.  I approached the woman and asked her if I could help. She said to me: "We don't really need you." But it looked like she needed help. So several weeks later, I asked again if I could be of help. This time I asked the man, who acted as one of the ushers. In exact same words of the woman, the man said: "We don't really need you."


A month later, a bulletin was sent out to church members, that the Liturgy Minister of the church was looking for volunteers to be lectors. I put immediately put my name in.  Several months passed.


MONDAYS WITH DAWN: FINALLY, I got a call from Dawn Kuhlman, the Head Liturgy Minister of our church. She said she'll soon begin training new lectors. I showed up on that day the training began. Two others showed up: One was a Nigerian and the other, a Filipina. All three of us have distinctive accents. I thought my accent was bad, but the Nigerian's was, well, to put it bluntly, terrible. The Filipina's was, well, a Filipino accent, if y'all know what I mean? It wasn't that thick though..    


Dawn is an elementary school teacher. She teaches reading. She said she had attended Gonzaga University for her masters in elementary education. And, she's been the Head Liturgy Minister of this church, like forever. She trains Eucharistic Ministers and Lectors.  


This is what she said about lectoring:


. Read sloooowwly.

. Enunciate each word.

. Pause between periods.

. Know how to phrase words.

. Know which word to emphasize.

. Maintain eye contact.

. And, dress conservatively when lectoring.


She also said that "some of the words in the Readings are words not usually used in our daily conversations with people. So, you have to be aware of those words. Pronounce them distinctly and clearly." 


She reiterated several times: Read slooooowwly. And, to keep in mind that "you're NOT merely reading, but PROCLAIMING the Word of the Lord."


After a couple of training sessions, the Filipina stopped coming. And the Nigerian followed soon afterwards. I stayed on. I've been at it for several years now. I suppose I became her one-on-one "special student." Whenever I am scheduled to lector, I would meet with Dawn in the church, usually on Monday evenings at seven, to practice my delivery of the readings. 


We would also talk about the Readings, the meaning of each readings, the symbolisms and stories surrounding the readings. I would ask the question and she would answer and explain. Our meetings became like a one-on-one catechism class on Catholicism and on speech delivery. I learned a lot from her. I am dense and deaf, but she was very patient with me. 


Dawn also became a special family friend. 


After each of these meetings, I would thank Dawn profusely for her time in teaching me. And she would say, "Jesse, what I am doing for you is a blessing for me." 


FEEDBACKS ABOUT MY LECTORING: My Mondays with Dawn paid off.  Several of the regular parishioners, mostly the old ones, have approached me and said:


"You're doing a great job." 


"We love the way you read."


"Your Readings are wonderful."


"Your phrasing, punctuation and timing are good."


"You read with a lot of feelings."


"You're my favorite lector."


After my readings, I would join my wife in our favorite pew, and she would whisper into my ear my grade: "A-plus."  Or, "A-minus."  Or, if I stumbled over the words or mispronounced some of the difficult words, a "B" or, even a "C," as in camote (sweet potato). Well, as I mentioned in one my past columns, my wife was an English professor at UST and giving grades is second nature to her.  


But, I think the best praise I've gotten was from my son, Chris. This son of mine as y'all know is a broadcast journalist for FOX News in Denver, Colorado. One time while visiting us, he came with us to church, and it so happened I was one of the lectors that day. He later said, "Hey Pops, you looked like Obama up there."


A CHRISTMAS EVE READING: I would be lectoring the Word of the Lord for the Christmas Mass during the Night (Isaiah 9:1-6), that I wish to share with all of you. Please hear me and peace be with you:


The people who walked in darkness,

     have seen a great light;

Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom,

     a light has shown.


You have brought them abundant joy

     and great rejoicing,

As they rejoice before as at the harvest,

     as people make merry when dividing spoils.


For the yoke that burdened them,

      the pole on their shoulder,

And the rod of their taskmaster

     you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.


For every boot that tramped in battle,

     every cloak rolled in blood

     will be burned as fuel for flames.


For a child is born to us, a son is given us;

     upon his shoulder dominion rests.

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,

        Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.


His dominion is vast

     and forever peaceful,

From David's throne, and over his kingdom,

     which he confirms and sustains

By judgment and justice,

      both now and forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!


The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.


Merry Christmas to all of you and to you, Dawn. This my Christmas gift to you for all the many gifts of your time you've given me. And, thank you, Dear Readers, for reading this story.  JJ 



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Last Updated on Thursday, 22 December 2011 13:36

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