Jeanne’s Nov 11 Lector Experience

I

happened to meet Victor, one of Blessed Sacrament’s lector coordinators, out on the sidewalk while walking to the Church. He said he had been trying to keep up with me across the street and told me I walk really fast. I explained, “So no one can catch me.” We walked together talking about walking, as his car was being repaired he was doing a lot of it.

Victor is usually the one who unlocks the Church, but this time, the Church was already open. As we approached the door, a large brindle dog came bounding out from the Church and excitedly greeted us both in turn and back again. Victor explained that this was the Deacon’s dog Mikey, who I found out later was a mix of a Cocker Spaniel and a boxer, if that’s possible. The dog ran before us into the Church sliding on the hallway mat, and returning to pounce on us again.  Victor led the dog into the sacristy where the Deacon stood in his black socks and bright red Crocs. “I thought you weren’t here today so I put everything out,” he said to Victor as he led the dog out of the sacristy to the backyard patio.

The lectionary was open on the counter, but it was the golden feast day ribbon marking a different page in the book, instead of the ordinary time green marker which would be on the page of the reading I had practiced days earlier. Yes, it was a completely different reading from the one I had practiced, the one for ordinary time, the very one which the Jesuit lectionary calendar guidebook had said it should be. I asked the Deacon if we were doing the reading for the feast day today, and he said yes, for Saint Martin of Tours. It’s priest’s prerogative to select the reading, so I went with the flow.

Luckily, I was there early enough to go through the reading several times. Upon reading it for the first time, I saw how perfect it was.

Here is the reading:

November 11 —Memorial, Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God,
to comfort all who mourn;
To place on those who mourn in Zion,
a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.
The word of the Lord.

I had to leave the book after my first reading to let it sink in. The reading I had practiced was a chastisement of authorities and princes who misuse their power, which I had read with forcefulness. This reading described the transforming power of God’s love. How should I express this?

After reading it a few more times, I went out to kneel in the front pew and prayed, asking what is God’s will for me today, especially in regards to this reading, how it may best reach the most number of people. At first, I got an answer similar to a previous reading I did weeks ago to read the reading with both sadness and joy. But this time it was more than feeling and expressing two contrasting emotions.

I had to be the becoming, the act of transformation. I needed to let the people witness the healing of my own broken heart and the transforming of my listless mourning into radiant gladness. I decided that at the moment I spoke the words of the reading, I would let them transform me.

As I waited for Mass to begin, I recalled all my traumas and experiences that led me to be brokenhearted. I felt these feelings as much as I could bear. I thought I had only scratched the surface, there was so much more feeling to feel. I thought there could be no end to it. I willed all my experiences, feelings and emotions be brought into the light and held them there, realizing how much trauma has shaped me to being what I am now and how I survived it all for the benefit of those people who are about to hear the words of the reading.

The Deacon said the opening prayer, and before I got up to go to the lectern, I asked my Dad and grandparents,all my loved ones who have departed, to stand with me in support and to witness me and maybe even heal themselves. I felt moved to tears, feeling them so near, and I prayed I wouldn’t cry while I read.  My eyes were misty as I stood before the book, and noticed that the words were a little blurry. I worried I would say the wrong words, but I could make them out if I focused on them enough.

I began to read, and after getting through the first line, I heard the Deacon ask, “Is there a problem?” I looked up and realized that the Deacon was addressing Ginny, another lector sitting in the front pew who had a book that dictated what reading should be on what day, and she was making a motion that she thought this was the wrong reading for today. The Deacon insisted this was the correct reading, and went over to the lectionary to verify that yes, we are reading for the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. I spoke in Ginny’s direction, “This is a good one. Stick with it.”

I took a deep breath, and read from the beginning. Again, I imagined the downtrodden being transformed into anointed ones. I felt the diadem of light being placed on my head, and the warmth of the oil on my forehead. I was being transformed before those who witnessed it. I could feel the pain of my past melting away. My experiences were still with me, but their power over me had been released, and I was free.

After singing the Alleluia, I returned to my pew as the Deacon took my place to read the Gospel. I felt shaken, but good, different, and renewed. I felt that the effects of my experience would slowly and gently unfold.

During the homily, the Deacon told us about St. Martin, a Roman soldier who tore his cloak into two so that he may give half to a ragged beggar.

After Mass, I greeted the Deacon where he stood in the hallway, and he pointed his finger at me asking if I was from Philadelphia, that I had an accent from back east. I said no, I’m from here, and then thanked him for insisting on that reading for it was really transformative. He said it wasn’t him, it was the Church, according to his app on
his cell phone, but he had gotten a surprise because it had said the Gospel would be the one about the nine ungrateful lepers and the one leper who was grateful, so he had to relate his homily about gratitude to this one.

I walked out into the parking lot and saw the little old Irish woman who had given me the printout of the Pope’s homily driving out. She stopped her car when she saw me, and rolled down her window asking me about the article she gave me. I told her I had read it, shared it my Mom and some friends and that next Sunday it was printed in the Tidings, so thought I needed to read it again for anything.  I had missed the first time I saw it. I told her how I didn’t think I had an experience of mercy or even knew what it was, and asked her what she thought it was. Compassion and forgiveness, she said. She added that I seemed like a good person and she had thought of me and two others when she read it. She had not yet given it to the other two yet.

As she drove off, I felt grateful and joyful indeed that I was a part of this community of weekday Mass goers.

~Jeanne Desilets