What it Means to Me to be a Lector – Grace Francomb

I always was a big ham.

Grace Francomb

From about age three I was dancing on amphitheater stages at the park and shouting “crucify him!” with as much gusto as I could muster during Good Friday services. I thrived in dramatic moments and in front of crowds. I also felt deeply connected to my faith and longed to get involved at church. To my chagrin, my parents wanted to leave altar serving to boys discerning the priesthood. “You’ll find your place to serve,” they told me. “You just have to be patient.”

In middle school I found that place when my dad and I started lectoring together. It was such a joy. As a literary enthusiast, I savored the words and tried out inflections for effect. And my dramatic flair was tickled as I told epic stories in front of the congregation. Around this time I began to read The Word Among Us reflections on the daily Mass readings with breakfast, and throughout high school, I learned how to truly dig into the rich characterization, poetry, and symbolism present in scripture. Most importantly, I learned that God had something personal to say to me when he spoke through his Word. It was uncanny how often the Mass readings were relevant to something that had happened that day. I began to discover motifs and allegories not only on the pages of the missal but in my own life.

I always prayed that my experience with the relevance of scripture would overflow into the listeners when I lectored. What a gift, to be the one who spoke the words of love that God was whispering to someone feeling unlovable, to be the mouthpiece of God’s challenge for a sleeping soul, to bring a thrill of joy to someone who felt trapped in sorrow.

“But isn’t all this pretty attention-seeking?” nags the voice in my head. Possibly. But in the proper context, the lector should be somewhat invisible. Just like a great actor “becomes” a completely different person when the character they inhabit takes over, so too should lectors fade into the background of the message and the One they speak for. Certainly, each actor and lector will approach a character or text in a unique way that points to their specific God-given sensibilities and experiences, but the goal is to let those aspects of personality serve the larger picture of what they are trying to portray. Contrary to the self-centered diva, lectoring can be a lesson in the art of self-forgetfulness, self-gift, even death to self.

On the opposite end of the naysayer spectrum lives a little voice that whispers, “How could you stand up in front of people and make a fool of yourself when you might mess up?” The answer, however, is the same as before: serve the message. God can make great things come out of real mess-ups. Just look at what good came out of the Crucifixion. So now, reader, I ask you to consider how God is calling you to enter more deeply into the message of salvation. That may start with five minutes a day looking over the Mass readings and ask God how this applies to your life. It may be something more radical, like volunteering to be a lector at St. Andrew. Just know that Jesus is always calling us deeper, and we have been given a great gift to bear the story of salvation. Take a risk – maybe you are called to be the mouthpiece of God as a lector.

God’s Plan for Me

I have 3 prayer books that were written by Mark Link, S.J. in the late 1990’s for the turn of the century. The series of books is referred to as the Vision 2000 series and there is one for each of the 3 yearly liturgical cycles. And yes, I have been reading these books and reflecting on them each evening for nearly 20 years.

The daily format consists of a scripture reading, a short story, a question for reflection and a quote from a famous and sometimes, not so famous person. I love these books because they allow me to relate my life to the scripture reading, in other words, they make me think. And the reason that I have been reading them for so long is because my thoughts on scripture have deepened over the past 20 years.

The other night I was reading; (Isaiah 65: 17-18) The Lord says, “I am making a new earth and new heavens. The events of the past will be completely forgotten. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create.”

This reading was followed with the story:

The Italian sculptor Donatello rejected a block of marble because it was flawed. Michelangelo was offered the same block and accepted it. He looked beyond the obvious flaw to something potentially beautiful in it. He eventually carved from it his greatest masterpiece: David. God did something similar with us and our sin-filled world. God looked beyond our obvious flaws to something potentially beautiful in each of us. God is now “re-creating” all things in the image of Jesus.

The question for reflection was “How convinced am I that God has a plan for me and wants to make me into something special in spite of my flaws”?

After nearly 20 years of reflection, I have come to accept the fact that God has a plan for me and most of the time I see God’s hand in my life. I must admit though, sometimes he may have to shove me into something that I ordinarily would not consider doing. My flaws are countless. So, that is that! Yes, God does have a plan for me. And I will try to recognize it and follow him.

But, as I read this passage this year, particularly in light of the story included, I think I may often act like Donatello and become focused on the flaws of others, as well as my own.  Because of this I may fail to see the work of God in my life or in others.

Dear Lord, make me like Michelangelo so that I overlook my flaws, do not dwell on past failures and let me see your hand at work in not only my life but in others.  Do not allow me to step in the way of your plan for us all.

Cathy O’Toole  D29BF91F-326B-4778-8E20-A127888D1370.medium

 

The Words of Everlasting Life

Each Sunday in preparation for becoming Catholic, all RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) members are dismissed from Mass after the Homily. They leave for the Breaking Open the Word or to discuss the Gospel for the day and the meaning of those words.

Breaking Open the Word is as fulfilling for me as for the participants.  It’s a joy to get to spread God’s Word to them. To explain what it means to be Catholic. These discussions help to alleviate their fears of joining this faith.  Many people enter with preconceived notions concerning Catholicism. When they experience the warmth and camaraderie of RCIA, they realize how inaccurate their prior beliefs were.  They are, then, open and even eager to learn more.  Their joy is infectious and reinforces my Catholicism too. For those who have been holding back for whatever reason,  join us for just one session.  It will be enough to make you to want to come back to learn more.

Dear Lord, I pray that our daily living may transform our suffering world into a place of love, justice and peace.  May the Word guide us in our daily lives.

Kevin Rinn is lifelong Catholic, married with 2 children.  He has been a parishioner for 16Kevin Rinn years and on the RCIA Team for 5 years.  He works at the Children’s Home of Cincinnati as the Facilities and IT Director.

Advent and The Jesse Tree

The word Advent means ‘coming’. It refers to the coming of Jesus, the promised Messiah. The use of a Jesse Tree during the Advent season is a great way to ‘show and tell’ the redemption story and the ‘coming’ of the promised Savior!

img_1397What is a Jesse Tree? It is a small tree decorated with symbols portraying Jesus’ spiritual heritage. Jesse was the father of King David. The idea of the Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11:1-9, where God promises a discouraged nation that the glory they remember from David’s time will come again. They will have another king from Jesse’s family, in whose reign the whole earth will know God. We see that promise fulfilled in Jesus, and so we use a Jesse Tree and decorate it with reminders of how God prepared the world for that kingdom.

My husband and I started the tradition years ago of giving a Jesse tree ornament and the corresponding bible verse to each of our Children and Godchildren for Christmas. Each year we pick an Old Testament story and then find a symbol that represents the story. For instance a whale for the story of Jonah, an arc for the story of Noah, an apple for the fall of Adam and Eve, or a lion for the story of Daniel. We make or purchase a small ornament for each person, inscribe the Bible verse on it along with the date. They keep a notebook with their Jesse tree consisting of all the Bible verses that are hanging on their tree.

It is my hope that you can start a new Christ- centered family tradition and that you will be blessed by all you learn.

Kathy Bitzer, Parish Religious Education Program (PREP)

 

 

Second Sunday in Advent – The Promise of Peace

monicas-reading-picture

The Old Testament and the New Testament, the prophets of old and the gospel writers, all speak to us as faith lessons.  In the second week of Advent readings Isaiah tells of the promise of the coming of the Messiah and Matthew, the fulfillment of that promise.

How rich the promise!  It is like poetry, full of wonder, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  A learned Jewish friend explained to me why the Jews do not believe the Messiah has come.  She mentions the foretelling of peace and we see the 20th century as the bloodiest in history, where is peace?

Jesus brings us a personal peace, within our heart, mind and soul.  When He comes again He will fulfill worldly peace where the predator sleeps with the prey.  The Our Father, which comes from the Old Testament, speaks to us in the promise “thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’’

The old becomes new, baptized not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire.  We are washed clean and filled with the Holy Spirit, with the power and the life He offers us. Advent always makes me think that the door upon which we have been knocking all our lives that at last will open.

Shirley Cochran  IMG_1334

This is How All Will Know That You Are My Disciples…

A few years ago, parishioner, Nancy Hemminger approached me asking if I would help in some capacity on the HOPE Project (Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education). For those who know Nancy, it is difficult at best to turn her down! She mentioned co-hosting a Farwell Dinner for the teachers and administrators coming from the Holy Land. I agreed!  HOPE was an extension of the twinning between the Annunciation Church in Beit Jala, Palestine and St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Milford, both of whom celebrated their 150th anniversary the same year. I told her I would be happy to assist in any way possible. I did not know at the time, but this is like an open door for Nancy to run through and ask you for more. Soon, I found myself hosting a professor from The American University in Madaba, Jordan who was coming with the teachers. It seems that Dr. Hanan Madanat had recently lost her mother, as had I and Nancy felt we could console each other.

As the day approached, I was getting more and more anxious. Even though Hanan and I had communicated by email a few times, I was nervous about how this week would go. When I met Hanan at the airport, it was late at night, she looked very tired from the long flight and as we rode home, she informed me she didn’t care for dogs. I had two! I knew then this would be a very long week.  But, God surprises me unceasingly and this visit was no exception. The next day, Hanan asked if she could walk the dogs, as well as take pictures with them to send home to her family. She knew her family would be amazed!

Each night, when she returned from her meetings with the Archdiocese teachers and administrators, we would prepare meals, pray, walk the dogs, talk, and laugh into the early morning. We had so much in common, I was phenomenal. We were both single, both teachers, she had recently finished her doctoral degree and I was just beginning classes at the Athenaeum of Ohio in Lay Pastoral Ministry. As a matter of fact, Hanan went with me to my very first class at St. Mary’s Seminary. Imagine sitting in an Old Testament class with a direct descendent of one of the twelve tribes of Israel seated next to you! What a great start!

This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Jn. 13:35

Hanan and I have kept in touch over the years.  I have visited The American University in Madaba and I still smile when I make my Arabic coffee in Hanan’s coffee pot that she left me when she went home. I thank God for this beautiful gift of friendship He presented me with and I will never say no to Nancy Hemminger if she asks for something. Just don’t let her know I said that!

Dear Lord, open our minds and hearts to new and different opportunities.  Let us share ourselves with others so that we may learn more about you and your gift of love for us.

Cathy O’Toole has been a member of St. Andrew Parish for 22 years.  She has been on 4 pilgrimages to the Holy Land which has given her several opportunities to visit with Hanan in Amman, Jordan. God blesses us with friends across the globe, if we are open to that call.

Hanan and Cathy

Dr. Hanan Madanat and Cathy O’Toole at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

 

I Have Plans For You

As a recently graduated high school student, I have found that it’s not easy to maintain a relationship with God amidst the other distractions we are faced with. Club meetings, sports practices, good grades, hanging out with friends, AND maintaining a relationship with the Lord? It’s difficult, but not impossible. In sixth grade, I enrolled as a student in PREP class. After sleepless nights at slumber parties, I trudged to the car every Sunday morning, struggling to wake up. Quite honestly, my eyes didn’t wake at the thought of reading lesson book, even if it was about our coming Savior, which is something pretty eye-opening. It was hard to understand the meaning of Scripture, and I felt intimidated by the Bible. So you get my point—my teenage years consisted of a lot of wavering and confusion on my side of my relationship with Jesus.  As guilty as I feel typing this, I have a feeling that I’m not alone in this feeling—sometimes it’s human nature to push away the One that keeps us together. And that’s okay, as long as we work at it.

Freshman year, I was given the opportunity to teach a PREP class.  And I struggled to decide. But something pushed me to get out of my comfort zone (I wonder Who!). So I taught a group of third graders, fifth graders, then seventh graders. Every Sunday, we prayed, watched movies, wrote in journals, created skits, played games and read the Bible. I emphasize ‘we’ because I didn’t feel like the teacher. Most importantly, we asked questions. Some of the questions they asked were ones that I may never be able to fully answer. They remained curious and determined to know more, something that inspired me and encouraged me to wrestle with my beliefs, but not to grow too comfortable in them. From PREP class, I have learned that there are three key components in reconnecting with God—prayer, reading the Bible, and talking about your faith. And hopefully, once a college graduate, I can come back to Saint Andrew’s PREP class to do that again.

Becoming involved in a ministry may be time-consuming, or out of your comfort zone, but spreading God’s love through action is so important, and essential in building us as followers of Christ.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jer. 29:11

My name is Lauren Getgey. I’m 18 years old and will be attending the University of Dayton in the fall, hopefully to study something in the medical field or law field, Go Flyers! I was a raised as a Presbyterian but began going to Saint Andrew’s in sixth grade. In 8th grade, I received First Communion, Confirmation, and Reconciliation (big year for me, huh?!). I taught PREP as a freshman, sophomore, and senior in high school.

Lauren Getgay - PREP

I Know the Plans I Have For You

Like many my age I grew up with limited exposure to the bible and scriptures. In Catholic school the bible was not a subject studied regularly and in church we were all confronted with a language barrier as Mass was said in Latin. Thank God for Vatican II.

It was not until later in my life that I became interested in the scriptures and got involved in a night time bible study lead by our former Director of Religious Education, Barb Aluotto. Barb had such a wonderful understanding of scripture that showed me a different side of God. I grew up with a fear of God as we were constantly reminded in school and church.  He was a demanding and vengeful God that punished you for not following his word. Barb showed me through the scriptures that our God was just the opposite, a loving and merciful God who is constantly calling me to be with him and who forgives my gravest sins. It was truly an ‘ah ha’ moment for me. Our God actually loves me!! Because of my interest in scriptures I entered the Master’s program at the Seminary and took several classes on both the Old and New Testament scriptures. It was great fun for me and provided additional learning as well as many new resources.

My interest in scripture continues and I continue to read. While I have a great love of scripture I have also seen how it can be used to induce fear and control people. You can find quotations in scripture to support just about anything you want to say or do. God had only one message—his love for us and when scripture is used for hatred, control or fear it is not what God intended. My interest in our bible study today is to help others understand the message of God in the scriptures. Sometimes we have to read between the lines or dig a little below the surface to get that message but His love is always in there.

I would invite all of you not involved in ministry to give it a try. Take a risk and trust God. Fear often keeps us from doing God’s work so do not let it stop you. It can be fun and rewarding. If you cannot find a ministry you like, start your own as there are many unfulfilled needs. Do it today!

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jerimiah 29:11

Mike Hazard grew up from birth at St. Andrew and attended Catholic schools and colleges that prepared him for life. One of the fun things he does is to lead the weekly Wednesday morning Bible Study. He is also on the RCIA Team and leads the Scripture discussions.  He is retired and enjoying life with his wife Pam.   They are blessed with children and grandchildren and wonderful friends from both St. Andrew and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishes.   

Mike and Pam