Monday, November 16, 2020

1974 - Joseph - Leadership From a 14 Year Old Altar Server


Altar servers - not an actual picture of Joseph or myself

(50 Nifty Years in United States Series)

Joseph – To be honest I cannot recall his last name. He was in 8th grade at Holy Family School, South Pasadena, CA (I know that because that is the highest grade one could attend at that time. He was a blonde guy who towered over us and over the school. I remember that he was the school student body president. He was an altar boy/server as well and I want to say I had served once with him on the schedule and it may have been after this story had occurred.

I seem to recall he played baseball as well and was a catcher. He was a Scout as well because I recall times that he wore his uniform to school. He was also the first tangible representation of servant leadership that I can recall.

Historically, altar servers go back to the third century in the church. As a 12 year old, St. Tarcisius (later named patron saint of altar serves) endured persecution and ultimately died from injuries when he refused to desecrate the Blessed Sacrament (Bread and Wine) while carrying it to those who had been imprisoned for their belief. An early servant leader.

It was during Holy Thursday mass during the Easter season. I remember walking in and seeing a row of 12 chairs at the base of the altar – which was different to start since I had never seen that before. I was intrigued since Joseph was wearing a different robe; as the priests and others involved were lined up at the back of the church.

It was a large crowd and I wanted to sit closer to the front so I could see. I dragged my grandmother to the port side of church and as close-up front as we could get. I had a view and I kept an eye on Joseph all along thinking “this is different.” At the end of the homily there was quiet as everyone was still seated.

The twelve folks who had processed in at the beginning were now moving to the front and seated in the chairs. Joseph went up to the podium and talked about the supper and about service. Then he did an amazing thing and washed the feet of the twelve. I know many of you know the story and at the time I recall hearing about how it all happened.

I was astounded and amazed. I remember feeling pride that I knew him and we were in the same school. I thought that maybe someday I could be more like him. Perhaps in a few years, I could be chosen to be the one who did this at that mass as well. I recall the talk that week in school. Joseph had proposed doing the part of the service.

Not an actual picture of Joseph or a priest who is a Dodger

He was destined for the priesthood. Perhaps he would play for the Dodgers. I remember passing him in the hallway at school and he would actually acknowledge us with his smile and encouraging voice. Everyone wanted to be like him.

I do not know what became of Joseph. I do know that it made an impact on my young life and I am here recounting those moments of that hour over forty some odd years later. How grateful to be part of a community that allows for freedoms like the one that was shared with me at an early age. How grateful for Joseph’s voice on that one evening so many springs ago. 

An example of what it meant to be a leader; a servant leader that I did not even consider I would need to know and what an influence it would have as I have spent these years in these United States.

SUPPLEMENTAL: For practicing Catholics reading this; I choose "Joseph" as my confirmation Saint.

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