Continuing our daily Advent reflection series on the Feast of St. Ambrose, Br. Tony LoGalbo, OFM, writes about a formative experience of a lesson learned through humor.

It was the beginning of July, 1983. I had completed the Portuguese language program for new missionaries in Brasilia, and I had arrived at my new assignment in Porangatu in the state of Goias. The Brazilian friar who was pastor informed me that I was scheduled to conduct a Communion Service in one of the three churches that the Franciscan friars staffed in the town.

The morning arrived, and I was nervous to say the least; the butterflies were working over-time, and I did a number on myself shaving because I was so nervous about my first service as a missionary. Waiting for me in the sacristy of the church was a man who had welcomed the friars there many years before. He performed many services for the friars and one of them was to welcome the friars into the church for every Mass or service that was held. He is one of those people, I’m sure you know someone like him, who can say things and get away with it, whereas if someone else had said the same thing, immediately your defenses would come up. When he saw the condition of my face, he said “Frei Tony, did you get mugged on the way over to church?”

“No,” I said, “It is just that today is my first time leading a service in Portuguese, and I am afraid that I may speak it with a thick American accent and no one is going to understand me!” He countered: “Oh Frei, don’t worry; you will not be any worse than the other Americans that we have had here!” With that back-handed compliment, he led me out into the church. After the service was over and we returned to the sacristy, he remarked: “Frei, you should have cut your homily instead of your face!”

Coming tomorrow: “Confessions of a Bad Listener” by Sarah Hoffeditz!


I learned to keep my remarks short and to the point and not to talk too long. Good advice to any preacher, no matter where you are.

Br. Tony LoGalbo, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar living in Washington, D.C.

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