Holy Heroes



Ever thought something was easy until you tried it? Ever dissed someone’s work as routine until it was your turn? Like shovel the drive after a snowstorm and found out what a herniated disc means? Or maybe you thought putting up Christmas lights was “no big deal” until you were dangling from a downspout?

Every year 6,000 people end up in the emergency room from hanging Christmas lights. Make that 6,001.

Mark Walsh, Matt Keenan, Joe Gearon, Peter Lane & P.J. Krumm. Not pictured: Tom Cavaliere, Ted Ehler.

So let me add something else to your list of things harder than they appear: ushering at church.

When I say church I’m not talking about a chapel, I’m talking a large, postmodern church you can find at 143rd and Nall in Leawood — St. Michael the Archangel. The place with 4,500 families, 4,499 of which want to sit on the aisle for Christmas Eve mass.

If you still remain skeptical, prepare to be enlightened.

Remember that kid who sat behind you on the Southwest flight to Baltimore and pushed on the back of your seat the entire way? That kid traveling without a parent because no one could tolerate him for more than two minutes? His clone was in the back row at the Easter vigil with a penchant for hitting the bathroom and then trolling around the church balcony. And guess whose job it was to bring reality into his world?

His parents? Yeah, right.

Me.

Or when he fights with his sibling over who gets to put the envelope in the basket, with the resulting tug of war tipping the basket across the church floor.

His problem?

Wrong.

Sure, the work of an usher has routine components — finding seats for the latecomers and bulletin distribution, for instance. But there are countless other responsibilities that prevent you from sleepwalking through your exercise, like perfectly timed genuflections and shooing away the political money changers who fill the parking lots on the Sunday before Election Day.

Happily, I was part of a team. Guys you can count on to do the tough jobs like sitting the kid with the Grateful Dead T-shirt where no one will ever see him. Or the family with the slacker college kid who wants to Skype during the homily. Or admonishing the smart-aleck kid who is prone to playing Angry Birds during the Gospel. This is our task, our mission, and our cross to bear.

The Pope may be the Bishop of Rome, but guess who makes sure the worshipers respect the “no seating” periods of Mass?

Bingo.

The team: Joe Gearon, Tom Cavaliere, Mark Walsh, Ted Ehler, P.J. Krumm and our leader, Peter Lane. For seven years we did the 10:30 Mass for December, April and August.

Easter Mass is the Super Bowl of usher assignments. It’s jammed to the limit and the prayer list includes this one: that the fire marshal doesn’t drop by. The toddlers are unhinged, completely allergic to discipline.

Who can blame them? They just downed two chocolate bunnies with a Peep chaser and have blood-sugar levels that would send most adults into a diabetic coma.
On Christmas you get kids obsessed with their gifts and think one of the three wise men was named Santa. And that Jesus was born in the North Pole.

Forget these kids ending up in the seminary; think juvenile detention centers.

Picking out the family to bring up the gifts? That’s pressure, my friend. You need the family who has a photo shoot for Town & Country magazine just after church.

There are other challenges — constant handouts and questionnaires for things with euphemistic names like “time, talent and treasure.” Real meaning: “your wallet, please.” After church you need to patrol the pews to find purses, blankets and those religious coloring books featuring baby Jesus. The ones obviously not left by anyone named Keenan. Or Gearon.

And so when our family left St. Michael’s to join the Cure parish on Mission Road, my time arrived to say goodbye. And on April 14, I did just that.

Here’s to the best “A Team” that doesn’t include Mr. T.