Pardon me, but the Gospel’s mention of Nicodemus has turned my thoughts onto a man named Nicodemus whom long ago I hired to work for our parish in Korea.
We foreign priests were the only priests available in Korea, and that had us trying to function where we knew little of their language. That led each of us to hire a sidekick to do our paper work. In every one of our parishes that job was filled by a man each of us called his poksa.
For my first poksa I hired a man named Peter when I was given a parish in September of 1954. Pete carried the Mass kit when we visited the villages. He rendered my catechism instructions into language I could manage. He was good at starting fires, and at sitting with me for a smoke.
But as a prisoner of the Communists for three war years Pete had been roughed up badly, and that made his miserable health put an end to our pleasant association.
Our bishop recommended I hire a young man named Nicodemus who had attended the seminary in Seoul when it was in operation before the war. So, “Nicko” came aboard, and he rented a house down in town.
I was soon left to carrying the Mass kit and to lighting my own fires. What’s more, I learned that Ncko had turned his house into a restaurant with hostesses.
He explained to me that traditionally Korea had two levels of employment. Along with working men there were those with official positions that put them in the gentleman class. Korea had a traditional class of men who were free to smoke long pipes discussing philosophy. They were called the yangbahns, and Nicko’s role as my poksa made him a yangbahn.
I told Nicko that my origins with a lowly working class family led me to release him to find a position of dignity elsewhere.
St. Joseph, whom we honored two days ago, taught us that nothing matches good hard work for rendering us dignity.
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