The Epic of our Salvation

Published on October 17-18, 2015 in the Parish Bulletin of Jesus, Our Savior Catholic Church, Morehead KY

She never learned how to read or write. She never went to school.

So, my grandmother, Elpidia Antonio Soriano viuda de Zamora, learned her prayers the way that we learned ours as little children: by first hearing them and then repeating them on her own. That was how she learned the rosary: she first listened to the rhythm and regularity of misterio, one Ibpa mi, ten Bapu Marias, one Gloria Patri, O Jesus co, and so on, and then said this mantra-like sequence of prayers: misterio, one Ibpa mi, ten Bapu Marias, one Gloria Patri, O Jesus co. That was also how the rest of my family learned the rosary; we first heard it and then we repeated it.

But, the way Lola (grandmother in Tagalog) prayed her rosary was different from the way my cousins and I did it. She always said the words slowly and surely, while the rest of us, all college educated, just spouted and sped through the prayers like auctioneers hustling on to the next item. No matter what happened, Lola never sped through her rosary; she prayed it deliberately, meant and measured every word. I think that she meant and measured every word because it was only in the speaking and the hearing of those mysteries of faith that she could remember them. She could not read them again in the Bible or in a theology textbook. She could not expound on what they meant in writing. All that she could do was to repeat the Good News that she had heard before. I suppose that my cousins and I were merely repeating formulas that we have learned, read, and further explained to us from our education in Catholic schools. But, Lola was drawing from her own fragile memory an epic story that was taught to her by her own parents and grandmother, an epic story handed down through the centuries from one generation of Sorianos and Zamoras to another.

For me and my cousins, the rosary when we were growing up was not an epic; it was merely a string of words: one word after another. But, for our illiterate grandmother, the rosary was more than that; it was for her words of joy, sorrow, glory, and light.


She never learned how to read or write. She never went to school.

All that Mary of Nazareth could look forward to as the wife of a carpenter was to be the mother of a carpenter. After all, nothing good was expected to come out of Nazareth (cf. Jn. 1:46). Yet, from that forgotten town the epic of our salvation was fulfilled, having as its main characters that same illiterate woman and her carpenter son. It is that epic of joy, sorrow, glory, and light that we remember in every rosary. It is that epic of mysteries from on high unfolding from those considered lowly that we have recited from generation to generation. It is that epic story taught to me by an illiterate woman about another illiterate woman in ages past who said but a word “and the Word was made flesh” (Jn. 1:14) and the world was never the same way again.

It is no wonder then why Lola meant and measured—nay, cherished—every word.


~ by Fr. Noel F. Zamora on Saturday, October 17, 2015.

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