"Sisters, would you have some coffee?"
Sr. Jacinta Ngân and I looked at each other hesitantly.
We were on our way out to the 7:00am Mass at Annunciation Parish.
"Sir, we wish we could, but we have to keep our fast for Communion," I explained gently.
"Well, you must come back to enjoy it!" he offered insistently.
It was a hard offer to resist.
For the past two morning, Mr. Thưởng (or Ông Thưởng) had awoken early and made each of us a tall mug of roasted coffee, with a generous serving of condensed milk. Authentic Vietnamese cà phê sữa or an equivalent of three Starbucks tall cappuccinos. Each cup took a good 15 minutes to make if the coffee is to be drip-brewed properly.
"We'll try," I replied, hoping this was a polite rejection.
We were in Albuquerque to visit our new aspirant, Quỳnh Dao, and her family.
We were staying with Ông Bà Thưởng because their house had an extra room.
Our other activity was to promote vocations at the Vietnamese Catholic parish, Giáo Xứ Đức Mẹ La Vang. Besides this, we took the time to visit St. Joseph's staircase in Santa Fe and the Sanctuary of Chimayo.
Mass had just ended and we turned around to see Ông Thưởng grinning enthusiastically at us.
We looked at him, wide-eyed in disbelief.
How did he get changed and be at church in 15 minutes?
He was 85.
We couldn't say no although this would leave us with only ten minutes to prepare for our vocations talk at Giáo Xứ La Vang.
The next day he had to leave for kidney dialysis at six in the morning.
The next day was also our last day in Albuquerque.
We were due to leave at 8am.
Back to instant coffee I told myself as I headed towards the kitchen.
I shouldn't have been surprised.
On the table were two mugs, one for me and one for Trúc.
The third mug was made differently because Sr. Jacinta Ngân did not drink her coffee so strong.
The smiles on our faces were probably as wide as the Sandia Mountains that border Albuquerque. We came to be amazed at the architectural feat of St. Joseph's staircase. We came to stand in awe of the el pocito (well) of dirt in which countless hundreds had experienced physical healings.
I am sure that we were astounded by Ông Thưởng's caring hospitality.
A cup of coffee will never taste the same again.
ps. Ông Thưởng is in the photo, as we stand in front of the Đức Mẹ La Vang at Chimayo.