It was exactly one year ago that Fr. Thomas Borinski arrived to Rome to continue his studies in Cannon Law. His bishop had sent him back to the Eternal City in hope that he would finish his doctorate in two years, and therefore fill in the vacant teaching position in the diocesan seminary. Fr. Thomas’ days were crammed with classes and many hours spent in the library of the illustrious Gregorian University settled in the heart of ancient Rome . Books became his best friends and other than an afternoon coffee, there was little respite for the young priest. Yet, as time advanced he grew more accustomed to his studious routine and found that he had some extra time that he could dedicate to pastoral work.
Fr. Thomas first signed up to help the Sisters of Charity in distributing food to the poor population of Rome . Though he loved the work, the times did not always work out with his class schedule. He then went to a nearby parish named San Giovanni dei Fiorentini to see if he could help teach catechism on weekends and even offer an English mass for pilgrims. His offer was enthusiastically accepted by Don Pietro, the parish priest. The soon formed a close friendship and after a while, Fr. Thomas found himself spending more time helping Don Pietro than seated at a desk.
It was February 12, the beginning of lent, and the cold season had a strong grip on the Eternal City . Fr. Thomas arrived at San Giovanni’s at around 4:00 wrapped tightly with a black scarf, overcoat and carrying his umbrella. He was greeted in the sacristy by Don Pietro who asked him if he could help bless houses for the parishioners. Unknown to Fr. Thomas, the Italians had a long tradition of having their house blessed each year in preparation for Easter. “Don Pietro, I would love to help. But what do I need to do?” he asked. “It’s simple,” replied Don Pietro. “All you have to do is say a pray with the people and bless their house with this holy water.” He handed Fr. Thomas a small container of holy water along with a list of apartment buildings within the parish.
Fr. Thomas arrived at the first apartment on the list and rang the bell. “Buon giorno.” He heard over the intercom. “Good morning Mrs. Di Giulio, This is Fr. Thomas from San Giovanni parish and I was wondering if you would like me to bless your house.” “Yes, please come right up!” the woman replied. He began his ascent on the marble staircase until he reached the fifth floor. He looked at the three doors and realized that he had forgotten the number of the apartment he was to bless. There were no names on the doors indicating who dwelled beyond each threshold. “I guess I’ll just try them all.” He thought as he went to knock on the first door.
Much to his surprise a man in his mid seventies opened the door. He had on a pair of slippers, pajama pants and a curious look on his face, wondering why a priest would be knocking at his door. “Good morning sir.” Fr. Thomas began, realizing that he had the wrong apartment. “I am here to bless your house in preparation for Easter.” The man gave him a cold stare but then opened his door and welcomed his unexpected visitor. They stood in the living room while Fr. Thomas began his prayer with the sign of the cross. The man followed along in respectful silence while Fr. Thomas blessed the house with holy water.
Once finished he thanked the man for his time and wished him a very happy Easter. The man did not reply. Instead, he stood there analyzing the floor as his mind began to trace over forgotten memories. Tears welled up in the man’s eyes and his lower lip began to shake. “Father” he said, “I am not a good Christian.” He sobbed even more while Fr. Thomas now reserved a respectful silence. “Twenty five years ago I left my wife and children” the man confessed before more tears appeared. “Now the only thing I have is this lousy apartment, a dog, and a messed up life.” He had lived the last 25 years of his life in pain and suffering due to his own weakness and poor judgment. Fr. Borinski offered the man to sit down on the his own couch. There they talked for a while about suffering and the love that God has for each of us. He offered to hear the man’s confession and thus give him God’s forgiveness for all the sins he had committed. Fr. Thomas told the man that God has been waiting a long time to see him back in Church and that he is always welcome at San Giovanni Church.
After a few more words of consolation Fr. Thomas kindly excused himself to go and bless the other apartments. Before knocking on another door he stood in the desolate stairwell and realized how God can even take advantage of our mistakes. What he thought was the wrong house turned out to be just the person he had to talk to that day.
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