The other night I was scrubbing the kitchen floor here at our seminary when I heard a crash in the dish room. A huge stack of plates had fallen on another brother and the broken plates had cut his fingers up really badly. A priest and I jumped into the car and rushed him to the emergency room at the hospital near our house. The place was really small and dark and a good bit dirty. Though the nurses cleaned and bandaged his cuts quickly, they told us that he needed stitches and that they couldn’t give them there. So we headed over to another hospital, the “Gemelli Polyclinic”.
The Gemelli was very different. The entrance was spacious and well lit. Everything was immaculately clean, and the nurses, though under pressure, took care of my friend quickly. There was a joyful spirit about the place. The surgeon who gave my friend the stitches was very kind and did his work meticulously and with a smile.
Today is the Feast of Divine Mercy. Pope John Paul II died eight years ago on the Vigil of this feast. As we sat in the Gemelli hospital that night with brother and his poor fingers, I looked up at a picture on the wall. It was John Paul joking with some children. Then I remembered that when John Paul had been shot (four times) in May, 1981, he had been rushed to this very Gemelli hospital, where his life had been saved. No wonder this hospital felt so different from that other one. John Paul may have moved on, but he was still influencing our lives as we sat there that night.
I saw Pope Francis three times during Holy Week, and he seems to be doing fine, though he was definitely tired Good Friday during the Way of the Cross – he sat down at one point and fell asleep, and the monsignor had to wake him up at the end! I too was tired by then!
On Easter Sunday we had the biggest crowd I have ever seen in Rome for Pope Francis’ Easter Blessing. People were packed like sardines from Saint Peter’s all the way to the Tiber river, and I got stuck directly behind a huge obelisk and couldn’t see Francis! Anyway, I still got his blessing.
He took possession of his Cathedral today – Saint John Lateran’s – and gave a beautiful homily. At one point he was talking about the disciples of Emmaus and how Jesus was so patient and kind with them: “This is God’s way of doing things: he is not impatient like us, who often want everything all at once, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because he loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to him, he is ready to embrace us.”
Let’s keep Pope Francis in our prayers. You are all in my prayers too! All this last week I was down in southern Italy with no email – it was a nice break!
God bless you,Brother Kevin