Note: This is part of a new serial fiction series focusing on the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, following the life of a fictional character as he encounters the saint. New chapters are released every Sunday! Click here for the previous chapter(s).
The next day, Giorgio was able to secure a carriage that would take them to Matteo’s new home. It was a small parish outside the city limits of Turin and had a spacious rectory next to it, inhabited by an aging priest.
“A priest!” thought Matteo. He had abandoned his faith a few years ago and now he would have to live with a priest.
It disgusted Matteo, but he didn’t have a choice. The alternative was to continue living in the streets until he died a slow and painful death as his lungs failed him completely.
While that type of death could still be in his future, living in the rectory outside of the city would provide him with enough warmth and fresh air that he could possibly live for another few years. It was difficult to completely undo the stress his lungs underwent working in the mines, but his body could heal enough to prolong his life a little longer.
After a few hours of a slow carriage ride, Matteo and Giorgio reached their destination.
The church was small and could maybe hold 100 people at most. It looked ancient, probably dating back hundreds of years. The stone blocks were solid and built to sustain any storm, but parts of them were crumbling due to the old age.
Next to the church was a large wooden house that was sorely in need of repair. Little about the house looked appealing to Matteo, but it looked like it would protect him from the wind and cold. That was enough for him.
“Here we are, Matteo!” Giorgio’s eyes brightened as he exited the carriage.
“Santa Lucia’s! My good friend Padre Antonio lives here. I come here occasionally to sit and pray, away from the busyness of the city. Few know about this small church, and the silence here is a delight!”
“Thank you, Giorgio for finding this place for me to stay!” Matteo said mechanically and then looked around him very nervously. “I haven’t spoken to a priest in years. Will he force me to go to confession?”
Giorgio threw back his head and laughed, “No! No! You don’t need to worry about Padre Antonio. He is the gentlest soul I have ever known.”
“Come,” said Giorgio, motioning to the door of the house, “I will introduce you to him. He is an old man, but will welcome the company. He is in great need of someone to help him.”
“Help him do what?” Matteo was nervous again, not sure what he was getting himself into.
Giorgio knocked at the door, yelling out, “Padre Antonio! It is me, Giorgio!”
Matteo could hear movement in the house as the priest shuffled across the creaking floor boards. The door slowly opened and Matteo immediately understood why he was here.
Padre Antonio was blind.
He had a cloth wrapped around his eyes and his wrinkled hands grasped a walking stick that he used to help him get around the house.
Matteo could sense himself reeling back in semi-horror, thinking about living with a blind man.
Giorgio looked at Matteo and put his hand on his should in reassurance.
“Don’t worry, Matteo. Padre Antonio is quite good at walking around the house and doing most things. He can even say Mass from memory! The people love him here, but he does need someone to clean-up the house and cook on occasion.”
“I-I-I don’t know how to cook!” Matteo was breathing heavily, feeling great anxiety at staying here.
“I’ll teach you!”
Both Matteo and Giorgio looked down at the smiling old priest, who offered to teach Matteo how to cook.
“I have only been blind for the past year and have a great memory. This rectory has been my home for over 50 years and I know it inside and out. Every sound, and smell is familiar to me. All the utensils for cooking are in the same place as they always have been. I would do it myself, but my hands ache and the cold weather is making everything more difficult for me.”
Matteo was shocked at this statement, but at the same time was intrigued. This blind priest had a warmth about him that was attracting. He wasn’t angry or bitter at his situation, but wanted to make the best of it. That was something Matteo had difficulty with, ever since he became homeless.
Giorgio turned to Matteo with a smile.
“I can stay for a little while and help you get acquainted with the place, but I must be going back into the city and attend to my studies. I also need to see how your friends are doing at La Crocetta! How I wish I could find homes for every homeless man or woman!”
For the next hour Giorgio stayed, showed Matteo his room and explained to him how he could best help Padre Antonio. It wasn’t going to be an easy life for Matteo, helping a blind priest navigate his own house, but had a good feeling about it. The priest wasn’t going to force him to confess his sins or come back to the Catholic Church. If he ever wanted to do that, much more in his heart needed to heal.
“Matteo, I place you in good hands. Take care of Padre Antonio and I will check-up on you as I am able.”
As Giorgio was leaving he looked back at Matteo and reflected, “May peace reign in your soul … When God is with us, we don’t have to be afraid of anything. In God’s marvelous plan, Divine Providence often uses the tiniest twigs to do good works. You may feel inadequate for this task, but that is the secret to success. The more we rely on God, the more he can do through our weaknesses.”
To be continued …
Come back next Sunday for the next chapter!