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Policeman becomes a priest and hermit thanks to Eucharistic adoration

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Don Ernesto: da poliziotto a sacerdote - Tv2000it

Tv2000it | Youtube

Silvia Lucchetti - published on 03/08/22

"I was an inflexible policeman, then Mercy arrived ..."

Fr. Ernesto Piraino is a former policeman from Calabria, Italy; now he’s a priest and hermit in the town of Belvedere Marittimo, near the point of the “boot” of the Italian peninsula. His hermitage is a small house with a vegetable garden at an altitude of 2,300 feet, an isolated dwelling in the woods of Pollino from which you can see the clear sea that washes the Tyrrhenian coast.

Last October, an interview with him was published in the Italian-language Catholic periodical Avvenire.it, which helps us understand the existential journey traveled by this man.

Fr. Ernesto Piraino joined the police at the age of 19 and took the cassock nine years later, in 2017.

He has a thick dark beard and in his quick gaze there’s still the alertness from when he was an “inflexible policeman with a deep sense of justice and the desire to make a career,” as he described himself to Avvenire. 

History of a vocation 

How did this unusual vocational plot twist come about?

“At the time,” he told Avvenire, “I was working at the police headquarters in Messina and I lived in Scilla. Raised in a Catholic family, I had a light dusting of faith but I didn’t live it fully. When my parish started perpetual adoration, my first approach to it was the result of curiosity.”

Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration

In fact, it was on November 1, 2006, that this form of Eucharistic adoration was inaugurated at the church of Mary Immaculate Most Holy on the promontory of Scilla. He told Avvenire about his experience there:

A few months earlier, I had broken up with my fiancée after a six-year-long relationship that was one step away from marriage. I was going through a difficult situation, and that day Jesus started to change my life. I didn’t immediately understand what was happening, but from that moment on, the call of the Eucharist became stronger and stronger.

He was happy, but something was still missing

While Ernesto continued his usual life, Jesus became more and more indispensable to him, and incredibly, “wherever I went, I found perpetual Eucharistic adoration,” he told the Italian publication.

Jesus, reaching into his heart, re-established a minimum of order in the existential uncertainty following the end of his engagement, asking him only to trust Him and give Him some space.

His girlfriend: If you want to become a priest, just tell me

Over the next 4 years Ernesto met other beautiful women, but even though he got along well with them, there was always an underlying dissatisfaction that pervaded him. At a certain point, the girl with whom he had established an important relationship, sensing what was stirring in his soul, told him that if his path was to be a priest, he simply had to say so.

Thanks to the sensitivity typical of many women, she had understood it before he did.

Seminarian and policeman

In 2010 he took the big step. He spoke with his spiritual director about his “growing desire to consecrate myself to God.” He dropped out of law school and started studying theology instead. He entered the seminary in 2011, at the age of 32. “For some time I continued to be a policeman,” he told Avvenire. “Seminarian and cop. When I was ordained, all my colleagues from the Police Department were there, and it was a celebration I never had imagined.”

Yesterday a policeman, today a hermit priest

Can we find a common thread that somehow links the policeman of yesterday with the priest and hermit of today? Fr. Ernesto explained it to the Catholic periodical:

There’s always been a deep sense of justice in me, which over time has turned into a view of the totality of the human being. I was an inflexible policeman, then Mercy arrived and I began to do my duty by looking at the guilty with a different eye, as a brother to help them, to redeem them. (…) It’s a path in which I continue to trust and let myself be guided. I learned to see his face in the Eucharist, then in the face of my brother. A hermit learns to see him in everything. His Face follows me in the hours of meditation, in the ministry of confession, in the time dedicated to hospitality and spiritual direction … Then, however, I go to recharge myself by immersing myself in the silence and solitude of my little Tabor. 

His story has recently been published in an autobiographical book, From Uniform to Cassock: The Story of a Policeman Who Became a Priest (“Dalla divisa alla tonaca – La storia del poliziotto diventato prete,” by Ernsto Piraino, Herkules Books, currently only available in Italian).

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