Many followers of Vincent, Louise, Elizabeth and Frederic have learned that Pope Francis has commissioned showers for the homeless under St. Peter’s colonnades. On Monday 17th of November work will begin to renovate the public restrooms for pilgrims: there will be a space for homeless people to wash. Ten parishes in Rome will do the same.
The story is simple but there are implications. Bishop Krajewski, known as Father Conrad, has been taking provisions and aid to those who live on the streets for years. Pope Francis has chosen him for this reason, appointing him bishop and entrusting him the Almonry; he has the task of being the Pope’s «first responder».
In this case he did more. He did some “deep listening” to the homelesss person. This man said that because he smelled he could not come to a dinner offered by the bishop. In the best sense of looking for underlying causes the bishop realized the need for a place for the homeless around St. Peter’s to shower.
So now there will be three showers for the homeless under the imposing colonnades by Bernini, one of the most beautiful and visited places in the world. Krajewski replies to the reporter, who asks if some tourists might turn up their noses, by saying that “The Basilica exists in order to keep the Body of Christ, and we serve Jesus’ suffering body by serving the poor. Always, in the history of Rome, the poor congregated around the Basilicas”.
It is all to easy to comment on the contrast in so many parts of the world to criminalize homlessness and create laws preventing the feeding of those who are hungry or alllowing them a place to rest on a park bench, etc.
The question Vincentian might ask is “Am I listening deeply enough to understand the hidden need of those we seek to serve?”
We could begin by asking ourselves, the Pope’s local “first responders”, do we see the deeper need behind what this person needs. It may be help in filling out forms in a welfare office, a book of bus tickets. Of course just taking the itme to listen is important.
On a wider scale we might ask about the institutions we are involved in, be they ones sponsored by our organzations or the parishes we attend.
What kind of outreach might be called for if we really believe that Christ is in each of our brothers and sisters.
Are there any accommodations we can make in our facilities?