Concrete Kindness

The Vatican has announced that, in addition to the new showers being built under the colonnade at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City State, barbers in Rome on Mondays (the traditional day off for barbers) will begin offering haircuts and shaves for the homeless and those in need. Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner, will be in charge of the project, which is set to begin on Feb. 18.

The archbishop, who is known to walk the streets of Rome, actively getting to know the homeless and needy, got the idea to build the showers at St. Peter’s when, on his way home from confessions, he met a homeless man. He learned that it was this man’s 50th birthday and offered to take him for a bite to eat, but the man insisted he would not be allowed into a restaurant because of his smell.

“I brought him with me anyway. We had Chinese,” Krajewski was quoted as saying. “While we were at the table, he told me that you can always find something to eat in Rome. But what is missing is places to wash yourself.”

The archbishop is quoted as saying: “We have to be evangelical, but intelligent, too. It is not simple. It is easier to prepare sandwiches than to run a shower service – you need volunteers, towels, clean underwear.”

This is a beautiful story of recognizing a need and running with it. Archbishop Krajewski has a special task – to be the visible sign of mercy to the poor of Rome, to bring the love of the successor of the Apostle Peter to those in need. The Holy Father, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, was known for walking to the slums and barrios to visit and assist the poor.

Now, as a much more visible public person, it’s difficult for him to personally accomplish this task. So, it’s this archbishop’s task to be a very pastoral presence in the city, accomplishing most of his work not behind a desk, but in the streets. His goal, which is also the goal of Pope Francis, is to help restore dignity to the poor and homeless.

God bless him in this task and for all those who will help this beautiful idea a reality.

It’s all about seeing Christ in one another, all about living the Beatitudes. May this new development at the Vatican help to inspire us to be just a little bit more loving and caring for each other and for those whom we encounter in our daily lives.