Janitor in Buenos Aires
P. M. C., Buenos Aires, Argentina
May 30, 2012
One day he muttered “’morning,” in reply. When I went past again that evening I stopped and asked him his name. “Angel,” he answered, with a smile. We chatted for a few minutes and I went on my way. After that he always called a greeting as soon as he saw me coming. Some days I went by at full speed, because I had so much work to do.
You’ll lose your mind!
One of those times, when he saw me going by, he stopped sweeping, blocked my path, and said very seriously, “You can’t go around like that. Head down, brain full of worries. You’ll lose your mind!” (and he pointed to his head like saying, “you’ll go crazy”). “You need to look at the beauty all around you. Look at that tree… Do you hear that bird?” And he kept giving me more examples of the marvels God sets on my way, for me to learn to contemplate them. I realized that God had set this man (this Angel!) on my way, for me to realize I wasn’t going to work just for the sake of working, but to learn to contemplate Him. I told Angel that I had learned from St Josemaria that it is possible to contemplate God in one’s work, precisely through the simple little details. I gave him a prayer-card, and promised I’d lend him a video about the great saint I was talking about. That same evening, I gave it to him on my way home.
The next day…
The next day I was really looking forward to asking him what he thought of it. And I also thought I could encourage him to go to Confession if he hadn’t been for some time. But to my surprise, he wasn’t there, and the door of his room was shut. That was most unusual. In the evening it was still shut, and the following day too. On the third day, I saw him sweeping as usual, but looking tired or sad. I said hello, and before I could ask him where he’d been, he thanked me for the video about St Josemaria and said, “The day before yesterday my wife died. You just don’t know how much that video helped me, I talked to him and it meant a lot to me. Now I know that Chiquita” (his wife) “is with God, and she’s very happy, and I have to keep struggling to lead a good life so that I can get to heaven too some day.” We went on talking about his family, his children and the communion of saints. He was tired, but very peaceful. He asked if he could keep the video a few days longer.
We had more talks on other days and I talked to him about Confession and Mass. He started practicing his faith again. He asked me for more prayer-cards, and passed them on to people he met in the street while he was sweeping the entrance to his building.
To Rome with an uncertain future
A few years later I was preparing to go and study in Rome, and, if it was God’s will, to be ordained as a priest of Opus Dei. I told Angel about it, and although I wasn’t at all clear about my future, he assured me that I would be ordained and that God would make use of my ministry to help many more people. And he said, “I’ll be waiting for you here, to see you coming along in your cassock, – and with your head high!”
I went to Rome, and we kept in touch by letter. I always encouraged him to keep practicing his faith, and he never failed to tell me that he was praying the prayer-card to our Father for me and for all those who were with me in Rome.
On the day of my ordination to the priesthood, my parents brought me a letter from him. (He’d met my father, I don’t know when or how, and brought them the letter to give me a few days before they left for Rome.) He told me that he never failed to pray for those in Rome every day, and that on that day he would be praying harder than ever for those of us who were being ordained.
I told you so!
A few months ago I returned to Buenos Aires and went to see him. He was really moved to see me dressed as a priest, and he said, “I told you so!” I thanked him for his prayers and his letter. When I encouraged him to continue praying through St Josemaria’s intercession, he slapped his overall pocket where he had a prayer-card of St Josemaria, and said, “He goes everywhere with me!”
List of Contents
- I'm no longer afraid
- Because of a book I read in prison
- When you read The Way...
- Friends of God
- An anti-crisis priest
- Shout for Freedom!
- Janitor in Buenos Aires
- A book I’ll never forget
- Bohemian but not slapdash
- Living with an angel on earth. His burden is not heavy
- Inside the library
- Life becomes simpler when we pray