The Thief and the Seminarian

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It was one of the last days of school this past school year. I was in the cafeteria serving cake that my daughter had brought in to celebrate her late-summer birthday with the entire school, thus beginning what would become a two-month series of celebrations of turning seven. As I was slicing and serving and trying to remember not to lick my fingers, I ran into a friend of mine whose son, a seminarian, was currently backpacking through Europe with a few other fellow seminarians and a beloved adventurous priest from our diocese.

I gave her hug and asked how it was going, and she had that look in her eye. “Well, actually,” she said, “I just got a call from him today that his backpack was stolen.” She sighed and delicately rung her hands. It took a half a second for me to adjust from little kid to big kid problems, struggling for a moment to imagine my children old enough to even leave the house by themselves. But then it came. I sighed with her as she explained that at least he still had his passport. The backpack and his money, though, were gone.

She smiled, though, and added, “You know, there really wasn’t a lot in it, but there was a bible, a breviary, and a rosary, so we’re all praying for the conversion of the guy who took it.” We both laughed at the probably surprise of the thief upon finding a bunch of holy articles among his loot.

I’d thought about the story for a while afterwards, really taken by the young seminarian’s charitable disposition toward his enemy who’d left him penniless and without socks in the middle of Europe. And then, as God would have it, we ran into the seminarian after Mass at the diocesan center yesterday.

The kids and I had been lurking in the back where the baby was taking a snap bracelet to the fake ferns in the narthex as we waited for my husband to come out after having served at Mass. We heard his voice and rounded the corner, and I was so happy to see my friend’s son there standing and talking to him, back from Europe in one piece.

I gave him a hug and asked about the trip, adding that I’d heard the story about the backpack from his mom.

He smiled and said, “My friend also had some things in there. So we decided that we’d pray every day for the conversion of the person who took it. And you know what? Just today I got a phone call from the Italian embassy saying that they had my belongings.”

I felt so filled with hope. For our diocese that will have the kind of men like my friend’s son at our altars, and for my own life, for which there is no obstacle that prayer can’t overcome.

Copyright 2014 Meg Matenaer

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