Fr. Peter Carota hiking with us in the Alps, 2010
Fr. Peter loved the poor, and was loved by them. I didn’t know he had gone back to God as I approached the altar on Friday, but the humility of the poor men at Mass lit a simple joy in my heart. We were offering the Holy Sacrifice together in a homeless shelter; Fr. Peter’s life began in the soup kitchens he established in Santa Cruz to the priesthood he exercised in Stockton and Phoenix. God directed him to feed his men not only with the day-old bread he begged from Santa Cruz bakeries, but with the Bread of Life. As he lay dying in Escalon, he would whisper to us: “you must thank God for your priesthood, that you can still offer the Holy Mass.”
During my Mass on Friday morning, a schizophrenic man came up for communion. The sisters indicated that he should receive only a blessing, so I blessed him with the Sacred Host. He began to yell at me and pulled off his dark sunglasses: “Do you know who I am?” Anger, fear, and frustration contorted his creased face. In my weakness, I took offense and lightly derided him. “No I don’t. Who are you?” I smiled sardonically. “If you don’t know who I am, you’ve got a problem, and you need to deal with it. You need help.” I smiled weakly, and the sisters bundled him off. The Mass continued.
After Mass I had regained a bit of composure and asked Sr. John Marie if I should have given him Holy Communion. “Yes,” she said: the sisters were overly cautious. But we might ask him if he would like to receive in his room. We went to his room, and I feared the worst. He again manifested belligerence, but as I lifted the Host, he knelt on the floor. “I kneel before my Lord Jesus Christ.” He received the Holy Eucharist with great humility, and my blessing, and we embraced, all smiles.
Was Fr. Peter interceding for us? Certainly he was. Not only the souls in heaven, but also the souls in purgatory intercede for us on earth, as we intercede for them. Fr. Peter, and all the holy souls, intercede for us! Help us to know the love of Christ in the poorest of the poor, and to serve Him in them!