In his Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms St. John Fisher talks about the gift of tears, the ability to weep for one’s sins. Several years ago I had an experience in which I believe I received this gift — one time only — on Good Friday thanks to the charity and solicitude of a great man of God.
I don’t remember the exact year — 2007, maybe — but Good Friday arrived and I made my way down to St. Peter the Apostle Church (the home of the National Shrine of St. John Neumann) at 5th and Girard in the morning. I was hoping to see some times posted for confessions, either on a sign or in the parish bulletin — St. Peter’s was known for having daily confessions and I thought I remembered their having confessions during the Triduum before. I did not see any signs and as far as the bulletin was concerned — I either could not find a copy or it said nothing about a confession schedule for Good Friday. I nearly despaired thinking that I would go through Easter, the holiest day of the year, in a state of sin. However, I went to the upstairs church, where the Repository was kept in a small side chapel, and saw a priest there speaking with one of sacristans. I knew the priest only by name and reputation — my wife had spoken highly of him — so I waited until I caught his attention and asked him whether he knew if confessions were scheduled for that day. He asked me to wait a moment until he finished with the sacristan, then simply asked me to follow him, sat down in the confessional and heard my confession.
I left the confessional and knelt before the Repository to say my penance. I cannot put into words everything I felt at that moment — yes, I know our religion is not based on feelings, but sometimes we are graced with the consolation of having our feelings correspond to the truth — thinking of the awfulness of my sins, the simple charity of this priest, the grace and mercy of God — and I wept uncontrollably.
That priest’s name was Msgr. George Tomichek.
Last night I heard the sad news that Msgr. Tomichek had died a couple of days earlier and it really took the wind out of my sails. Please, of your charity, remember him in your prayers! Perhaps even now he is bringing our petitions before Our Lord’s throne in heaven, just as he did on earth in Holy Mass and in the Sacrament of Penance. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.