Sermon and photos for the Requiem Mass of Gaetano, a poor man of the street, at Ss. Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome

I had asked you to give alms to help bury the dead.   HERE

Gaetano Tinnirello. He lived rough, in the streets, and often with his dog was at the doors of my adoptive parish Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini, the Vetus Ordo parish in Rome, to beg alms of those who came and went.

One of the priests at Ss. Trinità wrote:

Your readership has been simply incredible in its response. I know the 3000 eur mark has been met, but I’m not sure about the current status since I don’t have immediate access to the account.

However, I do have a few photos of of the Requiem and I have the text of the sermon, preached by don Vilmar Pavesi.

Please tale a moment to read this.


I’m thirsty. On the Cross, in his agony, Jesus was thirsty. It was an immense thirst, caused by his wounds. But it was above all a spiritual thirst. Jesus was thirsty, and He still thirsts for souls, because He seeks souls to save them, without despising any of them.

Gaetano also felt thirsty. When I met him in the hospital, his mouth was dry. Father, I’m thirsty, give me a drink, that was the first thing he asked me. After inquiring if I could do this, I started giving him a drink using a syringe and a straw. He couldn’t move. After he drank half a bottle of water, I told him: Gaetano, think of Jesus Christ on the Cross. He too was thirsty, but no one gave Him anything to drink. Now you can understand it better. He nodded his head. Then I asked him if he wanted to confess. He said yes. He was perfectly lucid. He didn’t get tired. He confessed with the best dispositions of the soul, with humility and sincerity. And then we prayed together for his penance. After him, seeing signs of suffering in his face, for his pains, I advised him to offer everything for the love of God: Jesus, I offer for your love. And he repeated with me, like a child: Jesus, I offer for your love.

Then I told him that I also wanted to give him Extreme Unction, and he agreed. After the Extreme Unction he asked me for more water, because he was still thirsty. That poor Gaetano who was still thirsty, with his Confession and with the Extreme Unction had instead eased God’s thirst. Before leaving him, we talked about various things and his life after the hospital.

So he asked me to find him accommodation, and I promised him I would.
Then he asked me where he was at that moment? “Al San Camillo”, I replied.
How far is it from the parish?” “10 minutes by tram,” I told him.
When will I take the tram again?” “When God wills, you don’t have to worry about the future. Lord, your will be done.” And he once again, like a child, repeated: “Lord, your will be done.

To Gaetano I brought the greetings of all the priests of the parish, especially the parish priest, and of the people who cherished affection and pity for him. At some point I had to leave. “Ah, you have to go. Then you give me some more water and then you can leave.” After the last blessing and greeting, he said to me: “Father, thank you. You made me very happy.

The first time I went to see him in the hospital was on Saturday, after the first surgery. He was in a coma and in grave danger of death. Usually, I always carry the oil of the sick with me, but that day, by chance, I didn’t have any. And since it was too late, they didn’t let me see him. I returned like this on Monday, this time with the holy oil. Gaetano was perfectly lucid. The next day he would go back into a coma again, he would undergo a new operation and he would remain in a coma until the day of his death. He would seem to have returned to a state of lucidity only for a few hours, like that child who was resurrected at the time of San Filippo Neri only to be able to confess and receive the Extreme Unction, and then die again.

About St. Philip Neri. Without knowing it, Gaetano lived one of his councils. In fact, every day he entered the church, greeted all the saints, and then when he approached the main altar he prostrated himself on the ground, kissed the floor and prayed. This was exactly how he taught St. Philip Neri: “When you have little time or you can’t pray well, go into a church and greet all the saints. You will have said an excellent prayer.” I always thought that the Lord would save him for this act of piety, done with such sincerity. And also for the Rosary and the Miraculous Medal that he wore around his neck.

Once I found him in the church fixing the floor. Do you remember when the marbles at the in the back moved? Without saying anything to anyone, he began to arrange the marble plaques. Indeed, more than one person had tripped. “Gaetano, what are you doing?” “I’ll fix the marbles! So it is dangerous. I don’t do it for money. I do it because it is God’s house and God’s house is mine too.

He wanted to work. He wanted to be helpful. He cleaned the street because he said he lived there and therefore he wanted it clean. He also cleaned the church staircase. I have seen him more than once spontaneously helping the scavengers to collect the garbage. He did it without interest, just to help out.

When he got here, he was wearing earrings. I can’t stand men with earrings. So one day I proposed to sell me his earrings. When Gaetano understood the reason why I wanted to buy them, he took off his earrings, went to throw them in the manhole and promised me that he would no longer wear them and did not want the money. And so it was.

The death of Gaetano at the age of 33 is a great pain for all of us. His presence gave a picturesque face to the parish. His was a good presence. He knew how to make everyone love him. Even his dog looked so good together. The death of Gaetano is a great pain for everyone, because in the depths of our soul, we all feel a little responsible. He was one of those littlest brothers of Christ, because he had an immense need to be helped in his body and in his soul. More than money, he needed sincere affection and opportunity.

How many times have we returned indifference, coldness or haste to his spontaneous “Good evening“? How many times have we passed him, without even looking at him, when he was not well? “Whenever you have done these things to one of these least of my brothers, you will have done it to me” (Mt 25).

Lord, in front of this body we ask your forgiveness for all the good we could have done to Gaetano and we have not done. Lord, in front of this body, we promise you to receive with generosity and love the poor that your Providence will deign to send us.

However, I would be unfair if I only had reproaches in front of this body. Gaetano’s death has already begun to bear fruit. Many felt touched in their hearts and opened themselves more to charity. Very edifying is the number of people who continually ask for Masses for his soul. This is a great charity. Others offered to give him a proper burial. This too is a work of mercy pleasing to the Lord. Some young people followed Gaetano with true love during his last weeks. They are the ones who took me and accompanied me to the hospital.

The Lord bless you.

Gaetano still has a great mission among us. Indeed, his mission has just begun. He, poor, but blessed by the Lord, you must teach us to be charitable. He must teach us to have great hope in God. The Lord brought him closer to this parish. He made him find the Christian affection of his faithful and priests because he wanted to give him the eternal happiness of Heaven. Gaetano also has the mission of donating to the Archconfraternity of the SS. Trinity a new impetus in his works of spiritual and corporal charity.

St. Philip Neri, pray for him. Saint Benedict Giuseppe Labre, pray for him. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for him.

The parish has taken on all the expenses to transport his body back to his home province and bury him with his family.

You can help.  It is a good November, Four Last Things, corporal work of mercy to bury the dead.

Make a donation.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Pingback: Sermon and photos for the Requiem Mass of Gaetano, a poor man of the street, at Ss. Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome – Via Nova Media

  2. Eugene says:

    Indescribably moving!
    Thank you Padre for sharing!

    Eterno riposo a Gaetano O Signore. Splendi a lui la Tua luce eterna e che riposa in pace. Amen!

  3. Eugene says:

    Father, in my righteous anger against the motu proprio TC, I would like to literally shove this story in the face of some high minded clerics who have disparaged faithful traditional Catholics “for caring only about the liturgy”. The reverent worship of God is what moves us to great acts of charity such as this!
    Irreverent, meaningless worship does not promote true love and charity.

  4. Padre Pio Devotee says:

    Thank you Father for presenting us with an opportunity to perform both spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
    A beautiful, touching sermon.
    What a uniting cause (from across the world) sprung forth from the unifying rite.
    May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, Rest In Peace. Amen.
    May the Most Holy Family intercede for the least, the lonely, and the last. Amen.

  5. SimpleCatholic says:

    My how hateful and divisive these trads are! I bet poor young deluded Gaetano was a bead rattler too! And kneeling? How could he kneel in the absence of Pachamama? Encouraging this poor man in his traditional delusions, and then confirming his devotion with a solemn Mass? If this trad parish really cared about him, where are the guitars at his funeral? Where is the celebration of life? They care about no one. This must be stopped in it’s tracks before it leads to other acts of actual corporal and spiritual mercy. It might even sow seeds of doubt about the new fake mercy of the fake evangelization in the minds of the young. What if it leads to the most dreaded of all spiritual effects – gasp- CONVERSIONS!!!!! If people convert to Christ, then how can we accompany them? See??? Selfish and divisive trads.

  6. Pingback: Sermon and photos for the Requiem Mass of Gaetano, a poor man of the street, at Ss. Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome | Fr. Z’s Blog – The Old Roman

  7. Benedict Joseph says:

    This saga lifts the heart. Grace is everywhere.

  8. Kathleen10 says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Fr. Z. Who wouldn’t want to hear such words said about themselves when they leave this world. What a description of his love for God and the church! I hope bishops happen to read of the moving testimony of his last confession, the importance of which I do not have the skills to even describe, it is too much. Like so many, I am heartsick at the reality that so many have died in the last two years without any such consolation as Gaetano received. Lonely, alone, frightened, abandoned by the church, they slipped away without making a last confession or receiving Viaticum, without the consolation only the church can give. So Gaetano received what so many others would have loved. He ended up a rich man. His beautiful smiling face…He would be a wonderful intercessor for the lonely, the homeless.

  9. JesusFreak84 says:

    1) There’s just something in my eye, really!!!

    2) We talk, rightfully so, so much about the mental illnesses that result in so many being destitute and homeless like this, but goodness sometimes I think we need reminders about the *health* that can still exist inside, even if it’s buried at times. This man might not have always had the “best” light in his mind, but he sure had it in his soul, and we all know which one God was looking at at the end.

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