By Katie Teems, NHT AmeirCorps Member
I walked into the St. Thomas Aquinas church office, and Father Grassi greeted me with a smile and offered me a mug of coffee that had "Almost Heaven" written on the side. He said that when he came to Thomas in the summer of 2004, he thought he was in heaven. The joke was that Thomas must have been as close to heaven as possible because he hadn't seen anyone in the confessional for a month, meaning Thomas must have been without sin!
When Father Grassi first came to Thomas, he said, "I saw so much potential in the town because it was such a charming place." Still, he talked of there being almost nothing open on Front Street. He saw so much need here and knew that he could be an instrument for God's grace because "when people are hurting or when they're in need, that's when God becomes so much more significant to them."
Since then, he's been happy to see people's excitement at how Thomas has been blossoming. He noted seeing a change when artist and entrepreneur Seth Pitt came to Thomas, saying that "Seth was the biggest kicker" and "I'm very impressed with him."
You may be wondering, how does Father Grassi serve Thomas daily? His routine looks something like this: He wakes up at 4:15 am and prays. Then, he gets dressed and prays in the church until about 6:15 am. He then exercises before getting ready for the day and saying the Traditional Latin Mass at 7:45 am. After that, he makes home visits to shut-ins, visits the nursing home, and takes appointments before saying Mass in the evenings. "I have a plan," he says, "and I just open up to God's plan." He added, "if you want to make God laugh, tell him what your plans are."
Father Grassi hadn't always planned on becoming a priest, either. When I asked him about how he heard his call to the priesthood, he said that he had been working at IBM as an Field Engineer for 12 years. The call to the priesthood was "always a part of my thought process," but his job was comfortable, and he had also mused on marrying and having 8-12 children.
In prayer one morning before work, he had asked God to make his calling clear to him by taking care of the two things that were holding him back: his job and his house. That day his boss called him into the office and said "You're not gonna believe this, but you have been made surplus." After 12 years of work and one of the top engineers in a division of 80 people, he was chosen to be laid off from his position. Then, when he got home, his mother told him that someone had called wanting to buy the house. "Could He have hit me with a bigger sledgehammer," he said.
I've met a number of people whose lives have been ameliorated by Father Grassi and his calling to the priesthood. He always greets others with warmth and friendliness, and even if he is not feeling well himself, he pays close attention to the well being of his flock. "We have to be the Bible" for others, he says. He noted that he's called on more by non-Catholics if anything happens, and that he wants to embrace as many people as possible as a very visible presence of the Church. Father ended by saying that "everyone is invited to experience the Catholic faith and come to Mass."