You’ve probably heard of Judge Frank Caprio, the chief municipal judge in Providence, Rhode Island, who is known for his TV show Caught in Providence, as well as for his leniency when dishing out fines.
Despite his 85 years, the judge regularly sits at his bench making wise rulings, full of empathy and compassion. And these decisions have been seen by millions of viewers who tune in to see Caprio really listen to people and their circumstances, and give them a chance rather than condemn them for their unfortunate mistakes.
The unusual style of this father-of-five has not gone unnoticed by one particular priest, Fr. Mark Mastin, from Franklin, Wisconsin. The priest of the Sacred Heart took the time to visit Caprio’s courtroom to drop off the donation of $1,000 to a visibly moved judge.
Fr. Mastin explained his own background to the judge and how he’d grown up in extreme poverty along with his seven siblings. His mom raised them all single-handedly, while also caring for her sister with Down syndrome, and in the end for her father. He went on to share how his mom would go without food to make sure her children could eat. As a result of her hard work, the priest and his siblings have all felt blessed in their lives.
Compassion and mercy
As the judge listened intently, the priest explained how Caprio — whom he calls a “great man of compassion” — displays virtues so important to the Catholic Church. He shared that the Latin and theological definition of compassion is to “suffer with,” and how God shows compassion as he suffers with us.
Delving a little deeper, he also explained how the word for mercy in Hebrew is chesed, meaning, among other definitions, to “journey with someone, to pull them out of the depths of their despair.”
All these qualities Fr. Mastin sees in the judge. In a job where Caprio could punish those who infringe the law, he prefers to judge fairly, looking to try and improve the lives of those standing before him, rather than fill the city’s coffers.
But then the judge did what he does best: spoke with reason, from his heart.
In responding to what the priest shared, Caprio pointed out how Fr. Mastin demonstrated the importance of the “family unit, which is the basic unit of society.” He went on to say, “your spirit, your generosity, and your heart comes from your family, from your mom.”
One of the sins of the world right now is the disintegration of the family unit and we should be doing what we can to keep it together … you exemplify the product of a strong family unit and a loving mother.”
At the end, the pair shared a meaningful hug, and both will no doubt continue to make an impact in their respective missions.