Dc. Tom’s Blog

Welcome to the blog of Deacon Thomas Picciano. Published usually three days a week, this blog gives you another avenue of reflection.

April 9, 2021

Jesus revealed himself again… 

I don’t know why it is…but I feel drawn to water. I’ve mentioned before my many treks over the Atlantic, some with the Pacific as well. Time in the Gulf, the Med, and the Channel too. And then there’s driving alongside Cayuga Lake…so many trips…back to the 1970s.  

Someday, maybe I’ll visit the Holy Land and that body of water that Jesus and the apostles spent much time on. Called the Sea of Tiberias in today’s Gospel…known also as the Sea of Galilee.  

I can almost see the Fishers of Men, still not sure about Jesus’ resurrection. They’re afloat and head off to cast their nets. With Jesus urging, they try the side that brings 153 fish. Peter can’t wait to see Him—swims ashore. The rest follow with the boat. 

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come, have breakfast.’ And none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they realized it was the Lord.”—John 21:12 

How has Jesus revealed himself to you this Easter week? 

Peace be with you! Alleluia! 
Deacon Tom 

April 7, 2021

What are you discussing as you walk along? 

Nice weather recently. The other day, a friend and I decided to have dinner at Roundtop. After, we had a walk. God seemed close as sunset neared.  

Today’s Gospel from Luke tells of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They don’t know it was the Risen Lord walking beside them that Easter afternoon. He heard them tell of the recent events. And how that day, the women discovered Jesus was no longer in the tomb. Then He reminded them of what scripture foretold. 

They invited Him to stay with them as evening was near. It’s then He blessed and broke bread and soon vanished. That’s when the pair realized who He was. And they returned to Jerusalem where the apostles were.  

“The two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”—Luke 24:35 

Are our hearts feeling Jesus with us this Easter week? 

Deacon Tom 

March 30, 2021

Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God…

I’ve been listening to a podcast for the last several weeks. It is a read of the Bible in a year. Only takes about a half hour a day to hear, even as you’re doing something else. Fr. Michael Schmitz has a good voice delivering the pages.

Yesterday a few verses from the first chapter of Ruth stuck with me. Together with the other three chapters, it tells the story of her family and their moves in life. She’s an ancestor of Jesus. A good connection for all of us.

Take some time to ponder…a day from Holy Thursday and then Good Friday and Easter. Who like Ruth came before us in faith leading up to Jesus?

“Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”—Ruth 1:15-16

Deacon Tom

March 29, 2021

“Let us ask for the grace to be amazed…”—Pope Francis 

I love watching flowers that come up year after year. On Sunday, daffodils readied their yellow. Tulips anticipating red and white? But the crocuses were first—pictured here in front of St. Agnes in Afton. Amazing! 

In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis spoke of amazement which he says “remains open to others and the newness they bring.”

The Pope asked what’s the most amazing thing about Jesus and his Passover? 

“He achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid.” 

Maybe take a few minutes to read the Holy Father’s entire message. You’ll be amazed. 

“God continues to fill our minds and hearts with amazement.”—Pope Francis, Palm Sunday Homily 2021 

Deacon Tom 

March 26, 2021

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  

I read Mark’s Gospel with others a couple days ago about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Some didn’t understand Palm Sunday.  

The word hosanna is defined as “to save, to rescue” or “savior.” Certainly a big welcome for Jesus. Yet we wonder how it changed so quickly, with the crucifixion to follow days later. Remember the reason…for our sins. And then his resurrection on Easter morning.

I have palms from a couple years ago, with other former greenery in a vase. Look for palms again in church after a one-year hiatus. Take Sunday as a “Hosanna” day. Perhaps watch the clip from Jesus Christ Superstar to get a feel for what it was like.    

“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches  
that they had cut from the fields.”—Mark 11:8 

Deacon Tom

March 24, 2021

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane… 

In 2013, Fr. Zandy had an idea to transform an area of the church grounds for prayer. There is the rosary garden we spoke of the other day. Another path will take you along the stations of the cross.  

A nice place to pray, silent for the most part, among the trees. You may see deer and sometimes other animals. Each station is under a wooden cover. There have been several editions, due to wear from winter weather.  

It’s easy to follow, beginning closest to the church and winding around the sandy path. Stop and pray. Maybe bring published prayers, such as the US Catholic Bishops Stations of the Cross for Vocations.  

Perhaps try it on your own or invite the family or a friend as Lent moves into Palm Sunday and Holy Week? 

“…and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’”—Matthew 26:36

Deacon Tom 

March 22, 2021

I am the light of the world… 

The weather guy on TV said the other night that we’d be in for several days of nice weather. If I’m not mistaken, he mentioned that it would pretty much be blue sky with no clouds. Looks like he’s right with the forecast today. 

I was walking near the small Mary statue on Sunday morning. I think the ground settled over the winter, so the base is tilted a bit. She’s beautiful with the sun above her. Perhaps you’ve taken time to walk and pray our living rosary that encircles the Blessed Mother near the path to the rectory? 

If you have time, over the next couple of days, pay a visit with your rosaries. Pray Hail Marys in a unique setting. Maybe you can say a couple while you’re there. There’s a bench nearby if you get tired. 

And consider that His light will be with you! You’ll spend some time with the sun and/or the Son too. 

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”—John 8:12 

Deacon Tom

March 19, 2021

The son of David will live forever…

Just after 4:30 this morning, I tuned into a St. Joseph Day Mass live from Nazareth, just as we’ve completed the 33-day consecration. Pope Francis released a statement today on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 25. Vatican News quoted part of the pope’s message

The Holy Father said vocations should focus on “dream, service, and fidelity.” He noted that’s what led St. Joseph to care for Jesus and the Blessed Mother. And he said God calls us in a similar way.

“He does not overwhelm us with dazzling visions but quietly speaks in the depths of our heart, drawing near to us and speaking to us through our thoughts and feelings.”

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”—Matthew 1:20

Deacon Tom

March 17, 2021

May the road rise with you…. 

My mother’s Irish heritage was very important to her.  Every March 17th, we remembered St. Patrick. Lots of work in the days before as the kitchen became a production line for Irish soda bread. The ladies would come in the afternoon for tea, bread and of course, green mint jelly. 

I rushed around a bit this morning to find her shiny green wreath, the sweater with the Irish crest, and the statue of St. Patrick. He was hiding behind some cards on top of the TV cabinet. A bit shy about having his picture taken, yet I got one snap of him. 

It’s said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps, but I think it’s important to remember how he brought Christianity to Ireland some 16-hundred years ago.   

There are so many prayers to share, some attributed to him, some that came after. Here’s a link to a virtual Irish Blessing, sung by members of more than 300 churches in Ireland last year. I’ll finish with the blessing that hung on my mother’s door for many years. She sometimes recited it with guests before a meal. 

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again…may God hold you in the hollow of his hand. An Old Irish Blessing 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day 
Deacon Tom 

March 15, 2021

Here I am!   

Ever been called by the Lord? Sometimes we’re not paying attention or don’t want to listen. Took three calls and many years before I answered. Just shy of 15-years since ordination now… 

Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, Samuel, Jacob and Ananias were six whose calls were recorded in the Old Testament and New. It was various times, at various ages and in various ways. A burning bush, awakened from sleep, in a vision, before a sacrifice, by an angel, the voice of the Lord… 

They all answered: “Here I am.” 

I came across a virtual performance of Dan Schutte’s “Here I Am” by the Choir and Orchestra of St. Lillian. Interesting that this popular hymn was initially composed for a diaconate ordination. Learned that from a 2017 feature in America Magazine.       

Here I Am” was published 40 years ago. We starting singing it during Mass my junior or senior year at college. Wonder why it took me so long to respond. Are we missing His call to answer “Here I am” to help in some way during these challenging times?       

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”—Isaiah 6:8 

Deacon Tom 

March 12, 2021

All the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, Summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”—Gen. 8:22 

We’ve had a taste of spring this week. Mostly sun, higher temperatures and a near absence of snow on the ground. So many walking outside to take in the light, the warmth and the fresh air.  

Someone asked if I’d seen crocuses so far. I’ll know soon, as a neighbor has a front lawn full of them, when they come up. But…walking into church the other day…a few bits of green poking through the mulch caught my eyes. Snapped a couple of pictures.  

There are so many verses in the bible about plants and growth. Take Isaiah 40:6: “All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.”  The Genesis verse above and the earlier creation story as well. 

As we look ahead to new growth in the coming season, I turn to St. Augustine with words to ponder: 

“Before God made heaven and earth, he was not making anything. If he was making anything it could only be something created.”—Confessions, xii (14) 

Deacon Tom 

March 10, 2021

His mother kept all these things in her heart… 

One year ago, we celebrated my mother’s 94th birthday. The day after, her health began a steady decline. She died (not of the virus) on March 21, 2020, just before the pandemic took hold. I remember how many of you supported her and the family over the years. 

Helen Loretta Brown was born in Queens Village, New York, and baptized at Our Lady of Lourdes there. She was proud of her Irish-German-Swiss heritage. Green was the color for March.  

This morning I was getting ready to leave for Mass in her memory. I opened the medicine chest. Mom’s morning prayers are still there. I was surprised to find a neatly folded paper. Her handwritten recipe for Irish Soda bread is now in my hands. I’ll make it soon. 

My mother was very devoted to the Blessed Mother. Got me thinking of the relationship that Jesus had with his mother. Perhaps we could all pray the rosary today…maybe an extra one too…for our parents. 

“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”—Luke 2:51 

Deacon Tom

March 8, 2021

“The LORD will be your light forever; your God will be your glory.”—Isaiah 60:19 

What a beautifully sunny day to visit the church grounds Sunday. Met a parishioner who I’d not seen in several weeks. A tiring day for both of us yesterday. We didn’t have a socially distant walk as many times in the last year. Just talked a bit from perhaps a dozen feet away.  

We’ve all been touched by COVID. It has limited interactions with others. But we must remember continued prayer for those who have died and their families, as well as those who have recovered. And we should offer prayer for the entire world community that’s struggling with isolation and more that the virus has brought.   

I’ve offered prayers recently for a friend and his young daughter in Brazil who have COVID. Just a little while ago, another friend in Italy told me they’re going into lockdown again.  

In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus talks of drought and famine in when Elijah the prophet helped only a widow and her son. He also spoke of lepers in Elisha’s days, when only Naaman was cleansed. Certainly difficult times for people then. The hometown audience didn’t like what Jesus had to say…and wanted to do away with him. But it didn’t work.

“He passed through the midst of them and went away.”—Luke 24:30 

Perhaps a reminder to put our prayers and confidence in the Light…to face the challenges ahead?  

Deacon Tom 

March 5, 2021

“Does the eagle fly up at your command to build his nest up high?”—Job 39:27-29 

I took a virtual visit last evening around the U.S. via Explore.org webcams.  Many scenes were still in daylight. Just breathtaking beauty that God has created for us. I was taken by two bald eagle “nest cams” including one on Catalina Island. I waited to see them spread their wings and fly.  

Makes me think of Pope Francis…who took to the sky this morning from Rome on his first foreign trip in 15-months. Speaking at the presidential palace in Baghdad, the Holy Father said he came to Iraq “as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace.” 

Later he spoke to clergy and religious at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in an address covered by the Vatican News Service.   

“May your witness,” he said, “matured through adversity and strengthened by the blood of martyrs, be a shining light in Iraq and beyond, in order to proclaim the greatness of the Lord and to make the spirit of this people rejoice in God our Saviour.” 

Deacon Tom  

March 3, 2021

“See what you have stored up for yourselves against the last days!”—James 5: 3 

When the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family paid a visit to Pope Leo XIII, it changed her life and that of countless others since. Katharine Drexel had earlier put aside becoming a nun. Then the pope suggested she consider becoming a missionary. After some prayer and consideration, she did.   

It’s been 130 years since the founding of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Under the guidance of Mother Katharine, they grew to serve Native and Afro-American communities. Many churches, schools and other facilities were established, including Xavier University in Louisiana. 

A heart attack cut back her work at the age of 77. Mother Katharine continued on almost another 20 years until her death on this day in 1955. It’s now her feast day. The sisters have an incredible history of their foundress on their website. She was a great writer of letters, some of which are available online through the Catholic Historical Research Center of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  

When Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Katherine Drexel in October 2000, he noted how she gave her family fortune to the less fortunate.    

“To her religious community, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she taught a spirituality based on prayerful union with the Eucharistic Lord and zealous service of the poor and the victims of racial discrimination.”—Pope John Paul II, Homily, 10/1/2000 

Deacon Tom 

March 1, 2021

Redemptoristine nuns

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing…. 

Remember Sister Bertrille, TV’s The Flying Nun? Actress Sally Field portrayed the 90-pound nun who was lifted off the ground by gusts of wind due to the cornette on her head. The fictional convent in Puerto Rico was named for a real saint—Tanco. He was a missionary who served in first in Belgium and then Germany where he was martyred. Tanco was a Benedictine from Ireland.  

I took a virtual visit to the Emerald Isle Sunday afternoon to see a joyful group of nuns in Dublin. They’re Redemptoristine…Red Nuns for short.   They “write” icons and bake altar bread. And while they don’t exactly “fly” like the make-believe Sister Bertrille…they come close. How’s that?  

In the time of the pandemic…this group of cloistered nuns performed the Jerusalema Challenge. The Irish Post calls it a “gospel influenced house song by South African producer Master KG.” Watch the sisters “bust a move” to the music or clap along, depending on their physical abilities.   

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Deacon Tom 

Feb. 26, 2021

For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go… 

Ever have one of those days? Thursday, I was getting ready to put my computer bag in the trunk of the car. Somehow the lid came down just as I leaned in. The rim from my glasses left a cut at the top of my nose.  Startled. A bit of blood. Yet OK. 

Told the story to my friend last night. Then he mentioned how he slipped by his car yesterday, just missed hitting his head on the bumper, but cut his hand. Later, my brother related how he slid on his front steps, grazed the railing, but was unscathed. Possibly a busy day for our guardian angels!  

I suspect the coronavirus has us all thinking a bit more when things happen nowadays. In Pope Francis’ Lenten Message, he wrote of experiencing Lent with love: “caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you’ (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.” 

I’d add: Listen…be present…talk to and pray for others! 

“…With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”—Psalm 91:11-12 

Deacon Tom 

Feb. 24, 2021

Happy the one who finds a friend… 

I was looking at some not-so-familiar Old Testament books last night, when I came upon the verse above. The primary writer of this Second Century B.C. wisdom book was Ben Sira. It was called the “church book” for teaching catechumens in the early days of Christianity. 

Sirach wrote of 3 things pleasing to the Lord and human beings: “Harmony among relatives, friendship among neighbors, and a wife and a husband living happily together.” 

My evening was not complete until I visited Italy (virtually). Strange…I couldn’t account for a stream of light that seemed to bounce around the mostly darkened chapel of St. Anthony. 801 years ago in Padua, Blessed Luke Belludi was born. At age 20, this nobleman asked to become a Franciscan. 

Blessed Luke became St. Anthony’s friend and companion. He took care of him until he died. Luke was named a leader of the Franciscans. When Padua’s new city rulers shut down the government and the church in 1239, Luke prayed for intercession at Anthony’s tomb. It worked. Blessed Luke is now entombed in the Basilica which he worked to complete in St. Anthony’s name.  

“Happy the one who finds a friend, who speaks to attentive ears.”—Sirach 25:9 

Deacon Tom 

Feb. 22, 2021

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”—Psalm 31:25 

Friday night and Saturday was “interesting.” Listened to chant music while preparing the weekend homily. Read some Pope Francis and Thomas Merton.  

The last entry in the Holy Father’s new To Heal the World refers to the “Kingdom of darkness” in pandemic experiences. Positive and reassuring words at the end. “May God grant us to ‘virualize’ love and to ‘globalize’ hope in the light of faith.” 

Merton’s In Alaska still includes sticky tabs from a presentation I gave on the hermit/monk for the 100th anniversary of his birth. Found at two yellow ones: “When things get difficult, mixed up and tense, then drop them and get to the center of peace.” And… this… “I am the answer to someone’s prayer.” 

Should have paid attention to the last. Didn’t think my sermon went exactly as planned, at least on Saturday night. Better at 10 a.m.  

Sunday afternoon was silent, but for sound of vegetables being chopped. Texted a photo of the finished stew to relatives. Best comment: “What is this—the cooking channel?” 

“Blessed be the Lord; who has shown me wondrous love.”—Psalm 31:22 

Deacon Tom 

Feb. 19, 2021

Practice prayer from the beginning…

We’ve just entered Lent a couple days ago…a time of conversion with fasting…almsgiving and prayer. While many of us are spending lots of time at home with the snow and the cold and the pandemic…do we have a time and a place for prayer?

St. John Chrysostom, a bishop nicknamed “golden mouth” for his long and insightful sermons, says “prayer and converse with God is a supreme good.” He suggests that it should be from the heart and not confined to “fixed times or periods”…rather…“our spirit should long for God” in whatever we are doing.

A Doctor of the Church and gifted preacher, St. John lived a simple life and strongly urged others to do the same. Called a prophet in his time, he drew the opposition of many in the early church and died in exile. But he was an eloquent homilist who spoke of the importance of reaching out to God.

Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Cross it with the pinnacle of prayer.”St. John Chrysostom, Homily

Deacon Tom

Feb. 17, 2021

“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart…” 

Each Ash Wednesday I look forward to the Old Testament reading from the Prophet Joel. The book itself is only four chapters. While it looks to the “end times,” scholars tell us that the prevailing theme is “the day of the Lord.” 

I know someone who gives up chocolate and coffee for Lent. It’s admirable to give up something, a sacrifice. While we may look to do the same, perhaps try something different too. Maybe we can cast off things in our lives that aren’t so important. It’s possible to give more to our neighbors, especially in this time of the pandemic. Make this a fruitful Lent for our souls. Don’t forget: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. 

Joel reminds us to return to Him with our whole heart.   

“…with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  Joel 2:12 

God Bless, 
Deacon Tom 

Feb. 15, 2021

Happy is the man who has found wisdom…

Remember that cartoon of guy sitting on a triangular mountain peak? High atop on the point is a man in robes, usually with a flowing white beard. He’s the one who people seek out for sage advice. Seems like a long way to go for an answer. It may be no further than a reading in today’s breviary from St. Bernard, the abbot. He’s writes of seeking wisdom. 

Just a couple days away from the beginning of Lent, perhaps we can listen to the saint. He questions whether we’re aware that wisdom is in our hearts and on our lips if we seek it. And he says we may be too cautious in looking for it. Hmm. Ready to take that chance? 

St. Bernard says wisdom can come to someone in three ways. Confess sins. Give thanks and praise. And “If your speech is edifying.” In other words, if it helps someone morally.

“Look for wisdom while it can still be found. Call for it while it is near.”—St. Bernard, sermon. 

God Bless, 
Deacon Tom

Feb. 12, 2021

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”—John 1:1 

I’m a communicator, launched into the profession while still in college nearly 42-years ago. I’ve been “up and down” the dial at several radio stations. TV too, in front of the camera and behind the scenes—locally and NYC. Now I write…for The Catholic Sun, Faith Columns for the Press & Sun-Bulletin and here. What’s my favorite? What we used to call “broadcasting.” 

This morning I listened to Sergej Prokofiev’s Romeo alla tomba di Giulietta followed by Vespers in Latin with some German mixed in. It’s from a new section of Vatican Radio that’s live-streaming. Ninety years ago today the switch was turned on at the Holy See to hear the voice of Pope Pius. Radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi engineered the first setup. 

Vatican Radio is now heard in 41 different languages “broadcasting” around the clock. A variety of short-wave transmitters are still at work, including one in Greenville, SC. The service has grown to include television as well. And now much of the content is available on the internet.    

Today’s anniversary was marked by some words of Pope Francis offering well wishes. With Vatican Radio’s global reach, the message of Jesus is available to just about anyone with a computer. Amazing! 

“Whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life.” John 5:24 

Deacon Tom 

Feb. 10, 2021

“You have but one teacher and you are all brothers.” —Mt 23:8

Tomorrow is the 27th World Day of the Sick. In his message for this year’s observance, Pope Francis wrote of the theme in Matthew seen above. He said we should be there for others “to feel empathy and compassion, and to let their suffering become our own as we seek to serve them.” 

The Catholic Health Association of the United States has provided a short prayer for the day. Though prepared for a group, it’s suitable for individuals too. Please click here.    

February 11 is also the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which marks the first appearance of Mary to St. Bernadette Marie Soubirous. That’s when the Blessed Mother declared she was the Immaculate Conception. Dozens of documented healings of illness have taken place there since.

A Mass from the Lourdes Basilica is live at 4 a.m. (repeated at 1130 a.m.) on EWTN. A Virtual Pilgrimage airs on EWTN at 1030 a.m. They will also be at the Lourdes website either live or by playback.    

“Blessed are You for having called us, like Bernadette, to see Mary in Your light.”—From the Act of Trust in Mary from the Family of Lourdes 

Paix. Peace. 
Deacon Tom 

Feb. 8, 2021

The law of the Lord is perfect…it gives wisdom to the simple.”—Psalm 19:8 

A friend and I have seen many films together over the years, either at the theater or on DVD. Once, he brought over Bakhita: From Slave to Saint. Parts of it were not easy to watch. 

It’s the story of a slave from Sudan who was given freedom in Italy. Josephine Bakhita converted to Catholicism and became a religious. She died in 1947 and was made a saint in October of 2000. At her canonization, Pope St. John Paul II called St. Josephine a “shining advocate of genuine emancipation.” 

This is her Feast Day, also the Seventh World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking. Pope Francis said today that: “The liturgical memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita is a powerful reminder of this dimension of faith and prayer: her witness always resonates, alive and relevant! And it is a call to place trafficked persons, their families, their communities at the center. “ 

St. Josephine Bakhita, we ask your intercession! 
Deacon Tom 

Feb. 5, 2021

“Come to me all you who are weary and heart-laden and I will give you rest.”—Matthew 11:28 

When I started to come in the driveway a little while ago, I had to avoid a trash can and a recycling bin. Looking further up—toward the door—another can and bin were askew. Wait…there’s a brown bag there…and a multi-colored one almost on display. Inside, a bouquet of a variety of flowers and a box of special candy. 

My birthday was a couple of months ago. Christmas season is over. Did someone leave this package at the wrong house? Searching frantically for a message inside as the wind is gusting. There it is…a sympathy card from a friend. Titled “What did Jesus say about sorrow?” Four verses including the above. It’s part of the scripture read last night during the Vigil Service for Fr. Tom Hobbes.   

His funeral ended about noon today at Holy Family church. Delayed by a snowstorm, held instead on a sunny, yet cool-ish day. I hope these flowers will warm to open soon so I can see the of types and colors. 

The card was a thank-you as well…for being a friend to “Father Tom.” Touches my heart so much. 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3 

Dc. Tom 

Feb. 3, 2021

He permitted them to cross the Red Sea dry-shod… 

It was 39-years ago next month that I went to Charlotte (pronounced Shar-lot) beach in Rochester. My first (and only) visit there was at the invite of my friend Diane. She wanted to take me someplace special. So, on a chilly yet sunny day we trudged through the sand. 

That summer, I’d moved to New Jersey where we visited more beaches together. When I came back to Broome County a couple years later, she was then at “SUNY-Binghamton” for her masters. Those memories all brought back by Diane’s picture of a deceased fish on the shore of Lake Ontario. I took it out of the frame this morning and found another photo—of me—beneath. It was from that cold March afternoon, in the sand—camera in hand. 

A reading in today’s breviary comes from St. John Fisher…namesake for our college. He was the bishop of Rochester, England who stood up to Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his wife and go against the church. 

In the reading he wrote first of the Israelites crossing the sand where the Red Sea had been to escape the Egyptians. St. John Fisher reminds us how God provided much for them as they made their way across the desert. His words of about 500 years ago still apply today to remind us to be grateful for what God has given us.

“We give no thought to his love, nor do we recognize the extent of his kindness for us.”—St. John Fisher, commentary on the Psalms 

Deacon Tom 

Feb. 1, 2021

dc. tom's blog 2/1/21

Prefer nothing to the Love of Christ… 

I’ve been a Benedictine Oblate of the Transfiguration Monastery in Windsor for 16 years. An oblate is one who from the outside follows the Rule of St. Benedict. His words are above…the same ones I used on a prayer card for my ordination day. 

I was intrigued on Sunday to read about Blessed Benedict Daswa of South Africa. He was born into a Jewish tradition of herders in a remote region there. A convert to Catholicism, his given name was Tshimangadzo which means “miracle or wonder.” After taking the baptismal name Benedict, he soon became a catechist in an area where there were few priests.   

He lived by words of the Rule…Ora et labora…pray and work. Deeply faith-filled, Benedict was concerned as people sought to find a “witch” after a lightning strike damaged homes in the village. He refused to add money to the search or take part in it. He said, “My Christianity does not allow me to do this.”  

A mob plotted against him. On the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 1990, they attacked and killed Benedict. This contemporary martyr was beatified in September of 2015. His feast day is February first. 

“If you remain in my word you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8-31-32

Blessed Benedict Daswa, please pray for us! 
Deacon Tom 

Jan. 27, 2021

Concerning those who are asleep, do not be sad like men who have no hope…

Msgr. Putano and Fr. Jim called me last night to tell me of the death of my former pastor, mentor and friend. It was Fr. Tom Hobbes who gave me the final push to become a deacon.  

Fr. Hobbes was my guidance counselor at Seton Catholic Central in the 1970s. As pastor of Christ the King, Endwell, he hired me for maintenance and other duties in 1999. I helped him move to retirement in 2008. He gave me many books from his collection then. 

Fr. Hobbes was a gentle man, a faith-filled priest and sometimes strong in opinions. He enjoyed barbecues with my mom and others at my house. I was his guest at many performances of the Binghamton Philharmonic. Once, he got me to attend the opera in NYC. We took a side trip that day to Central Park to see an “orange wall” of fabric put there by artist Christo. Many memories, not much space.  

He drove me many times to Alexandria Bay for the clergy conference. But something changed about 4 or 5 years ago…he pulled into the rest stop on Interstate 81 and handed me the keys. It was too much for him. His health changed in the ensuing months and he eventually moved to Vestal Park, where he was a resident until his death. 

Fr. Hobbes loved his family and his parishioners. And they loved him. 

“…if we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again; God will bring forth with Jesus all who have fallen asleep believing in him.”—1Thessalonians 4:13-14 

Deacon Tom 

Jan. 25, 2021

The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul… 

When I think of St. Paul, I’m often drawn first to Acts Chapter 7. St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons, preached to a crowd who would not accept his message. It didn’t end well as they stoned him death. An original deacon became the first Christian martyr.  

A young man was caught up in it all. Doesn’t exactly say Saul took part in the stoning. But he certainly didn’t accept Jesus’ teachings in the time going forward. That is—until an encounter on the road to Damascus. 

Paul’s conversion is told three places in Acts. The first comes in Chapter 9, with a bright light and quick knock down. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Struck blind for three days, his eyes were opened by Ananias and he was baptized. Paul also retold the story in Chapters 22 and 26. 

Today we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul, the author of 13 letters in the New Testament. Pope Francis suggested the other day that if Paul were alive today, he’d be tweeting Jesus words. 

“Things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized…and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”—Acts 9: 18, 20 

Deacon Tom 

Jan. 22, 2021

“Try to accept what God is pleased to give you, no matter how bitter God wills it.”—St. Marianne Cope 

Back in April, I wrote about Mother Marianne Cope who became St. Marianne in 2012.  

Born in Germany in 1838, Barbara Koob and her family moved to the Utica when she was a young girl. They attended St. Joseph’s Church, which still exists today. She worked in a factory to support her family before joining the Franciscans.  

Mother Marianne was founder of both St. Elizabeth’s, Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital, Syracuse. She and five others went to the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1883 and eventually succeeded St. Damien on Molakai, treating the lepers. None of the sisters sent there have ever contracted leprosy in their 138-year history on the island. 

Tomorrow is St. Marianne’s birthday and feast day in the Church. We’re continuing to ask her intercession in this time of pandemic through Bishop Lucia’s prayer, part of which is below: 

Help us, O Blessed Mother, to be filled with confidence and trust in the tender compassion of our God. Let us not be afraid, like our own Saint Marianne Cope, who entrusted her life and ministry among the outcasts of society into the care of our Divine Physician.  

St. Marianne, please pray for us! 
Deacon Tom 

Jan. 20, 2021

“Love one another as I have loved you”—Jn 15:12b

A couple of weeks ago a parishioner came to me with about five rosaries. I thought he wanted me to bless them. He said “Tom, I want you to have one of these. I make them by hand.” All were beautiful, the beads were in several colors.

I asked him which he thought would be good for me. He handed me a purple set. They’re on my desk now. But next time I stay overnight in Bainbridge, they’ll be with me in the bedroom to pray. What a wonderful gesture from “A”!

We’re in day three of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The Vatican relates Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples. Peter was reluctant at first, yet then agreed to it. The reflection tells us that Peter was “touched by the humility and gentleness.” He later followed the example “to serve the fellowship of the faithful.”

Maybe each one of us can pray a rosary today for Christian Unity. As you do, keep in mind these shared words.  

You are no longer alone; in all things you are advancing together with your brothers and sisters. With them, you are called to live the parable of community.“—The Sources of Taizé (2000) p. 48-49

With peaceful prayer for all,
Deacon Tom

Jan. 18, 2021

“Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit.”—John 15: 5-9 

For 8-days beginning January 18, there’s a week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Pope takes part in the event with the final day of prayer, this year held virtually on Monday, January 25. During this week, all are invited to take part in any prayer. 

The Gospel verse from John was picked to “express the Christian community’s vocation to pray and work for reconciliation and unity within the Church, our human family and all of creation.” 

Sisters from the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland, have prepared the resources for the week. You can join them in prayer by going their website.  

Pope Francis’ part will come during next Monday’s Vespers at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome. The link to that site is here or here for the Vatican TV   

Please pray for one another this week! 
Deacon Tom 

Jan. 15, 2021

Here I am, you called me… 

We’ll read these words from the Book of Samuel on Sunday. He was confused after being awakened from a deep sleep three times. But Eli told him to listen for it again and respond: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” That’s when he heard God. 

How’s it for us? Could it be that there’s so much going on around us that we aren’t hearing Him call us? Maybe we should try some silent time to just be with the Lord. Or direct our attention to formal prayer, alone or together in new ways.  

Perhaps reach out to Lourdes, France and the grotto there. Beginning tomorrow, Saturday, January 16, they’ll be offering the Rosary and Mass in several languages for people of the world. In between are prayers to the Blessed Mother that “she may intercede for peace.” Here’s the schedule, all listings are in French Time.  

To help a bit, look for the Rosary in English at 9 a.m., Mass in English at 11:15 a.m.—both our time. You can connect to their live feed by clicking here. If you miss the time, there’s a “replay” option at the same link. 

“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”—1 Samuel 3:10  

Dc. Tom 

Jan. 13, 2021

“Always give praise, in good times and bad…”
—Pope Francis 

I read some of Aesop’s Fables last night. He was a slave who lived several hundred years before Jesus, who earned his freedom through his wisdom. Aesop delivered short messages with much to ponder. 

Ever hear the expression about a wolf in sheep’s clothing? As Aesop tells it, a wolf was looking for easy living so he disguised himself as a sheep. Worked out okay until the shepherd wanted a meal so he went among the flock. Unfortunately, the disguised wolf became the supper that night… 

Hmm…thinking about difficulties, things we face in everyday life and the not-so-normal months of COVID-19. In his general audience today Pope Francis addressed that point, with much to reflect on. We should praise God always, he said, including “difficult moments” as our prayer to God will allow us to “see a new panorama, a broader horizon.”  

The Holy Father noted that St. Francis of Assisi praised “all the gifts of creation, and even for death, which he courageously manages to call ‘sister’.”

“Always give praise, in good times and bad, because God is the faithful Friend. This is the foundation of praise: God is the faithful Friend, and His love never fails.”—Pope Francis General Audience 1-13-2021 

Deacon Tom 

Jan. 12, 2021

What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? 

I was driving home from church a bit later than usual Monday afternoon when I saw the large sun setting in the sky. I should have pulled over to get a pic, but I waited the extra three minutes to get home. Just out of the car, I snapped something just as beautiful. Glad to take a breath and recall a hectic day. Can you see my thought balloon? 

An early visit to the doctor’s office lasted much longer than I expected. But the six-month checkup had positive results. A quick lunch and off to a two-hour meeting by internet. Later—time to talk with parishioners by phone. And then I realized it was near sunset and time to leave. A gifted day wrapped up as I stood in the driveway and looked west. Thank You God!  

Please take time today to allow Him to show you His majesty, perhaps as another sees it. 

“It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people.”—From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Saint Basil the Great, bishop. 

Peace and God Bless,
Deacon Tom 

Jan. 8, 2021

Have mercy on me and hear my prayer…

On Tuesday, my college buddy texted me from Italy while I was on a video call to a “family” member in South America. Michael looked concerned. He asked me to pray for one of his twin daughters. One-year-old Lara is deaf. She was scheduled for implant surgery the next day. A three-continent intention was offered as from Europe, Gary said he’d pray too.

Wednesday’s world focus seemed to be the negative events in Washington. But I offer an important positive that happened that same day in Fortaleza, Brasil. Michael texted. All went well with the operation. And in two-weeks’ time, the doctors will turn on devices to allow Lara to hear for the first time. Thanks, God.

I’ve turned to prayer for myself and many others a lot this early January. I feel He has been listening.

A couple months ago I wrote that we could share ideas on prayer together as some still remain remote from church. I received several suggestions, including this: posting Prayers of Gratitude—”We all have something to be thankful for everyday even on our ‘less happy’ or ‘bad days.’” I’ll start: I’m thankful that Lara’s surgery went well.

Let me leave you with more from Psalm 4, taken from my grandmother’s Manual of Prayers, copyright 1888.

For thou, O Lord alone: hath established me in hope…

Deacon Tom 

Jan. 6, 2021

They were completely astounded…

I had my first real “walk” around the church grounds this morning since the 40-inch snowfall, followed by the big rains. Lots to see. The slushy hoof prints of deer that crisscrossed near the Blessed Mother statue are melting into the grass.

A parishioner saw me taking pictures.  “Another blog!” she called out.

“Yeah,” I admitted.  Taking photos for this space.

Mark’s Gospel today is just after feeding of the 5,000 men. Before going off to pray, Jesus ushered the apostles into a boat. Once off shore, evening winds picked up and the waves tossed them around. Then Jesus appeared, walking on the water, planning to go past them. The disciples thought he was a ghost and cried out. They were “terrified.” Jesus boarded, spoke and the weather calmed.

Look at the photo of the Jesus figure here in a “boat” of shrubs, with lots of water in front of Him. Reminded me of the Gospel passage and our recent weather. Like the apostles, I was “astounded” when I opened the door to all that snow. I was “fearful” driving back from Chenango County on Christmas morning with raging waterways out of their banks beside the road.

I prayed hard both days, but I’m not sure I listened to his words:

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.”—Mark 6:50

Deacon Tom

Jan. 4, 2021

You are children of eternity. Your immortal crown awaits you… 

Back with you after a few days away from here between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I went looking for a high school yearbook this morning. I started there a year before our patron became the first American saint in 1975. Our principal, Fr. Van Amburgh, often led us in prayer for her. 

Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in 1774 in New York City. Baptized in the Episcopal Church, she married and had five children. Her husband took ill and they went to Italy where he died. That’s where Elizabeth converted to Catholicism.  

Back home in NY, her friends didn’t accept her new faith as she tried to help young people. Eventually she moved to Maryland where she founded the first parochial school in the United States. She also formed the Sisters of Charity which grew in numbers after her death on this day 200 years ago. 

The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is located in Emmitsburg, MD, where she is buried. A short film on her life was released by the shrine on her memorial today. Please click here to see it.  

“The best of Fathers waits there to reward your duty and love. You may indeed sow here in tears, but you may be sure there to reap in joy.”St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (from a conference to her spiritual daughters.) 

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, please pray for us! 

Deacon Tom 

Dec. 23, 2020

“The people who walked in darkness 
have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt
in the land of gloom a light has shone.”—Isaiah 9:1 

“Young” people of all ages look forward to Christmas. In this year of fear and confusion and discord among people—unlike any in recent memory—He still comes to us. In the midst of a pandemic, we may have more bright lights, yet it will be quieter. Perhaps like in that stable when the Christ child was born. 

What was it like when the angel came to the shepherds? They came by to see the baby Jesus amidst animals as that star shone overhead.  

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy 
that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”—Luke 2:10-11 

In a homily, St. Augustine speaks of the birth. 

“Awake mankind! For your sake God has become man…Christ will enlighten you.” 

Take time and let him come into your heart. And if you’d like some inspiration go to the Vatican live by clicking here. Then watch and listen. It may be a Mass or just a beautiful view of the giant Christmas tree outside St. Peter’s. 

Have a Blessed Christmas season! 
Deacon Tom 

Dec. 21, 2020

The Nativity, painted by Helen Picciano

O root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people…”—O Antiphon 

We’re in the final days of Advent. For many it’s also a busy time to get decorating for Christmas. For me, it will be simple this year. I have a Christmas tree, but it’s still bundled and buried under some snow. I expect to clear it out in the next day or two and keep it outside this year. 

I hope to put a decades-old Nativity scene next to it. My mom was the artist who created the images. The bright paint and sparkles are chipping now off this Masonite board. For the moment, it’s in the basement. But with my brother’s help, we should be able to get it outside by Christmas Eve.  

There’s a display of some unique Nativity scenes at the Vatican this year. In his Angelus message on Sunday, the Pope invited those who could to take a look at the various displays near St. Peter’s.  

I hope all who read this have a Nativity scene at home this year. May it be a reminder to keep Jesus Christ at home in your heart! 

“On that day, the root of Jesse set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.”—Isaiah 11:1 

Deacon Tom 

Dec. 18, 2020

“He says to the snow, ‘Fall to the earth;’  

I heard someone remark recently about the accuracy of weather forecasting. A couple days ago it seemed liked we might get a foot and a half, perhaps a little bit more snow. When I walked out my door Thursday by the car, all I could see was white. I took a yardstick to what seemed like the hood—34-inches. 

I had three treks outside to use an electric snowblower, still more to deal with today. At least I can get one car out if needed. Once the plow came through Thursday, something interesting happened. The neighborhood kids were sledding down the street. A bit of joy in the midst of all the hard work.  

I said a few prayers whilst clearing things off. Perhaps that’s what led me to an idea during a break—invite the grief group to an impromptu Zoom meeting at 3:30 p.m. We spent an hour talking, sharing, praying and singing. God had an interesting plan for us. Whether alone or in touch with others, He slowed us down and made us socially distant.  

I’m not a big fan of Job and his difficulties. But was God sending a message to us yesterday? 

“He says to the snow, ‘Fall to the earth;’ likewise to his heavy, drenching rain. He shuts up all mankind indoors.”—Job 37:6 

Deacon Tom 

Dec. 15, 2020

Dc. Tom blog art leaf

Brothers and sisters, we are all leaves on the same tree…” 

It’s partly sunny outside as I write this. The trees are bare. Yesterday the town’s big vacuum cleaner truck took piles of leaves from the street in advance of our first major snowstorm. Seems like a time for us to “hunker down” while flurries turn into inches or feet of snow. 

I think the Pope’s message at the General Audience this morning fit in with what we’ve faced with the pandemic…and what we will see over the next several hours as the snow piles up. 

Pope Francis said men and women of the world seek “silence and solitude” to better listen to God’s voice. And sometimes, he said, they withdraw from the world altogether in the secret of their room. But…the Holy Father said, they “keep the doors open” to intercede for others in prayer.  

Maybe a good thought as we grab a warm beverage and watch the snow as it falls outside our window in the hours to come…  

“Brothers and sisters, we are all leaves on the same tree: each one that falls reminds us of the great piety that must be nourished in prayer, for one another. So let us pray for each other. It will do us good and do good for everyone.”—Pope Francis, General Audience 12-16-2020 

Please pray for another today! 

Deacon Tom 

Dec. 14, 2020

The gate that gives entry into those riches of wisdom is the cross… 

It’s been a few years now since the “old” cross went back up, illuminated at night, in front of the skylight at church. And with daytime clouds as a backdrop, the cross can certainly be a highlight in our eyesight.   

On an inclement day it’s easy to walk into church quickly, without looking up to the roof. I’m sure there are many times I’m more concerned with getting through the door, than stopping for a moment. But shouldn’t we pause and reflect, perhaps offer a prayer no matter the weather? 

Today we remember St. John of the Cross. He was a Carmelite who died on this day in 1591. He was a friend of St. Teresa of Avila. At her urging, he brought reforms to the Carmelite order.   

In his spiritual Canticle, St. John urged people to find hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge of God. He said it would require much suffering to get there, and the soul could find consolation and desire, through the “thicket of the cross.” 

“The cross…It is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.”—Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross.  

St. John of the Cross, please pray for us! 

Deacon Tom 

Dec. 11, 2020

Hail favored one!  

In an earlier blog, I told you about a visit some 15+ years ago with friends to Mexico. Travel without guides was discouraged. But a sanctioned tour took us to an underground lake, up the steps on ancient temples and to meet people in a Mayan village. 

Their huts were made of tree branches that went up more than a dozen feet. They had fires for cooking and car batteries for electricity. We were welcomed to visit any dwelling, but one had a closed door.  

Men were told to take off their hats if they entered that hut. Chickens stood guard over bags of grain stored there. In the back, candles were lit at a small altar. That’s where I noticed the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. 

Tomorrow, December 12th is the feast in her honor. Mary’s appearance at Tepeyac with the roses in winter and St. Juan Diego’s tilma stirs my thoughts each year. I’m brought back to a feed hut guarded by the birds with an image of the Blessed Mother so revered by a small village of people on the Yucatan peninsula.

“Hail favored one! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, please pray for us! 

Deacon Tom 

Dec. 9, 2020

“Hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings.”—Isaiah 40:31 

Next time you’re at church, look at the back wall near the candle rack. There’s an intricate image there of the Virgin Mary. The original is at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. 

On this day in 1531, an indigenous man first met the Blessed Mother on his way to Mass. It was on Tepeyac hill just outside of Mexico City. She asked him to visit the bishop to request that a chapel be built on the site. The Bishop asked for proof. 

When Juan Diego returned to the hill again on December 12th, Mary pointed to roses growing during winter time. He brought them to the bishop inside his tilma (poncho). The flowers fell out and the image was left behind. It’s still at the cathedral nearly 500 years later. 

The saint’s full name is Cuauhtlatoatzin which Pope St. Paul II referred to in the canonization Mass in 2002.

“Beloved Juan Diego, ‘the talking eagle’! Show us the way that leads to the ‘Dark Virgin’ of Tepeyac, that she may receive us in the depths of her heart, for she is the loving, compassionate Mother who guides us to the true God. Amen.” 

St. Juan Diego, Ruega por nosotros! Pray for us!

Deacon Tom 

Dec. 7, 2020

He came on earth so that you could live beneath the stars…

There used to be a dinner on the weekend nearest the feast day of the patron saint at a previous assignment of mine. Many people would gather in the school cafeteria for this celebration. 

It was a dozen years ago that St. Ambrose Church marked 100-years as a parish. The church is a large red brick structure built on land originally owned by the shoe tycoon George F. Johnson. At  least one large stained-glass window and the church organ were donated by the Johnson family.

St. Ambrose was a layman who was well respected in his community.  In his time, bishops were elected by the population. Ambrose was a leader in Milan. It showed when he became bishop. He was said to be an effective pastor—not unlike those who served the parish of his name in Endicott in the last century-plus.

This doctor of the church also confronted heresy. He baptized Augustine, who would later become a bishop and  a doctor of the church as well. And Ambrose was quite the writer too.

“There was no place for Him in the inn so that there could be many dwelling places for you in heaven.”—St. Ambrose (Bishop of Milan, died 397)

St. Ambrose, please pray for us!
Deacon Tom

Dec. 4, 2020

Prepare the way of the Lord!

In the Jewish tradition, there’s a horn called a shofar which is used on special occasions like a new moon or jubilee. A few years ago while I was visiting a local synagogue for a newspaper story, the rabbi courteously let me hear it. Pretty cool sound coming from a ram’s horn.

There’s a shofar at the beginning of Godspell the musical, just before John the Baptist appears on the scene. The first words are then sung out: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

On Sunday, we enter the second week of Advent with a reading from Isaiah which speaks of a voice crying out in the desert. It’s echoed in Mark’s Gospel, reminding us of one who is preparing the way for the Lord. Remember John, the one clothed in camel’s hair who eats locusts and wild honey? 

“I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”—Mark 1:8

The second week of Advent beckons: Prepare the way of the Lord!

Deacon Tom

Dec. 2, 2020

To you Lord I lift up my soul…

I had just finished an online meeting last night and was minutes from another when my cell phone rang. A man was calling for someone who needed prayer. And he wanted me to be present to this person. But a visit was not possible because of restrictions due to the coronavirus.

Instead, he arranged so that we could pray this morning over the telephone. I introduced myself to a pleasant, yet tired-sounding voice. Someone held a speaker phone for her so she could hear me. I included Psalm 25 with response, a litany of saints and a conclusion. Over in less than 15-minutes, but it was powerful. It brought me to tears. Thank you Lord for letting me be part of your presence to someone who needed You.

Pope Francis shares his prayer intention for each month. For December, it’s for a life of prayer. The Holy Father said in part:

“We have a conversation with Jesus. We listen to Jesus and we reply. And this is prayer. By praying, we change reality. And we change our hearts.”

Some good words of advice. Please click this link to read more from the Vatican and to see The Pope video on this month’s intention.

To you, O Lord I lift up my soul, I trust you.” Psalm 25:1

Peace, Deacon Tom

Nov. 30, 2020

We have found the Messiah…

I think I’ve gotten to know my brother a bit better these last few months with many shared meals. We enjoyed an outdoor Thanksgiving with shelter from raindrops in his garage. Then late yesterday afternoon we ate dinner at 3 separate tables with a friend at Roundtop Picnic area in Endicott. While the sun was setting in the west, the moon was rising in the east. Thanks God for a nice display for us!

My brother won’t let us take a bite without first saying grace. That’s always so comforting. Did I mention his name is Peter?

As we’ve entered the first week of Advent, today is the feast day of Andrew the Apostle. He was a follower of St. John the Baptist who learned of Jesus. A fisherman who worked the boat with his brother Simon. Jesus came by one day and said: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They put down their nets and followed Him.

Simon, who became the first pope, later took the name Peter. Andrew was the one who pointed out the boy with the five loaves and two fishes to feed the five-thousand. It’s said he was a missionary to places like Greece. Andrew spent years spreading the Good News before he was martyred on a cross turned to its side to make an “X.”

Saint John Chrysostom wrote of Andrew: “To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.”

Their voice has gone forth to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Romans 10:18

Peace,  Deacon Tom

Nov. 25, 2020


Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his kindness endures forever… 

I was just reminded that we should still be thankful tomorrow, though it will be a different kind of Thanksgiving for all of us. My brother has invited me to dinner brought in from a local restaurant. If it’s warm enough, we’ll sit in his backyard. If it’s a bit cooler, our meal will be inside his open garage, with a heater. We’ll zoom chat with the rest of the family later…  

In the past few days, I’ve told people how appreciative I am for them. I’ve quizzed others how they’re thankful too. And I’m filled with gratitude for those who have shared comments and questions and suggestions about this blog. 

Please take time in whatever way you can to say “thanks” tomorrow. If you can—join with someone else in person. If not, pick up a phone or connect through the internet—just be there with those you love in those ways if you can. 

I got an email the other day from Msgr. Xavier d’Arodes, the Vice-rector at Lourdes, France. It’s an invitation to a Thanksgiving Mass from France at 11:00 a.m. our time tomorrow. Msgr. D’Arodes noted that there’s a lot to “complain and stress about” this year…but “we all have aspects of our lives and people to be thankful for.” He said: “Thanksgiving is an acknowledgement of those blessings from God.”   

I share my invitation with you. Perhaps attend Mass virtually in the grotto at Lourdes. Click on the photo for the link.   

“Thank God for you.” Ephesians 1:17 

Deacon Tom 

Nov. 23, 2020

Viva Christo Rey! 

Close to 16 years ago I went to Mass with three friends during vacation in Cancun, Mexico. The church was overflowing with parishioners and visitors, some of whom went to confession next to the altar before Mass. I used Latin skills to translate the Spanish to silently “hear” English during the liturgy.

There was a time in the early part of the last century when the Church was outlawed in Mexico. Among the priests who served in secret was Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, a Jesuit.  As a boy, it’s said that Miguel took many risks in play. That helped in his adult life. 

The seminary he attended was ordered closed shortly after he entered. He completed studies and was ordained in Spain. Then Fr. Pro returned to Mexico to serve the people, while taking on various disguises to hide from the authorities. Accused of a plot to assassinate the president, Fr. Pro was sentenced to death by firing squad. Photos show that just before he was executed 93 years ago today, he stretched out his arms like a cross.  

At the beatification Mass in 1988, St. Pope John Paul II said of Fr. Pro: “Neither the sufferings of serious illnesses, nor the tireless ministerial activity carried out frequently in painful and risky circumstances, succeeded in stifling the radiant and communicative joy that arose from his love for Christ, and which no one could take away from him.” 

“Viva Christo Rey! Long live Christ the King!”—The final words of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro 

¡La paz sea con vosotros! Peace be with you!

Deacon Tom 

Nov. 20, 2020

Here I stand knocking at the door…

The words of the Book of Revelation above are interesting. It brings to mind an image of Jesus waiting outside the door. Yet if you look closely you see there’s no handle on the door and no visible hinges. He can’t let himself in…we have to open it to welcome him.

Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King, bringing an end to the church year. Perhaps we can think of opening the door to welcome Jesus.

It’s been 95-years since Pope Pius XI issued Quas primas, which set forth this solemnity. It was challenging in many countries at that time with persecution of the church. The pope wrote:

“Christ ‘reign[s] ‘in the hearts of men,’ both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind.’”

This solemnity holds a special place in my heart. I was baptized and received all my other sacraments, including Holy Orders for the diaconate, while a parishioner of Christ the King in Endwell. I will always remember that hymn which got a lot of use on our patronal feast there.

“To Jesus Christ our Sovereign King who is the world’s salvation…”

Deacon Tom

Nov. 19, 2020

Dc. Tom birthday

One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek… 

Approximately 21,915 days ago I appeared at Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital. Two of my four siblings and a good friend were also born there. 

Interesting fact: The nursery six decades ago was on the second floor. In recent years I’ve spent lots of time in what’s now the offices of the Spiritual Care Department. Before COVID-19, I would stop there each day to see which of our parishioners were patients at Lourdes. You can still see where the window used to be to look in at the new babies. 

I remember a picture around the house of my great-grandmother holding me as an infant. This Italian native once told my father: “Make a priest.” She died when I was about 7, just around the time some changes were starting in the church. She did get one with Holy Orders—a great-grandson deacon. 

I’m a day late with this blog. My first birthday without my mom. But I was kept busy yesterday with so many greetings…cards…likes…calls…video chats and a lunch with staff that made the day special. Thank you.  

“One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. To gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to gaze at his temple.”—Psalm 27:4 

God Bless you all, 
Deacon Tom

Nov. 16, 2020

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”—Psalm 34 

I was 20-years old when I first encountered a homeless person. He was sleeping on a subway grate on a sidewalk in Washington, D.C. I jumped out of the way in surprise or fear. My sister, who was walking with me, had worked in the nation’s capital for several years. She chided me. “That’s a person!” Had I missed Jesus before me? 

In recent years in Washington and other cities around the world a “Homeless Jesus” has appeared. It’s a covered metal figure with only wounded feet visible, stretched out on a bench. One of those Timothy Schmalz sculptures was blessed several years ago when placed at the Vatican.   

Sunday was the 4th World Day of the Poor. Pope Francis spoke of it in his homily at Mass and the Angelus that followed later.   

The Holy Father gave us much to reflect on, especially with the Christmas shopping season approaching. “How often do we hear people ask: ‘What can I buy? What more can I have? I must go shopping.’ Let us use different words: ‘What can I give to others?’, in order to be like Jesus, who gave of himself and was born in the manger.’” 

He wants us to reach a hand out to the poor. Something to remember in this difficult year of 2020.

“Use what God has given you and look at the poor. Look: there are so many of them; even in our cities, in the centre of our city, there are many. Do good!”—Pope Francis 

Deacon Tom 

Nov. 13, 2020

“If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought into perfection through us.”—1 John 4:11. 

How’s your prayer going? Seems I’ve been reaching out more during the day, sometimes during the night too. Trying some one-on-one speaking, then listening for Him in my heart. I read yesterday about a priest who needed a boost in his communication with God. He invited parishioners to join him one evening. Several did and more came each night for months after. It changed his life and those he served. 

We continue to be challenged by this pandemic. Public worship, which limits numbers, isn’t comfortable for all. Some visit church at other times to be alone with God. Earlier this week, I met someone outside the building. They asked me to bring the Eucharist. After receiving for the first time in many months there was this response: “That was so good!”  

A few yards from where we stood there are three painted rocks under a tree. “Hugs,” “Love” and a cross. I think that says a lot about His love for us. He meets us where we are.   

Just wondering, any suggestions on how we can pray together while we have to remain mostly apart? Please click here if you’d like to reply. 

“We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.”  1 John 4:16 

God Bless, 
Deacon Tom 

Nov. 9, 2020

Christians rightly commemorate this feast of the church…

Catholic Church buildings come in a variety of structures. At St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament, there’s the welcoming walkway and front doors so common of a 1960s structure. The cross originally was higher up, but is still visible in the entrance.

Older buildings, like St. John the Evangelist in Bainbridge, have a steeple.  You need to walk up some stairs to get inside. The 1920s-era building shown above has been updated over the years, with aluminum siding and extra space inside. Depending on where you visit, Catholic churches also take the shape of a cross.

November 9 is an unusual feast day. It commemorates the opening of the first church after the legalization of Christianity by Emperor Constantine.  St. John Lateran Basilica was dedicated in 324 by Pope Sylvester. Known since as the seat of the Bishop of Rome (currently Pope Francis), it carries the name of the family that donated the land on which it sits. The most recent structure was dedicated in 1646.

“My fellow Christians, today is the birthday of this church, an occasion for celebration and rejoicing.”—From a sermon by Saint Caesarius of Arles in today’s breviary reading.

Deacon Tom

Nov. 6, 2020

“Without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”—Hebrews 11:6

Just back from a walk around the grounds and nearby streets with a parishioner. We’re blessed with this late November sun. Many were making their way nearby in the lot and the streets. We went as far as the Jewish Community Center parking lot and back.

A nice time for sharing faith too. My companion came across the verse from Hebrews above. I think it says much about our belief. The wonder that is God is evident this day…we were both certain He was there with us. And not that we should expect such beauty. It was gifted to us today.

Along the way I shared some memories of long ago, things like using my toy trucks and earthmovers in the backyard at home as a youngster. Thoughts of sandboxes and pools came about as well. Let’s be grateful that He has allowed us to come to Him as He wants this day…like little children.

Check out the photo. Can you see my eyes smiling behind that mask?  Thanks, God, for this nice weather!

“Let the little children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”—Matthew 19:14

Deacon Tom

Nov. 4, 2020

God is light…

We’ve come a long way since March. Things are so different now. It seems as if the seasons are a bit off too. Some snow days ago…and now warmth expected for the next week or so. But it’s November! 

On the church grounds this afternoon, I’ve found trees that still have green leaves. Another is empty of its color. There’s also a bird nest on one branch. It’s empty. Among all this today the sun’s rays are here for us.  Just nice to have the time to be here.

Today’s the feast day of St. Charles Borromeo from Lombardy. He was a lawyer who became Bishop and Cardinal in Milan. Called a true pastor of his flock, he told priests and pastors to “practice what you preach.” While he wanted them to be there for parishioners, he also urged them not to neglect the “parish of your souls.”

And from a sermon given during the last synod he attended, he offered words of advice that can apply to us all. Perhaps it could be useful walking the grounds on some very beautiful days: “Meditate before, during and after everything we do.”

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life.”—1 John 1:1

Deacon Tom

Nov. 2, 2020


“If, then, we have died in Christ we believe that we shall also live with him.”—Romans 6:8

I remember lighting candles with Deacon Jim Crowley at the first All Souls Day Mass I attended here at here at St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament in 2013. I don’t recall how many names were read that night, in memory of those who had died in the previous 12 months. Tonight there will be a flame for Deacon Jim as he went to his heavenly home near the end of 2019. 

We’ll remember 38 people in all this year. Fr. Jim, Dc. Tony, Deacon Candidate Greg and I have all been touched by the deaths of friends and loved ones since the last All Souls Mass. I look forward to being there with all the families who can attend. I’m pleased that my brother will be present too. It will make it somewhat easier as my Mother’s name is called. 

As I’m writing this, Pope Francis is concluding a late afternoon Mass at the Vatican’s Teutonic College in Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls).

The St. Joseph Missal sums up our celebration by this: “All Souls Day is a special day of prayer for all our brothers and sisters who have gone ahead of us.”

“Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life and I shall raise him on the last day.”  John 6:40  

Peace be with you!  
Deacon Tom

Oct. 30, 2020

Charity, Unity, Fraternity

A short time before my ordination to the diaconate, I was invited the join the Knights of Columbus. I was honored to be part of this organization. I’ve since become a third-degree knight in the Rev. Msgr. Leonard B. Fries Council 1839 in Endicott.

That’s quite a connection for me, as Msgr. Fries was my pastor at Christ the King parish in Endwell. He arrived there when I was about 10 years old. I grew into my 20s in faith with him. He was a simple parish priest, there for everyone. A couple months before his retirement, Msgr. Fries started his day working with his beautiful flowers, only to be taken to the heavenly garden.

Fr. Michael McGivney was a priest like that. His time of earth lasted only 38 years. Yet his concern for parishioners and beyond is felt to this day. As founder of the Knights of Columbus, Fr. McGivney focused on helping families in the church.

From one council formed in Connecticut in 1882 to more than 2 million members today, the Knights are there for others. You may also see their honor guards in distinctive uniforms at confirmations and other important events at church. On October 31, Fr. Michael J. McGivney moves one step closer to sainthood with beatification at 10 a.m. broadcast on EWTN and via the internet.

Knights today continue with Fr. McGivney’s code of Charity, Unity and Fraternity.

Blessed Fr. McGivney, please pray for us!

Deacon Tom

Oct. 28, 2020

What happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”—John 15:23

I’m headed out to Transfiguration Monastery later this afternoon. I go there to take in God’s beauty and tranquility. And I’ll have time to sit with Sister Donald for spiritual direction.

It’s been a couple of months at least since I was last at the monastery. Back then, I was helping get things set up for a book sale. And of course, I did some browsing too. I came across The Prayer Book published by The Catholic Press back in 1954.

Lots of saints mentioned inside including St. Jude Thaddeus who shares a feast day on October 28 with his brother St. Simon. (Not to be confused with Simon Peter!) Both are mentioned in all four Gospels. But only Jude is quoted—with a question for Jesus at the Last Supper seen above. For the response, please read the quote below from Jesus.

We’re told they were cousins of Jesus. “Thaddeus” means “the wise.” There is a letter of Jude in the New Testament, yet the most recent study attributes it to someone other than this apostle. St. Jude is the patron saint of “lost causes” or “desperate situations.” Look for prayers from the St. Jude Shrine here

”Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”—John 15:23

St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Simon, please pray for us!

Deacon Tom

Oct. 26, 2020

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder’s craft.”—Psalm 19:2

I had a busy weekend. This deacon had traveled many miles on Saturday and Sunday. Four different churches in two counties: a funeral, a baptism, and two Sunday Masses. Thanks to God for guiding me safely on the journeys. 

When I got home from the last stop in Deposit, I was tired. But I had some really nice veggies that I decided to cut up for a stew. I added some chicken too. (Ask me for the recipe if you want). Two hours later, my brother and my good friend joined me at the usual table in the backyard—this time wrapped in warm clothes. As always, (and socially distant) we offered grace before we ate. 

After they left, I went to my favorite chair out front. That’s when I noticed the color in the sky and snapped a few pics. Over the last few months I’ve spent many hours sitting there, mostly with newspapers. Recently it’s been the spot where I’ve delved into St. Augustine’s Confessions, too.

When I was reading the book last week, I placed a marker in a page. Wanted to remember where Augustine quoted St. Ambrose. Just read it again now. Seems to fit with how I felt looking at last night’s sunset.

“Creator of all things. You rule the heavens. You clothe the day with light  and night with grace of sleep.”—From St. Augustine’s Confessions

Peace,                                                                                                                  Deacon Tom

Oct. 23, 2020

You are the light of the world…

The weather yesterday and today has left me really confused. I’ve been walking the church grounds in many different conditions over the last few months. We’ve gone from winter to spring to summer and now to autumn with this virus.

Bright sun and the warm temperatures this day would have us believe we’re headed into summer. What’s that expression—if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes, it will change. I’d guess someone with more scientific knowledge than me would say that sun over the cross on the church is right where it needs to be this time of year. 

Today’s the feast day of St. John of Capistrano. A lawyer and a governor who became a Franciscan. It’s said that he was a great preacher throughout Europe to “strengthen  Christian life and refute heresy.” He brought the light of Christ to those he spoke to.

I remember St. John for a different reason. At the mission named for him in California, San Juan Capistrano, the swallows return every year on March 19—St. Joseph’s Day. Read more about it here.

“Now a light does not illumine itself, but instead it diffuses its rays and shines all round upon everything that comes into its view.”—St. John of Capistrano, from the treatise ‘Mirror of the Clergy.’

Deacon Tom

Oct. 19, 2020

I will never fail to accept the grace of martyrdom… “

There was a Mass on Sunday in Auriesville, NY at a distinctive church in the round. It’s about an hour east of Utica in the Diocese of Albany. The feast of the North American Martyrs was celebrated by Bishop Edward Scharfenberger.    

If you’ve ever had the chance to visit the shrine, you’ll see many doors around the building. Inside, cut logs form walls in the center. Several saints’ statues are seen around the altar area. That includes the Jesuits who came to bring the faith. Also there, St. Kateri, a native who converted to Christianity just a few years after the Jesuits died. 

St. Isaac Jogues was ministering to the Huron when captured by the Mohawks and held for many months. When set free, he went back to France for a time. He returned and on October 18, 1646, he was martyred near where the shrine is today. His companions, including St. John De Brebeuf, met a similar fate months later. All were canonized 90 years ago. Part of Brebeuf’s spiritual diary is in the breviary for this date.   

“My God it grieves me greatly that you are not know, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to you, that sin has not been driven from it…

If all the brutal tortures which prisoners in this region must endure should fall on me, I offer myself most willingly…”—St. John De Brebeuf 

St. Isaac Jogues and St. John De Brebeuf please pray for us! 

Deacon Tom 

Oct. 16, 2020

Have recourse to the adorable heart of Jesus…

I visited Paris in the last century. I stayed in a small hotel in the Montmartre area of the city.  Loosely translated, it means mountain of the martyr. That may be for the  bishop St. Denis,  who was beheaded and was said to have carried his  head in the streets for a time after.

The week-long holiday was in a not-so-cold January, yet there was some rain. Saw all the sights. With some urging from my travel buddy, we made our way up the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph and the second-highest view-point, the roof of a church. The Sacre Coeur is atop the hill in Montmartre. We stopped by there several times while in the City of Lights…known in English as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

October 17 is the traditional feast day of the French saint, Margaret Mary Alacoque. She was a nun in Paray-le-Monial, some 185 miles from Paris. St. Margaret Mary had many trials and sufferings while in the convent. But these came about while she was visited by Jesus. In 1675, He asked her to share the devotion of His Sacred Heart.  

While she faced opposition from inside and outside the convent, she eventually received support from her spiritual director, Father de le Colombiere to institute the Feast of the Sacred Heart which is June 11.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”—Matthew 11:29

Deacon Tom

Oct. 14, 2020

For great is the Lord and highly to be praised, awesome is he…”—Psalm 96:4

I’ve been blessed these past few months to drive between Broome and Chenango counties a few times a week. Until recently, the hillsides have been filled with green trees. But now we’ve reached autumn.

We can see the awesomeness of our God who is bringing us red and orange and yellow. I’m sure there are other names for the tints that I see, but I’m better with just the basics. In my backyard, bushes are turning too. And there are bright leaves making their drops onto the grass below. 

Sometimes with all that’s going on, we forget that He’s provided us with so much beauty! Take a walk, see the pallet from our God.

“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the Lord who comes.”—Psalm 96:11-13 

Deacon Tom

Oct. 9, 2020

Carlo Acutis

We will see a saint dressed in jeans, sneakers and a sweater…

You may remember a young man I wrote about back in June. Carlo Acutis, described as a “computer geek,” set up a website on religious miracles. He also helped priests build sites for their parishes. 

Carlo was devoted to his faith from a young age. He attended Mass every morning and would bring items to the homeless in the evening. At the age of 15, he died of leukemia. That was October 12, 2006. 

This October 10, Acutis will be beatified in a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, where he asked to be buried. His body is available for public veneration until October 17. The rector of the basilica, quoted by the Catholic News Agency, noted that: “For the first time in history we will see a saint dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a sweater.” 

The Mass will be televised on EWTN on Saturday morning at 10:30.  It’s also available on the internet here. Perhaps that’s a good place to watch it, given Carlo Acutis‘ expertise with computers.

Blessed Carlo, please pray for us!
Deacon Tom

Oct. 6, 2020

Lord, teach us to pray…. 

I was blessed that my parents shared their Catholic faith in many ways. Their crucifixes, prayers, paintings and pictures remain on the walls of what is now my home. One print has yellowed, though I picture it as fresh as when I was growing up.

A little girl wearing daisies on her head presents the lazy flowers at an outdoor shrine. In front of her is the Blessed Mother holding the Christ child. I think of the rosary when I look at it. Perhaps we learned to say the Our Father and Hail Mary near this image called “The Offering.”

October 7 is the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Pope St. Pius V named this day nearly 450 years ago. It’s in thanksgiving to God for a victory over the Turks attributed to praying the rosary. The entire month is devoted to Mary and the Rosary.

During Pope Francis’ general audience today, he encouraged the faithful to pray the rosary, especially with “looming threats in the world.” He said during the pandemic, “it is necessary to hold the rosary in our hand and pray for us, our loved ones and all the people.” Please click here to learn more.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

Blessed Mother, please pray for us!
Deacon Tom

Oct. 5, 2020

“God is love and those who abide in love abide in God.” 1 John 4:16

On Saturday, Pope Francis visited Assisi, the home of St. Francis. A day ahead of the Feast Day for the saint who died in 1226, the Holy Father introduced his latest encyclical. It was influenced in part by the pandemic, which began after he started writing. 

“Fratelli tutti :on Fraternity and Social Friendship” is the English title for the  message. Pope Francis has retained the Italian wording which translates “brothers all.” Yet he notes  that it refers to brothers and sisters…everyone.

A Vatican News summary indicates the encyclical “aims to promote a universal aspiration toward fraternity and social friendship.” It’s a good introduction to “Fratelli tutti.” Click on the photo caption below the Holy Father’s hand above to see that article.

You can delve into the entire eight chapters of “Fratelli tutti.” It’s an easy read, and there are two prayers at the end. Visit the Holy See website. A link is provided to the encyclical here.    

“I offer this social Encyclical as a modest contribution to continued reflection, in the hope that in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words.”—Pope Francis, “Fratelli tutti” paragraph 6

Deacon Tom

Oct. 2, 2020

“Their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”—Matthew 18:10

Often I scan  the house for “art” to go with a blog. This morning I found a guardian angel with a couple of kids. There’s a bit of a celestial glow from an extra light bouncing off the ceramic. October 2 is the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels.

A  few days ago we wrote about the only angels with names…the archangels Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Today we remember those whose names and number we don’t know. There’s an old question: “How many angels fit on the head of a pin?” I don’t know the answer.

I’ve heard that people speak of their guardian angels nearby. Just yesterday someone told me of a person close to death. The man conversed without sound to ask his angel’s name. “He won’t tell me,” was the answer.

From the Lives of the Saints by Fr. Hugo Hoever : “Angels are pure spirits, with a natural intelligence, will, power and beauty far surpassing the nature, faculties and power of man.” Fr. Hoever says there are millions of angels. As for the  Guardian Angels, he says we all have one for a lifetime to defend us and  to “endeavor to keep us on the right path.”

“Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen”

Deacon Tom

Sept. 28, 2020

Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle…

Our faith tells us there are many angels. There’s a female one in the picture above from Southampton, England. She’s atop a monument there listing all those who died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. 

We don’t know that angel’s name. In fact, there are just three who we do know what to call. On September 29, we celebrate the feast of the archangels….the only ones mentioned specifically in scripture. Michael who protects; Gabriel who announces; Raphael who guides.

Michael appears mostly in Revelation. Gabriel at the Annunciation to Mary in Luke’s Gospel. Raphael is found in the Book of Tobit. Please click here for a commentary on the readings of the day for the Feast of the Archangels. 

“For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways. With their hands they shall support you lest you strike your foot against a stone.”—Psalm 91:11-12 

Deacon Tom

Sept. 25, 2020

Do the good that presents itself to be done…

It was a beautiful morning for a walk today. Leaves just starting to change on the trees. Bright sun, nary a cloud in the sky.

Many have been blessed to walk among this outdoor space over the last few months. God has certainly provided us with a beautiful setting that we can all visit in these uncertain times. Stop by, walk around or stay in your car.

Fifteen years ago, St. Vincent de Paul was placed at the sidewalk in front of the church. The sculpture includes the image of the saint and those he served. They’re in front of him, clutching his cloak from behind. Young, old. One has a crutch. Take a close look.

Perhaps…we can see the face of Christ in these people?

September 27 is St. Vincent’s Feast Day. He came from humble beginnings. At first, he thought a call to the priesthood would bring a more comfortable life. But he learned something different. A biography says he was “sensitive to the needs of the people and the difficulties of the church at the time.” Founder of the Congregation of the Mission and Daughters of Charity (with St. Louise de Marillac), he wanted his “priests and religious to be as sensitive to the needy as he was.”

“It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else.”—St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent, merci de prier pour nous! (please pray for us!)

Deacon Tom

Sept. 23, 2020

Pray, hope and don’t worry…

My nephew finished up a year of college study in Switzerland about 16 years ago. He joined his mom (my sister) for a few days after that in Italy. They visited our ancestral home for my dad’s side of the family—Foggia. Today’s saint spent his lifetime in that province.

Seems I have another connection to the saint. It was in the early ’70s at St. Ambrose School. A classmate brought in what looked like a brown sock, cut at both ends. He said it came from a priest who had the wounds of Christ. And he said it had the “smell of sanctity.” 

Padre Pio is known by his saintly name of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina. He joined the Capuchins when only 15 years old. He was ordained a priest 110 years ago at the age of 23. A few years later, while praying before a cross, he received the stigmata.

Many people were curious to meet him. Each day Padre Pio spent hours hearing confessions, sometimes telling people of their sins before they mentioned them. He was also said to heal and to bilocate…be in two places at the same time. He founded a hospital that continues to serve many people. Padre Pio died at San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia on this day in 1968.  He was canonized in 2002.

“Pray, hope and don’t worry.  Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”—St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Padre Pio, per favore prega per noi!  Padre Pio, please pray for us!

Deacon Tom

Sept. 21, 2020

Learn from the way the wildflowers grow…

I had a great idea on what to write today. Then I walked outside and something caught my eye. We’ve had a couple of nights of very low temperatures and some touches of frost…yet. One beautiful, red rose on the bush. 

I took a picture of the sunshine bouncing off the petals. When I sent it to my siblings I had one reply almost immediately…”Beautiful…6 mos.”  It was six months ago today that my mom was called to the heavenly garden. Wow.

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. He had been a tax collector when Jesus called him. People didn’t like having to pay Rome (and sometimes a bit more because the guy who took the money wanted a cut for himself.)

St. Bede writes that when Jesus asked Matthew to “Follow me,” it wasn’t just for dinner. Rather he understood that Jesus’ was asking him to follow…for life. Read about it here…in Matthew 9 and focus on verses 9-13.

Funny. I may not have seen that rose this morning if I’d not gone out to read the utility meters, report how much gas and electricity I used and pay them. Not so much a tax…but….

“Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.”—Matthew 6:28-29

Deacon Tom

Sept. 18, 2020

They will soar as with eagle’s wings…

One of my least favorite subjects was math. I took geometry during my junior year with Sister Rosella. She was tough on us, making sure we knew the subject. And if we had difficulty understanding, she always made herself available out of class time. I learned much from her.

What impressed me most was her prayer to begin each class. It included a request for the intercession of St. Joseph of Cupertino. He was not a good student. It’s good that we had his prayer to get through all the angles and such.

St. Joseph joined the Franciscans and was eventually ordained a priest. It seems that his prayer was so intense, he often levitated. I heard that sometimes he wanted to reflect on the art of the church building. In order to give praise, he’s said to have lifted himself up to get a closer look.

Many people wanted to get a look at the “flying” priest. His superiors limited his access to the public. There were several dozen documented cases of his levitation put forth as part of his canonization. Please click on the artwork above to learn more. St. Joseph Cupertino died on this day in 1663.

“They will soar as with eagle’s wings…” Isaiah 40:31

St. Joseph of Cupertino, please pray for us!

Deacon Tom

Sept. 16, 2020

We need to look after and care for each other…

I woke up just after 3:30 this morning and turned on the live edition of the pope’s weekly audience. It was a bit earlier than I expected today, with the Holy Father outside amongst pilgrims on a patio.

His message tied into Laudato Sí, the encyclical of a couple of years ago. “Caring is a golden rule of our nature as human beings, and brings with it health and hope,” Francis said. He urged everyone to care for those who are sick or in need or cast aside, calling it a “human and Christian wealth.”

You can read a short message that he delivered today, by clicking here.

To view the entire audience with Pope Francis, please click on the photo above. If you wish to begin where the Holy Father starts to speak, you can move the video ahead about 22 minutes.

“When we enter into silence and contemplate our interconnected world, we come to appreciate the true meaning and value of all creatures, for each in its own way reflects something of God’s infinite wisdom, goodness and beauty.”—Pope Francis

Deacon Tom

Sept. 14, 2020

“The cross is something wonderfully great and honorable…”—St. Andrew of Crete

My great-grandfather was buried in 1946 and my great-grandmother in 1968 in the lower portion of Calvary Cemetery. A small stone cross marks where their graves are, just steps from the old chapel. The cross was important to these Italian immigrants…so people knew they were Catholic Christians.

Over her lifetime, my mother gathered countless crucifixes and crosses in the home she left almost a year ago. That includes a simple wooden cross that used to hang beside her favorite chair. Mom often spoke of the saint whose name she carried and the “true” cross.   

St. Helena, also known as Helen, was mother to the first Christian Emperor Constantine. She went on a trip bring back relics from the Holy Land. That’s said to have included the cross on which Jesus died.

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It marks the dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher built over the site of Jesus’ tomb, some 17-centuries ago.

“May I never boast except in the cross of Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”—Galatians 6:14

Deacon Tom

Sept. 11, 2020

“Neither death, nor life… will be able to separate us from the love of God…”

19 years ago this morning Fr. Tom Hobbes and I watched the second airplane hit the World Trade Center. The TV wasn’t usually on after morning Mass at Christ the King Rectory. We were stunned when the first tower fell.   

This morning at Mass, Deacon-in-training Greg Hrostowski shared a reflection. “Here in this place of worship each of us can find joy,” Greg said. Despite all our individual struggles and the pandemic, he reminded us of God’s love and wisdom for us. I felt joy! About today’s anniversary of 9-11, he said we turn to God for “answers, comfort and to have mercy on sinners and strength to finish the race.” 

After Mass, I invited Greg to Highland Park in Endwell. There’s a twisted, rusting beam in the lower park, next to a marble model of the twin towers. Stones etched with the names of Town of Union natives who died on that day are nearby. The annual memorial service is there tonight. 

Some ask where God was on 9-11. And where is He today? With us in love.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life… nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 8:38-39

Deacon Tom

Sept. 9, 2020

“Over all these virtues put on love which binds the rest together…”—Colossians 3:14

The Liturgy of the Hours, found in what’s called the breviary, offers prayer throughout the each day. Deacons, priests and religious are called to pray morning and evening prayer. Some, including religious communities of nuns and monks offer several other prayers throughout the day.

It includes portions of the psalms and readings from the Bible as well. Today, during the midmorning, midday and midafternoon prayers, there’s a focus on love. St. Paul wrote some very powerful words, particularly in the first letter to the Corinthians.

Our world is still facing uncertainty with the coronavirus. Life has not been easy in recent months. There are many challenges around the earth as some don’t always remember Jesus’ call to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Perhaps we can take a couple of minutes to read (or re-read) 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. Then try to live it and share it in our little portion of the world.

“Love is patient, love is kind…love never fails. There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.”—1 Corinthians 13: 4,8,13

Peace, joy and LOVE!
Deacon Tom

Sept. 4, 2020

“Let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth.”—1 John 3:18

It’s unlikely that most of us would know Agnes of Albania. She was born August 26, 1910 in Skopje. Still not sure who she was? You certainly remember her distinctive blue and white sari habit. She took the religious name Teresa, a Spanish spelling of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. 

She spent years teaching at a girls’ school in India with the Loreto Sisters. But then Mother Teresa ventured out for a train trip and met some of the “poorest of the poor” on the streets. She experienced a “call within a call.” It took four years to then establish the Missionaries of Charity in 1950.

While she said she saw the face of Christ in those she served, she reportedly felt that she couldn’t connect with Him for many decades. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Mother Teresa asked that the prize money used for the poor in India.

She died in 1997 on September 5, which is now her feast day. It was just four years ago today that Pope Francis canonized her as St. Teresa of Calcutta. From the homily of that day the Holy Father said: “Mother Teresa loved to say, ‘Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile’. Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer.”

“Peace begins with a smile.”—Mother Teresa   

St. Teresa of Calcutta, please pray for us!

Deacon Tom

Sept. 2, 2020

News of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region…

It was the spring of 1990 that I was invited to spend a fortnight (British for 14 days) in England. Most of that was on the South Coast. But I was also taken to see other sites, like the stunning circle at Stonehenge on a very cloudy day.

I capped it off with a visit to many sites during a couple of days in London…including St. Paul’s Cathedral show above. I was surprised at all the saint names around the city…some of whom I’d never heard of before…including St. Giles. I stayed at a hotel named for him.

September 1st was his feast day. I found differing histories for St. Giles, who was likely born a noble in Greece. He gave it all up when he sailed for France to live in a cave. He loved solitude but didn’t get much. He eventually set up a monastery in the South of France and brought on miracles for the many who visited him.

After his death in the early 700s, Giles was added to the list of 14 “Holy-Helpers.” Those are the saints who anyone in Europe could turn to when needing assistance. People sought their aid in times of illness, particularly during the plague.

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile…”—Mark 6:31

St. Giles, pray for us!
Deacon Tom

Aug. 31, 2020

Things are beginning to look up….

A shiny 18-wheeler from a local trucking company pulled ahead of me yesterday on the interstate. As it passed I noted the above message written in dust on the lower part of a back door. I guess things aren’t always as bright as they seem. But those words give hope as we continue to travel the uncharted highway through this pandemic.

Yes…things are beginning to look up. I was driving a borrowed car this past week as mine broke down. Thankfully that happened two blocks from home. And this morning, I got a call that it’s fixed. Didn’t even hear them deliver it to my driveway. A personal positive…how about us all?

It’s been many months since I wrote a first blog on March 30 with these words: “For weeks it has been evening…but the dawn will come.” We’ve come through much. No church services allowed in person…to outdoor Masses…to some being allowed inside the building…and Eucharist delivered outside people’s homes.

Are we through it? No. Is there more to come? Yes. Perhaps some darkness…and uncertainty. Did you see a sign last evening? Out the window there was a bright Waxing Gibbous. The moon…which early tomorrow morning will be full. (The moon photo above is a few years old.)

Perhaps a time to renew with prayer that God will continue to guide us through. Let’s read His words through a prophet.

“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.”—Ezekiel 36:26

Deacon Tom

Aug. 28, 2020

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you…”

On Thursday, Pope Francis stopped by the Cathedral of St. Augustine and prayed at the tomb of St. Monica. Her prayers for her son over a period of years were fruitful. She followed the faith and asked that Augustine “see the light.” Eventually he did, in Milan, where he was baptized by St. Ambrose.

St. Augustine was many things after his conversion: priest, bishop, philosopher, theologian, author, and eventually Doctor of the Church. More than sixteen hundred years later, people are still reading from his Confessions. It is essentially an autobiography from birth to time as a bishop.    

There are 13 “books” in Confessions.    

Though I’ve seen only parts of it, I need to read it all. You see a quote above. Below as well, from today’s breviary reading.

“On entering into myself I saw, as it were with the eye of the soul, what was beyond the eye of the soul, beyond my spirit: your immutable light…this light was above me because it had made me; I was below it because I was created by it.  He who has come to know the truth knows this light.”—From the Confessions of St. Augustine

St. Augustine and St. Monica, please pray for us!

Deacon Tom

Aug. 26, 2020

I will bless your name forever….

Though my mother died 5 months ago last Friday, she’s still with me in many ways. Perhaps two years ago, she took time to leave a message on white board. It’s in my room now, with strong caps with carefully penned script below—“Love Mom.”

Mom always watched out for us kids. Before seat belts, her right arm was extended for a quick stop. Nighttime play, despite hot temperatures, was always interrupted with a sweater in case we got cool. When times called for it, she would let us know her disappointment with strong words. Mom was behind me 100% on the journey to the diaconate. I’m sure her prayer then…and now…influence the path I’ve taken.

There’s another mother I’ve learned about over the years. St. Monica. Her memorial is Thursday, August 27 this year. She had a son who strayed much, and didn’t carry the faith. But she was persistent in prayer. When her child left home to pursue not so nice things, Monica followed.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her for those 18-years watching that boy of hers become a man. We often wonder how our prayers will be answered. St. Monica probably did too. But God eventually reached Augustine. Watch for my next blog post to learn how that son became a Christian and more. 

“Every day I will bless you; I will praise your name forever.”—Psalm 145:2

Deacon Tom

Aug. 24, 2020

“How do you know me?” John 1:48

I’ve gotten into a habit…sitting in front of the house to read the Sunday newspaper. I skim the comics and news and features in the summer sun. But I think I’m turning into one of those “older guys” watching the world go by. Three of us around here…one who sits in the garage, his next-door neighbor in a chair in front of his windows and me.

Our home was just built when my parents and siblings moved in during the 1950s. Eisenhower was still president when I came along. Now I’m second generation of the last original owners on the block. In recent years, different people have moved to the street, including some last week. Not acquainted very well with the “newer” people. I have to get to know my neighbors better…

I realized this morning I just don’t know all the apostles either. Today’s the feast day of Bartholomew. Little is written about him. Today’s Gospel points to a man named Nathanael…believed to be St. Bart.

We’re told he travelled to many different countries. And like all the apostles but John…he was also a martyr.

“He is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”—John 1:47

St. Bartholomew, pray for us!

God Bless You,
Deacon Tom

Aug. 21, 2020

God, my Lord, is my strength…

I expected to see a few students headed to the Engineering School as I drove alongside the Binghamton University campus this morning. Instead there were two deer grazing. I slowed out of caution and to have a look. (Greg Hrostowski saw them too and took the picture above.)

God has created many animals to share the earth with us. We’re blessed with many near church. A week or so ago a mama deer sprinted behind the rectory, while baby tentatively followed to Clubhouse Road.

I read that deer are remarkable animals. While running, their back legs can touch the same spot as the front did.

The prophet Habakkuk’s third and final chapter praises God’s power. It’s written about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC. Habakkuk concludes by noting God’s blessings given to man to meet challenges. Can this help us with our world today?

“God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.”—Habakkuk 3:19

Deacon Tom

Aug. 19, 2020

The Lord is my Shepherd…

Think back to when you were a young person. There were some really special times…like Christmas or a birthday. Maybe a relative was coming to visit. Or a parents were coming back from a somewhere. Did we always expect we’d get something?

Wrapped gifts were always nice. But for a visitor or returned parent it may have been much better. Their smile…their tales…their presence. Always looked forward to that!

Today’s responsorial psalm is number 23. Remember? “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” But we do “want” don’t we?

Sometimes we desire something so much, we forget the Lord is in the picture. He’s there with challenges too. Whether it be a dark valley or enemies are watching. Perhaps it’s these last few months of the unusual living because of the virus. He’s with us. Remember our shepherd! Seek Him out.

“To safe waters you lead me, you restore my strength.You guide me on the right path for the sake of you name.”—Psalm 23:2-3

Deacon Tom

Aug. 13, 2020

Uplifting the Spirit

Saturday was a nice day for an outdoor sandwich lunch. About an hour before I joined a friend at Highland Park, he sent a text saying he’d bring dessert. I couldn’t come without having something special too, so I brought an apple for each of us. He’d picked blackberries from his bushes and added blueberries and a piece of baklava. Delicious!

We’re both clergy, but from different denominations. He turned to me to say grace. Our meal was shared together with conversation. Later we walked among the trees and grass. Overhead was a canopy of blue skies dotted with clouds. It was certainly uplifting time for the spirit. And we said we’d meet again soon.

Today’s Gospel tells of a man who’s seeking the path to eternal life from Jesus. He’s told to follow the commandments. He responds that he does, but questions Jesus about what he still lacks. “Sell what you have and give to the poor” and have treasure in heaven. Jesus then tells him to follow Him. But the man went away sad for he had many possessions.

We all have lots of stuff and we help those in need of food or clothing or perhaps money. But how often do we give things like time or talk or walk with others? Can we share with those who may be poor…in spirit?

“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.”—Ezekiel 36.26

God Bless You,
Deacon Tom

Aug. 12, 2020

For where two or three are gathered together in my name,

A week ago, I was ready to lead a morning prayer. Rather than the four or more usually present, only one other was there. The two of us prayed together, trusting in God’s
presence. We knew it was important that we were there.

Jane Frances De Chantal’s mother died when she was young. Her father was a politician and raised her in a style expected of his office. She married a baron at age 21. At her castle there was daily Mass and works of charity were practiced.

When her husband died a few years later, the young family moved to her father-in-law’s home. It was a challenge for many some time. After taking St. Francis De Sales as a spiritual director, she formed a community of three women religious. When he died, there were many obstacles, including a plague. They ministered to those in need during that illness

August 12 is the feast day of St. Jane Frances de Chantal. Please read more about her here.

It’s said that St. Jane experienced “interior anguish, darkness, and spiritual dryness” over the years. But the community of sisters still grew to serve many from just three who came together in prayer.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”—Matthew 18:20

God Bless You,
Deacon Tom

Aug. 10, 2020

The Holy Martyrs followed Christ even to shedding their life’s blood…

When someone mentions treasure…do you think of a big old chest filled with gold or a good buy on the web? There’s another option…people.

St. Lawrence looked on life that way. As a deacon of the early church in Rome, he saw Pope Sixtus II executed by decree of the Emperor Valerian. The emperor also gave an order to Lawrence…bring him the treasures of the church.

Over the next three days, he sold or gave away things like chalices that contained gold…earthly wealth. Then he gathered the poor and the infirm…and others… those he served as a deacon. When he presented these human “treasures” of the church…the emperor was not amused.

Lawrence was sentenced to death. He was burned alive on a grill. There are different versions of his last words on August 10, 258. It’s said that Lawrence joked at one point “I’m done on this side, turn me over.”

St. Augustine of Hippo, preaching a century-plus later to those in a Roman Empire where Christianity was now required of all, said this about St. Lawrence.

“In his life he loved Christ; in his death he followed in his footsteps.”

God Bless You,
Deacon Tom

Aug. 6, 2020

We had been eyewitnesses to his Majesty…

It was such a beautiful day on Wednesday, one day after Tropical Storm Isaias brought heavy rain through our area. We still had some clouds. But the sun shone brightly through.

August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Remember when Jesus took Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor? His face was as shiny as the sun and his clothes were as “white as light.” Moses appears to one side and Elijah on the other. Peter wants to build a tent for each one.

Then a cloud comes over. Cue the voice: ‘This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” The apostles are struck down in fear. Jesus tells them not to be afraid. The display of light, shadow and visitors of old is over.

While this account is from Matthew, you’ll find it also in Mark and Luke. But it seems that Peter has the last word. He recounts the event in his second letter.

“For he received honor and glory from God the Father…we ourselves heard the voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.”—2 Peter 1:17,18

Deacon Tom

Aug. 3, 2020

Bring them here to me…

Ever been to a gathering where unexpected people show up? Somehow there’s enough food to feed all and sometimes extra to take home too.

Matthew’s Gospel on Sunday told of five-thousand-men and perhaps an equal number of women and children who are following Jesus. He healed them, but it was getting late, they were hungry. The available food: five loaves and two fish.

It doesn’t seem to add up…unless you’re Jesus. It’s the only miracle mentioned in all four Gospels. He looked to heaven, blessed the bread, broke it and they all ate. What he said was almost a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. It’s what we longed for it so much when we couldn’t have it during the shutdown.

How did Jesus do it? Don’t check the internet for an answer. We don’t need to know, it was a miracle. Still curious? We’ll have all eternity to understand when we get to a heavenly banquet table.

“They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full.”—Matthew 14:20

Deacon Tom

July 30, 2020

“Ad majorem Dei gloriam —for the greater glory of God.”—Jesuit motto

I noticed about a dozen robins on the grass near the Rosary garden at church yesterday. Almost an army working alongside each other. Decked out in their finest feathers.

It’s said that St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spain loved to dress his best. As a soldier he wore a uniform and fought hard in battle. Once, when severely injured, he was brought back to the family castle for a long recuperation. He spent much time reading, mostly religious books, including the life of Christ.

In 1522, St. Ignatius put aside the military ways and its trappings. Instead, he began a life-long quest to convert people. While studying in Paris, he met St. Peter Faber and St. Francis Xavier. The trio were the primary founders of The Society of Jesus…commonly known as the Jesuits.

St. Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises, a 30-day retreat with meditations and prayer still in use around the world today. He died on this day in 1556. Read more about his life here.

“Teach us, good Lord,  to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.”
—St. Ignatius of Loyola

Deacon Tom

July 29, 2020

I have come to believe that you are the Christ…

Are you a Mary or a Martha?

Martha warmly welcomes Jesus into their home, then goes off to get a meal ready. Mary is conversing with Jesus. Martha complains she needs her sister’s help. Jesus says Martha is “anxious and worried about many things,” while Mary has “chosen the better part.”

In John’s Gospel, Martha greets Jesus after her brother had died. Mary, in her sadness, had stayed home. Both chided him for not coming sooner. But Martha also expresses faith: “Whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Both eventually witness Jesus call the dead Lazarus out of the tomb.

Today is the memorial of St. Martha. Let’s remember her as a gracious hostess as we continue to live through COVID-19. Perhaps the following will help.

Pope Francis has introduced #sendyourhug. The Holy Father has asked ‘young people” to stay in touch with the elderly. But…wouldn’t it be nice for people of any age to send your hug to others? Learn more by clicking the image above.

“I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”—John 11:27

Deacon Tom

July 27, 2020

“See I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth”….Genesis 1:29

I received a wonderful zucchini and two tomatoes a couple of weeks ago. They were grown on a plot at Otsiningo Park by a priest-farmer. Many who are hungry will benefit from his home country skills adapted to a “backyard” garden.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a priest-farmer from Oklahoma who experimented with various crops in Guatemala. His rural background melded nicely as he served the people there. Father Stanley Rother offered up to five Masses in several locations each Sunday.

While Father Rother wasn’t a good Latin student, it’s said he picked up the native languages easily. He arrived in Central America just five years after ordination at a turbulent time. During his 12+ years there, he saw many parishioners killed by government troops.

Warned that his life was in danger, he returned to the U.S. for a couple of months, and then went back to Guatemala to be with his people. On July 28, 1981 he was killed there in his rectory. Declared a martyr in 2016, he was beatified in 2017 and awaits canonization. Read more about him here.

¡Bendito Stanley Rother, ruega por nosotros!
Blessed Stanley Rother, pray for us!

God Bless You,
Deacon Tom

July 17, 2020

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed?” Amos 3:3

This week I took time to talk with several parishioners by phone, catching up with those I’ve not been able to see in person. Some told me of walks that have become part of their days.

I’ve not walked as much as I’d like lately, but it’s refreshing and offers time together. One Sunday, a friend since first grade strolled with me at the park. We ran into a couple I knew while there, also enjoying the exercise. The other day a parishioner in Bainbridge and I took a short trek from the church to the village green and back.

Over the decades, many of my vacations included lots of footwork. I had a friend and travel companion who inspired me to use the feet, logging untold miles. The photo above is from one of those journeys. Now an ocean apart with a dozen years passed. Not sure when the two of us can walk together again.

Unsure if you’d like to start walking, perhaps alone? God has given us much flora and fauna on the church grounds. It’s very peaceful and inspiring. And if you think you can’t take those steps on your own, just remember the poem “Footprints” attributed to Mary Stevenson.

“When you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

Deacon Tom

July 15, 2020

Je vous salue Marie pleine de grâce…
Hail Mary, full of grace…

July 16 marks the day of the final appearance of the Blessed Mother to teenager Bernadette Marie Soubirous at Lourdes, France in 1858. Due to the pandemic, Lourdes was closed to the public for two months. But Masses and prayers continued on the internet and TV.

It’s only partially re-opened now. But you can visit tomorrow during a day-long worldwide e-pilgrimage—Lourdes: United in Prayer. They seek healing for the people of the world. Learn more in a video message by clicking the image above. The day’s schedule is here, please note it’s listed in French time six hours ahead of us.

Much of the English language content will be broadcast on EWTN, with a live international Mass beginning at 4 a.m. and a repeat at noon. A Mass for the Americas will air at 7 p.m. Also, there will be a Rosary at 10:30 a.m., and a program on the Message of Lourdes at 3:30 p.m.

Below are St. Bernadette’s own words on seeing the Blessed Mother from a website in her name.

“She was looking at me. It was just like two people in conversation.”—Saint Bernadette

Dieu te bénisse! God bless you!
Deacon Tom

July 13, 2020

Jesus I love you….

There’s some nice scenery to take in while traveling east from Syracuse to Albany. The NYS Thruway follows the Mohawk River for a time. By train, the Amtrak brings people a bit closer to the river which was the first means of transportation in the region.

The Mohawks, Iroquois and others built villages along the banks, which provided easy access to the waterway. It’s also the means that the Jesuits brought Christianity to the region. Some were martyred in the 1640s as they converted many to the faith near Auriesville. It’s now the site of s shrine to them.

In 1656, a Mohawk-Algonquin girl was born nearby. Her parents died in a smallpox epidemic when she was young. She survived with life-long scars of the disease on her face. Raised by an aunt and uncle, she became a Christian at the age of 19 and took the name Kateri.

Her relatives were opposed at first when she decided to devote her life to Jesus, rather than marrying. Kateri faced hardships as she was given much extra work as a result. It’s said she took time to make many crosses and left them throughout the wooded area. And on her death at the age of 24, Kateri Tekakwitha’s face became smooth, with no signs of the smallpox scars.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized in 2012, the first Native American Saint. Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” her feast day is July 14. Please read more about her here.

“Jesus I love you.”—St. Kateri’s last words

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

July 10, 2020

Hurry while you have the light of life…

Warm summer nights brought out lots of kids on my block when we were growing up. We’d gather for “tag” on the street. Sometimes it was too humid, so we’d sit on the curb under the streetlight. That’s when games like “telephone” would mix up whispered  messages from the ear of the first to the last. Whatever could keep us outside and prolong our time together!

Each year a brother and sister, monk and nun, would meet for just one day in a house outside his monastery. Once, Scholastica insisted that her sibling Benedict stay longer. He said no…had to be back to his cell. The future saint put in some heavy prayer to keep her brother there. A fierce thunderstorm rolled in and they had to stay together all night in discussion of things spiritual until sunrise.

Three days later St. Benedict dreamed of a dove ascending to heaven. Then he found his sister had died. The founder of the Rule for Western Monasticism buried her in a grave that had been prepared for him outside Monte Casino.

He’s one of my favorite saints with many interesting stories. But then again, I’ve been a Benedictine Oblate a couple of years longer than I’ve been a deacon. His medal is around my neck and another on my bedroom door. St. Benedict’s memorial is on July 11, please learn more here.

“Hurry while you have the light of life,
so that death’s darkness may not overtake you.”
—St. Benedict of Nursia

San Benedetto, per favore, prega per noi!

Deacon Tom

July 8, 2020

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above…

Did you ever see a flame floating in the air? The past few nights I’ve looked out a second floor back window after dark. It’s an amazing sight. Dozens of lights are flickering on and off all over the yard. High and low they blink before my eyes.

Haven’t really paid attention to fireflies since I was a kid, yet here they put on a wonderful display for me. One of my sisters was an expert at capturing them in a jar. She’d watch for a while then release them. Thanks God for creating insects that offer performances on warm summer evenings!

Does it bring to mind any hymn that’s popular with young people of any age? “This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine…” I found versions from a Vacation Bible School at an Episcopal Church in South Carolina that you can listen to here or another from the Soweto Gospel choir here.

When it gets dark and the humidity starts to break, look out the window. Or maybe sit on a chair outside. What do you see? What do you hear? The Lord has given us much. We can offer a few minutes of attention to praise what we’ve received from Him.

“All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”—James 1:17

Peace and light to you,
Deacon Tom

July 6, 2020

Looking at this picture from my one visit to Boston on July 4 back in 2008. What a place to be with all the people and fireworks! It was a lot different than this Independence Day. Anyone else have a quiet day?

Instead of the usual busyness working at Highland Park with the Rotary Club as an organizer of the Fourth of July Extravaganza, I was home. Sun or rain…didn’t matter…was still at the park for most of the last 20-plus years. Spent the days walking amongst the vendors…doing a lot of chatting.

Then a half hour before the fireworks…I’d sneak out…walking that mile home. One year as I dodged the crowds headed toward Highland, someone pointed at me and said: “He’s going the wrong way!” I always arrived home in time to see the fireworks at the top of the trees and hear the bursting of the shells.

Not this July…in the time of coronavirus. I tuned into fireworks from Washington on TV. Just wasn’t the same. Couldn’t watch too long, I just turned it off. Went upstairs, said my prayers and called it a night.

You know, it wasn’t so bad. I was alone physically. Spiritually, He’d called me aside to be with Him. I was rested and well prepared for Mass on Sunday morning.

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”—Mark 6:31

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

July 1, 2020

Ask him to make all your paths straight…

Hard to believe that my last cross-country car trek with my parents was in 1976. Lots of room in the back seat—no dog, three missing siblings. Only my oldest sister and I took that trip.

After visiting relatives in California, she got on a plane for Hawaii to attend graduate school. Mom and dad told me I would be going on the trip. No summer job, two years before college for me. Not exactly an enthused teen riding around the Bay area. We went to Carmel one day and stopped at an old church. Adobe, bell tower…took a picture. OK, where do we go next?

Fast forward some 23-years to the island of Majorca, Spain. (Remember the cathedral above that I wrote about on Palm Sunday?) Hey, that guy who formed all those missions was born here! Back home I have a photo of one of those churches. (San Carlos Borromeo del Río Carmelo).

Today is the feast day of St. Junipero Serra. He founded many missions, including San Juan Capistrano in 1776, the year of Independence. Serra holds a place in our country’s history. And there’s a statue of him at the U.S. Capitol, one of two that represents the State of California. He’s holding a cross in one hand and a church in the other in National Statuary Hall.

St. Junipero Serra, please pray for us!

“Ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans.”—Tobit 4:19

Deacon Tom

June 29, 2020

“You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church…I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 16:18, 19

A few years ago a priest acquaintance was celebrating his 25th year of ordination. He asked me to be deacon of the Mass. Usually with anniversary celebrations, the priest gives clergy a white stole to wear. For this occasion, the stoles were handcrafted in Poland. But in this case, they would be red, as it would be the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

During a conversation earlier this month, I reminded the priest of that silver anniversary of not so long ago. Then he told me something special…his ordination was scheduled specifically so it would coincide with that feast day which is June 29.

Today we celebrate the martyrdom of Peter, the first pope who was given the keys to the kingdom and Paul—converted on the road to Damascus—who wrote many letters to early Christian communities. Both traveled much to bring the Word to the world. Learn more about them here.

“The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”—2 Timothy 4:17

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

June 27, 2020

It is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out…

I always think of Wayne when I see this figurine on my shelf. We became friends at the start of Formation for Ministry back in 1999. There were many faith-filled discussions during our miles of travel in those two years of study. When I alone was selected for the journey to the diaconate and beyond, our talks continued. He gave me this heavenly preacher to inspire my ministry.

I’ve not preached from the pulpit much in the last few months. When I did, only a handful of people were in church and an untold number watching the stream from home.

The solitude of the pandemic has led me to much prayer and contemplation. I reflected on God’s gifts of nature during walks around the church grounds. My bibles and other spiritual books have gotten a workout at home. And I’ve joined praying with two or more of us via the internet.

My preaching has been mostly through the written word here, daily for a couple months. I guess His message comes out in presence as I listen to parishioners and others by telephone.

St. Francis reportedly said: “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” Pope St. Paul VI expanded on that during a sermon in Manila 50 years ago. Maybe we all can use these saints’ examples to reach out to others every day?

“It is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and re-echo for all time even to the ends of the earth.”—Pope St. Paul VI

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

June 24, 2020

To always be close to Jesus, that’s my life plan…

We’ve been blessed with bright sunshine and warmer temperatures recently. I opened the window at my office in church a few days ago to let in some breezy, fresh air.

Not such a good idea for one who keeps lots of papers tacked to a floor-to ceiling corkboard wall. The quotes, biblical passages and information on saintly people started to flutter. Two pages hit the floor.

It’s been awhile since I thought of Servant of God Carlo Acutis. I put the print-out aside, thinking I’d need it again soon. Today I did. I just read that on June 13, the beatification of Carlo was announced. It will take place on October in Assisi, Italy, where he is buried.

Carlo was a techie who created a website on Eucharistic Miracles. He died at the age of 15 in 2006. A daily communicant, he always wanted be close to Jesus during a life that was cut short by leukemia. Learn more in him in a recent interview with his mother here.
There’s a website for his sainthood cause too. Click here.

Carlo Acutis, please pray for us!

“To always be close to Jesus, that’s my life plan.”—Carlo Acutis

Deacon Tom

June 22, 2020

His grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently…

The Tower of London was built nearly one-thousand years ago as a palace-fortress for William the Conqueror. “Traitor’s Gate” along the Thames River was where many entered on their way to imprisonment and eventual execution, most prominently during the reign of Henry the VIII

On June 22, 1535, Cardinal John Fisher of Rochester was beheaded at the Tower. On July 6th of the same year, the king’s Chancellor, Sir Thomas More met a similar fate. Both had refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the Church in England and wouldn’t help him get a divorce. In 1935, the two who stood up for the Catholic faith were canonized and share this June 22nd
feast day.

At the tower there’s a window (pictured above) that St. Thomas More looked out from during his long imprisonment. More wrote many letters while locked up. By special appointment, visitors are allowed into the rooms.

As in years past the feast day of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More is also the beginning of Religious Freedom Week as proclaimed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Learn more here and here.

“Do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can
come but what God wills.”

—St. Thomas More, letter to his daughter Margaret

Deacon Tom

June 19, 2020

We pray in public as a community…

In recent days, there have been a lot of views of large crowds near government buildings in London, England. The protests have come to the Palace of Westminster where the House of Lords and Commons meet. You’re probably familiar with it…as you’ve seen photos of the clock tower…known as Big Ben.

Across the street is Westminster Abbey of the Church of England. Many of that country’s famous are buried beneath the floor. It’s yellowish in color with ornate design work all around. Outside, over the main doors are carvings of saints and those who led saintly lives. One who is etched in stone… Martin Luther King, Jr.

About 15 minutes away is Westminster Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church for all England and Wales. It’s a unique design, many arches and a bell tower, built of red brick with white highlights. Known as the Cathedral of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, there are simple chairs and kneelers but no pews inside. I attended Mass one Sunday there almost 15 years ago. Look at the website and see a live feed here.

Something unusual happened amid continued gatherings of people in Westminster this week. Both the Abbey and Cathedral re-opened for private prayer on Monday. Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby were the first to kneel down in in each building. The leaders of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in England joined together in prayer at a difficult time.

“We pray in public as a community, and not for one individual but for all.”
—From Saint Cyprian, treatise on the Lord’s Prayer

Let’s pray for all our neighbors today.
Deacon Tom

June 15, 2020

Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.—1 Corinthians 10:17

Did you notice something as we came together for Mass over the weekend? Of course there was the welcoming inside the church for the first time in months. Maybe you saw the sense of community though we couldn’t see other’s faces. Or perhaps it was just being in the pews again…together…although separated by social distancing.

It wasn’t easy with all the protocols. Lines on the carpet spaced six feet apart. Green checks where it was OK to sit…red “x” marks on places to avoid. No books—readings and responses projected on that big screen. How about the nicely produced “in-pew” video to make sure we all understood the limitations we’d face? Not so hard really.

The challenge was fitting all the pieces together. Communion involved choreography of sorts. Different sections came forward at separate times to keep paths from crossing.

Beyond all that I’ve just mentioned what did I see? One thing became apparent during reception of the Eucharist—reverence.

Each person walked forward, waited and stopped with hands outstretched. “The Body of Christ,” and “Amen.” It was so solemn. Everyone then took a moment to step aside, pull back a mask and consume the host. Very deliberate and conscious of His presence. All this occurred on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ—Corpus Christi Sunday. And we welcomed Him individually and together.

Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.—1 Corinthians 10:17

God Bless You,
Deacon Tom

June 12, 2020

O Holy Saint Anthony, gentlest of saints…

Many of us know this prayer by heart asking for the intercession of the saint who’s known as the finder of lost things. Keys, glasses, wallets, whatever it is—reaching out to St. Anthony of Padua always seems to result in recovered items. People often seek his intercession to find people lost to us too. Have you ever asked him to bring back lost matters important in your life?

I doubt sometimes that the prayer will work. But it’s amazing that when I’m close to giving up, he comes through! It’s difficult to forget this saint. Especially since most of the prayer cards and medals that people give me to share with others…are of St. Anthony.

We celebrate his feast day on June 13. It will be a bit different this weekend on the North Side of Endicott. No big celebrations with music and food. And perhaps most notable, St. Anthony’s statue won’t be carried in procession throughout the neighborhood on Sunday morning.

St. Anthony was a native of Portugal and a Franciscan. Legend has it that he’s the patron of lost things because his psalm book disappeared one day. He prayed that it would be returned. It’s said the monk who stole it came back with the book and rejoined the order. Read more about St. Anthony here.

What are you trying to find today? Are you seeking someone who is lost to you? Can St. Anthony help?

“For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
—Matthew 7:8

Deacon Tom

June 6, 2020

Rejoice and be glad…

A second weekend of outdoor parking lot Masses while not ideal, but it was still wonderful. Two weeks of a beautiful setting and temporary home for the celebration of the Eucharist. One parishioner called me Sunday with a smile I saw through the phone. She had great happiness at being together once again. We again saw our community of believers in their cars in a sloping parking lot.

Can you imagine what it was like for those gathered on another hillside listening to Jesus preach the Beatitudes? I started thinking about it after hearing the Matthew’s Gospel reading at Mass today. I picture a grassy area, sun streaming down, perhaps a bit of wind.

Jesus probably was sitting down as he spoke to his disciples. He reminded them of the blessings that God bestows on us. Things like comfort for the mourning and mercy for the merciful. The Kingdom of heaven for the poor in spirit and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness. And peacemakers who become the children of God.

What about those who are blessed when they are insulted and persecuted and hear every kind of evil against them falsely because of Him?

Remember Jesus’ words from that day on the mount. He offers his blessings for all our brothers and sisters during this time of challenge to our health and to our humanity.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Matthew 5:11

Dc. Tom

June 5, 2020

Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God

When I read from the prophet Micah yesterday, I was reminded of a priest of the Chicago Archdiocese who is on the road to sainthood. Venerable Father Augustine Tolton’s life journey was very difficult.

He was born into slavery in Missouri. His father escaped to join the Union Army. Tolton’s widowed mother brought their four children to the free state of Illinois. All were Catholic, and “Gus “was enrolled in a parochial school.

There were objections to having a black student there and at another school. He had to learn in a class of one, while also holding a job. Tolton felt the call to the priesthood. When he was not allowed seminary admission in the U.S., he went to Rome for his studies.

Some clergy did not accept the first black priest in this country. He was granted transfer to the Archdiocese of Chicago. More opposition there did not deter his calling. Fr. Tolton founded St. Monica’s church to serve the black community. He died at the age of 43. Please read more here.

Perhaps he can help with the difficult journey our country is facing now. Venerable Father Tolton please pray for us!

“You have been told what is good and what the Lord requires of you;
Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God.”
—Micah 6:8

Deacon Tom

June 3, 2020

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you…

I went on a cross-country train trip in 1994. After a flight to LA and a short stay there, a friend and I boarded an eastbound Amtrak. Ten days across the desert, up and down mountains, through cornfields, over rivers and stops at several cities on the way to Syracuse. With so much to see, why didn’t I pay attention to encounters with the face of Jesus along the way?

In Denver, we attended Mass at the cathedral where Pope St. John Paul II had preached barely a year before. Was that Jesus who asked me to help take up the collection there, though not a parishioner? I said no. An hour after—on arrival at the train station, we were stopped by a woman who asked for money to feed her kids. I gave her a $5. But I wondered where she would spend it.

Two days later, we’d left a restaurant on the banks of the Mississippi River, just steps from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. A guy started walking alongside us then asked for money. He admitted he might not use it for good things. He got pocket change as I walked faster to lose him.

Three times in 48-hours—it’s easy to have hindsight 26 years later. I pray that I see better now when Jesus comes around. I took a trip yesterday up Route 88 to St. John the Evangelist in Bainbridge. Morning Prayer with a handful, impromptu meetings with others, a smile and a wave from a new neighbor.

Who do you see the face of Jesus in today?

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”—James 4:8

Deacon Tom

May 30, 2020

Receive the Holy Spirit….

Look closely for the white tents in the picture above. That’s where the altar was set up on a platform for the first public Mass at our parish in more than two months. A parking lot Liturgy for Pentecost with cars in alternating spaces!

Just minutes before the start at 4 p.m. Saturday, heavy dark clouds threatened. I asked patron of good weather, St. Medard, to intercede. Did he help? Sun broke through and stayed for the entire 45-minutes. Then wind came. Books flew, pages fluttered during the celebration. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles: “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind and it filled the entire house.” Was it special effects from heaven? Didn’t see any tongues of fire, though.

Communion worked well. Passengers stepped out to receive and returned to their vehicles. Only then was the process repeated for the next car.

A team of parishioners and staff had planned well to meet protocols. People volunteered to direct parking. Others assisted with the readings and communion. And Linda took dozens of calls to register people for the Masses. All this accomplished in a few short days.

“When you send forth your breath, they are created and you renew the face of the earth.”
Psalm 104:30

Peace be with you!
Deacon Tom

May 29, 2020

My God I offer thee this day….

My Great Uncle Henry looked to be a pretty cool guy. I have a picture of him somewhere showing his long white beard and bright eyes. When my grandfather died some 88 years ago, Uncle Henry stepped in to help my grandmother raise my mom and her three sisters.

Known also by his religious name, Firminian Augustine was a Christian Brother. The name combined those of St. Firminian a third century martyr from Gaul and doctor of the church St. Augustine of Hippo. It was important that Brother Firminian passed on his faith to his four nieces. In flowing script he wrote out scripture and prayer verses on index cards, encouraging my mom and aunts to “memorize and repeat daily”….while “studying, working or walking.” I look at it almost every day now. The prayer (below in bold) will continue to inspire my ministry all these years later. Thanks Uncle Henry!

Now, some news. On Tuesday morning, Bishop Lucia officially appointed me as Deacon Administrator for St. John the Evangelist Church in Bainbridge and St. Agnes Mission in Afton effective Monday, June 1. I look forward to this additional assignment. I will remain at St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament as Pastoral Care Associate for several days a week as well.

And this blog will continue here too. As I need more time for my added responsibilities, I’m scaling it back from “daily” to “several times a week.” Thank you for being a part of it.

My God I offer Thee this day,
All I shall think or do, or say;
Uniting it with what was done,
On earth, by Jesus Christ, thy Son.

May God Bless you all!
Deacon Tom

May 28, 2020

Let us go to the house of the Lord…

The trees have their leaves now along the driveway to the main parking lot.

On Wednesday Father Jim called together several parishioners and staff to talk about resuming Mass at the church. As Father indicated in his “A Pastor’s Message,” things will be different for the return. A set of guidelines is posted on the home page, including how to be present on Saturday or Sunday.

Yesterday’s small group spread across the parking lot to discuss how people in their cars will be welcomed for the 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. Masses. Many people are working to provide a safe return for those who wish, on the Feast of Pentecost. Again, if you want to attend, please follow the guidelines and make sure you register in advance.

If you prefer not to attend in person, look for the recorded Masses on the website after they conclude.

Tomorrow marks on day shy of two months since I began these blogs. Please join me on May 29 for the last “daily” edition. And read about future posts, plus some other news to start off June.

Psalm 122 is fitting for a return to Mass. It’s a hymn where the singer looks to join a procession into Jerusalem to praise God. May we continue to offer our worship from church or from home.

“I rejoiced when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ ”
—Psalm 122:1

Deacon Tom

May 27, 2020

Photo source: The Archbishop of Canterbury

God changes us in prayer…

On January 10, 2020, the Church of England’s top clergyman wrote a short message on social media. Justin Welby is the Archbishop of Canterbury, in Kent, Eastern England. Canterbury holds a place in Catholic Church history too.

It’s perhaps best known as the seat of the Archbishop Thomas Becket. St. Thomas stood up to King Henry II. He was martyred just after Mass there in the year 1130 by some of the king’s men.  

Today is the feast day of the very first Archbishop. The pope sent St. Augustine to Canterbury with some 40 Benedictine monks in the year 597. Their task—to bring the Gospel to the English. King Ethelbert was first to be baptized and his people followed.  Coincidentally, that baptism took place on Pentecost, which we celebrate this Sunday.  

Archbishop Welby’s words are nearly six months and a changed world away from when they were written. Though he didn’t know it then, it seems the Archbishop described the faith-filled journey that we’ve been on during this time of the virus.    

“As God changes us in prayer, he drives us out to be justice-seekers, peacemakers, healers and bringers of good news.”—Justin Welby, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury

Deacon Tom

May 26, 2020

Rejoice…mend your ways…

Thanks to the Lord for blessing us with sunshine and warmth on Memorial Day. Nothing’s been familiar for weeks. Yet it was yesterday—sort of—like holidays past.

I lit the charcoal in the grill. We all planned our part of the food and drink. The table was ready when people started to arrive. One. Two. Plus me made it three. There was six feet of distance between those at either end of the table. Another sat off to the side.

As always, we offered prayer before we ate. My brother, my friend and I shared a common meal together. We conversed. We laughed. It was as old times were…almost. Some were missing. But I felt their presence in spirit filling the empty spaces.

How can we all be there for others now? Is there a past difference to leave behind? Take time to move forward.

“Rejoice, mend your ways. Encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.”—2 Corinthians 13:11

Dc. Tom

May 25, 2020

To you O Lord, I lift up my soul…

If you’ve ever driven through Waterloo in the Finger Lakes, you’ll learn that community is said to be the first place Memorial Day was celebrated as early as 1866. Many other communities say the same, as in this newspaper article here.

Do you have someone you’re remembering today? The following prayer is suitable for use at a
cemetery or at home:

All powerful God; whose mercy is never withheld from those who call upon you in hope,
Look kindly on your servants who departed this life confessing your name, and number them among your saints for evermore.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

“To you O Lord, I lift up my soul.” Psalm 25

Dc. Tom

May 24, 2020

Lord you know my heart….

Memorial Day honors those who have given their lives in military service. It makes me think also of many who served but returned. The three faith-filled men I write about were my relatives.

Great-grandfather Edward was born in NYC during the Civil War. He was a Navy veteran of the Spanish-American War era. He later worked on the docks and then as a deputy sheriff. Edward died before my mother was born, a couple years before the Spanish flu hit.

I have a copy of my grandfather Anthony’s discharge papers from the Navy after World War 1. He became a conductor on the New York Central Railroad. My dad’s dad died on board a train in Albany, two years prior to my birth.

My father saw a lot of death as an infantryman in the closing months of World War 2 in Europe. He didn’t talk about it with us as kids. It wasn’t until the 1980s that he spoke about it again with Army buddies. After Dad died in 1991, I began attending those reunions to learn more about his wartime experiences.

My dad was a civil engineer. When illness stopped him from attending daily Mass he turned to his bibles. One of his bookmarks led me to the end of John’s Gospel where Peter’s faith is tested by Jesus. This says much in a few words.

“Lord you know my heart.”—John 20:17

God Bless you,
Deacon Tom

May 23, 2020

The light shines in the darkness…

Silence and bright light while walking the church grounds this morning. I stepped onto an island of greenery out front. At the base of a birch tree I saw some rocks….with painted messages. I don’t know who left them, but I was intrigued.

One had a heart and the word “hug” on it. Another said: “Let your sun shine thru.” There was also a multi-colored creation. “Wow” was my first reaction. After some thought, a song started rolling around in my head.

It’s from Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Though we’re coming to the end of the Easter season, I was drawn to “Hosanna” which is actually about Palm Sunday. But…I keep hearing: “If every tongue was still, the noise would still continue. The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing.” Watch the video of that tune here.

It’s from Luke 19:38-40. The Pharisees were upset that the crowds were calling Jesus the king who comes in the name of the Lord. To which Jesus replied: “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

What are you hearing today? Do you have something to say? Is His Son shining through?

“The light shines in the darkness…and the darkness will not overcome it.”—John 1:5

Dc. Tom

May 22, 2020

There is an appointed time for everything…

The seeds I put in soil a couple weeks are mostly just a few sprouts right now. I’m glad my sister told me our favorite plant/produce business opened this week. I stopped there the other day to check out the plants.

I wore my mask but saw only a couple of others as I browsed in and out of the tents for veggies and flowers. Almost got a patio tomato to start, but decided to go for more quantity.

Six-packs of cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and bell peppers went into the box first. Then single packs of some parsley and lavender (never grown that before). Marigolds added to keep the deer away. And almost as an after-thought, zucchini. Perhaps I’ll have some of that to share. Should I take orders now?

Fiacre was a clergyman of Irish origin who moved to France. One day, he’s said to have cleared rocks and trees and more from a huge area to create his growing space. There he planted vegetables and medicinal herbs. So many coaches carrying seekers of his cures clogged the road to his home, they were nicknamed fiacres. I used put a small carving with an image of this patron saint of gardening amongst my crops. You can read more about St. Fiacre here.

Our time away from community has helped us plant seeds. Maybe we’ve taken something that’s already growing and are nurturing it. When will harvest time be here?

“There is an appointed time for everything…a time to plant” Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 2

Saint Fiacre,
Priez pour nous! Guí orainn!

Deacon Tom

May 21, 2020

Why are you standing there looking up at the sky?

The Bible has many accounts of people with eyes pointed above. The Tower of Babel built high into the sky. Remember some other Old Testament stories…like Noah and the Ark landing on Mount Ararat? Moses ventured up to speak with God to receive the Ten Commandments. Elijah encountered the Lord from a lofty ledge outside a rocky cave.

The New Testament has a tie-in to the Old when Jesus brought Peter, James and John to Mount Tabor. Moses and Elijah joined him for the Transfiguration. And the Mount of Olives, where Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion, was also site of his Ascension which we celebrate today.

During Mass, we heard the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, in which Jesus commissioned the apostles. “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”—Mt. 28:19

Just before Jesus ascended there’s Luke’s account in the Acts of the Apostles. It’s a similar charge: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”—Acts 1:8

“Why are you standing there looking up at the sky?
“This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”—Acts 1:11

God Bless you,
Deacon Tom

May 20, 2020

At dawn let me know of your kindness…

It’s amazing how the Word is revealed to us differently at different times. Psalm 143 is a penitential hymn. The first verse starts with a request for God to hear us. It’s followed up by desperate words… ”listen to my pleading.” Very dark. That’s how I’ve always  remembered this psalm…until last night.

On Tuesday during Night Prayer, I read a more positive verse that stuck with me. It asks for His love. Put trust in Him. Wow! Just what’s needed. Thanks God!

Today is the feast of St. Bernadine of Siena. Barely out of his teens when the plague hit his region, Bernadine led efforts to care for the sick. After emerging from that experience, he had illness for a time. Ordained at the age of 24, he became a great preacher.

“This name must be proclaimed, that it may shine out and never be suppressed.” —from a homily of St. Bernadine of Siena

Very devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernadine is credited with the I-H-S that we often see. It’s taken from the Greek for the first three letters of Jesus’ name.

At dawn let me hear of your kindness, for in you I trust.
Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life.
—Psalm 143:8

God Bless you,
Deacon Tom

May 19, 2020

Distant people stand in awe of your marvels…

Most summers our family of seven would pile into the car to visit relatives in Colorado. So neat to see the Rockies “appear” as we drove west from Kansas. A bit of adventure too, as dad sometime took an old one-way road up into the mountains near Denver. The beauty of God’s creation is breathtaking from 12,000 feet and more.

Since becoming an adult, I’ve been to 13 countries and some of their territories too. I’ve flown across the Atlantic 32 times. (Just twice over part of the Pacific to Hawaii and back). I’ve sailed on Caribbean cruises plus ferries over and trains under the English Channel. But my favorite place…four-hours by car to Niagara Falls.

I can’t tell you how many times or how many people I’ve taken to “the Falls.” I’ve seen it in the winter just before the ice breaks on the river. In the summer when tourists crowd the U.S. and Canadian sides. Walking tours under and beside the water. And really close up but not so wet, like the photo above from Goat Island.

Franciscan Fr. Louis Hennepin is credited with bringing word of the “Falls” to the outside world. Check out a short article here.

I’m amazed each time I go to Niagara. God has provided a powerful force with incredible beauty. Where would you like to go again or for the first time to witness His creation?

“Distant people stand in awe of your marvels;
east and west you make resound with joy.”
—Psalm 65:9

Deacon Tom

May 18, 2020

You are the salt of the earth!
You are the light of the world!

—Matthew 5:13-14

In 2002 dozens of mostly young pilgrims from the Diocese of Syracuse boarded buses north to Toronto for World Youth Day. Being with the Holy Father was something special. An estimated 800-thousand people joined Pope John Paul II for the final Evening Prayer.

Rain came and more people trudged in all night long for the concluding Mass. Downsview Park, a former airfield, was very soggy in the morning. The clouds parted as the pope flew in by helicopter. Perhaps a million people heard him preach.

Everyone felt his presence, no matter where they were in the crowd. There was familiar chanting too: ”JP-2…we love you!” And the sun eventually arrived. A saint was there that day!

Karol Wojtyła was born on this date 100 years ago in Wadowice, Poland. Our current Holy Father, Pope Francis, remembered St. John Paul II today. Watch that very moving Mass by clicking on the picture above.

“Make them the new people of the Beatitudes, that they may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium!”
—St. John Paul II’s final words to the faithful in Toronto, 2002

Deacon Tom

May 17, 2020

In green pastures you let me graze…

I woke up late Saturday morning. I was so tired. But I dragged myself out of bed. I took a shower. After Morning Prayer I thought out loud. God heard my “concern.” Did I really have to go to Tioga County to visit friends?

We planned to meet at that barbecued chicken place in Apalachin about 3 p.m. on the way to the Hickories Park in Owego. I was late. I had to prepare my mask, gloves and hand sanitizer. And which pocket should I put the money in so I don’t have to take out my wallet?

I met one buddy in line—six-feet apart. The spacing required a louder voice to converse. It was a surreal experience watching those masked people inch forward to buy their meals.

A few minutes later at the park, we opened our chairs on the grass. Another friend joined us at the proper social distance. Then something happened. We talked. We ate. The sun shined in our eyes. Two hours drifted by on the Susquehanna River.

It took me almost the whole day to understand Lord. I almost didn’t listen to you! What is He saying to you today?

“To safe waters you lead me, you restore my strength.”—Psalm 23:2

Deacon Tom

May 16, 2020

You do not belong to the world…

Something caught my eye this morning on the web. There was a TV news item with a family of immigrants who apparently had been walking for days. Not sure where it was. A well-dressed reporter was interviewing an exhausted man who was carrying a child. The camera tilted down to the father’s bare feet. Suddenly, the reporter took off his shoes for the man to wear. What an act of kindness!

During today’s Mass on EWTN, Fr. Leonard Mary preached about the Gospel of John. He said that the Christian life is “adventurous and it’s joyous.” During his perhaps 10-minute sermon, the priest noted that when speaking about Jesus, it’s sometimes met with “persecutions and hatred.” It’s a journey he said, that “Jesus truly calls us to charity.”

Fr. Leonard also said that living by faith, we don’t always know how God will provide for us. But when we accept difficulties in life, we grow in faith. “It’s a life with Jesus. It’s a life with love,” he concluded.

We keep hearing that we’re in this together these last few weeks. Is that the truth? Sure, we’ve provided for ourselves and our families. But do we have something extra that we can give to someone who needs it?

“You do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world.”—John 15:19
Deacon Tom

May 15, 2020

The earth brings forth its plants…

I had a funny feeling after a parish staff meeting on Wednesday. Instead of going directly home, I felt like I should go to Calvary Cemetery. I stopped at my parents’ grave, and then walked a couple of steps to where two of my mom’s sisters are buried. Today is the 30th anniversary of my Aunt Mary’s death. I wouldn’t have remembered that without a trip to the cemetery.

Aunt Mary and Aunt Terry moved here from the family home in Queens Village, NYC in 1984. As kids, we’d be at that house around Christmas and Easter, plus some time each summer. It was two blocks from Our Lady of Lourdes. Aunt Mary had this little guy in tow on the way to pray in church one day. But first she said we’d visit a “lady with a green thumb.” Her thumb wasn’t green! And she had a room out back with big windows filled with of plants!

It’s the feast day of Isidore the Farmer today. He was from Spain and definitely had a “green thumb.” The Children’s Book of SAINTS told me that Isidore spent his life on farms. He’d plow and pray. He loved animals. The book says angels worked the fields while he went to Mass every day. He’s the patron of farmers and “people ask his intercession for rain, good weather and good crops.”

“The earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up.”—Isaiah 61:11

St. Isidore, please pray for us.

Dc. Tom

May 14, 2020

Cross on the green, not in between.

I saw a lot of centuries-old structures on my first visit to England. In Southampton, there’s also the much younger “Civic Centre” (City Hall). The cornerstone was laid “only” 90 years ago. The building is on a square, surrounded by roadways. Traffic lights all around, except from the middle of busiest side. That was the “easiest” crossing to a street toward the train station.

Looked left, then right, then to the left again. As I began to step off the kerb (curb), my friend put his arm, then his entire body in my path. If he hadn’t, I would have been hit by a fast moving car. I had looked the wrong way. In the UK…they drive…walk and queue (line up) on the left. We do all that on the right here across the Pond. I’m grateful my friend got in front of me to keep me from being killed or seriously injured that day 30-years-ago. Cheers (thanks) P.J. !

I’m reminded of my brush with death every time I hear one verse of John’s Gospel as we did at Mass today. This is also the feast day of a friend of Jesus, Matthias, who replaced Judas as an apostle.

We have lots of people during this virus who are doing their jobs and putting their own lives at risk. Please offer a prayer for those showing that love for others. And remember the Pope’s request to pray, fast and do a work of charity today.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”—John 15:13

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

May 13, 2020

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.—Luke 1:38

There was a Worldwide Rosary with origins in Portugal yesterday. The service was very moving, recited in several different languages, with English translation for all.

It was 103 years ago today that the Blessed Mother first appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima. The appearances continued each 13th of the month until October 1917, when there was the famous “Miracle of the Sun.” An estimated crowd of 70-thousand people watched as it danced in the sky.

Two of the children (and now Saints) Francisco and Jacinta died in the Spanish Flu Epidemic that swept the world in 1919-1920. They were canonized in 2017. Their older cousin Lucia became a Carmelite nun. She died in 2005 and is on the path to sainthood. Please read more here. On this feast today of Our Lady of Fatima today, you can connect to the apparitions chapel there live by clicking here.

Pope Francis wants us to continue prayer tomorrow, May 14th. It will be a worldwide multi-faith effort. Everyone is also encouraged to fast and perform acts of charity. Watch the video of Pope Francis above to learn more.

Our Lady of Fatima, please pray for us!

Dc. Tom

May 12, 2020

He took away our infirmities…

I offer a rose for my late grandmother and anyone else who has ever been a nurse. She joined the profession after my grandfather passed away in the late 50s. I remember her crisp white uniform and starched cap. While never mentioning names, she spoke of people facing illnesses and operations, with particular concern for children.

She lived to age 98. Her final years were spent in a California nursing home, far from where she grew up in Endicott. I’m thankful for the nurses’ care for her. And when this grandson called one day from 3,000 miles away, those nurses urged her on to the telephone so we could speak a final time.

A renowned British nurse, Florence Nightingale, was born on this day 200 years ago. Nightingale reportedly once said that God had spoken with her and called her to service. Read her story here. If she were alive today, Nightingale would certainly be clad in mask and gown and gloves to care for the patients.

This is also International Nurses Day. Pope Francis calls nurses “guardians and preservers of life” who never cease to offer “courage, hope and trust.” He says they’re an image of the Church as a “field hospital that continues to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ who drew near to and healed people with all kinds of sickness.” Please read more here.

“He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.”—Matthew 8:17

God Bless!
Dc. Tom

May 11, 2020

Indeed someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.”

All of us have been blessed to have people help us out in our lifetimes. These days, it’s getting more important for us to be there for our neighbors.

We’ve all witnessed it in these last few weeks. People check-in on those who are alone and bring food too. Or maybe it’s a phone call or internet contact.

The county and school districts have handed out masks. The manager at a store told me a single-use mask was available for each customer. I left mine for someone else. Then there are some who have been producing those nifty face coverings you’re seeing all over.

I want to say thank you to the people who’ve provided me with a total of four masks. Two…one with a deer pattern, the other stars, were delivered outside my door several weeks ago. Yesterday, I was handed two more—a “fisher of people” pattern—as we met up in a parking lot of a closed business. We talked for a while too. (If you need a mask, please email and I’ll pass your name along.)

Pray, yes. Have faith, yes. But be there for one another too.

“Demonstrate your faith to me without works…
and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.”
—James 3:18

Dc. Tom

May 10, 2020

Give us today our daily bread…

My mother made lots of dough each March for Irish soda bread. Her secret: caraway seeds. Oh, and mint jelly to top it off.  On the 17th, she’d set the table with green cloth napkins, clear glass plates and matching teacups. Several women always came to the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Around Christmas time it was cranberry bread. Kind of a brownish dough. Only fresh cranberries would work. She’d make as many loaves as she had pans, whatever size. Neighbors, friends, family and the radio station would get one.

Illness slowed Mom’s baking. She never used some bread mixes I bought a couple years ago. Saturday, I did. Pumpkin bread. Baking is fun. In the oven just a bit longer than expected. I checked it like Mom, till the knife came out clean. Golden brown and very tasty. 

I’m thinking a lot about Mom on this first Mother’s Day without her. She taught me so many skills that are coming in very handy especially these last few weeks.

We learn of “daily bread” in Matthew and Luke (11:3) as part of the Lord’s Prayer. It may actually mean “future” as in God’s Kingdom to come.

Give us today our daily bread—Matthew 6:11

God Bless all Mothers today!

Dc. Tom

May 9, 2020

Cold and chill, bless the Lord…

We had snow overnight. In May! What a different year we’re having. I took time the other night to bring in and preserve a pot with seeds. I believe it’s a mix of marigolds and zinnias that I planted about a week ago. There’s some green. With God’s help, they’ll grow and flower this year. I look forward to the color in my garden boxes.

The scripture above from Daniel is familiar to anyone who prays the Liturgy of the Hours. It is part of a lengthy hymn of praise for all that God has given to us. You’ve probably heard of the three men plus one angel who offered this prayer while in the “fiery furnace” of King Nebuchadnezzar. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had refused to worship the gods and idols of Babylon.

After the blessing and praise for all that God created, the trio were seen to be “unfettered and unhurt.” They were called out of the furnace having been untouched by flame. The king said: “there is no other God who can rescue like this.”

We can offer praise to the Lord at any time…snow…sun…or pandemic.

Cold and chill, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.—Daniel 3:67

Dc. Tom

May 8, 2020

What now is already has been…

I wandered the grounds earlier today. New life was everywhere. A lone yellow daffodil stood proudly beneath the Christ statue near the creek. Small plants poked their way through the soil by the building. Flowers were placed by the large white Blessed Mother statue for her month of May.

In the middle of the Rosary created by bushes, another more colorful Mary statue stands with her hands down. Above her a tree blooms with mostly white flowers; the church is at a distance. I sent this picture to a friend, who responded with two words: “How beautiful!”

I saw people while I walked around! Some were taking a stroll with the dogs. A “fast-walker” avoided us in a socially distant way. There were comings and goings of others from cars in and out of the church. Spring means new life, regardless of the virus. Remember the Lord remains with us through this all.

The beginning of this chapter in Ecclesiastes is familiar to us all, telling of “an appointed time for everything.” But reading further, we find that God restores and allows no part of his creation to drop out of existence.

What now is already has been; what is to be already is; and God restores what otherwise would be
displaced.—Ecclesiastes 3:15

Blessed Mother, please pray for us.
Dc. Tom

May 7, 2020

Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.—Psalm 89:2

Wednesday’s fifth and final online meeting was a one-on-one chat with a friend. We watched that video from the other day of the homebound Catholic artist version of “Be Not Afraid.” It was after 10pm, we were both tired, but started to sing a bit. I found the lyrics online and shared them. Not sure how it sounded, but it was ok for us.

You ever sing in a church without other people around? Notice that I didn’t say the building was “empty,” as Jesus is present in the tabernacle. I’ve gone from silent prayer to a hymn as it’s just been a one-on-one with God in a pew. St. Augustine is quoted as saying “to sing is to pray twice.” Amen.

Psalm 89 was today’s responsorial at Mass. It’s a lament over the defeat of a king. It’s very long. And it includes a lot of negatives. Pray with it and you’ll find some positives too, especially the very end.

Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and amen!—Psalm 89:85

Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Dc. Tom

May 6, 2020

Prefer nothing to the love of Christ…

I became a deacon 14-years-ago today. The rite was on May 6, 2006 as part of a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. Five classmates and I each said: “present.” When pronounced “worthy,” we were “examined” by questions and promised prayer.

We knelt before Bishop James Moynihan to promise obedience. As the only unmarried man, I also promised celibacy. The bishop asked the congregation to pray that “the Father would pour out his blessings” on us. Then we lay prostrate on the cold marble floor. A choir sang the Litany of Saints. I’m sure I heard the voices of angels! My patrons were included: St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher.

Next, the bishop offered a prayer of consecration and we each knelt before him as he laid hands on our heads. And we vested… put stoles over our left shoulders and dalmatics over our heads. My spiritual director, Sister Donald helped me with that.

Then, kneeling one-by-one before the bishop, we held the Book of the Gospels. He said: “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” I think those words are part of my ministry each and every day.

I was first called 42-years ago. Not interested then in the priesthood. He called me again 17-years later. Deacon George Phillips suggested the diaconate. I didn’t say yes or no. But in 1999, Fr. Tom Hobbes gently urged again. My answer was finally “yes.”

I’ve been a Benedictine Oblate a couple of years longer than I’ve been a deacon. That’s why on a prayer card for my ordination, I borrowed from the Rule.

Prefer nothing to the love of Christ…—St. Benedict

God Bless You!
Deacon Tom

May 5, 2020

Be Not Afraid…

Some 40+ years ago, I was serving Mass in the chapel at St. John Fisher. I guess I really liked one of the hymns. When the guitars went silent, the other altar server tapped me on the shoulder. He whispered: “You sing pretty good.”

Many faith-filled compositions had just been or were released when I was in college. Worship songs like “Be Not Afraid” and “Here I Am Lord” came from the St. Louis Jesuits and others. The music and lyrics helped Fr. Joseph Trovato, C.S.B, reach a chapel packed with young people 3 times each weekend.

Fr. Joe knows a few of us were called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It took me more than 20-years to listen and respond. Others not so long. Tom Rosica was a couple of years ahead of me at Fisher. He became Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B. Following the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Toronto in 2002, he founded Salt and Light Media. It’s kind of the EWTN of Canada.

Salt and Light just released one of those group performances from home which features Catholic artists. It’s a song I know well: “Be Not Afraid”, by Fr. Bob Dufford, S.J. More here. Remember Sarah Hart who spent a weekend with us at church? Look for her in
the first part of the video.

Deacon Tom

May 4, 2020

One day is like a thousand years…

Ever been to Taughannock Falls State Park north of Ithaca? It’s off Route 89. Cayuga Lake is on one side, the falls on the other. At 215 feet, the waterfall is about three stories higher than Niagara. There are upper and lower trails. Take in the water plunging over the rocks and into the bed below from either vantage point. Picture above is from a dry year.

Legend has it that some early silent movies were filmed there, with cars pushed over the edge into the gorge. I read a plaque there that says the neatly-stacked boulders were part of a seabed some 380-million-years old. Yikes! That’s a really long time.

We’re nearing month two of the shutdown. In the early days of the Church, the faithful believed that Jesus’ return was imminent. Our time seems at a standstill. But it’s not. And we’re progressing toward slowly opening society again…someday.

God’s with us. His day is a lot longer than ours.

With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day.—1 Peter 3:8

Good day,
Dc. Tom

May 3, 2020

If you make it, they will come….

I needed to do something “normal” again. This house was the place for “Saturday soup sessions”…a cool season tradition my dad started decades ago. With pea soup always in one pot and a de jour in another…he invited the neighborhood and beyond. I carried on after his death. It dwindled to an occasional get-together in recent years because of my mom’s illness. Then…Friday night a good friend encouraged me to cook up something.

Yesterday I pulled out a pot. I didn’t have the fresh ingredients—but it worked. Boullion, frozen soup veggies, a touch of seasoning—then on the burner. Two and a half-hours later (plus rotini pasta) and it was ready.

I made it, they came. My friend. My brother. After a socially distant chat, both took carry-out bags near the front door. Each contained enough soup for a couple of bowls. A few minutes later, a neighbor rang the bell. I was going to offer him soup, until he thanked me for the lamb chops my brother had given him. Neighbors there for each other!

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, the Fourth Week of Easter. I liked the responsorial psalm for Mass. Reminds me of almost coming together to share a meal.

“You set a table before me…my cup overflows.”—Psalm 23:5

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

Bon appétit! God Bless you.
Dc. Tom

May 2, 2020

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

During the Holy Year in 2000, a banner hung prominently at Christ the King church. It reminded us that Jesus is a constant in our lives.

The parish always remained that for me too. I was baptized, received First Penance, First Holy Communion and was confirmed there. College and a job took me away for a few years. But I returned. Then 21 years ago, I began work at the parish and studies for the diaconate. After ordination, I served until the final Mass before a church merger. I was last to leave and locked the doors that day in 2008.

Shortly before the world paused in March, I visited a church that seemed very much like Christ the King. It looked similar inside, just a bit smaller. Most importantly, I felt His presence.

That’s so vital to us now, knowing He’s with us. Maybe it’s in your home. Perhaps you’ve been able to visit St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament to pray before Him in the tabernacle. We’re not sure when we’ll be together again as a community. But remember.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.—Hebrews 13:8

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

May 1, 2020

Make our labor and our leisure fruitful to eternity!

High atop a hill in Syracuse sits the Christ the King Retreat house. It’s a wonderful place for reflection and prayer. Outside, paths wind around the grounds. Along the way plaques and crosses and statues mix among perfectly manicured lawns, bushes and trees.

There’s a carpenter standing out there. His name is Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. How hard he must have worked in Nazareth each day to build tables and chairs. Maybe he used his tools on stairs or walls at houses.

Pope Francis remembered today’s feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. For now a lot of people work from home, while many others are idle. There are also those remaining on the job as essential for health, safety and food for most of us.

It’s written in the documents of Vatican II: “Where men and women in the course of gaining a livelihood for themselves and their families, offer appropriate service to society, they can be confident that their personal efforts promote the work of the Creator.”

“Joseph, workmen’s inspiration. Man of faith and charity, make us honest, humble, faithful, strong with Christ’s true liberty. Make our labor and our leisure fruitful to eternity!”—From the hymn: Joseph, Patron Saint of Workers

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

April 30, 2020

They heard the sound of the Lord God moving about the garden in the breezy part of the day—Gen 3:8

I’ve been listening to that wind overnight. Bushes and trees are catching a heavy breeze today. Wind gusts followed by rain will usher in a new month.

“Ruha” is a Hebrew word meaning wind, related to the Holy Spirit. The second creation story speaks of God during a “breezy” part of the day. It was in the Garden of Eden, just before the fall of Adam and Eve. In the first book of Kings (19:9-18) the prophet Elijah was running for his life. Atop Mount Horeb, he was told to look for God. He couldn’t find Him in the strong wind or earthquake or fire that
followed…but in a “whispering sound.”

The Gospel of John (6:16-21) records the apostles in a boat as the sea was “being stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.”  Jesus walked across the water to the uneasy men. In Mark (4:35-41), as well as Matthew and Luke, the disciples were also in a boat “when a violent squall came up.” They woke Jesus who was asleep. He told the wind and water: “Quiet, be still.”

Jesus calmed the sea in the first account above, and then said “Do not be afraid.” In the second, he asked “Do you not yet have faith?”

Can you take Jesus’ words with the storm clouds facing our world now?

“Be not afraid.”—John 6:20

God Bless you,
Dc. Tom

April 29, 2020

“You are a mystery as deep as the sea…”—St. Catherine of Siena

It’s really cool to take a hydrofoil or fast ferry from the south coast of England to the Isle of Wight. Ferries from Portsmouth to Ryde leave right from the beach across the Solent waterway. That trip may have been inspiration for the Beatles tune, “Ticket to Ryde.”

This morning’s prayer for the Liturgy of the Hours featured a hymn for St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast day is today. That particular translation of “Te Catrina” came from the Benedictine monks of St. Cecilia’s Abbey—in Ryde—on the Isle of Wight. Hope I can get a ticket to return there someday and visit that abbey!

St. Catherine was born in 1347, in the midst of the Plague in Italy. She was a third order Dominican who was known by and defended popes. Her writings earned her the title of Doctor of the church by Pope Paul VI just 50-years ago. Learn more at this link. Here’s a bit of St. Catherine‘s “On Divine Providence”:

“You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you.”—Catherine of Siena

What are you seeking from the Lord today?

Deacon Tom

April 28, 2020

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…

One of the greatest preachers in the early Church was Stephen, said to be “a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.” Have you heard of his colleagues? They were Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas. Chapters 6-7 of the Acts of Apostles are special to me. That tells of those first seven chosen as deacons in the Church. Chapter six begins here.

The main focus is on just one of those men, Stephen. His words to the Sanhedrin, the elders and the scribes about Old Testament history drew some wrath. A mention of Jesus pushed the crowd further. That deacon then became the first Christian martyr. We read this at Monday’s Mass with a continuation today here.

The author of Acts, St. Luke, shows the similarity between Stephen’s death and that of Jesus. Stephen speaks of seeing Jesus in heaven. He asks for the Lord to receive him, and then offers forgiveness. “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” Then he died.

Who can we ask forgiveness from? Who can we forgive today? Perhaps we can seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation this weekend.

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.—Acts 7:59

Deacon Tom

April 27, 2020

I will lift up my eyes to the hills.

When I embarked on my final fours years of study for the diaconate in 2002, many people close to me spoke words of support. Only one put it in writing. My sister Elaine realized that I was on a journey. That’s why she hand-painted words from Psalm 121 on slate.

The colors remain vibrant—as does the image of a church on a hill with a house nearby. My name is at the bottom in large letters: TOM. I know Elaine put a lot of time and effort into it. The plaque hangs on the wall near the front door. I see it every time I go out. I think she wanted me to remember my diaconate path won’t always be easy.

Psalm 121 was written as a blessing for those heading on a difficult excursion. It could have been a solider going to battle or a pilgrim returning from the Temple. Pray and reflect on that psalm here today. And as we continue to endure social distancing remember to look to the Lord.

I will lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.—Psalm 121:1-2

God Bless you.
Dc. Tom

April 26, 2020

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer…—Acts 1:14

Fifty-something years ago, I lined up with perhaps 3-dozen classmates for First Communion. We’d been drilled on folding our hands, processing down the aisle, and kneeling. Father Aylesworth also taught us the proper way to stick our tongues to receive the Eucharist.

As a gift for that special day, each of us was given a prayer book, with rosaries in a removable pouch. I still carry beads—a different set—in the now worn, half-century old pocket. I felt such comfort praying that rosary next to my mom during her final weeks earlier this year.

We’re coming into Mary’s month of May. Pope Francis is encouraging us all to pick up our rosaries and pray. Please read about it in his letter here. Need a reminder on how to say the rosary? Click this please.

It’s the right time to pray especially now…and always. The verse from Acts backs that up. And who joined the apostles in the Upper Room back then?

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women and MARY, the mother of Jesus.—Acts 1:14

Blessed Mother, Pray for us.
Dc. Tom

April 25, 2020

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”—Mark 16:15

Father Buckley, Greg Hrostowski and I had a mini-retreat at Transfiguration Monastery in Windsor two months ago today. We prayed with the Benedictine sisters, ate lunch together, and then went our separate ways for a few hours. I walked down the road as I often do there, listening for His message.

This is the feast day of St. Mark. John Mark journeyed with both St. Paul and St. Peter as they spread the Word. About 70 A.D., he was the first to write a Gospel. It is the shortest of the four, yet packs a lot of action into 16 chapters. A winged lion is his symbol. Read more about Mark here.

St. Mark’s remains are in the basilica that bears his name in Venice, Italy. This morning at Mass via internet the Patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia, said: “The evangelist Mark can help us in this difficult pandemic time in which courage, patience and strong nerves are required, both in terms of human and Christian choices: a sort of conversion.” His homily is here.

How do we proclaim the gospel to others? In our words or deeds? What efforts can we make today to do more?

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

Pace. Dio ti benedica.
Dc. Tom

April 24, 2020

God set them in the dome of the sky to shed light upon the earth.—Genesis 1:17

There’s been a theme in my blogs since Monday, given that it is Earth Day week. We’ve been looking at the first creation story in Genesis. I like this one best… remember it from Easter vigil readings? You know…morning came and evening followed…the first day and so on. It begins here.

Did you know in Jewish belief a new day starts at sunset? Just thinking here, our days are getting longer this time of year. And the nights are shorter. I guess I’d still rather the day start at sunrise. Maybe that’s because we believe in the Light.

So… be it stars at night or our big star the Sun in daytime, God provides for our light. If you go looking for the moon tonight, a calendar says it’s just past the new moon. Probably won’t be so bright.

Today’s the feast day of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a martyr. His religious name means “faithful”. Fidelis trained as a lawyer in Prussia (now part of Germany) but later felt called to the Capuchin Franciscans. As a priest he was a great preacher. He died in Switzerland. Read about him here.

God made the two great lights; the greater one to govern day and the lesser one to govern the night.
Gen 1:16

Have a good day…or is it evening?
Dc. Tom

April 23, 2020

God called the dome “the sky.”—Genesis 1:8

How many times a day do we look up now? As I write this, there’s light snow falling from a heavy deck of clouds. Sun up there yesterday, but mostly cool. What if you gazed above to see something unusual flying across the horizon? Perhaps a dragon?

Today is the feast day of St. George, a Roman soldier. His faith led to martyrdom in 303 B.C., just years before Christianity became legal in the empire. I’ve learned much of the patron saint of England in visits to the UK. So many castles, like the one above called Corfe.

About that dragon: George—a knight of legend only—is said to have slain the beast to keep it from attacking people. As a saint, his intercession was invoked to help the population during the Plague. Read about St. George here.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina celebrates his “name” day today. We know him better as Pope Francis. Please read more here.

Take time to look up today. Give thanks to God who here below created the plants that grow, the animals that wander as well as humans who inhabit this planet.

God called the dome “the sky.” Genesis 1:8

Dc. Tom

April 22, 2020

Then God said, “Let there be light.”—Genesis 1:3

Have you ever traveled below Scranton on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike? It’s a nice highway. There’s not much traffic at any time, virus or not. It brings you over the Poconos and in one case, under the mountains.

The Lehigh Tunnel isn’t too long, just under a mile. Drivers go in separate south and northbound tubes through Kittatinny Mountain. It’s the only one of the tunnels in the Keystone State that crosses the Appalachian Trail. More about the roadway here. While it’s illuminated day and night, there’s still quite a change as your car comes out of the passageway. I caught it in the photo above. It reminds me of the expression, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

We’re passing through a tunnel in our lives right now. It seems like it is many, many miles long. It feels so dark. Remember who guides us along the way.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of
life.” John 12:8

God Bless you.
Dc. Tom

April 21, 2020

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation.”

I have soil and a table-top tray to start the seeds. I guess I should look for all those packets I’ve collected over the years. Hard to believe it’s still April, but I want to plant now. By Mid-May, it will be time to put the seedlings in the dirt. Some will go in the garden box out front, others in pots on the deck. This year, I may turn over the plot out back too.

I hope the plants will be as nice as those above, from a previous growing season. At some point in the next few months, I’ll have fresh fruits and vegetables just by walking out the door. Maybe I’ll beat the cardinals to the grapes on the arbor this year!

Tomorrow is the 50th Earth Day. Let’s remember how we fit into the big picture of God’s creation. Pope Francis wrote about it in his encyclical ”Laudato Si” five years ago.

The US Conference of Catholic bishops formed a group in 2006 focused on Church teaching about ecological awareness. Read about it here.

“Let the earth bring forth vegetation…every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth.” Genesis 1:11

God Bless you.
Dc. Tom

April 20, 2020

As a deer longs for streams of water…
So my soul yearns for you, O God.—Psalm 42:1

I saw a deer grazing outside my office window a couple of years ago. When it started to turn away, I went down the hall to a classroom for a closer look. From inside I looked out, directly into the animal’s face and snapped a picture. What a gift that day!

The virus is keeping people at home. No so for wildlife. Lions lounge on a normally busy road in a national park in South Africa. Herds of long-horned goats create the only traffic in a Welsh town. In Italian villages it’s wild boar. Swans are swimming in clear canals in Venice. Ducks have been bathing in the fountains of Rome.

Vestal is home to herds of deer. One recent group included a rare white deer. We often see animals making their way through the woods to the church grounds. I wonder if there will be more in the days ahead as people remain behind closed doors. Could it be that God is asking us to remember that we share the earth?

Then God said: Let the earth bring forth all sorts of living creatures. Genesis 1:24

Dc. Tom

April 19, 2020

“My Lord and my God!”—John 20:28

When the resurrected Jesus appeared a second time in the Upper Room, Thomas was there. He wanted to see and touch the nail and lance wounds. The so-called “doubting” apostle said five great words of belief….”My Lord and my God.” Jesus responded in part: “Blessed are you who have not seen and have believed.” Second Sunday of Easter readings are here.

In this time of the virus, we can’t receive the Eucharist. But we’re like Thomas as we want to touch Jesus during Mass. Two thoughts follow from different times.

A priest in Birmingham, AL wrote of hope for a quick return to attending Mass. It was during the Flu epidemic that started in 1918. Please read article here.

Last week during the Good Friday service at Westminster Cathedral in London, Cardinal Vincent Nichols didn’t receive the Eucharist. Instead, the cardinal made a spiritual communion to unite with all who were watching via livestream.

Can we not see and still believe?

“My Lord and my God!” John 20:28

God Bless.
Deacon Tom

April 18, 2020

“The rain and the snow come down…”—Isaiah 55:10

That’s me in the picture above, feet buried in the snow getting ready to shovel. No, we didn’t get that much overnight here. It’s just a file photo of times passed. As fast as it arrived, the snow started to melt during the day, gone first from the sidewalks and roads.

The storm gave us some wonder…why this late in spring? Only God knows. We probably remember Isaiah 55 for an invitation to a banquet during Advent. More here.

But this liturgical year we will read further to these two verses (Isaiah 55:10-11) on the 15th Sunday in Ordinary time. On July 12th, in the midst of the growing season, we’ll hear that rain and snow provide water for the earth to make it “fertile and fruitful.”

Have you noticed the strength of the plants and flowers that have come out in the last few days? They’re holding up pretty well despite a bit of snow, eh? How about us?

“…giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats.” Isaiah 55:11

God Bless.
Deacon Tom

April 17, 2020

He has given us the Spirit that dwells in our hearts.—2 Cor 1:22

In isolation these past few weeks, I’ve been busy looking around the house to see something “new” or left “unfinished.” One thing I’ve discovered in several locations is notebooks. I’ve written a lot in them over the years. Hidden in the pages behind college notes are scribblings of all kinds that came long after my classroom days. Some are in pencil and starting to fade. Others by pen that’s hard to decipher.

I tried my hand at just a bit of poetry once. Reading it left me with thoughts of what I didn’t do up until that time, but stunned at where I’ve come since. His voice wasn’t clear yet inviting me to the diaconate. Here are the last two lines of that poem.

I could have been lost…but I found God
I could have spread his message…but I never tried.

What’s in your home that you’ve not seen in a while? An object…a memento…perhaps a notebook that’s hiding in plain sight. Could it be a bible that carries some prayer cards? Whatever you find…let the Lord be the guide. Give it a try. Where will it take you?

He has given us the Spirit that dwells in our hearts—2 Cor 1:22

Dc. Tom

April 16, 2020

“I told you I would be back”—Mother Marianne Cope

I met Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, O.S.F.  when she was promoting the cause of sainthood for Mother Marianne Cope in 2002. She sold me two books on Marianne of Molokai who would be canonized in 2012.

Marianne Cope was born in Germany. Raised in Utica, she worked in a factory to support her family, before joining the Franciscan sisters of Syracuse. By 1877, she headed the order and led two hospitals. In 1883, officials from Kingdom of Hawaii asked for help from several religious communities to care for the sick. Mother Marianne was the first to answer the call. To this day, none of the sisters who served there have contracted leprosy.

Bishop Lucia’s prayer for the Coronavirus pandemic asks for the intercession of St. Marianne. Her shrine and museum is on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. It’s worth a visit. You can go there now via internet. Start on this page for a series of videos.

The day Mother Marianne left for Hawaii by train; she realized her purse was still at the convent. After getting a train back from Buffalo, she surprised the sisters by her return. “I told you I’d be back,” she reportedly said. As Sister Mary Laurence Hanley wrote in her book Pilgrimage and Exile—Mother Marianne then went back to the station bound for Chicago.

After that, she never returned to Syracuse again. That is until her remains were brought back around the time of her canonization.

I told you I would be back.

Dc. Tom

April 15, 2020

Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.—Luke 24:31

I woke up after 1:00 this morning and turned on EWTN, just in time to see the pope finish morning Mass live from Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. He then had a short Eucharistic Adoration which I watched, then went back to sleep.

A couple hours later, I was awake again. On went EWTN, the pope was live again—with his weekly audience. His focus was the seventh beatitude, “blessed are the peacemakers.” The Holy Father noted there’s a peace called “Shalom” which is an abundant, flourishing life. A second peace, he said, is a notion of “interior serenity” which he calls incomplete. But the pope says we remember that Jesus means peace, as a fruit of His death and resurrection. Read the story here.

The Gospel reading at today’s Mass is about the road to Emmaus. The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus until he broke bread with them. How about us? Are we seeing Jesus these days? Look for Him. Ponder our peace and our awareness of the Lord among us. Be with Him each day in Eucharistic Adoration live from EWTN anytime between 9 a.m.-6 p.m. here.

Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him…Luke 24:31

Dc. Tom

April 14, 2020

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Back in the early 80s, I spent a weekend at the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, N.Y., south of Rochester. The Trappist monks were so welcoming to our group from St. John Fisher College. We stayed in a guest house and made our own meals. It was supplemented by Monk’s Bread in the refrigerator. Yes, the monks there bake the bread you see in stores to this day.

Our group rose early each day for prayer in the chapel. It’s the first place I was introduced to the Liturgy of the Hours. There was a pleasant, earthy smell there. I learned that the walls were built with stones gathered from the nearby river. It was a prayerful space. Our chaplain told me that it was hard for him to leave when our time there was over. The Basilian priest had considered joining the monks long-term instead of returning to campus.

The abbey is a place so removed and peaceful and inspiring. Henri Nouwen spent several months living there. That’s where he wrote The Genesee Diary. Someday I’ll go back to spend time at Piffard. That’s where I discovered one of my favorite verses from the Bible in Psalm 118.

As Eastertime continues, listen for Psalm 118 as a responsorial at Mass. Better yet, pick up your bible and read it. Then take some time to meditate on it, especially verse 24. A reminder to take each day as it comes…

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

God Bless. Alleluia!
Dc. Tom

April 13, 2020

There is cause for rejoicing here… 1 Peter 1:6

This Easter Monday dawned with some clouds after a sunny Sunday. I feel warmth too. Yesterday morning, from a locked church, Deacon Tony and I joined Fr. Jim for Easter Mass. A handful of others were there too, to support the effort with reading, music and technical skills to allow us to livestream and later post to the web. We were out the door, past the St. Vincent de Paul statue, into
an empty parking lot in just over an hour.

When I got home, I communicated with about 30 people throughout the day and into the evening. From Italy, a friend’s neighbors brought him dinner to last all week. Later to Brazil by video call, where a friend who’s a first-time father proudly showed off his six-month old twin daughters. A long-time buddy and his wife chatted for half an hour from Tucson, just before dinner with their college-aged kids. Closer to home, a parishioner stopped by with a handmade gift outside my door. A “Happy Easter” text from Fr. Jim led to similar messages from co-workers in the afternoon. My phone also took me to Vestal and Johnson City and Owego and Schoharie and Apalachin and Endicott.

What a way to spend Easter in isolation!!! Talking…offering prayers with and for many too. Lots of people, so many memories shared.
Did you see Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message to the City of Rome and the World for Easter? It’s right here.

On Easter afternoon, I joined some 7-million people around the world as Italian Opera singer Andrea Bocelli performed live for nearly a half-hour from the Duomo cathedral in Milan. Please find it here. Most memorable is Bocelli singing “Amazing Grace” which you will find here.

As we think about our current situation, let us reflect on St. Peter’s letter. He wrote there may be a time of distress and many trials. He said that’s so our faith can lead to “praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ appears.”

There is cause for rejoicing here…

God Bless.
Dc. Tom

April 12, 2020 ~ Easter Sunday

Jesus came before them and said, “Peace!” Matthew 28:10

Several years ago, my cousin joined us for Easter dinner. We’d finished the ham and assorted vegetables, the desert and the coffee. It was time to leave. Jack slowly walked down the stairs and across the lawn toward his car. He stopped at the sidewalk, and then turned around. Wearing a serious expression, he asked: “You know HE is Risen?” I should have answered “amen”…but I think I said something like “I know.”

By Matthew’s account, when Jesus stood before the women, they were surprised. But they were also filled with joy, having learned first from the angel that Jesus had risen. Alleluia! We are an Easter people.

Today is a difficult day for us all too. It is an Easter unlike others as we continue in isolation because of the virus. Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli said this week that: “I believe in the strength of praying together; I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone – whether they are believers or not – truly needs right now.”

He’s been invited by the city of Milan and the Duomo cathedral of that city to give a solo performance scheduled for 1 p.m. our time Easter Sunday. And he’s invited the world to attend by the internet. It’s suggested to go to this link in advance of the afternoon to get a reminder to join it LIVE. I hope you can listen and enjoy courtesy of Mr. Bocelli.

Peace! Happy Easter! Alleluia!
Dc. Tom

April 11, 2020

There is a great silence on earth today…

Those words come from an ancient homily on Holy Saturday in the Liturgy of the Hours. The writer observed: “Something strange is happening.” There is “stillness” is in our world. It’s something to reflect on as we await Jesus’ resurrection.

A decade ago, Pope Benedict visited the Shroud of Turin. He called the Shroud an Icon of Holy Saturday. ”Indeed it is a winding-sheet that was wrapped round the body of a man who was crucified, corresponding in every way to what the Gospels tell us of Jesus,” he said. Read his entire message from that day here.

The Archbishop of Turin invited everyone around the world to visit the Holy Shroud via livestream for Holy Saturday. EWTN (channel 49 on cable or here) is carrying programs on the Holy Shroud today at 7 p.m. (a special on the Shroud) and 10 p.m. (a playback of the prayer service from Turin).

There is a great silence on earth today…

God Bless.
Deacon Tom

April 10, 2020

Father into your hands I commend my spirit…

The last words of Jesus as recorded in Luke are simple. As we continue Holy Week on Good Friday, let us take some time to attend service, available online by connecting through our YouTube page about 2 p.m.

I’d also encourage you to seek out the Stations of the Cross, especially with Deacon Tony connecting through the website at 7pm here.

You may want to also share in the Way of the Cross from St. Peter’s Basilica. The Holy See has published a text of meditations on the stations which you can read here.

Let us continue to unite in prayer through the Easter Triduum.

God Bless.
Deacon Tom

April 9, 2020

There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover…

Today we celebrate Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Please try to attend a Mass online this evening. You can see it from St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament Church. Please check the website for details here www.stvbs.com

Below, I offer portions of the readings:

From the Book of Exodus,a description of the Passover Supper:

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians tells us of Jesus’ words from the Last Supper:

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”

And the Gospel of John with the washing of the feet and institution of the priesthood:

“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Please find the entire text of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper readings here.

“There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover: that mystery is Christ, and to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”—Saint Melito of Sardis

God Bless.
Dc. Tom

April 8, 2020

I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.—John 10:10

About three years ago, I reconnected with one of my teachers from Seton High School in Endicott from the 1970s. Sister Helen  Gertrude Carroll, D.C. was in Binghamton in May of 2017. That’s when the last Daughters of Charity were leaving Lourdes Hospital and the area. I included her in my story for The Catholic Sun, please read here.

What Sister Helen Gertrude told me for the article was exactly how I remembered her as a student some 45 years later. “Every minute was fun,” she said. ”I never had a student who didn’t pass.” She was still full of energy and not ready to retire when we spoke.

Perhaps all the enthusiasm was linked to her faith. Before I could ask her about it during the interview, sister repeated her favorite Gospel verse—John 10:10. It comes from the story of the Good Shepherd.

A day from Holy Thursday, let’s keep the Good Shepherd in our minds and hearts as we remember:

I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.—John 10:10

God Bless.
Deacon Tom

April 7, 2020

Birds, rainbows and hope

I’ve heard a woodpecker working outside my window the past two mornings. I can’t see which tree, but I hope it’s not the big maple imported from Long Island about 60-years ago. It’s grown tall and wide with branches that cover most of the backyard.

It feels and looks like spring. Birds are all round. Cardinals are foraging among the bushes in front. There have been blue jays too. The sun is illuminating the whole scene.

Across the street, there’s a rainbow. No, it’s not in the sky. It’s a handcrafted rendering of color put together and posted on the front door by the neighbor kids. Queen Elizabeth of England spoke of rainbows as being the sign of hope when she gave a pep talk to her people the other night about COVID-19.

The birds and the rainbows draw me to Genesis chapters 8 and 9 at the conclusion of the Great Flood. Read starting here. Noah released a raven, then a dove—twice. The second time it came back with an olive leaf which proved there was dry land. In Genesis 9, God makes a promise to Noah. He said: “there shall not be another flood to devastate the Earth.” Gn 9:11 and “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Gn 9:13.

Where’s our rainbow with hope today? Can we recall who has come before us in faith? It’s important to continue our prayers for everyone during this most difficult time in our world.

All the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, Summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease—Genesis 8:22

God Bless you.
Dc. Tom

April 6, 2020

Trust in the LORD with all your heart.—Proverbs 3:5

There was too much “noise” around me the other night. I shut off the television and the computer. I sat in silence for a few minutes. Then I picked up my well-worn, red Lenten/Easter Season Liturgy of the Hours book for Evening Prayer. I completed that and sat again for a few moments. But I needed more.

I got my bible and started reading. First it was some of the New Testament Letters. I always liked James. Quickly read. Then, I glanced at Timothy and read Titus and Philemon. Wow, this was great, spending time with God’s word. I thought about seeking some wisdom too. Off to the Old Testament and Proverbs. Two hours had passed. Time for bed.

I’d really wanted something to jump off the page for me that night. But no Proverb stood out to me. On Sunday, something happened. I opened a wooden box from the top of my dresser. Inside there was a picture of my parents, standing next to a perhaps 12-year-old me. There were other photos as well, prayer cards, messages and a note from the person who gave me the box.

I put everything away and closed the cover. Etched on top was a Proverb! It will stick with me as the journey continues to Easter and beyond.

Do you have time to disconnect from the TV? The cell phone? The internet? Where is your Bible? Pick it up, feel the pages in your hands, read it.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart.—Proverbs 3:5

God Bless.
Dc. Tom

April 5, 2020

“Siempre adelante!  Keep moving forward

During Lent of 1999, I took a week off before starting a job at Christ the King Church in Endwell. I flew first to England where my friend Phil lives. The next day, we boarded a plane together bound for the Spanish island of Majorca in the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed in the capital city, Palma de Majorca—loosely translated “Large Palm.”

With the March temperature in the 60s, it was just warm enough to walk from the beach into the beautiful teal-colored sea. To the south, we could just barely see the coast of Africa. Italy is to the east. For this Palm Sunday weekend, I looked at some pictures from that trip. I remembered walking up the old stone steps to the Cathedral of Le Seu (the sea). The stone work is magnificent, with saints sculpted above the door, flying buttresses hold up the roof of a centuries-old building that seemed to glow in the sun.

We did a lot of walking that week around downtown Palma and beyond. We also took an old train to Soller. It’s a fishing village where huge nets were laid out on the docks for repair and drying. I thought of the fishermen who became apostles while there.

The city of palms in Majorca was home to several people who became saints. St. Catherine of Palma, a nun, spent her entire 41 year life on the island. Jesuit brother St. Alphonsus Rodríguez, who wrote the “Exercise of perfection and Christian virtues,” died there in 1617. Perhaps most famous to us was Saint Junipero Serra. This Majorcan native was born 1713. He served as a priest and college professor in Palma before leaving to found many of the California missions. Pope Francis spoke of the saint’s motto at Junipero Serra’s canonization in Washington in 2015. “Siempre adelante! Keep moving forward”. Read the entire text HERE.

Let’s keep moving forward on our Lenten journey this Palm Sunday. The large palm trees and stone walkways of Palma will always remind me of the wonderful welcome Jesus received that first Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. Only to be carrying his cross on the same path a week later.

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

April 3, 2020

The Brady Bunch, the Flintstones and Thomas the Apostle

Remember the Brady Bunch TV show in the 60s and 70s? As it opened, all 9 of them appeared in little boxes on the screen looking around at each other. Two nights ago, our grief group had a Brady Bunch like that on our computers. About a dozen faces looking around at each other, others joined by phone. We talked at our monthly meeting conducted on Zoom.

I can’t share specifics of what anyone said during the meeting. Grief, the virus and staying at home were major topics. There was a sense of calm as we participated in a meditation-type exercise from The Book of Joy written by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And there was laughter as we each shared one good thing helping get us through this difficult time. My take: “You know the Flintstones are on at 6 o’clock now?” (I watched two episodes last night. Fred and Barney really know how to work together in the toughest of times, don’t they?)

I continue to be in touch with parishioners each day by telephone. Everyone I talked with said they’ve been speaking with others. It’s simple…Jesus has told us to be there for our neighbors. Some of you have reached out too—to ask who you might call in the parish. Thanks for that. Think of us like the Brady Bunch on that screen…lots of faces getting together to talk…and most importantly listen.

Someone reminded me last night about John 14:1-3. It’s keeping with our Lenten journey, part of the Last Supper discourse. While promising heaven, Jesus told the apostles that he’d prepare the path. Thomas (the faith-filled one) spoke up saying he didn’t know where they are going. Jesus replied he’d show them because. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

God Bless you.
Dc. Tom

April 2, 2020

“When I’m not in control, God can really take my heart”

Je vous salue Marie pleine de grâce…

Hail Mary, full of grace…

Countless times as Catholics, we have said the Hail Mary as part of the Rosary. It’s universal around the world in many languages. At the grotto in Lourdes, France, prayers and Masses are live-streamed  starting each day at 7:30 a.m. continuing through 8:30 p.m. French, English, Italian, German, Vietnamese, Polish and Spanish are the languages in use. Lourdes is where the Blessed Mother appeared first on February 11, 1858, to St. Bernadette Marie Soubirous. To date, 70 healings have been documented there. Take some time to learn about Lourdes and how you can connect by clicking here. I sent a prayer intention this morning and looked into lighting a candle, from 3,700 miles away.

You can watch the Rosary online in English from Lourdes each day at 9:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. our time. The English Mass is at 11:00 a.m. During the homily at today’s Mass, the priest noted that during times like this, “When I’m not in control, God can really take my heart,” and “this time of confinement is time to come back to the Lord.”

“We need his presence, his compassion. We need Him.”

He finished with these words: “God will glorify you if you accept to let him shine in your life.”

Have you prayed the rosary today? Said a Hail Mary? Reached out to God in another way? Maybe you can visit Lourdes online and listen to prayer in a different language.  

“When I’m not in control, God can really take my heart.”

Thanks to all who’ve been following the parish website and reading these blogs. Your comments have been inspiring.

God Bless,
Deacon Tom

April 1, 2020

For in him our hearts rejoice—Psalm 33:21

Today is 4-1-2020. It’s April Fool’s Day already? Yes, every year since 1582. That’s when Pope Gregory put his calendar into effect. The start of the New Year was moved three months back to January 1. Several sources say that left many people confused or unwilling to accept the new date. So as of the First of April, they were said to be “fools” and became the target of pranks. Learn more here.  

St. Philip Neri died in 1595, just a few years after the switch from the Julian calendar and the first April Fools Day. St. Philip had a strong faith and wit which helped in his ministry to many, including the very sick. He’s the patron saint of humor and joy.

With all that’s going on in the world today, it’s hard to think of happy or funny things, even on this April Fool’s Day. But St. Philip Neri showed that it is possible to bring the Lord and a smile to many, many people.

Tell a joke, watch a funny TV show, share a laugh. Let these words from Psalm 33 help us through another day and beyond.

Our soul waits for the LORD, he is our help and shield.
For in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust.
May your mercy, LORD, be upon us; as we put our hope in you.

God Bless,
Dc. Tom

March 31, 2020

Encourage each other while it is still today

​It’s funny how a simple trip to the store can be the highlight of the day.

I drove slowly down the street the other day, some kids were playing outside while their parents sat and watched. On the other side of the street, there was another neighbor walking. She smiled and waved. I smiled and waved back. It made me feel good.

I’m not sure I knew who that was, but she was my neighbor. We’re all called to love God and love our neighbors. That’s all of us. It doesn’t matter if it’s the seven-billion plus of us around the world or just one walking along the street.

A couple of days earlier, a butterfly, a happy face and a “hello” appeared at the end of my driveway. Anonymous colors in chalk brightened my day. Later washed away by the rain, but certainly not forgotten.

A passage from the letter to the Hebrews tells us to encourage each other while it is still today. It refers to Psalm 95 which us not to harden our hearts, and not grow weary on the journey. In other words: be there for one another.

A smile and a wave, a family playing outside and a chalk message are all important in these days of isolation. Look outside, see what your neighbors are doing, perhaps putting Easter eggs on a tree?

See what God is doing too. Plants and flowers are appearing. A peek of sunshine comes every once and a while.

Then when you come back in, pick up the phone. Call someone and talk, or better yet, just listen.

Encourage each other while it is still today.

March 30, 2020

For weeks now it has been evening

Although it’s been only a couple of weeks since we could gather publicly, it seems an eternity. Last Friday, the pope delivered an Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) address and blessing from Rome with the stark words “For weeks now it has been evening.”  

But he gave reason for hope in this time of isolation. “Why are you afraid? Do you not have faith?”

I’ve been thinking a lot of about those words the last few days while talking to people from around the city and the world. My college friend Gary lives alone in southern Italy with his dog Bella. His wife died in January, just weeks before that country shut down due to the virus. A boyhood neighbor Kevin resides in Key West where the closed highway has cut them off from the world. He’s trying to decide if he wants to continue to work as a hospital orderly. And then there’s Michael, an exchange student 25 years ago here—is now staying at home in Divinopolis, Brazil. He’s with his wife and six-month old daughters, one of whom was recently diagnosed as deaf.

It’s been good to stay in touch with parishioners as well…by phone and text and email.  

Many people contacted me last week hearing of the death of my mother. She died on March 21 of dementia. The last couple of weeks were very difficult as limitations were put in place due to coronavirus. I shared that story in a column for The Catholic Sun

For weeks it has been evening. The pope has entrusted us to Jesus with the intercession of Mary. “Why are you afraid? Do you not have faith?”

A crucifix that survived a church fire unscathed was at St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s blessing last week. It was also carried around Rome as the plague of several hundred years ago was beginning to subside. Something to ponder while there are uncertain times ahead. We can have hope and faith in Jesus to bring us through.

For weeks now it has been evening. But the dawn will come.  

(Read the entire text of the pope’s message HERE.)

Please pray for each other.

God Bless you.
Dc. Tom ​