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Deacon Tom Picciano Deacon Tom's Blog

 

May 30, 2020

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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

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May 29, 2020

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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

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May 28, 2020

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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

Peace,
Deacon Tom

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May 27, 2020

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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

Peace,
Deacon Tom

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May 26, 2020

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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

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May 25, 2020

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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

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May 24, 2020

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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

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May 23, 2020

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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

Peace,
Dc. Tom

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May 22, 2020

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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

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May 21, 2020

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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

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May 20, 2020

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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

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May 19, 2020

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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

Peace,
Deacon Tom

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May 18, 2020

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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

Peace,
Deacon Tom

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May 17, 2020

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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

Peace,
Deacon Tom

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May 16, 2020

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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
Peace,
Deacon Tom

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May 15, 2020

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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

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May 14, 2020

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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

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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

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May 12, 2020

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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

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May 11, 2020

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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

Peace,
Dc. Tom

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May 10, 2020

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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

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May 9, 2020

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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

Peace,
Dc. Tom

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May 8, 2020

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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

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May 7, 2020

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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

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May 6, 2020

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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

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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.

Peace,
Deacon Tom

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May 4, 2020

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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

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May 3, 2020

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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

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May 2, 2020

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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

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May 1, 2020

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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

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April 30, 2020

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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

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April 29, 2020

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"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?

Pace.
Deacon Tom

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April 28, 2020

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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

Peace,
Deacon Tom

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April 27, 2020

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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

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April 26, 2020

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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

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April 25, 2020

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“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

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April 24, 2020

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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

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April 23, 2020

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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

Peace,
Dc. Tom

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April 22, 2020

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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

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April 21, 2020

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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

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April 20, 2020

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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

Peace.
Dc. Tom

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April 19, 2020

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“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

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April 18, 2020

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“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

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April 17, 2020

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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

Peace,
Dc. Tom

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April 16, 2020

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"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.

Peace,
Dc. Tom

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April 15, 2020

Adoration on EWTN

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

Shalom.
Dc. Tom

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April 14, 2020

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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

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April 13, 2020

STVBS church and statue

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

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April 12, 2020 ~ Easter Sunday

Dc. Tom Blog 4/12/20

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

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April 11, 2020

There is a great silence on earth today...

Dc. Tom blog 4/11/20

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

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April 10, 2020

Father into your hands I commend my spirit…

Dc. Tom blog 4/10/20

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

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April 9, 2020

There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover…

Dc. Tom 4/9/20

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

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April 8, 2020

I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.—John 10:10

Dc. Tom's blog 04082020

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

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April 7, 2020

Birds, rainbows and hope

dctom_04072020

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

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April 6, 2020

Trust in the LORD with all your heart.—Proverbs 3:5

Reading scripture

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

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April 5, 2020

“Siempre adelante!  Keep moving forward

Cathedral MallorcaMallorca stairs

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

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April 3, 2020

The Brady Bunch, the Flintstones and Thomas the Apostle

Dc. Tom on Zoom


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

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April 2, 2020

“When I’m not in control, God can really take my heart”

Homily at Lourdes, France

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

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April 1, 2020

For in him our hearts rejoice—Psalm 33:21

April 1 calendarToday 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

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March 31, 2020

Encourage each other while it is still today

dctomforsythiaIt’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.

 

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March 30, 2020

For weeks now it has been evening

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