About This Site

Recent Homilies

Reflections on Faith

Conversion Stories

Ask the Deacon

Suggested Links

Deacon Tom's Website: Homiletically Challenging -- Passionately Catholic.
(With apologies to my friends at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH)

NEW! NEW!.... Look for Deacon Tom on the wonderful Catholic Family Website hosted by David and Allyson Sweeney. You can find them at www.catholicfamilypodcast.com -- and be sure to listen to David and Allyson on your computer, or your IPOD, or MP3 player. The Sweeneys offer a view of Catholic Family living as seen from the right....

Now read Deacon Tom at CatholicMom.com!

Reflections on Catholic Faith - November 2008 - Stepping Stones to Sainthood

Looking for more reflections? Click on any of the links below.


April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009


December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008

December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007

December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006

November 24, 2008

112408 Mon After Christ the King - More on Sainthood

Well – we are still on the topic of sainthood for the remainder of this month. Over the years I’ve shared that the lives of selected saints started to connect with me after first handing a book of saint stories back to a priest. I told him it was ‘boring’ because it was very short bio’s of the saints… their birth and death dates, where they lived, and maybe just a few sentences about why they were saints. That sort of reading isn’t going to inspire me – and I don’t think it inspires many others either. BUT – the saints are given to us to inspire us… to show us… to demonstrate that holiness can exist in the midst of human weakness. When I began to see that – my attitude about saints began to return.

Among my favorite saints now is Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. Also St. Padre Pio… and I have special devotion to Venerable Solanus Casey and Blessed Andre Bessette. For sure, my appreciation and veneration of Blessed Virgin Mary and her husband have increased. When I get into the lives of these people and others – my attitude and desire for sainthood is lifted. I hope you can find that in your life as well.

There are a few resources on saints that I’d like to share with you. One is predominantly useful as an audio resource: it’s the Saintcast with Dr. Paul Camarata. You can listen to his programs on the saints – Paul is a famous surgeon who really brings the saints and things about saints to life. You can find him at www.saintcast.org and you can listen right on your computer or on an IPOD or MP3 type device.

A site that I have used for years is the wonderful, dependable and comprehensive Franciscan site at www.americancatholic.com .

You can sign up for newsletters, saint-of-the-day emailing and other features. This site offers a wonderful search capability that allows one to look at information about saints, magazine articles and more. Thank you Franciscan Friars and staff for the wonderful work you make available to us at no charge. And if you are a Catholic layperson reading this reflection – your once-a-year contribution to the American Bishops Communication Campaign helps make grants available that support this site as well as other media work for the New Evangelization.

A somewhat newer resource is an on-line site devoted to the saints. It is found at www.catholicchurchsaints.com. I haven’t looked into this site enough to know who is behind it – but I did an on-site search for Solanus Casey and it brought back pages of available information. If you have a specific interest (for example cancer or addiction), perhaps you can try this site and let me know what you think of it.

I like Madonna House Publications out of Canada – especially the works of Catherine Doherty and her husband Eddie Doherty. Among my favorite books from Madonna House are POUSTINIA (Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer), FRAGMENTS OF MY LIFE (Catherine Doherty’s life starting with her being born in a moving train in Russia), TUMBLEWEED (Catherine’s Biography written by her husband Eddie) and GRACE IN EVERY SEASON (Daily selections from Catherine’s writings).

Finally – if you haven’t read Fr. James Martin’s book MY LIFE WITH THE SAINTS – I encourage you to find a copy. Amazon.com has this at a special price. Fr. Martin has written what is called one of the ‘best spiritual memoirs in years.’

Fr. Martin has a real background that you wouldn’t associate with the priesthood – a Wharton School of Business graduate, a fast-track career at General Electric and other areas culminating with him becoming a priest. This is a good read.

So – what does it take to become a saint? Some homilist or speaker said all it takes is Vitamin B-1. Think about it. And I’ll try to give a somewhat better answer next week as I close out this month of reflections on becoming a saint. As Paul Camarata at the Saintcast says, “Do you have what it takes?” God is waiting for your answer – and He’s waiting with help.

First Mass Reading
Rv 14:1-3, 4b-5

I, John, looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. They were singing what seemed to be a new hymn before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the first fruits of the human race for God and the Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it. For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD? Or who may stand in his holy place? He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.

R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD, a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Lk 21:1-4

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

November 17, 2008

St Elizabeth of Hungary

This month of reflections has a theme of ‘steps to sainthood.’ Have you heard the words about us becoming saints, like maybe a hundred times? I hope you are trying to become a saint or at least that you are conflicted about the challenge. Of course, no one is a saint until they enter Heaven. But in its Magisterium and practices, the Church does declare men and women to be saints. It might interest you to read about the long, detailed process which the Church uses to decide upon naming a saint. Although, beloved John Paul II of recent memory did a lot to speed up the process.

On the Internet program Catholic Moments ( www.catholicmoments.com ), I spent all of October concentrating on the Little Flower, St. Therese. On October 19 th, the parents of Therese, Zellie and Louis were beatified in a beautiful ceremony in Lisieux, France. There is much behind the decision to start this couple on the road to sainthood; LOVE was certainly the foundation of the life they lived. They loved God, they loved the Church, and they loved the poor. The family lived as examples of what it means to be Catholic. This passed to all the children – and especially to Therese.

Now today, we have the awesome St. Elizabeth of Hungary. In her short life, she manifested great love for the poor. Elizabeth has been named the patroness of Catholic Charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order. Her life was a demonstration of one of the types of God’s call awaiting our hearts on the other side of conversion. Ours may be different.

At the age of 14, Elizabeth married King Louis whom she deeply loved. She bore three children, yet under the direction of a Franciscan friar, she led a life of prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick.

Seeking to become one with the poor, she wore simple clothing… and each day she would take bread to hundreds of the poorest who came to her gate. Let me share a letter written by priest who was the spiritual advisor of St. Elizabeth… “Apart from her active good works, I declare before God that I have seldom seen a more contemplative woman. When she was coming from private prayer, some religious men and women often saw her face shining marvelously, and light coming from her eyes like the rays of the sun. I heard her final confession. Afterwards, I asked her about what should be done about her goods and possessions. She replied to give away everything except one worn out dress in which she wished to be buried. When all this had been decided, she received the Eucharist – the body of the Lord. Then she devoutly commended to God all who were sitting near her and as if falling into a gentle sleep, she died.”

So – if I pick up a theme from last week’s reflection (which was love of the church – perhaps manifested in helping to build a bigger, better, more glorious church), and today’s theme which is that prayer leads to love which leads to a profound caring for others – these can be awesome steps toward sainthood.

In my own case – I know that I struggle with various aspects of these calls – but I believe they are a certain way towards sainthood.

May God help us – may God give us grace – may St. Elizabeth and St. Therese and her parents – and all the angels and all the saints pray for us who wish to follow in their footsteps. PLEASE – don’t let us be complacent about this.

Please don’t let us assume that a loving God will love us into Heaven without us having to do much about it…. that’s Protestant thinking (i.e. works don’t matter…but they do… they do!).

P+L=S… Prayer plus Love yields Sainthood. Thanks be to God.

Reading 1
Rv 1:1-4; 2:1-5

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his servants what must happen soon. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who gives witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting what he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message
and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near

John, to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne.
I heard the Lord saying to me: “To the angel of the Church in Ephesus, write this:“‘The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks in the midst of the seven gold lamp stands says this: “I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves Apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors. Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”’”

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6

R. (Rev. 2:17) Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.
Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked Nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, But delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.
He is like a tree planted near running water, That yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade. Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.
Not so the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.

R. Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.

Lk 18:35-43

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God. When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

November 10, 2008

Note: This homilette (short reflection) was prepared for and delivered at the Spanish-language Mass on Sunday November 9 th, 2008. A parishioner helped Deacon Tom deliver this ‘en Espanol.’ It is posted as one of his shorter reflections. Gracias.

It isn’t very often on Sundays that we celebrate feast days… saint days. This is because the Church most always has us treat Sunday as a celebration of Easter – a celebration of the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.

And, unlike liturgies which honor other of our famous Roman churches (St. Mary Major, Sts. Peter and Paul), this anniversary is a feast. In a very real sense, every time a church is dedicated, it is a feast for the worldwide church.

I’ve been to Rome – I’ve been to St. Peter’s Basilica which we all think of as the ‘home’ cathedral for the Holy Father – but the correct answer is that St. John Lateran is ‘his’ church – the home cathedral for the Bishop of Rome. In a sense of our unity in our one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic faith, St. John Lateran is also the parish church of all Catholics.

What started as a donation of land and a residential palace from its prior owners, is now this magnificent cathedral with beautiful ceilings and art and an impressive entrance. There is so much meaning and history associated with this magnificent church. It has been attacked and destroyed and suffered from earthquake – yet always rebuilt.

In one of the periods of rebuilding – they unearthed paved old Roman streets, the bodies of martyrs and tools and utensils from life in the early years of the Church.

What is important today is that there are buildings and history that date back to earliest hours of our faith. There are magnificent churches of very early times, and there are more recent efforts. If you go to Rome – it can be (for me anyway) like returning to the roots of our faith. But you don’t have to go to Italy.

For example, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the newest and one of the ten largest churches in the world. Located in Washington, D. C., it is the nation’s pre-eminent Marian Shrine. In 1990, Pope John Paul II elevated this National Shrine to the status of a minor basilica. And on April 16 th of 2008, Pope Benedict the XVI visited this Basilica during his visit to the United States.

Going back hundreds of years, there is the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. They say that there are perhaps 92 million Catholics living in Mexico – these faith lives coming as legacies of the work and prayer of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego.

Modern or old – our church buildings are meant to edify us – to help us lift our minds and hearts to God… to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. But we too our churches! We are meant to edify and lift others up to God.

As Paul said in Sunday’s 2 nd reading – brothers and sisters – you –YOU are God’s building… each one must be careful of what he builds. You are a temple of God… you must become a source of living waters flowing out from your life and your prayers – from your example and your relationships..

If you do this – you will be building up a storehouse of treasure in heaven… it will be waiting for you when you are welcomed by those holy ones who built the earlier shrines and cathedrals and the newest edifices dedicated to God. If you live your life as ‘church’ – you will meet Jesus and His Mother – but also Constantine who commissioned the building of St. John Lateran Basilica. You will also meet Juan Diego and all your forefathers in faith who died in the friendship (grace) of God.

May the Lord be with you.

November 3, 2008

Okay dear friends – this month, as best I can I’d like to talk about finding, trying, sampling, reading, praying or sharing our way towards becoming saints. Let me start off this reflection with a question: do you (REALLY) want to become holy? Do you really want to become a saint? Or is that for other folks?

This will sound like a change in subject – but stick with me. I spoke of Archbishop Chaput over the weekend in Mass homilies… I have his book RENDER UNTO CAESAR on my nightstand… and as I prepare these remarks, I have here on my desk an interview with Archbishop Charles. You might guess that I respect him immensely. I also profess a great love for him. He probably doesn’t know of my love for him – that’s all right except I wish we all would pray for him and let him know how much many of us support and care for him.

At any rate – in the article on my desk – an interviewer asks the Archbishop why Catholics have such misunderstanding of the relationship between their personal life and the nation’s political life. The Archbishop says that many Catholics, the price of admission into mainstream American life has been to become, in effect, Protestants who go to Mass. “They keep the Catholic brand name and tribal loyalty, but the content of what they believe has become a mix of sentiment, nostalgia and generic good will.” He says that’s a good recipe for fitting in, but it’s not what the Gospel or Catholic teaching… or the call to sanctity is about.

Those last words sum up the question raised above: Do you really want to become a saint? Holier? Or has faith become for you a practice – Sundays spent for an hour before breakfast at a favorite place? I remember many years ago, when we were in our early married times – we spent a lot of time – I mean a lot of time with another family that we loved a great deal. They were Catholic – and in the way we humanly judge people, you’d say this family was a good Catholic family. Mass and Communion every Sunday, some practices of Advent and Lent. Yet in our countless hours of loving and caring and sharing – our Catholic Faith wasn’t talked about or shared about. It was something we did.

Their families before them did it. My family did it… my wife’s family did their Methodist faith. These were things ‘done.’ Faith wasn’t lived – it was done. And guess what? When their children grew up and went away to school and their own lives – they decided they didn’t want to do what their parents did. They wanted to find their own meaning. Guess what our kids did? The same… although we sinned a great deal more by failing to give continuing example…. It was the 70’s and 80’s and all that came with it.

Okay – so where to go with this? What would be a first topic in a month spent on Stepping Stones to Holiness? Well – last month I devoted October to St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. It so happens I have a little Our Sunday Visitor publication on my desk.

It’s about St. Therese – and it says that she used the most humble, hidden and ordinary actions of daily life as the way of perfecting her spiritual life. For Therese, doing the laundry, chopping vegetables for soup, coming promptly when called, keeping a cheerful face no matter the personal feeling – these were her steps towards holiness. And in her case – it led to her becoming one of the few women to become Doctors of the Church.

Stepping Stone Number One: Like Therese of Lisieux… like Mother Teresa of Calcutta… we don’t have to set the world on fire. We work on gentle, quiet humble ways of trying to change in cooperation with God’s wonderful graces.

There is a lady who is in my parish – she’s ready to take my head off because I did something that infringed on her area of ministry. It’s the stuff that when other people see it – they say, “I don’t want anything to do with Christians!” My task – my next week task is to try and smile gently and subservient to her attitude… loving as a response to invective and upset. (Believe me – I really prefer the other mode…)

St. Therese – right now, I’m praying for your help. Show me a little way (your Little Way) to work through this ‘situation’ with a loving response. Help me have a first step – a stepping stone to holiness in my life.

Reading 1
Phil 2:1-4

Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 131:1bcde, 2, 3

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor are my eyes haughty; I busy not myself with great things, nor with things too sublime for me.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
O Israel, hope in the LORD, both now and forever.

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.

Lk 14:12-14

On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. He said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

© 2006-2009 Deacon Tom Online

Site Map      Reflections on the Catholic Faith    Home