Father Tom celebrating Mass on Easter Sunday 2007 at Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery of the Redemptoristine Nuns, Mount Saint Alphonsus, Esopus, New York
In these times, many monastic communities of nuns do not have the benefit of daily Mass because fewer priests are available to come to offer the Liturgy of the Eucharist with them. Our community has had the great benefit of close proximity to Redemptorists at Mount St. Alphonsus in its days as a seminary and now as a retreat center. In the seminary's hay day not only daily Mass was assured. Professors of Sacred Scripture, Theology and Psychology came to the monastery to offer their class lectures. The sisters report that this input was a real boon to them in the days of renewal after the Second Vatican Council. They speak too of many fond relationships forged in faith sharing and general discussion, not to mention the pleasure and laughter generated by groups of seminarians coming to the monastery to present their amateur theatricals. For some seminarians, the sisters both collectively and individually were sources of wisdom and encouragement by example and prayer.
Today we are privileged and blessed by he ministry and friendship of four priests in residence at the Mount. Father Thomas Travers offers mass here two to three times a week. He brings a lifetime of broad ministerial experience, the depth of a compassionate pastor, and personal knowledge of Jesus honed by prayer, service to the poorest of the poor, and academic study. He served as a missionary in Puerto Rice and the Dominican Republic and later as Provincial for Puerto Rico. In well-crafted homilies reflecting his commitment to mission, his love for the most abandoned, and the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime we are always touched in our hearts, stimulated in faith, and challenged to renew each day the Christian commitment to on-going transformation in Christ.
As if all of that was not enough, Father Tom likes to laugh and likes to make other people laugh. Being a born and bred Boston-Irish Red Sox fan contributes to the mix. A further contribution to his well-balanced approach to life is his pleasure in tinkering whether the object be a jeep engine (a skill learned in the seminary), a jury-rigged water filtration system, or construction of an intriguing bird house. And everything is shared with generosity - the faith, the ministry, the mechanical skills and the unassuming humor.
Father Tom has done us all the favor of creating a BLOG http://journals.aol.com/tjtrower/Reflections to which he publishes his homilies. I urge you to visit the site. Excerpts of his homily given on Sunday, May 20 appear below.
AD MULTOS ANNOS, Father Tom. Thank you for your faithfulness to your religious profession and for the gift you are to our community.
One of the greatest sermons that Jesus ever preached was not with words. It was the sermon he preached by his actions, specifically by the way he treated his apostles, his apostles who were power seeking, envious, and as he himself said “were slow to understand” (“slow learners”, as we would say today), his apostles who abandoned him when he needed them most… one denying him three times and the another betraying him for 30 pieces of silver.
And yet, after all that he suffered with them, and knowing all that he would suffer for them afterwards, Jesus still calls them, in today’s gospel, a GIFT, the gift that the Father gave him. They were often a burden, a stumbling block to his mission, slow to comprehend and yet he calls them a GIFT. Can you imagine! And then he does what you do with all gifts: first, he gives thanks for them to the Father and secondly, he cherishes them, he holds them in his hand and puts them in a special place in his heart.
It is a powerful sermon, perhaps one of his most powerful, and it should cause us to reflect on how we see and treat others… how we see our brothers and sisters in family and in community. Do we sometimes see each other as a burden around my neck, an obstacle to overcome in my personal path to salvation or as a necessary evil in community life? Do we sometimes long to be a hermit, or to live on an island, or be on a perpetual retreat where we don’t have to worry nor attend to our horizontal relationships to others and can have all the time we want to attend to our vertical relationship with God? We can dream of a life like that a life of just me and God, with no one else to get in the way.
The gospel today challenges us to reflect on how we see others who are part of our life or who come into our life. Sometimes we honestly see them as burden and they turn out to be a great gift.
I think it is good, every once in a while, to look around at the people in our life, or those who come into our life and ask ourselves how we see them, how we treat them. Do we see them as God’s gift to us, as a gift that we cherish? This is what Jesus did for his apostles and what he does for each of us today. He tells us that we are his gift from the Father and he gives thanks to the father for us and holds us in the special place in his heart. AMEN.