I am grateful to share a few thoughts with you for this “testimonial” I am giving as I approach the 10th year of my ordination to the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ this coming May 13, 2016-The Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. I feel guided by the Holy Spirit and obligated to Our Mother Mary to do this as an act of gratitude to Our Lady and my Father for using the Theology of the Body as an instrument for my ongoing education and healing in the Priesthood of His Son Jesus Christ.
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I began to understand my vocation to the priesthood sometime in the middle of October 2000, near the Memorial of the North American Martyrs (October 19) in Rome, Italy during the Jubilee Year for the New Millennium. After our arrival back, from the Rome pilgrimage to my Navy duty station in Rota, Spain in late October, I say by mid November 2000 I knew, I just knew I was called to the priesthood. My trip to Washington D.C. in February 2001 on a discernment weekend confirmed what I was “feeling.” As the Lord began to grace me and draw me closer to Himself, a couple of Navy friends of mine suggested we go to Fatima during Palm Sunday weekend in April 2001. For as long as I can remember, I loved the movie Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, so I just had to go. I was always drawn to the humility of the three children and in particular, Francisco. The four of us drove from Rota, Spain to Fatima, Portugal amidst the beautiful rolling hills and olive trees. You can just “feel” the presence of Mary. This was the first time I felt truly loved by Mary. My most profound moment was kneeling at the bed in Blessed Francisco’s room because the rope guarding his room was “accidentally” down, thank you Blessed Francisco and Mary for that special gift for me. I was able to go quietly into his bedroom while his English-speaking uncle spoke to my friends in the outer room; it was a very powerful moment. I could I sense his little presence there and am convinced he has prayed for me to become little of heart like him. The willingness of the three children to suffer for others has never left me to this day, I don’t mean to say I do it well or even faithfully, but the seed was planted in me by God through the example of Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco and the North American Martyrs, who I did not know at that time, but I certainly know fairly well now. I have since been back to Fatima and had another prayer experience in Blessed Francisco’s room, this time ropes up, but my fear-filled protective barriers down and wow it was powerful, even more so this time, due to more openness in my heart.
My devotion to my Mother Mary was very strong when I was discerning the priesthood and I was given several real contemplative moments praying the rosary before the seminary and while in the seminary. But, something happened that got me off track. Many wounds from different women in my life derailed me from trusting Mary, or any other woman, without even realizing it. Bitterness, anger and resentment were poisoning my priesthood and me. I was hurt so many times from ladies who probably didn’t mean to, but nevertheless, hurt me badly and didn’t love me nor appreciate the masculine man I was. So, Mary was put on the back burner, so to speak. Mind you I still prayed the rosary occasionally and prayed for her intercession, but I was still distant due to these unknown spiritual and emotional blocks caused by woundedness. My last parish (2009-2013) in New York was called Our Lady of Sorrows and Mary wanted me back for Herself and Her Son. After four years of healing therapy from 2009-2013, much prayer, healing graces, spiritual reading, etc.…my heart began to open to Our Lady once again. My devotion to Mary slowly began to return, but only after the internal healing began to take place. Now lets fast-forward to 2014.
On January 1, 2014 I began to minister at the Theology of the Body Institute in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, after attending three courses from 2008-2010. I heard so much about the “Marian posture of receptivity” and that all of us have to be open to Divine love, it began to soak in my hardened and wounded heart. Instead of simply viewing the faith and my relationship with the Lord in my head intellectually, I began to receive in my heart, as well. While the TOB Institute is not the “savior of the world” and is simply made up of broken brothers and sisters in Christ, they are good God-loving people whom the Lord uses as His instruments, to offer retreat/courses that begin to allow you to see yourself as the good God; our papa sees us – with infinite, unconditional love. The Holy Spirit inspired the catechesis of Saint John Paul II for the entire Church and that means you and me. It gives us the spiritual and emotional tools to view life and mankind through a truthful Catholic lens and not the broken, warped lens of Martin Luther and Rene Descartes.
My priestly Fatherhood, rooted in the Fatherhood of God would never have grown if I weren’t ministering here in this Institute, because the Lord showed me how to become little, hidden, tiny, and so much more through putting me in the desert with him – not in Egypt or the Judean wilderness, but Downingtown, Pennsylvania. I discovered after about a year, what it’s like to live in the protective and nurturing womb of My Mother. This is how you become Jesus, not by grasping, pride, self-assertiveness or self-reliance, but by littleness, hiddenness, meekness and humility. Does this sound like anyone you should know, Jesus perhaps? Not only has The Father, been introducing me to His Son Jesus through the catechesis of Saint John Paul II, but through the people here and through the many priests and connections I have made while ministering here. I have seen many brother priests of mine suffering so unnecessarily because they don’t know the Father’s unconditional and infinite love for them. Now I want to help them get healthy through all the power He gives me in Jesus Christ.
I have been part of the development of the TOB Clergy Program and I have learned so much about Jesus’ real priesthood, the Fatherhood of God, true manhood and masculinity. I know I have grown so much since attending courses and retreats here as well as working here, I cannot ever fully comprehend what the Blessed Trinity and Saint John Paul II has done for me in my life and my priesthood. It has completely changed my outlook on life and who I am and who my Father is. I minister the sacraments like a fully confident priest of Jesus Christ and man of God. I appreciate women more for who they are and not for who the culture says they are – sex objects. I have learned through Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco, the North American Martyrs, the Pontificate and teaching of Saint John Paul II and the many priests and lay men and women God has put in my life the past 2 years and 4 months since working here. Even though my three-year tenure with the TOB Institute will end this December 2016, Saint John Paul II and his catechesis will always be part of my life, as well as the holy people here. God has introduced me to contemplative prayer through healing and growing in trust and love in the Father who loves me unconditionally. Surrendering to the will of the Father can only happen through allowing Christ in us bring us to the Father. Only the Son can do the will of the Father, as St. John teaches us.
So, as I approach the 10th Anniversary of my Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ I am deeply grateful to all the people in heaven and on earth who have prayed and sacrificed for my growth in sanctity and especially to Blessed Francisco, Blessed Jacinta and the North American Martyrs for their teaching me the dignity and beauty of suffering for the sanctification of the world. Also, to Saint John Paul II for being open to the prayers of Mary Our Lady of Fatima and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit – totus tuus Maria.
Father Tom DeSimone was ordained a priest on May 13, 2006, the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He most recently served as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in White Plains, NY. He joins the staff of the Theology of the Body Institute on a three year leave from the Archdiocese of New York, to become the Institute’s first full time spiritual advisor and Director of Clergy Development.
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