Fr. Thomas H. Green, S.J. (1932-2009)

I did not know Fr. Tom Green, S.J. very well. I met him once, quite recently in fact, when I attended a recollection/seminar called Growing in Prayer: The Analogy of Human Love at Union Church of Manila. This was last February 7, 2009.

Last March 16, I went to listen to Bishop Ambo David talk about the Spirituality of Stewardship in a Lenten Recollection. It was from him that I heard that Fr. Tom Green had passed away. He passed away on March 13, 2009. He would have turned 77 years old tomorrow. His funeral mass will be tomorrow, Thursday, March 19, 2009 at the Church of the Gesu at Ateneo de Manila University. This will be at 8am. Interment will follow at the Sacred Heart Novitiate Cemetery in Novaliches, Quezon City.

Fr. Green was the Spiritual Director of San Jose Seminary in Manila and was a Professor of Philosophy and Theology at the Ateneo de Manila University and the Loyola School of Theology. He was a prolific writer, writing nine books on prayer and spirituality, including classics like Opening to God and When the Well Runs Dry. It was partly because of the fact that he had written so many books on prayer (he had written nine while I have only written one book on stewardship!) that I was intrigued enough to listen to what he had to say. I likewise bought two of his nine books but have not gotten around to reading them. I consider myself blessed, though, that I had the chance to have him sign the books during that one encounter.

During the recollection (or seminar), Fr. Green did not disappoint. Even as he delivered his talk while sitting down the whole time and even if he wasn't very theatrical or exaggerated in his delivery, he made a lot of sense and made me realize a lot of things as I sat and listened that afternoon. For the first time, I was enlightened about the difference between saying your prayers and praying.

He looked kind of formal and stern but when I talked to him briefly when I had him sign the books that I bought, he was quite accommodating. Not very friendly but not cold either. I felt like giving him a copy of my Mom's A Stewardess book and as I handed him a copy, he quickly commented: "This looks happy. Thank you."

We had meant to invite him to also give a talk at our parish about prayer and he instructed me to get in touch with San Jose Seminary directly to schedule the talk. Life had gotten very busy for me lately and so I have not been able to call. I have also been putting it off since our target date for the talk was still some time away in June or September this year. What do you know. Fr. Tom got called to heaven first.

Fr. Tom struck me as a very wise and knowledgeable person, with a good sense of humor. During the talk, he entertained the audience with interesting stories and in the three hours or so that I sat there, I can honestly tell you that I did not get bored. I was kind of sad when the talk came to the end since I wanted to hear more and learn more from him.

I plan to share some of the points that Fr. Tom highlighted during his talk through the internet so that more people can benefit from his teachings. I also recommend that you get hold of his books which are published by St. Pauls.

During the talk, Fr. Green discussed what prayer is all about. He went into the techniques needed for prayer and how, since prayer is life, the way we pray, changes through time. He likened prayer to a love relationship between a couple, where a couple moved from knowing, to loving, to truly loving.

Fr. Tom was very candid and honest when he also shared that his prayer life had been dry for so many decades (did I hear right -- fifty years or was it thirty?). He referred to what St. John of the Cross referred to as the Dark Night or what he referred to as the Dry Well when you realize that in prayer, just like in relationships, the honeymoon does not last forever. Still, he persisted in praying as he realized that "dryness is not desolation." Asked about whether it is possible that one returns to the "honeymoon" after the Dark Night, he told a story about a man who once asked him about how long the Dark Night lasts and to which he replied: "How long do you intend to live?"

For Fr. Tom, the Dark Night has ended. He is most likely enjoying himself in heaven, talking to the angels about prayer still, after which he shall retire and enjoy some blue cheese and classical music. He will never have to listen again to newer songs and watch the youth singing and dancing to today's music and appearing to have a "collective nervous breakdown." =)

Fr. Tom is the perfect example of how the few things you say in one instance can affect another person's life immensely. I only spent three or four hours listening to him but I will remember his teachings for a lifetime. Rest in peace Fr. Tom. To all our viloria readers, please say a prayer for the repose of the soul of Fr. Tom Green. All who have heard him and who were taught by him will miss him but I am sure that he is very happy now to be with our God who is always in control. Fr. Green, say hi for us to the Lord of the Dance, will you?

[By Angelica Viloria | Thursday, March 19, 2009]

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