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Ask the Deacon

Question from Arlene: 

How often should a child go to confession?

I'd like to respond with two answers: First - children are a great gift and we hope to help lead them... form them to become saints. In that regard, if the child is spiritually oriented and really trying to grow in holiness, I don't think it would be too much for the young person to consider weekly confession. 
That said, if the child is 'typical' -- and not involved in anything out of the ordinary, then once a month attendance at this sacrament would establish a pattern of graces and formation that s/he would take into the teen years and beyond.
What a wonderful topic to ask about. I will bet you are really trying your best to help raise a 'saint.' :-)
deacon tom

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much for your outreach regarding family or a loved one who struggles with same sex attraction (SSA). I sense raw emotions that you may be experiencing. These can include guilt, confusion, upset and fear of complete alienation with those who have other thinking or formation. We who hold to the teachings of the Catholic Church struggle with how to reconcile such beliefs with those we care for.

I am not a counselor nor do I have any advanced training in this area. First off, we need to be strong in our faith life... our prayer and utter dependence upon the Lord. And not that I want to equate same sex attraction with any form of addiction (alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.), but it isn't our role to 'change' anyone. It is up to God's grace and the person themselves to change their behavior. They need to come to a new understanding of living according to God's plan for men and women. Those with SSA can come to an understanding that humanity is broken in many ways. This is a result of the effects of original sin. Each of us needs to struggle with our personal weaknesses, failings and issues and try to grow in holiness.

There is a wonderful organization formed in cooperation with the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is called the Courage RC (for Roman Catholic) organization. There are loads of resources for those who struggle with same sex attraction.

There is also resource material for those effected by family or friends with this SSA attraction. It's called EnCourage -- and the web link to see articles or videos for you -- go to

EnCourage is a ministry within Courage dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who have same-sex ...

I will keep your intentions in my prayers. Blessings.
Deacon Tom

Deacon Tom Fox was ordained a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver. Deacon Tom served three years in Colorado before transferring to the Tucson Diocese of Arizona. In addition to parish and community ministry, Tom has been active in various forms of new media evangelization. He has been a columnist at the popular Catholic Mom website, and he has done recorded audio reflections and homilies on a variety of internet sites. For almost seven years, Deacon Tom and his wife (Dee) have co-hosted the Catholic Vitamins Podcast - a topic-driven program on the web which has hosted bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, singers, musicians, evangelists and authors. The Catholic Vitamins slogan is 'Nourish Your Faith From A to Z.'  For the past several years and currently, Deacon Tom has led a project which has brought an FM Catholic radio station (KPIH 98.9) to the north central Arizona community where he and Dee reside. 

Question from Charlie

Are Deacons "On Call"?
In their capacity are Deacons required to be available for administering the church sacraments and teachings at the request of the priest or Bishop without being scheduled?

Hi Charlie - thank you for your outreach and question regarding deacons in the Catholic Church.
A few points: deacons are ordained ministers in the Church. They are given what are called 'faculties' for different forms of service by the bishop of the diocese they belong to. Most often, although not categorically, deacons are assigned to work in a parish setting and to work with the direction of the pastor or administrator of the parish.
All these said - a deacon only administers (confers) two sacraments: baptism of infants and witness to Catholic marriage. A deacon may proclaim the Gospel, dispense the Eucharist, and lead funeral services or committals at a grave side. A deacon does not hear confessions, nor does he ordain other clergy nor do the sacraments of anointing of the sick or confirmation.
In specific response to your question, these normal deacon functions are normally done on a scheduled basis OR on an as-needed basis (e.g. funeral service). 
I hope these paragraphs shed some light on the intent of your question.
Deacon Tom

EVELYN shares her experience of

The Gift of Tears 

I have had countless experience of tears flowing often in mass praying after receiving communion, at retreats, and sometimes during adoration. I don't remember when or how it first started. When the tears flow, I have no idea why I am crying and will be wondering why as I wipe them off as much as I can due to embarrassment, but sometimes it just won't stop. I never knew that there is such a thing as gift of tears and I didn’t thought much of it as I thought it is just because I’m quite emotional and cry easily especially when watching movies and listening to lyrics of a song. Now that I read more from the internet on this gift of tears I’m somewhat convinced I received it, but still am unsure as I read somewhere that many people incorrectly assume the gift of tears when its got to do with crying while being emotional 

Fill out the form below. If you would like to remain anonymous, enter your name as anonymous. We will post your questions and the answers on the right hand side of this page.

More Topics and

Q and A below

From Maria

about the Gift of Tears

I google “tears while praying the Rosary” because I’m scared. I was atheist but God had a plan that’s all I can say. Two weeks ago I felt this urge to pray the Rosary. I found the information to do it, and I started praying the Rosary. I can’t resist; the need is similar to the desire of water after running for miles, that is the best way I can explain it. It’s a precious moment, but during the hail Marys, I start to cry. It’s a quiet, healing, crying. I need to understand what’s going on with myself. I hope you can guide me.


Tender greetings Maria. If you’ve had a chance to skim or read some of the experiences brought about by this topic/column, you’ll see that people – many people have shared about the how and when of their ‘gift of tears.’ I think it’s personal – a unique gift of God. Sometimes, it’s to ‘wash’ our soul – bathe it and renew innocence. Sometimes, people experience it and they feel incredible closeness to God, to Jesus or Mary. Sometimes, it’s a tenderness brought about by the mistakes and sinful ways we damaged our relationship with the Lord. 

I can’t ‘diagnose’ your particular situation – but I do believe it’s a gift. Thank God for it. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t worry if others see this. 

Blessings. Caring thoughts.

deacon tom


Why is it that Catholics shouldn't receive the Eucharist if they are living with someone and they are not in a sacramental marriage (meaning married in the Church)?

If a person is civilly divorced, that person is welcome to participate in the fullness of the Church practices. However, if you wish to marry again, an annulment is necessary before one can be married in the Church and before one can receive the Eucharist.

Do you have interest in learning more about the Catholic faith? We hope so, and we'd like to help. Why has the Catholic Church lasted for over 2,000 years when no other organization has? Why were hundreds of thousands of people moved to tears of great joy when they saw or met the late Pope Saint John Paul II? What is it that's so contagious about current Holy Father Pope Francis? The answer? The Catholic Church is guided by the Holy Spirit in spite of problems and sinful members. And so, saint or sinner, we welcome you to learn more about our beautiful faith and the sacraments that help us to live as Jesus intended.

Question:  from Anonymous about homosexuality
How do you explain so many young people claiming to be proud homosexuals and Christians at the same time, and what advise do you have for parents who find that their homosexual child has chosen to eliminate them from their life because they do not agree with the homosexual lifestyle? Why is it that the older generation was raised to believe it is wrong, but this newer generation is raised to believe it is perfectly normal and, in fact, instead of being ashamed, they are downright proud to call themselves homosexuals? It's as if it's the newest fad. What can you tell parents who feel they have lost their child to this new fad/cult. If a homosexual child is holding her parents emotional captive in showing them that only those who accept her lifestyle will be welcomed into her life, do we then throw our own values out the window and pretend we accept something we do not? Our children and students are crying to us asking why did God create me if I am a mistake? What do we tell them? Were we the ones being lied to, or are our children being lied to? I can not listen to the radio or read the news anymore without these issues popping up EVERYWHERE, even churches and the supreme court are now condoning homosexual marriages. It is dividing our country and our families. Friends and family make me feel like I failed, like I did something wrong. Did I? Can you help parents feel less confused? 


End of life dilemma -  A major decision

about keeping a loved one alive

Tom, my father just passed away from a massive stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body. He could not swallow, so he could not eat, and he was unresponsive, although he would respond to us by squeezing our hands or tapping his toe to some Glen Miller. He has been in an assisted living home in Ft. Collins for the past year and they found him in the bathroom unresponsive, took him to the hospital and he died very peacefully four days later. 
I immediately thought of you for advice when the doctor told us that he would not recover from this stroke. He said he would be bed ridden, on a feeding tube, and pretty much unresponsive, although he said he could probably advance to a wheelchair after a couple years but would have to be lifted in and out of bed. At the time, I didn’t have your phone number or email so couldn’t contact you.  
Tom, my dilemma is this. My sister and I had to make the decision to either keep him alive in the condition described above or let him go. We spoke with a local priest and he told us that it is ok to let him go but to make sure that he is comfortable and hydrated throughout the dying process. We struggled for a day and a half about this. The doctor told us that if we continued an IV he might last a week or more. So we decided to pull the IV and let him go. Although I adamantly told the doctor and nurses to keep him comfortable with oral swabs etc. 
I am still struggling with this and feel a great deal of guilt and pain over my decision. Could you please shed some light on this for us?  We so enjoyed hearing you speak when you were in Estes, and yes I think our grandson was your first baptism! I feel so guilty in letting Dad go, but he was as comfortable as they could keep him.  I just don’t know if I made the right decision or not. I just didn’t want Dad to live like that, and I’m sure he would not have wanted to. 
Thank you.


Hello Bob. Thanks for your outreach even though the subject matter is painful and raw for you. I'm sorry for your loss and for the weight of the decisions that you and your family faced about your dad. Each diocese has a moral theologian that can help in such circumstances -- but of course, in their stress, most of the laity who face these situations don't think of faith resources. I am glad you talked to a priest. From your email, I don't know enough to make any kind of an observation or judgment. I did find some guidance about End of Life Issues and Care for the Dying. It is separate from this email.
First off -- what is done now is done. It may have had moral issues associated with it -- as I said -- I don't know. But it wouldn't honor your father to carry guilt for a long time. He is surely in a better place and state than what was going on with him then. 
After reading the  brief guidelines -- I would have  you ask for a meeting with Fr. ...... at the parish. Tell him you know me and that I baptized your grandson and have known you for a lot of years. Perhaps you can have a 30 minute meeting with him -- and if necessary, make a good confession with him at the end of your meeting. That's what I would do. May it help you to come to peace with the actions which were sort of forced, unnatural and painful....
And finally -- I deal with people a lot who are Catholic - they want marriage or funeral or annulment help and they've never registered anywhere. They are not known or participating in the Church. This isn't right and I challenge you and your wife in this regard. We owe the Church our participation, our membership in the faith community, our prayers, our help and not just an envelope for the collection plate. Register in the parish where you spend the majority of your time - and try to become an active member.
The above said - I am so pleased that you reached out. I hope we can stay in touch. My contact info is below. Please call if you wish to talk with me in person. 
deacon tom

Do you have the Gift of Tears ? 

Are you an emotional person? Do you cry at the drop of a hat? Or, are you a cold, stoic sort of person who doesn’t like to show emotions at all? Well – I’ve had this column in my mind and heart for quite a while. I’m not sure whether I want to see how many of you are ‘tender.’ Or am I writing these words to sort of explain why I can get ‘glassy-eyed,’ sometimes even in front of men.

I try not to let that happen – but in certain circumstances – even in front of men I can become ‘emotional.’ 

Well – there you are. We use words like ‘emotional’ and ‘tender’ and ‘weepy.’ The dictionary says that to be weepy is to: (1) easily be moved to tears; or: (2) marked by weeping. Those who are like this would probably say we are easily moved to tears but not marked by or noted for weeping. If you go to the proper area of the dictionary for the word ‘tender’ – it says: to be easily moved to sympathy or compassion; kind: a tender heart. 

There you go – compassion and caring. That’s what makes us tender. I can become tender when I come in proximity to a pregnant mom. When I see a young mother with a baby – I want to take the child into my arms and love on and pray for him or her. But it isn’t just babies. Music can make me quite tender.

I’e done a dozen retreats at Franciscan University in Steubenville – and a lot of the music and words brought out this gift of tears in me. Danielle Bean (editor of the Catholic Digest monthly magazine) did a blog column about an order of Dominican nuns. The column included a video of the nuns at work, at prayer and at play. It was so beautiful – it caused tears. Not ‘boo hoo’ crying – but tender tears of appreciation for the beauty

of God’s plan unfolding in the lives of these women. 

You may have heard of the early leaders of the Catholic Church – they are called the Church Fathers. Saint Ignatius of Loyola is said to have had the “gift of tears.” He sometimes cried so much at Mass that he could not go on, nor even talk for some time,

and he was afraid that his gift of tears might cause him to lose his eyesight. 

Church Fathers who wrote of such things acknowledged us who are tender. They wrote about the gift of tears and even their words make me tender because they explained the benefit for those of us who have this ‘condition.’ They said that the gift of tears is like a new baptism… cleansing and healing the soul. These tears create a period of the cleanness we experienced when we were baptized as infants. Isn’t that tender? There can be different reasons for experiencing the gift of tears. For some – it may be a reaction to the sorrow for our sins.

Don’t like that one? There’s the one I mentioned above: seeing beauty – seeing it as a miniature vision – recognition of God’s plan for us. No wonder I become emotional when in proximity to small children… or brides… or pregnant moms. Somewhere recently I wrote that one of my favorite popular Christian songs is: “I Can Only Imagine.” Do you know it? If you have the Gift of Tears – I invite you to listen to the words with careful attention.

It always touches me when I hear this song played. 

Now if one cries at ‘every little thing,’ it’s not a good thing. St. Teresa spoke about this and warned her nuns. We need to be tougher than that. We need to be the Church Militant about what goes on in our world. St Teresa wrote: “It is easy to know when tears come from this source (God), for they are soothing and gentle rather than stormy and rarely do any harm.” She also warned that this gift does not mean one has true virtue… “Let us not fancy that if we cry a great deal we have done all that is needed-rather we must work hard and practice the virtues: that is essential–leaving tears to fall

when God sends them, without trying to force ourselves to shed them.” 

If you are a person with the Gift of Tears – I’d love to hear from you. And – if you ever experience this while you are in deep prayer

or contemplation – I especially would like to hear from you.

This is an indication of a deep, deep state of prayer – what is called ‘infused’ prayer and union with God. I wonder if THE Catholic Mom Lisa Hendey has this gift? I bet she does. So – it’s okay…. It’s okay. But I’d still like to hear from you. 


Deacon Tom 

Deacon Tom Fox