He was, for the longest time, assigned in San Jose Seminary, a formation house run by the Jesuits.
When I entered the seminary nine years ago, the book "Opening to God" was one of the staple books found in the shelves of my contemporaries, along with Dave Peltzer's "A Child Called It," Scott Peck's "Road Less Travelled," and of course, Bob Ong's "ABNKKBSNPLAko?!"
Perhaps I was struggling in the English language that time, or maybe I was not yet ready for spiritual books, or probably the lay out of the text was unappealing (the text are too cramped!) that it did not fascinate me.
But re-reading the same tome years after the first time I encountered it made me see the light, and the brilliance and the profound spirituality of its creator. The word “pray-er” (I believe he coined this word) has never lost its magnificence.
Soon, whenever our seminary formators would set us on the loose on book fair seasons, I would catch myself hunting books that bore his name. I have more than five titles in my possession which he wrote.
Six years ago, I went to join the vocation discernment held in the Ateneo de Manila University. I was torn between pursuing the Salesian life and curious to know more about the Jesuits. Boy, I was surprised that he would be around and he was invited to give the final talk. His accent was neutral, I didn’t detect any distracting slang as he enunciated words. He spoke very well.
In his talk, I still recall it clearly, he distinguished between self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction. His explanation was uncomplicated, but still, I felt the need to ask this question which touched on my own context “Father, I am a Salesian postulant, but I am here to see whether I am called to become a Jesuit. Now, how do I know if this is self-fulfillment or self-satisfaction?”
His answer was straightforward; and very human, I have to add, “If you’re here to compare whether the food of the Salesians is better than the food of the Jesuits, then, that's self-satisfaction.”
After the session with him, I went to him for an autograph (believe me, I seldom do this), and very warmly, he told me to send his regards to my companions in Canlubang.
Despite that short encounter, I am sure; I will miss you, Fr. Tom.
Thanks to Kevin for Fr. Tom's photo.