Monday, December 1, 2014

Prayers for Fr. TJ Martinez, SJ

Prayers for Fr. TJ Martinez, SJ

Today, (Tuesday, December 2nd) Father TJ Martinez will be buried in Houston. I ask for us all to take a moment and say a prayer for him. Below is a letter by Fr. James Martin,SJ about his friend. Also there is a video about Father Martinez if you wish to view it click here. 

Until tomorrow, God Bless, and may we always prayer for one another in difficult times.    

Dear friends: I am more sad than I can express to share with you the news that T.J. Martinez, SJ, died this morning. I know that many of you knew him, and many of you were praying for him. 

It’s impossible for me to relate how much TJ meant to his brother Jesuits, to his family and many friends, to the students and faculty at Cristo Rey Houston, to Catholics in Houston, and to me. I am so sad to have to describe him for people who did not have the grace to meet him or to know him. Even though he had been battling stomach cancer for several months, I can’t believe that he died at such a young age—44. 

I guess it’s best to say that I loved him like a brother, and so did thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people. TJ was absolutely effervescent, unfailingly hopeful and completely and totally devoted to Jesus Christ. His energy and zeal were simply phenomenal, legendary, and it’s hard to describe because, frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it before. He was just on fire with the love of Christ. 

The public TJ, the charismatic founding president of the Cristo Rey School in Houston, was well known in Houston, and when I visited him it was like being with the mayor of the city. Certain saints are called the “Apostle of Rome” or the “Apostle of Brazil.” TJ was the “Apostle of Houston.” Once, several years ago, I was giving a talk for Cardinal DiNardo, a warm and kindhearted man and a good friend of TJ’s, at an Archdiocesan Prayer Gathering. As the event came to a close, TJ wandered from table to table, chatting and laughing with half the people eating their meals and hugging the other half. Cardinal DiNardo playfully said to him, when he returned to his seat, “Stop stealing my donors!” 

TJ was at ease with everyone, from cardinals to archbishops to Jesuit priests to faculty to parents to students in his beloved school, for which he raised funds, built and then ran. From wealthy donors with ranches to poor students with very little by way of material possessions. Everyone seemed to take delight in his spirit. Including me. (The photo here is one I took on a visit to Houston as Cristo Rey was being built. He's laughing and telling me that the colors of the school's crest--orange--match the cover of a recent book I wrote. "We did it on PURPOSE!")

As for the private TJ, I want to share a few things because I think it’s important to show you what holiness is like today. 

I only got to knew TJ well in the last four or five years. Though we are not that far apart in Jesuit formation, our paths had not crossed much until then. So when I was first getting to know him, I marveled to a friend, “Is he always that energetic?” My friend laughed and said, “Yes!”

TJ was unbelievably supportive to his Jesuit brothers. Recently—that is, while he was undergoing cancer treatments—he found the time to spend with young Jesuits in formation at St. Louis University. I found that deeply moving. But he was supportive with everyone he knew. TJ was an inveterate texter, too: and his texts were supportive and funny and lighthearted and always designed to build you up. His effusive texts always had multiple exclamation points and lots of CAPS, and on a down day nothing could pick me up faster. When I told him I was praying for him, he wrote, after some lines of sunny comments, “Most excellent hermanito, prayers from you count TWICE!!!”

In the last months of his life TJ revealed a depth of faith that I don’t think I've ever experienced. I don’t think TJ would mind me sharing the following, so I’ll share it. 

TJ was diagnosed with stomach cancer as he was finishing his tertianship, the last stage of Jesuit formation, which he did in East Africa. We corresponded a lot before he left because I had worked for two years in Kenya, and he told me he wanted to visit some of the sites where I had worked. (He did, and sent me some hysterical texts about it, with lots of exclamation points.) 

Like all of his Jesuit brothers and friends, I couldn’t believe the news about his diagnosis. Of all people, TJ seemed to be unstoppable: a wellspring of energy. He had thought that the stomach pain was perhaps the normal gastrointestinal aches and pains of being in an unfamiliar part of the developing world.

After his diagnosis, I asked him how he was doing. “Well,” he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I just finished with my Long Retreat, and I made my offer of myself to Jesus.” In the Spiritual Exercises, the final prayer is the “Take, Lord, Receive” prayer, one of total surrender of all that you have to Jesus: “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me. " 

TJ had just made that prayer at the end of his retreat.

"So this is the perfect time for this to happen to me," he said. "I was ready.” 

He asked everyone to pray for healing, for a miracle, through the intercession of his great patron, Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ, whose last words before his martyrdom, “Viva Cristo Rey!” gave name to the school TJ founded Houston. I know many students of Cristo Rey, and many of his friends, will be sorrowful that the kind of miracle we prayed for never happened. But I think that you did see a miracle: his life. 

A few months back, in the summertime, when I was on vacation and when TJ was feeling better, I had a long conversation with him and asked him about death. I thought it better to be honest with my brother. I knew he was thinking about it, and he knew I knew he was thinking about it. So I asked him: Do you think about death much? “Yes,” he said. "I don't dwell on it. But I do." 

And here I will not paraphrase because it’s important for people to know what faith is like. 

He said, “Well, Jim, I’m a Jesuit, right? And Jesuits are always given a mission. So if my mission from Jesus right now is to be sick, then I accept it. And if my mission is to die, then I accept that mission, too.” 

A few days ago, I sent, through both his kind Jesuit superior and another friend, a letter saying my goodbye. I knew I wouldn’t be getting any more funny texts or hysterical phone calls any longer and our next meeting would be, God willing, in the fullness of time. TJ’s brother passed on a message to me from TJ, and then the other friend relayed what TJ had told him that day: 

“The last six years of my life have been my best assignment ever,” he said. 

“But my next one will be even better.”

Rest in peace, Querido. You gave us all such joy. We will miss you so much. But we return you now to Christ the King, to whom you gave yourself. In return, he gives you a new mission: everlasting joy.

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 176

Reading 1
IS 11:1-10
On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment. 
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save. 
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
LK 10:21-24

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike. 
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. 
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

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