The God Squad: More Tommy stories

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Thanks to all you faithful readers for appreciating my column on the sixth anniversary of Father Tom Hartman’s death. Here are a couple that touched my heart.

Dear Rabbi Gellman, I enjoy reading your column. Having moved from Long Island to Florida a few years ago, I was happy to see that the Palm Beach Post carried your words of wisdom. Your most recent piece about Monsignor Hartman touched a chord with me, and I do have a humorous anecdote that I would like to share with you. In the early to mid-’80s I was working toward my master’s degree in school counseling at CW Post. A good friend of mine had just earned his MSW at Adelphi and invited me to a party at his house to celebrate. Among the attendees were members of his study group and fellow students. A good time was had by all. At one point, my wife and I were engaged in a very pleasant conversation with a guy who seemed to be unaccompanied. Very inappropriately I asked, “Is your wife here?” The response was “No, she is not.” My buddy, hearing the conversation, chimed in to say, “She's out of town.” Imagine my surprise when the next week in my “Death and Dying” course at Post the very familiar-looking guest speaker was introduced as Monsignor Thomas Hartman. Father Tom, this time in clerical garb, shared a humorous rendition of our cocktail conversation with the class. I noticed that you have commented before about Father Tom’s sense of humor, and I wanted to share that I briefly experienced it firsthand. Your column is great and appreciated, thank you! (From C)

Dear Rabbi Gellman, Father Tom came into my life in three different stages. The first time was in the ’80s when he hosted a radio show that mixed rock ‘n’ roll with inspirational messages. It was a very tumultuous time in my life and listening to his soft voice and inspirational messages brought a feeling of peace and calm to my suffering and sadness. In 1992, my grandson was born and since his teenage parents weren't married in a Catholic Church, Several parishes refused to baptize him. It perplexed me and angered me hearing that an innocent child of God was being denied his right of salvation from original sin because of the status of his parents' marriage. The baby’s father served as an altar boy and was a graduate of our local parish. His mother is also Catholic. She and her family lived down the block from their church. Father Tom, being who he was, baptized my grandson in the church down the block from his mother’s family home. I fell in love with him all over again. (From P in Freeport, New York)

Dear Rabbi Gellman, I have been reading your God Squad column for a very long time. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed, although bittersweet, your Remembering Tommy column this morning. I am a devout Catholic and whenever I read your column, I feel comforted to know and feel we are “all one”. I look forward to your column in our Palm Beach Post every Saturday morning. Thank you! (From J)

Dear Rabbi Gellman, as a Presbyterian Protestant, I would like to thank you for your thoughtful columns that do so much for inter-faith dialogue. Today's remembrance of your Catholic partner, Tommy, I found especially pleasing, and your unhesitant use of the word "death" to describe the inevitable. This has long been an irritant for me when I hear others using many euphemisms to avoid the term as if this is somehow going to change things. I found reading a book “The Death of Death,” by Rabbi Neil Gillman to be a wonderful commentary on the Jewish understanding of the end of life. As usual, I thank you for your words of wisdom. (From O)


Dear Rabbi Gellman, thank you for your recent column “Remembering Tommy”. It is very evident that Father Hartman’s views are reflected in your words. How could they not be? My brother died of COVID-19 in April 2020, and your words, as usual, spoke to me. I believe that I have found a place for death that has not “corroded my hope nor smothered my smile”. As a matter of fact, I am now able (sometimes) to smile first when I think of him before I cry. I thank you for that, also. And I loved the story of the woman in the hospital. That’s my favorite, too. May Father Hartman’s memory be a Blessing. Patience is a virtue. (from Piers Plowman) With Appreciation. (From S)

Thank you all for sharing your memories of Tommy. I hope the angels are laughing with him at the goofy joy a loving friendship can produce here on earth. (From Rabbi Gellman)

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)

©2022 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.





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