The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Jerome and me


Today marks the feast of St. Jerome— a prolific writer, scholar, and friend of lions (he reputedly helped one by removing a thorn from its paw).

He’s also someone close to my own heart. In his youth, my father was a Christian Brother, and was given the name of “Brother Jerome” — a fact I didn’t discover until long after he had died, and my aunt gave me the pocket watch he carried, engraved “Br. J.”


Then, in 2002, on this very day, I joined dozens of other men and their wives for Evening Prayer at St. James Cathedral in Brooklyn, and we began together our journey of aspirancy to the diaconate. Bishop Daily greeted each of us and gave us a copy of the New American Bible. I remembered my father’s connection to the saint of the day, and saw it as a promising sign.

Five years later, to my amazement and wonder, I lay prostrate on the floor of a great basilica for my ordination, while the Litany of Saints was chanted over me, and grace hovered overhead. I heard St. Gregory. And St. Jerome. And I closed my eyes against gathering tears, remembering my father’s pocket watch, which at that moment was resting against my heart, pressed against the stone floor.


Happy Feast Day, Jerome. Happy Feast Day, Dad.

Almighty, ever-living God, you endowed Saint Jerome with a
deep reverence for Holy Scripture, which he loved with all his heart.
  Sustain us ever more with your word and help us to
find in it the source of life.
[We make our prayer] through our Lord Jesus Christ, your
  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy
  God for ever and ever.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 10:01 am

WOW! What a wonderful inheritance from your Dad! Happy Feast Day to you too, Deacon Greg. Even though you don’t share the name, you are obviously meant to share a special connection to this day and this saint. We all have a story. What a blessing that you know and can share this part of YOUR story.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 10:15 am

Aha! So THAT explains those awesome homolies; Holy Spirit AND St. Jerome. Lucky us (for you)!

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Deacon Jim

posted September 30, 2010 at 10:21 am

Deacon Greg,
Happy feast day! We are so lucky as Catholics to have these wonderful men and women as examples of how our lives can be changed and used for the betterment of society by truly dedicating them to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! God bless†
Deacon Jim

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posted September 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Michael and I wish you a Happy Feast Day, Greg. We are blessed to have you in our midst – to read your words, to listen to you preach, and to see you each week. May God continue to bless you and your lovely wife.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Happy feastday Dcn Greg! But even more than your connection to St. Jerome, I am impressed by the fact that the Bishop was at your acceptance into aspirancy. In our class we didn’t see the Auxillary Bishop (or any bishop) until well into aspriancy and by the third year were still waiting for an offical visit from the Archbishop. I hear its pretty much the same today. But then our vocation director also told me that the seminarians never see the Archbishop and only 2 have met him in person. Interesting correlation to our Archdiocese’s drastic shortage of vocations I think.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Deacon Greg,
I am curious: your father was a Christian Brother? One of my best friends is finishing his novitiate in a Benedictine monastery. If I remember correctly, he has not professed solemn vows but lives in accordance with them. What sort of community was your father a part of? Did he join later in life, or did he take vows that did not include celibacy? You have piqued my interest!

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted September 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Michael …
My father joined right after high school, at the height of the Depression, and studied at LaSalle in Philadelphia. He stayed for about five years. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he left the Christian Brothers and joined the Army. He never took final vows.
Dcn. G.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Ah, I see. Thank you for sharing!

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posted September 30, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Deacon Greg,
Thank you for sharing this. You brought back awesome memories of that ‘hovering spirit’ on the floor of another basilica. May God continue to bless you as you do God’s will in the world.
God bless.

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posted September 30, 2010 at 11:05 pm

how morbid is that picture of St.Jerome, with that skull, it is like Halloween!!!
advanced HAPPY ALL SAINTS’ and SOULS’ DAY! (Oct.31,2010)
CAPTCHA: types torprote

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Mary Margaret

posted October 1, 2010 at 10:16 am

Thank you so much for sharing this, Deacon Kandra. Your father must be so joyful about you! May God bless you and all that you do.

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Mary Margaret

posted October 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

And, BTW, I recently saw the etching of St. Jerome and his lion and, for the first time, realized that the lion must represent St. Mark.

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted October 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Many paintings of saints have a skull somewhere on the canvas. The skull was to remind one of death and judgement(In Latin a “memento mori”)
There is one story out of a monastery wherein someone asked of a monk where the abbot was. The monk pointed to a skull on a table in the center of the chapel and said simply: “There.”
Back before the 20th Century even teen-agers knew death was always at the doorstep and even they didn’t expect to live forever as so many young people seem to believe they will today.
And Jerome is one of my favorite saints because–at least according to one biography I read years ago–he was blunt, honest, forthright, uncompromising. My impression is that if he ever heard of a priest or monk abusing someone, he would probably endeavor to himself strangle the abuser.

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