The Gift of Tears

Why Are You Crying?

Are there any situations in your life in which you can’t help but tear up? Or cry? Are there any spiritual, sacramental or ecclesial experiences that bring tears to your eyes? How about social, family or patriotic circumstances?

We know there is a biological factor – a release within us that triggers us to cry at the saddest of our life experiences. Saying good-bye to someone we are close with. The death of a loved one.We know and accept that these latter situations may cause us to cry. The crying that we do in these circumstances is a physical response to sadness.

But then — there’s the ‘gift of tears.’ A gift that many of us have experienced. Sometimes somewhat explosively and totally unexpected. Sometimes experienced with tender sweetness.

For more than a dozen years, I’ve attended the annual summer priest, deacon and seminarian retreats at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. There are always a lot of joyful and emotional experiences there; most related to liturgical events. But then – there are the unexpected moments of ‘the gift.’ 

A former homicide detective — now a deacon, he shared with me: “I’ve seen a lot and it takes an awful lot for me to feel any emotions. But when I walked into this large gathering of priests and deacons — the praise music was uplifting and the voices of all those men praising God… it was so awesome that my eyes flooded with tears. I started ‘crying.’ ”

Do you have any situations in your faith journey that bring you to great tenderness? Here’s an email sent to me as a response to the first of three columns I wrote (in 2007!) for the Catholic Mom website. Her name is Diana. 

Comment: “Sir, Thank you for this article. I am not Catholic. I was raised in the Baptist Church but have not attended for quite some time. Yesterday, a friend of mine who is a devout Catholic, took me to a funeral mass with her. (I was assisting her with the funeral luncheon). As the parishioners were going up to receive communion, I went up as well just to receive the blessing. Afterward, I went back to sit in the pew and I began to cry. Not sobbing or anything, but tears I could not control we’re pouring down my face. It puzzled me so much that I turned to Google and found this (your) article. Could this “gift of tears” be what it was?

Thank you. Diana

In church parlance, a strong experience of God can be so overwhelming that tears flow. I know this has been the case in my own life. I often don’t feel this coming; I’m not actually sure why my eyes become ‘glassy,’ I just know they are.

People of all ages can experience this. It is usually a sign that you are experiencing God working in your life in an intimate way.

Ignatius of Loyola often said we should pray for the gift of tears. That we should be moved beyond our usual emotions when experiencing God in our life that it overwhelms us. He even called for us to consider our sinfulness and to be overcome not by guilt, but by God’s overwhelming love in forgiving us. We cry because we know that we are “loved-sinners.”

On April 2, 2005, I was deacon at Holy Mass on a Saturday evening. It was ‘my weekend’ to preach. I had prepared a homily that had two beginnings. One, in the circumstance of Pope John Paul II if he was still ‘hanging on’ and alive. The other opening was if he had passed away. And we remember (because many of us know where we were when we  heard about his death), he died earlier that day Italy time. And so I preached on the ‘passing and life’ of the the one we now call Pope St. John Paul the Great.

At that April 2nd Mass of Anticipation, the celebrant was a relatively young Polish priest who grew up in Krakow, was finally educated in Michigan, and was now our pastor. I so vividly remember as I stood beside him, that at the Consecration, this ‘tough’ European-formed Pole started weeping as he struggled to say the words of Consecration… tears running down his cheeks as he held up the Host.  Loss of a loved one? Probably yes. Something deeper? 

The Gift of Tears. I’d like to know of your experiences.


Deacon Tom Fox


This entry was posted in Blog and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.