An elderly Tom Zimmer sitting outside the Holy House.
I'm sharing this story because I met Tom Zimmer, many years ago. I only realized after reading this story that he has died. He was an eccentric, and was known to receive Communion several times a day - since throughout the day, he attended every Mass he could. Tom also knew about and pretty much followed nearly every apparition ever reported. He had a huge devotion to The Mother of All Nations, and Our Lady of the Roses - Bayside and San Damiano. Needless to say, I was skeptical about his spirituality. He took copious notes, his writing similar in style to that of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. His printing extremely small, filling every space on a sheet of paper. He did this in a spirit of poverty. Though he could be a bit critical of the post-VII Church, he was devoted to the Ordinary Form and faithful to Catholic teaching in every way.
I met him in Garabandal, then later, at San Damiano, and then again in Rome. He was tall and very thin, and had thick black hair when I met him. He looked gaunt and seemed to be fasting all the time. Without boasting, he told me he originated the Pieta prayer book, but never accepted payment. His spiritual life was devotional, many rosaries, chaplets, litanies and novenas. He prayed without ceasing. He was an authentic soul, a genuine pilgrim, and a very gentle man - albeit eccentric. I do finally believe that he was a very holy man as well. The Capuchins seem to think so as well.
I'm genuinely sorry, if not ashamed, that I dismissed him as crazy or naive, just because his spirituality/devotion was expressed in response to reputed apparitions and locutions from Heaven, and his prayer seemed to be centered around so many devotions of popular piety. Eccentrics, fools for Christ, however one describes men or women like Tom, they cling to Christ and Our Lady, and persevere to the end. Thank God for men like Tom who contradict the proud, the self-righteous, and the rigid.
(Edit note:) The claims he made about Trump are interesting, that's all. If he made such a statement it isn't a testimony to Trump's personal holiness. Indeed, he could be a bad man and yet under his watch, the U.S. could well return 'back to God' as Tom put it. That said, as far as promonitions and locutions go, remember what St. John of the Cross said regarding them:
"[...] Souls are misled by imparting to God's locutions and revelations a literal interpretation, and interpretation according to the outer rind. As has been explained, God's chief objective in conferring these revelations is to express and impart the elusive, spiritual meaning contained in the words. This spiritual meaning is richer and more plentiful than the literal meaning and transcends those limits."[...] "Anyone bound to the letter, locution, form, or apprehensible figure cannot avoid serious error and will later become confused for having been led by the literal sense and not having allowed for the spiritual meaning which is divested of the literal sense. ('The letter kills, the spirit gives life' - 2 Cor. 3:6)" - Read St. John of the Cross, The Ascent, Bk II, Chapter 18 and 19
The Story about Zimmer:
[I] spoke with Fr. Giuseppe Santarelli, who has been in Loreto for decades and would surely know more.
I knew Fr. Santarelli to be one of the more erudite and learned friars in Loreto. He works as the director of the “Congregazione Universale della Santa Casa” which promotes devotion to the Holy House and publishes a magazine, among other things. So I popped in and introduced myself.
I immediately sensed that Fr. Santarelli, not much taller than five feet, was a kindly gentleman. I told him that I was there to inquire about an American “penitent” who lived in Loreto back in the 1990s and prayed frequently in the Holy House.
Fr. Santarelli cut me off, “Ah sì, Thomas Zimmer si chiamava... certo che mi ricordo...” (“Ah yes, Thomas Zimmer was his name, of course I remember him...”). He went on to say that everyone in Loreto knew of him.
I told him about the “premonition” Tom had made about Donald Trump and that a video of an American priest discussing it had just gone viral on the internet. Fr. Santarelli just smiled and added that he did not know anything about that, but that him making such a prophecy was perfectly in character. I asked him what he knew about Thomas.
He said Tom was in Loreto for about ten years, he was very pious and devoted, he went to Mass every opportunity he could, he was constantly in prayer, he spoke fluent Italian and possibly other languages, and the friars held him in high regard. The only issue that any friars may have had with him is that he received Communion more than twice daily, and they asked him to refrain from doing so. He said that he knew Tom had gone back to the US before he died. He didn’t recall exactly, but he thought somewhere around 2008.
He said that the basilica had received word of his death and they had a record of it. He took me into another room where there were some archives and pulled out a ledger or two, but could not find the document he was looking for.
He then said that he had a photo of Tom, and he pulled out a hardbound book from a different shelf. It was a type of album. In it, Tom Zimmer can be seen frail and hunched over leaning on a cane sitting in front of the Holy House. He let me take a picture of it. - Tom Zimmer, Hermit of Loreto