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Topic: Learning for Life (08/23/04)
TITLE: Accepting the Call
By Kristin Slavik
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“This is Julie. Father Tim has been injured in Iraq. His injuries are life threatening, please pray for him.”
My eyes teared up and my mind went numb. How could this be happening?
I ran to the bathroom to relay the news to my husband. He was devastated. Tim was his second cousin and had married us nearly twelve years ago. “What can we do?” He asked. “We can pray,” I said.
When my children heard the news they wanted to know why he was in such a dangerous place at all. My husband smiled and said, “Well, there is a lot to the story of Hollywood Henry.”
I gave him a puzzled look because I had never even heard of Hollywood Henry. He winked at me and began an amazing story: “Henry was born in Minnesota and there was always something different about him. He was always kind of goofy, yet he had this twinkle in his eyes that spoke of love, peace, mischievousness and so much more. He was a child that liked school and always wanted to learn more.
“Once, when he was on a trip to Denmark, he got on the bus with a huge smile, a fanny-pack, and dark sunglasses on. Now, Henry never met a stranger more than once because after meeting you he always knew you as a friend. The other students on the bus decided that his glasses and big smile made him look like he was from Hollywood. From that time on many knew him as Hollywood Henry.
“Since Henry liked school so much, he spent a lot of time in college and became very influential in his fraternity. He took a job after college with that fraternity and traveled to many states learning and meeting new people.
“He loved his job, but Henry knew that God was calling him to do more. So he went back to seminary and became a priest. His full name was Henry Timothy and his father’s name was also Henry. So when he became a priest he went from Hollywood Henry to Father Tim. He was assigned to a parish in Minnesota and settled down to that life. That was when he married you mother and I and many others. He still loved meeting people and took it upon himself to know the whole town.
“Soon, Father Tim began to think that his call was still for something more. He left his little parish in MN and asked to be assigned to the military. He was given a position as an army chaplain and he traveled around the world meeting people and learning everywhere he went. Last year he was stationed in Washington State when the call came in for him to go with his troops to Iraq. They needed army chaplains who were willing to go overseas and support our troops. I don’t think he even thought twice about whether he should go. He spent his whole life accepting the call.”
“So, why would God let him get hurt?” My son’s voice asked quietly.
I responded slowly, “Well, I know that God doesn’t just let things happen. The world does that. God is with him now. Whatever happens to Tim, the rest of us need to learn from him. He spent his whole life learning, trusting, and accepting whatever call God gave him.”
A couple of months have passed since we first found out about Father Tim’s injuries. He has lost much. He is missing an eye, he is paralyzed on one side and he has never regained the ability to speak. Yet he is still fighting. We now know through a web-site dedicated to him that the number of people he reached is simply amazing. He spent his time in Iraq building a church, a school and going to dangerous areas that others would not go to lead mass. Even his injuries have brought together many in his family that have not been close in the past.
The call I received on Memorial Day was a reminder that we must all keep learning and accepting the call.