Have you friends with the name Timothy?

Friday, 9/11/15

St. Paul's affection for his disciple Timothy had me asking myself if I had ever known a Timothy whom I could call saintly. What I came up with was a Father Tim Connolly who once our superior in the Columban Fathers. I just looked up his name, and found that he had passed away in 1980. But it was back in 1947 that he became my hero. 

Back then I was just a seminary student with six more years of study ahead of me. But often after dinner in the evening when everyone liked getting out for a half hour walk, I would join the little group that liked walking with Father Tim.

I guess you could call his conversation light-hearted. He always 0sided with the little guy, rather than with those whom he referred to as "the brass."

Once our Father Tom Hanahoe was giving us a three day retreat, and it was terribly boring. On Sunday night, when we had resigned ourselves to another fifty of the same old stuff, we were delighted at having Father Tim Connolly come in. He said, "I had a bet with Tommy Hanahoe, and as you can see, I lost the bet."

He then asked us, "What is the main cause for priests going bad?"

He told us he had been asking that question all around, and he said, "Much to my surprise, an answer I got from two very fine men was that priests go bad when they are intentionally distracted when praying." He said it was a failing no one could detect. Then, looking for an example of that, he said that intentional daydreaming at prayer was like a little worm eating around and around in an apple until there is nothing left inside."

He had finished with his little example, when he suddenly had another thought. Enthusiastically he added, "It's only then that the worm sticks his head out, and the bishop sees him!"

In 1979 I visited Ireland, looking forward to seeing Father Tim in the priests retirement home. Someone told me Father Tim was sitting in the their lounge. The only one there was an expressionless man with a glass in his hand. I turned away, looking for Tim Connolly, and then I realized that this man was Tim Connolly. All of his wonderful wit was lost in that empty glass.

Although I never had much will power, I somehow managed to give up drinking thirty years ago, and it has given me extra healthy years. It's so sad to see how much the drink takes away from bright men.


Timothy ConnollyTimothWith the readings not furnishing me with a homily topic, I began foraging for ideas, and that had me wondering if the “Letter To Timothy” reminded me of any noteworthy Timothys.

The first three Timothys who came to my mind were Timothy O’Sullivan, Tim Broderick and Tim Connolly.

Timmy O’Sullivan, my high school classmate, was a sweet boy who was hopeless at studies. When we were doing Chemistry experiments together, Timmy, unable to follow our workbook, amused himself by taking a stick of Yellow Phosphorous, and smashing it in an empty matchbox. He was sitting at a soda counter after school when the thing blew up in his pocket, damaging both his right hand, and the coat of a lady sitting next to him.

Tim Broderick, at ninety, is a retired New York policeman. Along with sons who are most proud of him, Tim has countless people treasuring his friendship.

Tim Connolly was one of my superiors in the Columban Fathers. Whenever I saw him taking an after-dinner walk, I joined those with him. He always let on that he was a nobody, but he had a practical insight into anything that came up. Like one evening the group was asking why railroads were going bankrupt, and Father Connolly observed that they were the only transports who had to maintain their own roads. It hadn’t taken genius to see that, but I hadn’t seen it.   

In later years I heard older priests saying I reminded them of Tim Connolly, and I was proud of that. But, on a trip to Ireland in 1979 when I stopped by the priests’ retirement house I had to ask about an old priest sitting with a glass in his hand. Someone told me, “Why that’s Tim Connolly,” and that has made me very aware of how the drink can take away a man’s very sharp wit.

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