May 3, 2018
This time of year, many graduates are receiving a little book by Dr. Seuss. Its sentiments make me think of our Father Timothy, who has just graduated from this world to the next, with honors, in fact summa cum laude.
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, You’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, You’ll head straight out of town.
Out there things can happen and frequently do, To people as brainy And footsy as you.
Father Timothy did head out of town, was nothing if not brainy and did have big feet, which took him here to Saint Louis, and all over the world. Although he landed here as one of our three founders, as a down-stream relative of Little Jack Horner our Father Timothy never became an American Citizen like his fellow Amplefordians who stayed on after independence. As a Member of the Order of the British Empire - Military Division, Fr. Timothy remained to the end a loyal subject of Her Britannic Majesty, the Queen.
Father Timothy was born in Quetta, now in Pakistan. There is a very Timothy story of when he was stopped for a traffic violation by a very Missourian policeman, who of course demanded to see his driver’s license and asked him where he was born. Fr. Timothy, sensing he was more than the intellectual equal of the officer, simply responded “Quetta.” The officer remarked he never heard of the place. Fr Timothy proceeded to subtly upbraid him for his ignorance, not knowing where was such an important city in such a large country.
Father Timothy had lots of stories, because he did a lot in his 97 years, in a lot of places.
I seem to recall another story of Father Columba and he on a trip visiting colleges out west. To save money they slept in the back of a station wagon, gate open to let in the summer breeze. Fr. Columba barked at Timothy to stop tickling his feet, which were protruding out the back. Timothy replied from the back seat that it was not he, but a native American bear. Fr. Timothy could be a bear when riled, but then he wouldn’t be tickling anyone’s feet.
Perhaps it was this ferocious side of Fr. Timothy that earned him the Membership in the Order of the British Empire during his service in Burma in World War II, where he was Major Horner in the Royal Artillery.
Starting life in Quetta, he returned to England, where he eventually went to Ampleforth College. After the interruption of the World War, he returned to Ampleforth to become a monk and a scholar, studying classics at Oxford. But the quiet life of a scholar in the vales of Yorkshire, drilling schoolboys in the fine points of Latin and Greek grammar was not what the Lord had in mind for Fr. Timothy. He was selected to be one of the three founders of Saint Louis Priory and School in the wild west of America. A good soldier monk, he obeyed orders and came to live among us.
He was a talented and demanding headmaster. I have heard stories in many far-flung places by students of his time who underwent grilling admission interviews.
As fine a headmaster as he was, I have heard it said that the happiest years of his life were as Pastor of Saint Anselm Parish. Our longtime parishioners have many stories about those years. One remarkable one would be about Father Timothy’s service as Royal Chaplain to the court of King Edward I of Biffeche, otherwise known as Ed Shafer. Although Biffeche is in West Africa, the bona fide king lived in his palace on Chasselle Lane. Our red-haired Fr. Timothy was nothing if not colorful.
Those parishioners here back then know better than I what a good and holy priest he was. He stood out as an exemplary pastor, and many parishioners continued to call on him in his retirement.
It was during his time as Pastor that I came to visit here. Fr. Timothy was very kind and brought me over to sit in on a Grand Endeavor meeting, which very much impressed me and let me know that Saint Anselm parishioners were in the engine of social justice and not in the caboose.
One of Father Timothy’s favorite moonlighting jobs was director of Timothy Tours, when he took friends and associates on truly fabulous jaunts, such as one that began in China, and proceeded through Central Asia on the trans-Siberian railroad and ended in Moscow. Fr. Timothy knew his way around the world.
The English Benedictine Congregation honored Father Timothy’s contributions to the Church and the world by bestowing on him the Cathedral Prior of Ely, an ancient and magnificent Church in Cambridgeshire, UK.
Like a proper English gentleman, Fr. Timothy very much enjoyed wine, scotch and good company. He is in very good company now, but we miss him here.
That epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren I quoted last week applies so much to him. The Priory school and Saint Anselm Parish are eloquent monuments to him.
Ave atque vale, Fr. Timothy Horner O.S.B!
Hail and farewell, until we meet again in the Kingdom, where you wait for us and will greet us with many new stories.