The death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others last Sunday stunned me, as it did the world.  As I read and watched the stories about his legacy over this past week, what struck me most is that he went to Mass at 7:00 on Sunday morning, shortly before boarding that tragic helicopter flight. 

Just hours before he died, Kobe received Communion from Fr. Anthony Wu, a Vietnamese priest serving at the Bryant’s church in Newport Beach.  I don’t know Fr. Wu’s story or how he arrived in one of the richest enclaves in the world, but his national origin struck me because I had just met a Vietnamese nun two days before at the March for Life in Washington DC.  She and a couple of dozen other Vietnamese nuns and priests were chaperoning more than 600 mostly white and African-American students who had made a 24-hour bus ride from their parish in New Orleans. 

This nun, whose name I don’t know, explained to me that when she was four-years-old, her parents and sister joined a hundred others in a small fishing boat that set sail for safer lands after Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975.  Local countries around them refused to let them dock and refuel, and they ended up out of gas and floating in circles for two days in the Pacific Ocean before a boat from the British Navy rescued them.  The people on the boat were sponsored by Christian families around the world to come live with them, and the parish at which she now works had been actively seeking help from people in Vietnam to staff its school.  New Orleans ultimately became home to her family, and this parish her life’s calling.

I don’t know if Fr. Wu’s journey to the U.S. was as harrowing as this nun’s, but I do know that each of them in answering the call to ministry answered the same call that Kobe did when he woke up Sunday morning with plenty of things to do and hundreds of reasons to skip out on church but went anyway.  He listened to that still, small voice with which God speaks to each of us.  And just hours before his death, Kobe Bryant repeated the sentiment that a Roman Centurion said to Jesus 2,000 years ago, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” 

That still, small voice is in all of us, and beautiful things happen when we respond to His call.

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