Bear Mountain

FATHER PAUL DROVE US in one of the two parish cars. There were five of us boys. The parish cars were Buicks, and they were huge and black. It was late September. All five of us were 13 years old.

Now that we had achieved the age of reason we were allowed to visit the seminary to begin the process of discernment. Father Paul had high hopes but low expectations. If even one of us expressed serious interest in a second visit to the seminary, he would count the weekend a roaring success and no mistake, as he told the pastor.

They were leaning against the car as we climbed in. The pastor was a monsignor. A mon-signor was halfway between priest and bishop. We had a choice of seminaries, said Father Paul to us as we drove off. We could visit the Capuchin seminary or the Franciscan seminary. They were in the same town up on the river, and both in his experience were excellent in shaping good priests.

One of us voted for the Franciscans because he had a dog and Francis loved animals, and three of us voted for the Capuchins because the word Capuchin was cool. I voted for the Capuchins because my dad’s best friend was a small hilarious Capuchin, so as far as I knew the Capuchins were small and hilarious and cool.

We drove through the Borough of Queens, through the Borough of the Bronx, and then north along the mighty Hudson River, which is not its original name, of course, said Father Paul. The first people here had many names for it, among them the Shatemuc, the River of the Pelicans, and Mohicanhitheck, the River of the Wolves. I have seen pelicans here but I have not seen wolves as yet. We stared out the window at the river and saw gulls and crows and herons and ducks and maybe a hawk but no pelicans or wolves.

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