The faculty at Immaculate Conception Seminary would have been a fertile field for someone like Damon Runyon. The Rector was an austere brilliant scholar who would never be mistaken for a touchy feely type. He was glacially distant and when in his presence one felt like the Spanish Inquisition had been renewed. However, for those who knew him well they viewed his distance as shyness and had a loyalty to him despite the outward appearance. The Dean of students was a former jock who could hit a softball for miles, but was the scourge of anyone who he believed was in any shape or form effeminate. He knew that I was an athlete but I never shared with him that I loved the Opera and classical music. One of the senior faculty was a hypochondriac who when he spoke to you covered his mouth because he had the intense fear that a germ might escape your body and infect him with a death dealing virus.I always believed that he probably had the first constant Lysol automatic spray mist in his quarters.The primary head of the Philosophy department was a true intellectual who was in the finest sense of the words a “space cadet”. There is a story while he was musing about Descartes while mowing his sister’s lawn he allowed the power mower to ascend up the base of an elm tree. Another member of the philosophy department was a gracious soul who would have a kind word for everyone. Despite his gentle demeanor he had a sharp wit and a great sense of humor. Once taunted by one of the young Turks in the Theology department who asked him to say something stupid he responded immediately with”Ok you say something and I will repeat it.”
The primary Homiletics professor was nicknamed Jolly Jack who pranced around like a peacock in full Monsignorial regalia every chance possible. The rumor was that he had a Bishops outfit on call in case it ever happened. The book on him was that he was truly a genius because he spread five minutes of prepared material over four courses.
Coupled with this cast of characters was a feisty eighty year old former sailor, tattoo and all who was the primary spiritual director. His great warning to my class was beware because if you put a Roman collar on a broomstick someone will fall in love with it.Talk about deflating the belief that we were all handsome, bright and loveable.
They were different to a man but I always had the sense that as a group they cared about us and had tried to create an environment of warmth and caring.
In the hands of these scholarly and religious men we were to be shaped and molded into what they believed would be pious and dedicated servants of the Church. As one who has always been a private contrarian I bought some of the guidance and dismissed some of it out of hand. Never overtly confrontational or disagreeable but always intellectually challenging their “ my way or the highway “path to the Christian message . For me a lot of the hocus pocus dogma was nice but not particularly relevant to the service I imagined. My anchor then and to this day was the Beatitudes. No one ever lives them fully but I thought if I could pattern my live on them then all else would fall in line.