The next few weeks were exceptionally difficult for Sal. He on more than one occasion assumed the position of prosecuting attorney where he would go over and over in his mind why this priest fantasy was nothing more than a reaction to the confusion over his future. He had a phenomenal job opportunity, a wonderful young woman that he believed that he was in love with, and the possibility that someday he would have children. How could he abandon all of this for something which it just come out of a bolt in the sky like a like an isolated piece of lightning? He scoffed at the idea that he was like St.Paul knocked off his horse and destined to follow Christ. Somehow all of the rationality did little to dissuade the growing powerful force that perhaps he should study for the priesthood. One of the biggest obstacles was that he was not particularly religious. He didn’t care about most of the dogma, or so many of the rules that the church had imposed on him from childhood. He could not buy some of the absolute guidance that he received in religious classes, and he used to tease his friends by saying “being Italian I believe that all rules are suggestions.:” Even his sense of humor could not move him off the dime. This priest thing had to be fully explored ,and if rejected had to have a substantial rationale .To his amazement he found for the first time in his life he resorted to prayer .and asked that if this really is something that he should follow that there would be some kind of peace of mind so that he could take the next step forward.

After spending much of his waking moments focused on the direction of his lifeSal believed he had spent sufficient time on reflection and the moment of truth had arrived .He made an appointment to see Father McNulty hoping that further counsel would make a decision more clear . He confided to Father McNulty that he had struggled mightily with the decision over the past few weeks, but that he had come to the conclusion that he should at least explore it and try to enter the seminary as soon as possible. Father McNulty explained that there would be no way that he could go directly into the major seminary ,but because he had a college degree it would be feasible for him to spend one year at Seton Hall University taking courses in Latin and Greek. Then if all went well he would go to the seminary in the following year. Also he added that after spending the first year in the seminary he would skip another year because he had a college degree. At the conclusion of their discussion Father McNulty inquired as to how Sal wished to make this decision public. Falling back on his usual comical self Sal said” I think the biggest challenge Father is that most of the people who know me will think that I’ve completely lost my mind, and that they probably will require me to see a psychiatrist. “Father McNulty burst out laughing, and finally composing himself said” I’m sure that you will find a way to make everyone understand your decision.. Please keep me posted.” Sal shook his hand and said “thanks father I certainly will.”

The easy part of making it public was to tell his mother and father of his decision. His mother was elated, but his father not essentially an I will be behind you no matter what you choose. I do have one question for you though; have you told Elizabeth about this decision?’” Sal shook his head and said “that that may be the most difficult part of this. I plan to do that this weekend’”

True to his word Sal called Elizabeth and arranged a date for Friday night. After a dinner which appeared most normal for both of them Sal suggested that they take a walk. While they were walking Elizabeth sensed that something was amiss. She stopped walking and turning toward Sal and asked”Sal all of a sudden you have become very quiet. Is there something wrong? “Sal could feel a dryness in his mouth, and he decided that maybe he should tell her this in stages.’” Elizabeth I have struggled with a lot of things lately. I guess it began when I realized that the field of journalism at least initially was closed to me but that really wasn’t the whole thing. As you know I was fortunate to get a job in Wall Street, and much to my amazement I have been offered an opportunity which absolutely blows my mind regarding the future.’ Elizabeth interjected” what is the opportunity?’” “I don’t really truly understand it but the director of the brokerage called me in and offered me a position where I would after a two-year training be responsible for helping wealthy clients develop and maintain their entire portfolio. I’m not sure completely understand what that means, but I guess there are a lot of questions for rich people regarding trusts, selection of stocks, charitable contributions and a whole host of other things that candidly are beyond my comprehension at this stage. The director assured me that this was a phenomenal opportunity ,and probably would insure that I would make a very comfortable living for the rest of my life. When I left the building the day he made an offer I should have felt exhilarated ,and yet I felt somewhat confused. It was a beastly hot day but instead of going home and taking a shower, I made my way to Lincoln Park to our favorite spot. I sat there for over an hour and while I was there I heard the church bells ring. For some strange reason I felt compelled to go and see Father McNulty. I interrupted his dinner, and after a few short typical teasing jabs that he and I made toward each other I blurted out what I’m about to tell you now.’ The look on Elizabeth’s face changed from interest to concern.’ “Sal what is it that you trying to tell me?” Sal swallowed and said”Elizabeth I’m going to study for the priesthood.””you can’t be serious I don’t know of anyone who is less religious than you are” you’re absolutely right and that is what amazes me also. But it’s not the do’s and don’ts that I have basically ignored, it is that whole idea of making a difference. I’ve always admired and respected the priests in our parish, and somehow that’s more appealing to me then working with someone over a portfolio or trust whatever else that job entails.” Elizabeth responded” are you thinking about studying for the priesthood just because you don’t want to follow this new opportunity that you have?” No I don’t believe that’s it Elizabeth. I think there is a driving need within me to make a difference in the world. I thought initially it was maybe writing a great novel or becoming a columnist but somehow I just I just get the feeling that it’s service to others, and I mean others who are lost or who don’t have hope .I watch Father McNulty sometimes when one of the kids fathers is sick or something tragic happens or something joyful happens and he seems to have this ability to be there for people.. I guess that’s what I want.”” I have to tell you Sal that I’m stunned by this and I believed that you and I had a future together. We had often talked about marriage and children and where we would live and now all of a sudden that seems to be completely gone. I’m confused by this and I guess I have to hope that this is just a passing fancy ,that you going to call me next week and say that this was just a stage and we would go back to normal. “” “Elizabeth I’m sorry about that ,and I would like us to get back to where we were before .However right now I can’t do that.I’m sorry Elizabeth but I don’t think this is casual on my part and it’s something that I have struggled with for probably longer than I I could imagine.” The last thing in the world that I want to do is hurt you, but I just feel compelled that I have to try this,Maybe it’s something that will only be real for a very short period of time before I realize that this is wrong and not for me ,but for me to continue with you and to proceed and not have this resolved I think would be damaging for both of us.” The rest of the walk was primarily in silence and when Sal took Elizabeth home he held her hand and said”I’m sorry that I have caused you any pain, and I would do anything to avoid that ,and I hope that you will completely understand. You’re probably going to need time certainly like I did to just kind of sift through this is come to grips with it, but please let us not stop talking to each other.” Elizabeth gently replied”I don’t know what to think at this moment, but I certainly don’t want this to be something that tears us apart . I agree that no matter what you decide we should continue to talk through this.”
With a couple of hurdles cleared first sharing the news with his immediate family and then a much more difficult part sharing his intended plans with Elizabeth it seemed appropriate now that because his attendance at Seton Hall would be within the next month that he share some of this with his closest friends. The opportunity for this was almost immediate ,and took place at Frank’s bar and Grill where he and his cohorts had literally lived for most of the last four years .. A good percentage of Sal’s friends did not attend college, and so for the most part Frank’s bar and Grill became the stopping off place after work .Sal and a couple of his other buddies who were in college attended at least once or twice a week .In addition the entire weekend was spent shooting pool drinking beer,eating Italian food and lovingly trading insults. Franks was the place where the gang had a good old time.
Loudly greeted as he entered the bar Sal selected a barstool and playfully traded remarks with some of his closest friends. After about an hour and a half of shooting pool, drinking beer and an eating pizza Sal decided it was the moment of truth and that he should make an announcement .He asked the bartender for a spoon and loudly tapped the spoon against his glass.” Gentleman and I use that term very loosely because as I look around this room it is very difficult to believe that any of you are gentlemen . However I think that some of you may want to sit down because I’m going to tell you something now which may take your breath away. I have been offered a very wonderful position at Wertheim and it pretty much is the that at some point in time I may even be able to buy a little cottage in Avon by the sea. However I don’t think that that job is going to be in my future because after a great deal of thought ,and by the way very little alcohol, I have come to the conclusion that Wall Street is not where I want to spend the rest of my life”Ever impatient at the fact that it was taking forever for Sal to tell them whatever he was going to tell them the insults and remarks began. Louie DeForge loudly chimed in with”you’re going to join the foreign Legion because seven women have come forth and claimed you are the father of their children.” This was followed by Maddy Doyle’s remark that”you’re going to start your own Fower and gift shop and try to put Gus the florist out of business. Dinty will leave his job at Gus” and is going to be your Vice President of Operations.”Loud laughter greeted this remark because Dinty was a lovely man who in Jersey City parlance wasn’t playing with a full deck. He was mentally challenged and worked for Gus the Florist. Dinty was loved by everyone, and no matter what he did the entire neighborhood protected him so the remark was not in any shape or form meant to make fun of him. It was really just typical of the banter that existed within this entire group.

Sal let it go on for a while but finally said “okay guys let me get to where the rubber meets the road. I am completely shifting gears here as far as my life goes, and I have made a decision that I’m going to study for the priesthood”There was immediate silence followed by shouts of disbelief and a loud roar of laughter on the part of all of his friends ,and even the bartenders and the waitresses howled. One of his closest friend Michael McNally said” I am a devout Catholic and if that happens I have to tell you that I’m going to start shopping for something else besides Catholicism. You can’t really be serious; are you kidding me ‘you pulling my leg or what?” One of the waitresses said “oh my God Sal you mean that the crush that I’ve had all these years now has to be put into the desk drawer?” One by one a waterfall of humorous remarks challenged the statement that Sal had shared. Sal sat with a big smile on his face, weathered the storm and finally said “okay I get it but I’m telling you this is not a joke. I’ve spoken with Father McNulty and the deal is that I will enter Seton Hall University for one year and if all goes well I will next May enter the major seminary at Darlington.” No one in the bar could believe that this was actually happening however one point the humor turned to acceptance.It was apparent that Sal was really going to study for the priesthood .

Over the next couple of weeks one of Sal’s friends decided they should have a pool to see how long he would last before this ridiculous fantasy came to an end.He decided to create a betting pool that would be focused on how long Sal would last in this crazy decision.To enter the pool cost ten dollars . There were 67 people who participated in the pool and the longest that anyone thought that he would last in this new venture was 10 weeks. Despite this fact they decided they should probably wait and see what happened and then if by some miracle he actually weathered the storm than before he would have to the major seminary next May they would have a priestly version of a bachelor party for him.
As time passed it was apparent that Sal was not going to leave Seton Hall before the year ended. The pool was over and the announced winner, Emily one of waitresses at Frank’s bar and Grill who had won with her her estimate of three months. With the reality of May approaching his closest friends decided that they would have a gala bash Frank’s bar and Grill to give Sal a sendoff to the major seminary.

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Raymond Aumack
Raymond Aumack Wow, I remember going through the same anxiety. When all is said and done, I had ten great years in ministry. married a grammar school friend and have had forty three years and counting of wedded bliss, five children and now six grandchildren.

Salvatore J. Tagliareni
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