Father Ray Byrne quickly became
a star. He played sports, danced,
sang, told jokes. He was a man
of the people, and we loved him for that.
He came to our apartments
and brought us comfort.
He even came to a high school graduation
party one night. I was a little drunk.
Father Byrne came up to me and asked
"Are you thinking about it?" I panicked.
What did he mean? Sex? Booze? Basketball?
Could he read my mind? Then I realized
his tone wasn't accusatory, so I said,
"Yeah, I'm thinking about it," not having
any idea what he was talking about.
"That's great," he said, "I can always
tell when a young man is thinking
about it. Just let me know if I can be of any help."
Now I was positive he wasn't talking about
sex or money or any of the things I actually
did have on my mind. Father Byrne thought
I might have a vocation.
But I wasn't considering the priesthood.
I didn't even think professional basketball
was a possibility any more. God had walked
out the door about a year before,
when I was sixteen, and never looked back,
even though I begged him not
to leave me, alone and weeping
in this valley of tears.