He’s six feet tall. Weighs three twenty-five. He likes cigars. Likes food. Likes a drink now and then. Or more than now and then. His father owned a saloon. He tended bar before he took his vows. For years, until it closed, he was a regular at Elaine’s, the upper East Side restaurant famous for feeding writers and artists and Woody Allen life and soul-sustaining Italian meals. He took up his duties as pastor at Holy Cross in the early 90s when its Times Square neighborhood was still strip joints and X-rated movie theaters and pinball arcades. His congregation has ever since been a mixed flock of “actors and stagehands from the nearby Broadway theaters…workers from the post office across 42nd Street….bus drivers and commuters from the Port Authority Bus Terminal…young Wall Street types from the new apartment buildings that tower over the old Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. And ..the worshipers of Times Square in the 21st century: the tourists.”
Legend has it, and the legend’s told by Mickey Rourke himself, that he talked Rourke out of murder and suicide one day when Rourke stopped in at Holy Cross on his way to kill the man he believed had raped his wife. Father Colapietro took the gun away from Rourke, had him leave the suicide note for St Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes.
The priest himself has a less dramatic memory of the incident. Modesty talking, probably.
It’s no wonder members of the parish call him the Saloon Priest, but the nickname reminds me of Graham Greene’s Whiskey Priest and Father Peter Colapietro is far, far from a lost soul.
The people at Holy Cross are going to feel lost without him, I expect.
After eighteen years as pastor, which is twelve years longer than pastors at Catholic churches are supposed to serve, Father Colapietro’s being transferred.
“I’m just moving to the East Side,” he says.
Might as well be the other side of the world.
Great story by James Barron over at the New York Times, Last Call for ‘the Saloon Priest.’ Go read.
Hat tip to the blonde. Photo by Hiroko Masuike of the New York Times.