That afternoon in 1963, I was in the cellar of a Catholic seminary, a crenellated Gothic building in Washington, D.C. I was seated in the ad-hoc barber’s chair, while an untrained yet officially designated classmate was hacking at my hair, a normal part of the monkish life. Suddenly, one of our fellow seminarians stormed through the doorway to yell the news from Dallas. With a half-finished haircut, I rushed with the others to the common room for its television. A hundred of us were crowded there by the time the usually stolid Walter Cronkite choked up. One by one, we drifted to the chapel.
Across ensuing days, when we weren’t downtown standing on the curbside of Pennsylvania Avenue or in the Capitol grounds, mute witnesses to one funeral march or another, we were planted in front of the television, or on our knees before the tabernacle. Prayer had never come more naturally. I have no memory of that haircut being finished.