Father Flynn was my priest at Saint Frances of Rome, the school I attended in the Bronx. As I look back upon our many entanglements, I realize the profound affect he had on me and the other kids who crossed his path. I have no doubt that he was a holy man. But I remember him mostly for his iron will, his piercing eyes, and the fear he’d convey in a moment’s stare. He once threatened to throw me off the roof of the school if I ever received another F in conduct. He wrote the book on tough love decades before it became a popular concept.
Father Flynn grew up in a tough Irish enclave on 11th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen and escaped to the 4th Marine Regiment serving with the fabled China Marines during the 1930s. He fought with Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone on Guadalcanal. His face carried the scars he earned on Bloody Ridge.