From St. Louis:
In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. Then there was Light. And Water. Oh heavenly water that pooled and cooled into a giant oval sheet of ice at Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park. For the Rev. Canon Jean-Baptiste Commins of St. Francis de Sales Oratory of St. Louis, the ice was good. So very good that on a crowded Saturday evening in early December after intently lacing up his Bauer hockey skates beneath his long cassock, he waited eagerly for the rink’s Zamboni to finish its rounds. When the big machine lumbered off the rink leaving the surface glistening under starry holiday lights, Commins bolted onto the ice. He did a quick turn with his hands in his fleece vest pockets. His habit blew backward at his ankles. He darted left and right, forward and backward around dozens and dozens of more earthly, wobbly skaters. “Wow, look at the priest,” gaped a little boy as the priest swept by. “He skates backward!” “That man is skating in a dress,” said a girl clutching on to her giggly group of friends. “Yeah, he’s good. He’s good,” said a guardsman at the rail — high praise from one of the men in orange who oversee the rink. Commins was so fast — his edges so strong and his crossovers so sharp — not even the little hockey speed demons could catch him. Commins is only 27. A Frenchman who grew up in a military family that moved 12 times, he’s a St. Louis transplant by way of South America, the west coast of Africa, Florida, and a one-year stint at a boarding school in New Hampshire where he perfected his skating. He’s been an ordained priest in St. Louis for less than two years. After several stints in tropical climates — including a year in seminary in Gabon, Africa — he’s taken full advantage of St. Louis’ winter weather to become Steinberg’s unofficial holy man of the ice.
Photo: Christian Gooden / St. Louis Post-Dispatch