When I think about how my faith journey began, I think of the opening lines of Simon and Garfunkel's "My Little Town":
In my little town
I grew up believing
God keeps his eye on us all.
And he would lean upon me
As I pledged allegiance to the wall.
Lord, I recall
In my little town....
I knew only what the nuns told me Monday through Friday, and what priests said Sunday -- no context, all in rote from the catechism, half of the rest of it in Latin. I remember the altar boys' first words of each service: Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. (Meaning roughly: I go to the altar of God, the joy of my youth. Some irony there.)
The world intervened. How such an otherwise beautiful religion could simply refuse to allow the equal participation and status of women, bar the option of the clergy to marry, and refuse to honor non-terminal attempts to employ birth control, began to astound me and sap my loyalty.
It was more than merely Vatican II that changed my thinking. The fact that Father Groppi, the great Milwaukee civil rights-open housing agitator, had to leave the priesthood to get married wasn't lost on me. So much didn't make sense.
By college, my revulsion had taken hold. A former fraternity brother called me two years ago and reminded me of a diatribe I'd launched, that I'm still a little embarrassed about but was quite honest, concerning how fed up I was. That had to be no later than spring of 1973.
I hadn't given up on God, though. I just refused to be conned by icons, living or otherwise.
My world had expanded beyond little Grafton, Wisconsin, forever. I had questions galore but no answers. It would take some serendipity to provide some of them.