When I was born, neither of my parents practiced any form of religion, but given our cultural heritage, I suppose it was inevitable. My dad’s side was Baltimore Irish, and my mom’s side was Pittsburgh Polish. To the best of my knowledge, my dad’s side was never all that zealous about it, but my mom’s side? Oh, boy.
Grandma and Grandpa…they were a little intense. I think I was twelve when they gave me two books for Christmas: Fatima: the Miracle of the Children and Evidence of Satan in the Modern World. I read one of those books, and it was much less cool than the title suggested. I also remember that at my Grandma’s urging I spent a few months making rosaries for children in Africa. I do wonder if somewhere in Kenya there’s somebody wearing one of my rosaries…
My family has never been one for half measures, and once my mom and dad decided to rejoin Mother Church, we were all in. My sister and I were switched to Catholic school. My mom became a Catholic school teacher. My dad eventually became the Director of Catholic Charities in our home city. I became an altar boy and read for the congregation at Sunday mass. Thanks to the Church’s patriarchy, my sister got off pretty lightly, really.
Like the rest of my family, no half measures for me. My favourite books in my early teens were Lives of the Minor Prophets and a comic book version of the Old Testament. (Favourite minor prophet? Hosea. Turned out to be weirdly significant, but more on that later.) I knew the commandments, the beatitudes, the gifts of the holy spirit, the sermon on the mount, the loaves, the fishes, the whole shebang. I collected cards with the lives of the saints on them, and had a cross blessed by the Pope. Well, that’s what my Grandma said, anyway.
And, until university, that was my path. Then the wheels fell off.