Blog author: Michael J. Sullivan, author of "Forgotten Flowers" series. Book #2 "The Fourney Home" was released December 2, 2020
I suppose, technically, my Odyssey with God began the day I was baptized as a Roman Catholic in June of 1945. Barely two months old, I am sure I had no intellectual understanding of the rite of Baptism, though physiologically, I am equally sure I did react to the water being poured over my forehead. Looking back, I wonder if this was not a form of waterboarding, but in God’s name.
My mother, Margaret Sullivan, was a devoted Catholic. My father, Robert, was baptized Presbyterian. In matters of faith and education, my father deferred to my mother. As a result, at six years of age, I began a journey of eighteen years through Catholic schools. My first stop was Saint Mary’s Grammar School, in Taft, California. I do not remember the order of Catholic Nuns that ran the school, but I do remember their stern approach to teaching Catholicism and their no-nonsense stance when it came to classroom behavior. Undoubtedly, one of the most read books in the world had to be the Baltimore Catechism. It was the foundation of religious training in Catholic grammar schools. From it, I learned the Ten Commandments. A list of eight explicit No no’s and two with implied negative consequences. The sisters did their job well. I learned to fear the wrath of God. I learned if I died before confessing my sins to a priest, I would go to Hell. But I also learned Jesus Christ died for our sins, past, present, and future, so we could gain eternal life.
Try figuring that out as a ten-year-old. In 1955, we moved from Taft, California, to El Cerrito, California, a bedroom community in the San Francisco East Bay. My father, an accountant working for Standard Oil, had been transferred to the San Francisco office. It was only natural that we would move closer to my mother’s mother, my grandmother, who lived in El Cerrito. There, on advice from my third-grade teacher in Taft, the sainted Sister Agnus, my moved enrolled me in another Catholic grammar school, also named Saint Mary’s Grammar School, taught by Christian Brothers. It seems Sister Angus told my mother is she did not get me into a school with strict discipline, I would lose my father and wind up in prison. The irony is that I did spend twenty-four years in prison—working in prison— and retiring in 2005 as an Associate Warden in the California Department of Corrections. Sister Agnus was half right.
I’ll be back later with more of My Odyssey with God.
Above image is the author, present-day.