I grew up in a Catholic family. My parents were nominally devout but not overly pious. We went to church and observed the rules—and in the 1950's, you could trip over them, there were so many. More to the point, I went to Catholic schools—really, all the way through college. First the nuns, and later the Jesuits, gave me a good education that didn't view everything through a narrow religious lens.
I grew up in a very traditional, Latino Catholic family. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through high school. Despite this, we were not "strict" Catholics. We went to church on Sundays, etc, but our faith was more of a backdrop to our family life rather than a focal point.
I grew up in a town that was predominately Irish Catholic, yet I was raised Protestant, Congregationalist. I went to church until I decided I didn't want to go anymore, which was when I was about eight. I liked that we got new shoes on Easter, but being in the shadow of a dominant religion put me in the role of the outsider, which is probably best for an artist.
I attended an Episcopal preparatory school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for thirteen years. We had chapel every morning, Monday through Friday. Formally a military academy, we still had inspection on Wednesdays. Routines comforted me. While I was there, the school's religiousness dissipated, stressing an ecumenical identity that soft-pedaled any strictly Christian message.
I grew up in southeastern Louisiana, about 80 miles south of New Orleans, and it was almost entirely Catholic—99.5 percent Catholic. It was a very particular kind of Cajun Catholicism that I would categorize as most people being devoted to the sacraments, wanting all the rituals, from St. Joseph's Day altars to the Eucharist to baptisms, confirmations, rosaries, and novenas—everything.
Then there was Hinduism all around; in India and later when I went to Sudan, Islam. I was very moved by the idea of the god of love, Krishna, and it seemed closer to what I wanted than Jesus who hung on the cross. But the religion of my childhood, Christianity, still takes my breath away. Perhaps what I long for is a spirituality that is freed from caste and creed. What did Roethke say somewhere, "A house for wisdom, a field for revelation"
A first-generation American, the daughter of immigrants from tiny villages in Eastern Europe, I grew up in New York City with a strong sense of Jewish identity—kosher household, family Seders, synagogue on the High Holidays—and mixed messages about Jewish observance. Every Friday evening my mother would light the Shabbes candles, and my father would light his cigarette from the candles.
Here is the scene. Mother is sitting at her end of the sofa in the study, a place she calls her "nest." I am directly across in dad's reading chair. I cannot manage to recite the verbal obfuscation of that answer to what sin is, try as I might. Mother gets so fed up with the whole exercise she throws the catechism against the wall above my head and above the big Philco we all listened to the 2nd World War on. It slaps against the paneling, slides down behind the radio, and there it stays
God was all around but not everywhere. My parents were not Born Again people or heavy-handed Christians. We were United Methodists. We went to Church once a week, at the standard time, and on the traditional holy day of Sunday but not in between. We were not a family who stayed in church all day, as some families in our small town did. We were in at 11 a.m. and out by 1 or 1:30 p.m.
Well, I was brought up as a member of the Episcopal Church, and I attended Sunday school and church with fair regularity. We lived about seven miles from Montclair, New Jersey, where there was a very good Episcopal Church of which my mother was particularly fond. And we got there when we could. One frequent pleasant obstacle was Sunday morning tennis. I have the game of tennis all mixed up with religion. In those days it was played with great formality, and you said things like "Ready, partner? Ready?" and so on. And I can remember that on the estate where we lived, people sat in a pagoda to watch the tennis, and often there was a prayer book lying on the table next to the tennis racquets.