In today’s newsletter, Kristen West McGuire reprises a great interview with one of my favorite Catholic converts, Meredith Gould.
It reads in part:
(Meredith Gould has a Ph.D. in sociology and is an award winning writer, a regular columnist for Faith & Family, and the author of many books. Her newest book, Why is There a Menorah on the Altar? will be published this fall by Plowshares Press.)
Q. Tell me about your early faith experiences.
A. Both my parents were Brooklyn Jews at a time when ethnic-religious boundaries were fairly blurred. Italian and Irish Catholic neighborhoods were in close proximity to Jewish neighborhoods. My mother tells stories about going to Catholic church when public schools were closed for Jewish holidays. She once attended ‘confession,’ although the details are somewhat murky. My father considered himself a Jewish atheist even though his grandfather was a rabbi and one of his four brothers remained an Orthodox Jew.
My parents moved to an Irish Catholic neighborhood in New Jersey when I was a toddler. I vividly remember eating fish on Fridays and having an Easter outfit during the 1950’s. In 1960, we moved again and became more observant about Jewish home-based ritual and synagogue attendance.Q. Were you confirmed?
A. Yes, but I didn’t have a bat mitzvah. I think my parents viewed it as a strange feature of Reform Judaism; either that or they didn’t want to schlep me to Hebrew school or hire a caterer? In any event, I was active in youth group and enthusiastic about Friday night services during my teens. Still, I didn’t feel called to confirmation. But when the rabbi pointed out how my grandparents were major supporters of the synagogue, I decided to do it for them. I still have my confirmation certificate from Temple Sinai.Q. What prompted you to explore other religions?
A. During my early 20’s, I became interested in Eastern religions, thanks, in part, to the Beatles and the psychedelic drug subculture. I had a misery-induced spiritual awakening in my late-30’s and spent a lot of time practicing yoga, primarily for its physical benefits. I was also intensely evangelized by a charismatic Christian. For two years, I prayed, “God, I just want to know who you are. Please reveal yourself to me.”
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