2-Nice Girl Says Goodbye to God
I was pretty sure I had the grades to transfer to a state college, but would my wonderful parents be able to make the leap from my being a secretary in one of the businesses in our small town to my pursuing a teaching credential? We were solidly middle class, yet I didn’t know if my dad could afford to send me away to college. It took all of my courage to present my new idea.
My dad said he would pay for the first year of college and if I did well and wanted to keep going, I could apply for student loans for the next two years.
As a family we visited San Diego State College, a long drive down the coast. It was close to my beloved Pacific Ocean, but the campus was much too big and sophisticated for a girl from a small farming community. We went to Fresno State, and it was a fit. It was an agricultural school and had a very good teachers’ program.
It was 1965 and the Catholic Church was in the midst of adjusting to the new Vatican II decrees. After a lifetime of honoring the revered traditions of the church, the radical changes in Church procedures shook my faith to the core.
I had always been serious about my relationship with God the Father, probably because I had a steady and trustworthy earthly father. I had loved the beauty of our community’s small but majestic gothic church which had gracious and artistic statues, polished pews with padded kneelers, and large vases of fresh flowers. There was a holy sense of reverence at every time I entered the church.
As a new student on campus I went to the Catholic college ministry called the Newman Center for Sunday services, but I could not reconcile the old with the new. The priest was wearing a short frock, facing the congregants, strumming a guitar, and singing kum-bay-ya (or some other hip non-hymn). The altar railing for communion was a tacky makeshift structure. The room was stark white, the walls were bare, the chairs were folding types, and there were no pews. The order and reliability of the Mass had provided structure and comfort for me since the age of five.
And it was G-O-N-E!
I learned that there was a lifting of the restriction of not eating meat on Fridays, which my family had followed righteously every week of my life. AND, what seemed extremely sacrilegious: Saturday presence at Mass could substitute for Sunday attendance. The lessening of these and other protocols, which had given definition to my ideology, left me feeling like a dog paddling in a pool without edges. And I wasn’t a strong swimmer.
In addition to adjusting to these significant changes in my religious life, I was adapting to living away from home, grappling with the quantity and intensity of the coursework, wrestling with the provocative lure of weekend parties, and conscience stricken but intrigued by the escalation of temptations: drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, making out, staying out late.
The magnetism of college life with its fascinations and allurements won my heart! Powerfully working against my loyalty to God was the confusion of the American cultural shakeup: the sixties’ counterculture of flower power and free love, the new popular credo which emphasized individual freedom, the ever-advancing drug culture, the assassinations of Kennedy and King, and the controversies of the Vietnam War.
The liberal philosophy I was encountering on campus was, “Do your own thing, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.” I see the fallacy now, but at the time it made all kinds of sense—“Whoopee—I’m free! Why would I hurt anyone!”
I had given a lot of thought to the options I faced in my new contemporary way of life. One afternoon I knelt down by my bed in my dorm room, head bowed, hands clasped, and said, Goodbye, God, I’m going to leave You now. I’m going to try living life on my own. I’ll be back.”
My relationship with the Father was being tried and tested. I made my choice against Him and His ways and FOR the freedoms that the college society espoused.