Posted by: Maryann McCullough | January 2, 2013

Story for January 2013



Maryann McCullough


When I was five, I knew a lot about God. I knew where he lived. I knew that he cared for me but he had a lot of people to care for so he gave me an angel to be my very own special guardian. I knew that he could fix things like sick people and that if you asked his mother for help it was even better because he could never refuse her. I was not afraid of God, but I was afraid to do something wrong because it would disappoint him and I never wanted to do that. I loved God and thought of him sitting in a big chair with room for me and other children to sit in his lap.

That knowledge was acquired in a home defined by faith. It seems wrong to find it necessary to state formally how very intelligent my mother was as I describe her simple relationship with God. It was unquestioning dependence on a loving God and extended to every facet – large and small – of her life. It is my own experience of fitting intellect and faith in one mind which is challenging. It was never to hers.

In 1947 formal religious education was added when I entered kindergarten at Saint Angela’s parochial school on Chicago’s west side. It was the first of seventeen tears of formal education in the Catholic faith.

An incident from those early grades reveals a young mind that wasn’t easily satisfied. We had workbooks as our texts for religious education.  The days of the Baltimore catechism had passed. One question in the true/false section of the worksheet stated: ONLY BAPTIZED CATHOLICS GO TO HEAVEN. I marked the answer “False.”   The next day when we checked our homework the teacher who informed me that it was a true statement. And I just as clearly remember saying “But that doesn’t seem right.”

And so it began.

Now I was, according to all reports a well-mannered and obedient child. But, at around age eight I did the unthinkable. I questioned the authority of a nun. There was no intent to be disrespectful, but the third grade teacher was no doubt shaken by such a bold retort from the Shanahan girl!

Each of the successive years of schooling included religious instruction. I even chose theology as one of my majors in college. I thought that the more knowledge I acquired, the more this mystery called God would make sense. Using my mind to “get” God seemed its best possible use. And so the bookshelves were filled – good measure, pressed down, running over- scriptural commentaries, church history, theology, spirituality – each book selected because it would add one more piece to my understanding.

I am now seventy . I know a lot about God. I know about the church founded on the message of Jesus. I know about the decisions of Church councils and the establishment of a creed based upon decisions of powerful men.  I know about a cosmos that takes “up” away from our concept of heaven. I also know the faults of my church near as well as I know my own.

 It seems I know a lot more than I did when I was five. I just don’t know where that God with the large lap, the God who knew my name – I just don’t know where he has gone.




  1. and, that ,my dear, is where our leap of faith happens!

    Sarah’s sister in love

  2. […] Recommended Article FROM […]

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