A Papal Confession
These days of papal succession remind me that my first great ambition in life was to be Pope, maybe even the first American Pope. This all came about during my years in Catholic grade school, most notably in 1958 when I was ten years old, in fifth grade, an altar boy and clearly very impressionable. 1958 was the year Pope Pius XII died so the whole papal succession thing was a big deal for us wee small Catholics. Earlier that same year the Bishop of Richmond died which further highlighted the hierarchical transition and opportunities to move up in that hierarchy.
The nuns at our school had convinced me that the only true vocation in life was the priesthood. Since girls were not even on my radar at the time, I certainly bought into the whole shtick and the idea of being Pope seemed pretty cool. When I was confirmed later that year, I took the name Pius (after St Pius X) because I figured that would give me a head start toward my destiny. Knowing now about X's extreme conservatism and XII's checkered record during the Holocaust, the choice is no small embarrassment.
My ambition did not survive growing up. Ideas of the priesthood had fallen by the wayside by the time I finished Catholic school in grade 8 and my Catholic faith dissipated during my high school years. By then my interest had turned to politics and my new ambition was to be the first Republican governor of Virginia since Reconstruction, an idea that seemed as farfetched as the idea of a non-Italian Pope. I grew out of that one, too, even before a Republican was elected governor of Virginia in 1969.
By then I was very much focused on figuring out a way to avoid being sent to Vietnam. Like those earlier big ambitions, that one didn't come off, either.