Not a Prodigal Son

Kerry has a different language, a different connection to ritual, and a different relationship to Jesus than that of Bush.

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"I thought of being a priest," Kerry recalled. "I was very religiouswhile at school in Switzerland. I was an altar boy and prayed all thetime. I was very centered around the Mass and the church." What Biblepassages moved him most? "The letters of Paul," he said, "taught me notto feel sorry for myself."

As a teenager he attended

St. Paul's

, an Episcopal boarding school where he was one of only a few Catholics. Kerry took a taxi into town to attend Mass while the other boys went to the on-campus Episcopal chapel.

There, Kerry met his most important spiritual mentor: the late Rev. Richard Walker, a black Episcopal priest who went on to become Bishop of Washington.According to Brinkley, Kerry and his pal Daniel Barbiero spent eveningslistening to Walker discuss civil rights and faith. Kerry was "always quite religious," Barbiero told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

When Kerry and Barbiero later arrived at Yale together, Barbiero let hisreligious life slide, while Kerry still attended Mass. "One of the firstthings he did when he got there was to find out where the CatholicChurch was," Barbiero said.

Kerry has said his religious faith propelled him to join the Navy and goto Vietnam, because he wanted to please God. Six of his closest friendsdied there, and Kerry received the Silver and Bronze stars for valor andthree Purple Hearts for minor injuries. Barbiero remembers carrying aCatholic missal into battle; Kerry carried a rosary and prayed it daily."We viewed those things as keeping the good Lord as close to us aspossible during what we knew would be a difficult time," Barbiero said.


When Kerry got home from Vietnam, he told Time magazine, he went throughwhat he calls a "period of a little bit of anger and agnosticism, butsubsequently, I did a lot of reading and a lot of thinking and reallycame to understand how all those terrible things fit."

Indeed, Kerry recently described his Catholicism as "an important partof getting through tough periods in my life and remains a bedrock ofvalues--of sureness, I guess--about who I am, where we all fit, what ourrole is on this planet."

As John Kerry grew older, Catholicism was changing dramatically.

Between 1962 and 1965, Catholics worldwide gathered in Rome for the

Second Vatican Council
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Deborah Caldwell
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