Author Hallie Lord brought together a group of popular bloggers—real, every-day Catholic women—to share their “triumphs, trials and temptations” with the rest of us real, every-day Catholic women in her book released last March: “Style, Sex, & Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider the Things That Really Matter” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012).
In the book each author—Jennifer Fulwiler, Lord, Karen Edmisten, Elizabeth Duffy, Anna Mitchell, Rebecca Ryskind Teti, Rachel Balducci, Danielle Bean, Simcha Fisher and Barbara Nicolosi—penned a chapter on a topic such as marriage, motherhood, sex, work life, single life and friendship. Through their openness, humor and fresh perspective, they share with readers to trust in God’s plan in all circumstances “whether in the family room, the bedroom, or the boardroom.”
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Lord about the book.
JF: In “Style, Sex & Substance,” 10 Catholic women consider things that really matter. Without giving it away, can you share: what really matters?
HL: What really matters are all of those most important areas of a woman’s life: marriage, motherhood, spirituality, sex, work, etc. Beyond that it’s crucial we learn to embrace the unique paths God has set before us; learn how to avoid burnout so we can serve God, our families, our friends, and our world at large more effectively; and remember that God loves us and wants us to thrive.
JF: Tell me about the title. Sex sells?
HL: Sex sells but God created it. We wanted to reclaim it from the culture, which degrades it, and talk about it in the clear light of Church teaching and in the light of our experiences as Catholic women.
JF: How did you determine who-did-what among the authors?
HL: I knew I wanted some of the subjects to be tackled by specific authors. For many of the contributors, though, I asked which subject they felt most called to address. It ended up working out perfectly, so I dare say the Holy Spirit had a hand in it!
JF: As all 10 of you are popular bloggers, many folks feel they’ve gotten to know you online (myself included). It strikes me as a group I’d enjoy being with anywhere from a mountain monastery, to a New Orleans happy hour, to a playground with the kids, or a shopping trip in NYC. Am I right?
HL: Definitely. I’ve had the privilege of spending time with most of the contributors and I can attest to the fact that they’re a group of fun-loving, deeply spiritual and interesting women. I’m hugely blessed to have them in my life.
JF: Tell me about your chapter—Style: Balance, Beauty and You.
HL: In my chapter I tackle subjects such as style, beauty and self-care; that some might argue should be put aside in the pursuit of holiness. I argue they are actually essential to thriving in our vocation. Ultimately all of these things affect how we relate to our husbands, our children and our communities.
JF: How do the authors—committed Catholic women—speak to today’s Catholic women “in the pews” who often struggle with a Church teaching here and there?
HL: One of my goals was to demonstrate to Catholic women that they are not alone. We all struggle and none of us have this whole Catholic womanhood thing perfectly figured out. That’s why we need each other and need to remain open, humble and honest about our challenges. As I write in the foreword: “We’re all in this together, and together we will prevail.”
JF: Back to the title: substance is a powerful theme. How do the authors manage to effectively relay such substantial topics with humor and levity?
HL: I made it a point to choose authors that had demonstrated that they could laugh at life. That was important to me. Having said that, we were also well aware that we were tackling heavy, and at times sensitive, issues. Our goal was to do so with the perfect combination of reverence, humility and humor. It’s all about striking that delicate balance. The contributors blew me away with just how well they accomplished that goal.
JF: The idea of being who God meant you to be comes up more than once. How can the book help women pinpoint exactly who that is?
HL: The key is to not apologize for who you are. Catholic women are not meant to be “Stepford Wives.” As God is endlessly creative, our lives are all going to look different. What are your talents, passions and preferences? Remember God gave you all of those things, embrace them, and thank him for giving you the opportunity to serve him in your own special way.
JF: There are a lot of books about being a good mom, a good wife, a good Catholic, a good person: what makes this one special?
HL: One, it covers the most important aspects of a woman’s life. It’s a sort of handbook for Catholic women. Two, each chapter stands alone so that busy women can pick up the book, invest a few minutes, and (hopefully) walk away feeling inspired and encouraged. And three, it includes the voices and perspectives of 10 different women. I love how, by bringing all of these women together, we’ve been able to demonstrate that this beautiful vocation of Catholic womanhood can be lived out in a multitude of ways.