Sunday, February 28, 2016

57 years ago, Eileen Suiter wrote this for us

Eileen Suiter* would have been 102 years old today. She was born on February 28, 1914, and died nearly 36 years ago, on July 15, 1980. I never met her in life, and yet I know her profoundly. Catholics, you will also instantly recognize Eileen and that familiar, eternal bond that springs from a shared faith. 

This charming wife and mother from 1950s South Dakota is about to tell you her story of great tragedy, presumption, and pride, and how, by finally ceding control and trusting God, she learned to accept and even bless her immense and seemingly unbearable crosses. She wrote this piece with the intent that it be published -- and today it finally has been. Happy Birthday, lovely lady!

His Ways are Wondrous

 by Eileen Mannion Suiter
c. October, 1958

My husband and I will be married twelve years in a few weeks during which time we have had eight children of whom we are raising five. We have had the consummate nerve at various times to question God’s dictates, but He has not made us wait for eternity to mark the wisdom of His ways.  We are humble in the face of His immense generosity to us and overwhelmingly sorry for people who try to out-smart His knowledge.

My husband was born in a rural village of the West which he described to me as a cross-roads town. Having been born in New York City and raised in Chicago, I assumed it was very small, perhaps 10,000 people or so. But the quality of his honesty was not strained, then or ever. My first visit disclosed an abandoned hotel, a combination post office and general store, a gas station, and a Protestant church occupying the four corners and comprising the town. Rolling farm and ranch lands hid the homes of folks who used these facilities.

My husband had been taught a rigid code of personal integrity within the framework of his Protestant religion with one glaring exception—an innate animosity to anything Catholic. We cannot now figure out the reason for this. It was just generally assumed throughout the area that Catholics aimed to take over the country one day and had arsenals concealed here and there on Catholic property against such a contingency. This, however, was just one of the Catholic failings, and many of the other accusations annoyed me far more than the charge of treason.

When we met in Chicago during his Navy days, it did not appear like a promising relationship since my mother and father (God rest their souls) had been born in Ireland and we children had been raised accordingly. Anyone raised in a genuine Irish home can appreciate how all-encompassing is Catholicity. My parents were the type who spoke in their soft sweet voices of hiding the priest in the kitchen in Ireland while the children summoned the neighbors to hear Mass on an improvised altar by the light of a turf fire.

Religiously speaking—and what other way is there to speak—we did not for long talk the same language. The enforced separation of the war, however, made us resort to the written word. One writes with more consideration than one speaks. One shakes off the momentary displeasure of an opposing view and gives a measured reply. I was smug in my Catholic complacency and he was seeped in a bog of erroneous impressions concerning it. But God had plans for us. My husband-to-be talked with many Navy chaplains and gained an understanding of his obligations should we marry, but it was left for our family friend, a forthright, blunt speaking priest, to be God’s instrument in my husband’s conversion.

Father Smith (we’ll call him) is a belligerent Irishman of complete charm who brooks no nonsense about religion. He did not have a velvet touch and I knew the fur would fly on any subject of Catholicity between him and my future husband. Though I loved Father Smith myself, I was once again proved wrong as I so often am. Their personal liking for each other was instantaneous but the fur did indeed fly—sometimes far into the night—with my husband’s objections, questions, queries, doubts falling like towers before the explosions of Catholic logic.

Father Smith gave him a laughing, merry tour of the Church basement on the day of his acceptance into Catholicity, as that he might check for himself the quality of the hidden arsenals, while Father chuckled mightily and made snide remarks.

Just before our first anniversary, our daughter Maureen was born, and 13 months later our son James arrived, and forgetting the lessons of the past I settled into a worse complacency than ever before. I had the world by the tail. Perfection had been achieved. I loved and respected my husband with very good reason to do so, and I had a beautiful daughter and a lovely son. My cup was full—my life complete. It didn’t occur to me to wonder if I had Heaven by the tail too.

So God gave me a well-deserved jolt and I rebelled bitterly.

The night my son was 27 days old, angel wings brushed past me in the night, and when I rose to see what caused it, I found my son was dead.

For a few wild hours I didn’t believe in God. No good God would treat me so. I have no idea why I thought God should treat me with kid gloves, but such was the depth of my presumption.

Then it occurred to me that if there was no God, my boy was as well dead at 27 days as at 127 years, and cold reason returned to leaven my grief.

He is buried in a wild, desolate, wind-swept cemetery atop a high butte overlooking the Missouri River. He was dressed in his Baptismal robe and it was his privilege to be buried on Holy Thursday (March 25, 1948).

Even that day standing there in a raging blizzard grieving for my son, I tried to infringe on God. “It is my fault. There is something I could have done.” You see I still wouldn’t concede God the right to accomplish His will.

But my well laid plans were shattered; I had no son.

Thirteen months later my first reaction was one of disappointment with God because my new baby was a girl. That wasn’t according to plan. Kathleen was supposed to be a boy so the pattern would return to its original perfection. One look into her wide blue eyes and my heart was lost forever. “Ok,” I told God, “you were wise this time. I really do need this extra one because I never saw such sweetness before.”

I thought to myself that we would have a boy next, and, while not exactly arguing with God, I felt sure I could make Him see things my way. I was still trying to boss the show in my heart. I never saw my third daughter, Elizabeth, because she was stillborn.

Once again I usurped God’s prerogatives and took all the responsibility myself. My grief-ridden heart felt that I, and I alone, was the cause of this second disaster. If I hadn’t been so set on a son it never would have happened. If I had done this and not done that she would at least have lived to be baptized. Although I gave lip-service to God, my sense of personal blame accused Him of being a rather vengeful, spiteful God who was taking things out on me. I hope He has forgiven me my vast pride.

Somewhere along the line, though, I began to improve a little. I grew closer to God and began to consider that perhaps He had His Blessed Hand in the pie. I knew my son was in Heaven with nothing on earth to do except pray for us. My daughter was happy to the fullest of her capacity for eternity, whether that be in Limbo, or through God’s unknown mercy, in Heaven. What more could I ask for either of them if they lived for three score and ten?

I won’t tell God what to do anymore—I’ll just go along with His wisdom. This I promised myself.

That’s when we had a perfect set of twins, a boy and a girl. My heart almost broke with gratitude. Why the minute I stopped trying to boss God, He gave me back a boy and a girl, Patrick and Jeanne. Oh the wonder and glory of God’s ways. I think, in deepest reverence, that He sits in Heaven and often laughs at the torments we make for ourselves. As He loves the most because He is love, surely He laughs the most because He made laughter—gentle, tender laughter that knows all things will come right.

But by the same reasoning, how bitter must be His tears. Once again, I rebelled.

I was so busy with my wonderful twins and darling girls that I was reluctant to find myself pregnant again. I hope I will never be so foolish again. Whatever else my sins, and they are plenty and black, I pray to be preserved from trying to boss my life when it’s been proved again and again that God has a special generosity for me and mine.

However would we get along now without this reluctantly-accepted extra boy? Kevin is the joy of our family and so closely aged to the twins as to make them near triplets. At least we found our trouble was RH incompatibility, and it took blood transfusion, oxygen tents, and God’s perfect love to present us with our charming little boy.

Then came the medical warnings, but God had primed us well and we were ready. Another child would very likely not survive or would be handicapped if it did. The variety of handicaps were dreadful, and we were told it was a miracle we had five healthy children as it was. Well we knew it was a miracle all right. It wasn’t too hard to give God His proper authority this time. He’d given us the five we had to raise—good-looking, intelligent, God-fearing children who were a joy to our lives and a blessing to our home. We guessed this time we’d let God make the decision.

Our last child, our beautiful Anastasia, lived only a few hours, which was long enough to ensure her an eternity of delight. What more could anyone ask for their beloved child? She was named from the Remembrance for sinners in the Missal, because although we expect her to remember her parents, make no mistake, we want her to remember we are sinners, too. She’s such a little Saint.

So now we are warned by many, “You were lucky so far, but how dreadful if a child should survive and be handicapped.” Well it hasn’t happened yet. It may never happen and again it might. We think we are being honest with ourselves when we say that we would accept it as one of God’s mysterious blessings—maybe His best one.

I have read of the heroic things the parents of such a child achieve. I read of their special love for such a child. We have five well children. It wouldn’t hurt us to strive to care for a child who was only important because of his immortal soul.

We do not solicit such a situation, because we are frail vessels indeed; but if it should come, we know God will be laughing gently with us. We know that although such an occurrence may be wrapped in the tissue of tragedy, God’s humor will have it chock full of His choicest blessings.

The Suiter Family, 1954
Top Row: Kathleen (my granddaughter Felicity's other grandma!), Eileen, Maureen, Dale
Bottom Row: Kevin, Jeanne, Patrick

Eileen Mannion Suiter


Baby Anastasia was born and died in 1957, and this piece was written in 1958. About three years later, Eileen suffered a traumatic brain injury after being struck by a car. She was not expected to survive, but she did, living for many more years. 

Although never really her old self again, Eileen had some good and functioning days, retained her charm and humor, and was even able to return to work for a time. Eventually though, a steady decline in memory and mood took over. There was no real treatment for brain injuries back then, and the medications themselves were often contributors to a patient's lapses or confusion.

She and Dale had no more children after Anastasia, but the last part of her story seems prophetic, as she herself became the handicapped person that she had been willing to accept as a gift to her family. We can apply her words to her own circumstance:
We do not solicit such a situation, because we are frail vessels indeed; but if it should come, we know God will be laughing gently with us. We know that although such an occurrence may be wrapped in the tissue of tragedy, God’s humor will have it chock full of His choicest blessings.

Some of Eileen's children and grandchildren have gone on to adopt children with special needs. The fruit of her love, trust, and acceptance of God's will continues to this day in her family, as it grows. With a grateful heart, I thank her for her beautiful witness of the Catholic faith, which has become a gift to all of us, including her great-granddaughter Felicity, who happens to be my granddaughter.

*Eileen's daughter Kathleen is Felicity's other grandma!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The two-child norm is not necessarily the result of selfishness

Please Note: I am writing about the wider culture and its norms; this post is not referring to faithful Catholics with smaller families.

Since my reversion 21 years ago, I have been surrounded by my Catholic friends in an amazing Catholic diocese and community. The norm in my circles is openness to life in one's marriage. Those of my friends who have small families, or no children at all, are usually suffering from infertility.

But when I am in the broader culture, a culture I used to fit within quite comfortably, I recognize that large families are an anomaly. Sometimes, the realization can be jarring. A couple of my younger kids now go to a public charter school down the street, which is a change from the small Catholic school and homeschooling that had been the norm for us for decades. Almost all of my boys' classmates come from families with one or two children.

On my block, almost every other family has two children. Over the 15 years we've lived here, a strange thing has happened. A bunch of us had small kids/toddlers/babies at the time. As the years passed, the neighbors' kids grew into teens and even adults. No more babies or little kids in the neighborhood -- except for our house, which continued to contain young kids, toddlers, babies. It is sometimes just a little eerie, honestly.

Families that welcome many children are not the norm. In the past, big families were seen as a blessing, as natural, as routine, but the culture has changed completely, as evidenced by a comment I received just the other day from a reader named Amy:

Leila: I would rather like to know what made you have eight children and expect your husband to provide for all of them, unless he is quite wealthy.

I don't want to assume snarkiness (though it sure seems a little snippy), but I do assume that Amy has a general unfamiliarity with large families. She simply cannot imagine why a regular married couple would welcome many children. It makes no sense to her at all, and she sees it as even a terrible imposition on the marriage itself, unless it's the luxury, whim, and frivolity of a "quite wealthy" family.

Which brings me to the thoughts I've been having lately, when I see just how different my family and my friends' families really are in today's America. When I first discovered the truth of Catholicism and the beauty of God's design for human sexuality and marriage, I was exploding with joy! Everything made sense, it was so stunning, so lovely, so profound!

New converts or reverts have a tendency to get zealous very quickly, due to that blush of "new love" that comes with the embrace of Christ and His Church, and that zeal I felt, combined with spiritual immaturity, led me to so many rookie mistakes. I made assumptions that were unfounded, including the assumption that "people in this culture only have one or two children because they are selfish!" I was just sure of it.

And then I began to mature, and I began to think. While it is true that some couples close their marriage to any or more children due to selfishness, materialism, and a desire for the "finer things and the good life" (I have had people admit this to me with great honesty), I can't assume that for the majority.

In fact, I started to look at my own pre-faithful life. When my husband and I were married, I was on the Pill. We had talked about having two kids, maybe three at the most (especially if the first two kids were the same sex). That was how it was, and there was no big controversy or angst.

But interestingly, that was not my heart's desire at all. I actually always thought that big families, when I had seen them or read about them, were amazing, wonderful, fascinating! In my heart of hearts, I would have loved to have a "big family" -- four kids, maybe even five!

Of course, that was just a dream (and one barely thought of), like saying that it would be amazing to weave my own clothes on a loom, or travel the world on a yacht. I mean, some people did that sort of thing -- the eccentrics, the uber-religious, the uber-rich -- but not normal folks.

It wasn't that I was being selfish or stingy in fully intending to limit our family to two children (three being possible, but not probable), it was that I was doing what was done. The cultural norm of two children was and is the very air that we breathe in regular America. There is no thought about it, no deeper questions to be asked, none of that. We do what our neighbors do. We do what the culture says. I would no more have thought about actually having a large family than I would have thought about going barefoot on a trip to the mall or joining a circus as a trapeze artist. I mean, who does that? A very odd few.

Selfishness, like love, requires willful thought and action.

And so, in looking back, I was not selfish in my decision. It was simply not a decision that I even knew could be made. It was not a question on the radar at all. When I look around at the majority of my neighbors and fellow parents, I cannot assume that they are being selfish in deliberately limiting their family size. They are just being 21st century Americans. It's just what we do. We have very small families and we do it reflexively. It's no more complicated than that.

Which brings me to the freedom. When the glorious moment hits, when the awesome realization strikes, "I don't have to follow the American norm; I am a Catholic and I follow the Lord", oh the freedom! Oh, the joy! It's as if the sealed box we've been living in has been burst open and we can jump out into the sunlight! Everything is different, new, bright, fresh, and colorful -- teeming with life and abundance! Oh, the possibilities!

My heart's hidden desire, to have more children and have my house full of life and my children lush with siblings and exponential extended family potential, was now unleashed! No one and nothing, not even a mindless and powerful cultural norm, could bind me again.

I pray that we Catholics would understand that those who deliberately have small families are not necessarily being selfish; they simply don't know a higher authority than the cultural norm. When they question or act shocked by our big families, it may well be that they are, as I once was, truly curious at the "eccentrics" in their midst.

May we Catholics never take our freedom for granted, nor judge as selfish those who don't yet know that they are still bound. Our job is to love them, and to lead them to the freedom that is meant for all.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Newsflash: Pope Francis did NOT just green-light contraception!

I feel like yelling.

Look at the second line of this headline:

NO, the Pope did NOT say birth control is OKAY. That is UNTRUE. The Drudge headline erroneously extrapolates from this distorted AP article, but let's read closer, yes? Francis says that it is not intrinsically evil to avoid pregnancy (DUH!!!), unlike abortion which is intrinsically evil. And he even references Pope Paul VI, the very person who wrote Humanae Vitae, which condemns contraception!

From the AP article itself:

Abortion "is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil at its root, no? It's a human evil," he said. "On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one (Zika), such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear."

Guess what? He just said what the Church has always said: Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. And there are ways of avoiding pregnancy, as Pope Paul VI said, that are moral. It's called Natural Family Planning.

Hello??? Is anyone ever listening?

DON'T BELIEVE THE MEDIA, people!!! Sigh....

*Please note that even the word "Zika" was inserted by the reporter, not spoken by Pope Francis.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Which temperament are you? I'm a...


And I never knew it! (Which makes sense now.)

Years ago, in a mild frustration, I wrote about being an introvert and the quest to be understood. I wrote about how being an introvert does not necessarily mean one is shy (I am not shy) nor socially awkward (I've been told I am bubbly and charming in social situations!), but it means that one primary recharges one's energy by being alone and quiet, sometimes for long, glorious days at a time. Extroverts, by contrast, tend to rejuvenate and gain energy by being around people.

If you have met me and/or formed an impression of me and are tempted to say, "Leila, you are not an introvert!" I will ban you from this site for all eternity politely set you straight, and then even more politely (through gritted introverted teeth) ask you to do more research.

But I want to go deeper here today, past the question of whether you and I are introverts or extroverts, to the question of our specific temperament (or temperament combo) that God has given us. I have enlisted Connie Rossini, who helped me figure out (FINALLY) that I am the very temperament that I was sure I wasn't: I am a phlegmatic! YES! It's true! And since I discovered that about myself a few months ago (while giving my children temperament tests), everything in my life suddenly makes sense. I finally make sense to myself!   {happy dance! happy dance! happy dance!}

Growing up in my family of origin, I was surrounded by two intense cholerics and one intense melancholic. That experience tended to bring out qualities and characters in me that masked or distorted my phlegmatic nature. As I grew into adulthood and especially as I grew in my faith, more of my true temperament began to emerge. I still tended to think I was a melancholic/choleric, but it felt forced and it never quite fit. And that's because I'm not those! Go figure.

It's so good to have my life and habits make sense now, and to know that I'm not simply "lazy" because I need a lot of time and space to complete a task. I now recognize why I am generally non-committal unless it's one of the few things I'm passionate about, why I don't hold a grudge or live in the past, and why I work to make everyone, even my fiercest ideological opponent, comfortable in my presence (in real life, I avoid conflict like the plague).

Now it's time to throw it to Connie, who knows all about this awesome (and really very Catholic) topic of temperaments. She has even begun a series of books on how to parent your child according to his or her temperament, two that are published (A Spiritual Growth Plan For Your Choleric Child and A Spiritual Growth Plan For Your Phlegmatic Child), and two more to come.

Take it away, Connie!

Do you know your temperament?
By Connie Rossini

What are the four classic temperaments? Do you know yours? Why should you?

Recently on Facebook, Leila mentioned that she is a phlegmatic. That started a long conversation about the temperaments. Since I have written extensively on this topic, including two books in a continuing series for Catholic parents, Leila invited me to post about it here.

The idea of the temperaments began with Hippocrates (of Hippocratic Oath fame). He noticed that people tend to act in one of four general patterns. Some people react to stimuli immediately and strongly. Others react more slowly. Some hold on to their impressions. Others let go of them. Temperament theory eventually settled on four divisions that I picture like this:

The fastest way to determine your temperament is to ask yourself two questions. One pegs you as either an extrovert or an introvert. The other pegs you as a people person or idea person.

Cholerics and sanguines, the two top temperaments on the chart, are extroverts. That does not mean that they are both "people people." Instead, think of extroverts as people who are outwardly focused. They learn what they think by talking. They need lots of time interacting with others and the world around them. They tend to be full of physical energy.

Melancholics and phlegmatics are introverts. In other words, they are inwardly focused. They think first, then speak. They need lots of time alone. They usually have less physical energy than extroverts. They need more sleep to function at their best.

Here is your first question: Do you react quickly to stimuli, news, or an unexpected turn of events? If yes, you are an extrovert. If you need to think before reacting, you are an introvert.

Besides dividing the temperament square horizontally, we can divide it vertically. The temperaments on the left, cholerics and melancholics, are interested in ideas. The temperaments on the right, sanguines and phlegmatics, are interested in people.

The second question helps you determine which side you fit into. Do you hold on to impressions for a long time? For example, do you nurse past hurts? Do you have a hard time moving on? If so, you are choleric or melancholic. If you react quickly, but just as quickly move on, you are sanguine. If you react slowly and mildly and can leave the past behind, you are a phlegmatic.

Why do temperaments matter for Catholics? Fr. Conrad Hock wrote:

One of the most reliable means of learning to know oneself is the study of the temperaments. For if a man is fully cognizant of his temperament, he can learn easily to direct and control himself. If he is able to discern the temperament of others, he can better understand and help them. 

Now that I know my temperament, I realize that most of my spiritual and interpersonal struggles stem from temperamental strengths or weaknesses. Self-knowledge, the saints tell us, is essential for spiritual growth. I understand myself so much better than I used to! I realize that some things I thought were great virtues, were just natural, unlearned tendencies I did not merit. I understand why some habits seem impossible for me to overcome.

I also understand others better. I am more sympathetic towards friends' and family members' foibles. I try to work with their temperaments, especially with my husband and kids. I can see things from their perspective.

Here are some fun ways of looking at the temperaments, to help you grasp the main characteristics of each.

The temperaments as animals:

choleric - lion

sanguine - chimpanzee

phlegmatic - golden retriever
melancholic - beaver

In scientific terms:

choleric - the Big Bang

sanguine - a star

phlegmatic - inertia

melancholic - gravity


choleric - control

sanguine - fun

phlegmatic - peace

melancholic - perfection

Reaction to temperament tests:

choleric - My temperament is the best.

sanguine - Can I be what he is? [The sanguine conforms to the group.]

phlegmatic - I can't decide what I am!

melancholic - I don't believe in temperaments.

Most people have a primary and secondary temperament. These mixes can't be between opposites. In other words, these combinations don't work:

melancholic /sanguine

But most people would be one of these:

phlegmatic/melancholic (or the reverse)
melancholic/choleric  (or the reverse)
choleric/sanguine (or the reverse)
sanguine/phlegmatic (or the reverse)

These pairings share a common reaction time or length of holding on to impressions. The impossible combinations are opposites in both areas.

So, do you know your temperament? Does this knowledge help you? Feel free to ask me questions to help pinpoint yours (and your family members').


Thank you, Connie! Readers?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

RIP Justice Antonin Scalia

Requiescat in pace Antonin Scalia.

You were a brilliant mind, an exceptional jurist, and a true patriot.
Most importantly, you were a faithful Catholic, a beloved husband, 
a father of nine (including a priest), and a grandfather to 30+. 

May we take your words to heart:


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Margo's faith story!

I really mean it when I say that I write this blog for the lurkers. Lurkers are that huge and hidden part of the iceberg that stays below the surface; we rarely, if ever, get a glimpse of them. However, the lurkers are out there reading, and they are especially watching the debates and dialogues that go on in the comment box. 

Several times a month, lurkers email me and tell me how those discussions have affected or deepened their faith life, prompted a conversion or reversion to the Catholic Church, or perhaps just broadened their perspective. Because the comment box is so compelling to them, I tip my hat to all of you on all sides of the issues, because you are essential to what we do here in the Bubble. It's an unexpected little family that we have created together, and I am sure I do not thank you enough.

In my last post, I gave a little teaser about Margo's conversion story and her deep passion for the virtue of chastity, and how even a feminist abortion supporter encouraged her to write it for the Bubble. So, for a powerful example of how you all have helped work in a person's faith life, I give you our very own, very active, always respectful and beloved Bubble participant, Margo!!

Margo Basso: My Conversion Story

Hello to everyone in my favorite Bubble :) I am honored, thrilled, and appreciative of Leila providing me this opportunity of guest posting in her Little Catholic Bubble, a blog that I’ve been following for nearly 5 years now! The following is my story of first discovering it…

First, a bit of backstory. I am 25 years old, and I grew up as a “cradle Catholic”, attended Catholic school from kindergarten - 8th grade, then switched to public school for two reasons: 1) I was SO sick of uniforms haha, and more seriously 2) the Catholic high schools in my area are better known as “college prep” schools, and at the time, I was just an average student who wasn’t sure I’d actually end up going to college; my local public high school offered a vast variety of classes in areas besides the standard Math/Science/English/Social Studies.

Having gone through nine years of Catholic school, I knew a lot of superficial facts about the Catholic faith: I knew all the common Bible stories, memorized several prayers, and I knew that Jesus loved me unconditionally. But I never learned any reasons behind the beliefs, and I had an "all roads lead to God/it doesn't matter what religion you are" understanding of things. Thus, I began high school with a more relativistic view on life (though I couldn’t have defined relativism if you asked me). To me, religion was something private and personal, not to be "imposed" on others. It didn’t matter what religion a person was or if they practiced a religion at all…as long as they were a “good person” and didn’t do anything horrible like murder or steal.

Although I was at a public high school, I still got deeply involved with my parish’s high school youth ministry and Confirmation-prep program (I received Confirmation in the spring of my junior year of high school). I instantly hit it off with Jim, the youth minister, who was a fun, enthusiastic, wacky, caring man in his early 30s. He even started a “teen mass” where he gave the homilies and had Christian rock music (present-day Margo cringes at this). I actually enjoyed going to mass and youth group because of Jim and my other friends. I learned the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. But anything in terms of morality or Catholicism being the fullness of all Truth? Nope! Heck, Confirmation was presented to me as a “Catholic bar mitzvah” -- I became an adult in the Church and could choose to practice the faith however I wished. By the time I was confirmed, Jim was no longer youth minister (a tragedy for teenage Margo). After that, the youth ministry fell apart and I fell away from a regular practice of Catholicism.

I never, ever stopped believing in God, I just began to be Catholic "on my own terms". This meant maintaining a relationship with God through prayer, occasionally reading the Bible, and treating others nicely. Mass and the other Sacraments? Those were boring, and I couldn’t see how they related to or were necessary for my life at all. During my senior year of high school, I got involved with a Protestant bible study for high schoolers called YoungLife. One of my favorite parts of it was that it didn’t align itself with any specific denomination. This comforted me, because I really had no label for my faith besides “Christian”. Fast forward to the summer before college (yes, I did end up deciding to try college at a mid-sized, private, non-religious school called Bradley University in central Illinois), and I distinctly remember praying for God to reveal what religion I should follow since I saw merits to both my cradle Catholicism as well as Protestantism. Within a few days of arriving at campus, God led me to the Newman Center, and He gradually introduced me to new depths of the Catholic faith. Peoria, Illinois just happens to be the hometown of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, so once I found out that the diocesan Cathedral (which was a few miles from Bradley) was where Fulton Sheen once served and was ordained, I quickly got my hands on his books and fell in love with his old television show, Life is Worth Living.

Fast forward to the summer after my sophomore year - July 2011 - when I came across the Little Catholic Bubble blog. At this point, I had a much improved grasp on the Catholic faith, had received Confession and was a daily-Mass attendee (shout out to my Newman Center for having 9 PM daily Mass for students!). I still didn’t have a firm grasp, though, on the teachings regarding sexuality. I agreed with the Church’s teachings out of obedience.

So how did I find the Bubble? One of my good friends, Will, was a senior when I was a freshman in college, and I originally had a crush on him. Then he went to seminary after graduating, so I completely stopped crushing on him and was a perfect angel…LOL, not quite, but that’s a WHOLE other story…. Anyways, being me, someone with anal attention to detail, I noticed that he “liked” a Bubble link on Facebook that one of his seminarian friends posted. What was the link? It was the “Gay, Catholic, and Doing Fine” post.

The fact that Will “liked” it plus the intriguing title drew me in and boy did it. The only way I can describe it is the Holy Spirit lighting a fire on my heart for the virtue of chastity…somehow it all clicked in my mind, and I wanted to know how to discuss this powerful virtue with others. So, I checked out the comments section of Leila’s blog and wow! I was so impressed with how REAL it was! Unlike other comment sections that filled with nasty language, these comments actually had meat to them.

So then I spent the entire rest of my summer reading through not only every Bubble post, but every comment as well! It was like a story to me as I got to know the regular commenters. My favorite memory is from my low-tech days. Back then, I was mostly relying on my iPod touch (especially on a road trip with my father to the east coast to visit relatives), which at the time would only allow me to have a maximum of seven browser windows open at a time -- so I would have seven Bubble posts open while on the road, and then would get seven more opened at rest stops/hotels, so it took me awhile but by golly I did it!

Ever since, I’ve been super on fire for the virtue of chastity (as the regulars here have probably noticed). I’m even heading out to San Diego in just a few weeks for the Catholic Answers’ National Conference “Restoring Marriage Today”. It’s crazy to think of how far I’ve come. Back in high school, as I mentioned earlier, I was relativistic about everything. I didn’t even really know what abortion was, though I considered myself pro-life because it seemed like the better side. But who was I to expect other people to feel the same way? My favorite television show was The OC (teen soap opera VERY heavy on hookups, fooling around, etc.) now I can’t stand to watch that show.

I’d like to be able to say that I am 100% pristine and have never struggled with chastity myself, but that would be a lie. I was tested heavily during my first serious relationship that lasted for five months in 2014, and I now have a much better understanding of the true difficulty of mastering this virtue.

Recently, God has brought this story full circle in my life, as He blessed me with the friendship of a young man (10 months younger than I) who is extremely similar to “Steve Gershom” (Joseph Prever), the author of the “Gay, Catholic, and Doing Fine” post that initially drew me to the Bubble. His name is Tom and we have the BEST conversations about life, emotions, following Christ, why same-sex marriage is impossible, etc. And he is even discerning a vocation with the Oblates of Mary in Boston. Gotta love how God works, right??

Thank you, Margo! The Bubble has been made richer by your presence, and now we know how God was working with you all along, bringing you ever more deeply into your Catholic Faith! And thank you again to all the members of this great Bubble family -- contributors, commenters, and lurkers alike! 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A laugh and a teaser

Still writing the book (I believe I'm 3/4 of the way there??!!) and watching my house go to heck (wait, that happened even before the book!), so I desperately need thought we could all use a non-partisan, non-sectarian laugh! I just love, love, love this video parody of Adele's "Hello" -- for those of us who are allergic to exercise and healthy eating, but who love to sing at the top of our lungs!

And a little teaser: You all know Margo, a very active member of our Bubble family! Well, Margo was telling a bit of her story on a thread on my Facebook page, about how she came to embrace the virtue of chastity with such a passion. I hadn't really heard the story before, and I asked her to fill in some of the details. Then, a non-Christian abortion-advocate friend suggested that Margo write her story for the Bubble, and I agreed! When both sides of the spectrum want to hear a story, then it's worth posting here!

Next post will be Margo's story! :)