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!