Editor’s note: Hallie Lord is editor of Style, Sex & Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider The Things That Really Matter, a paperback published this spring by Our Sunday Visitor. She was happy to field questions for CatholicMatch.
What inspired this book?
A couple of things, actually.
First, I was eager to demonstrate that there is no one correct way to live out our vocation. I think many of us worry that we’re not doing this whole Catholic womanhood thing right. The truth is that God is endlessly creative and sets forth a unique path for each of us to follow. I wanted to encourage women to embrace their passions, and trust in God’s guidance and love for them.
I also had a desire to create a book that would help Catholic women to feel a little less alone. Our vocation to Catholic womanhood is such a gift but, especially in this day and age, it can sometimes feel a little isolating. By choosing to collaborate with so many unique voices, I hoped to show women that we’re all in this together and that together we will prevail!
I was pleased to see a chapter addressing single life, which can feel overlooked by married Catholics. It’s written by Anna Mitchell, news director for EWTN’s “Son Rise Morning Show,” and she begins by stating that, in her late 20s, she’s been a bridesmaid eight times and she’s “jealous” of married women: “I won’t sugarcoat the frustration that comes from waiting for a vocation to be realized.” What did you make of this observation and the insights that followed?
When I set out to create this book, I made it a point to approach authors who had demonstrated that they were unafraid of being honest. I didn’t want to create a book that was full of platitudes but rather one that said, “Yeah, this vocation of ours isn’t always fun and it isn’t always pretty, but it is always good.” I think Anna did that very, very well in her chapter. I loved reading her insights into both the struggles and joys that come with being a single Catholic woman.
At what point did you decide to include a chapter for single Catholic women?
I wanted this book to have something to offer to all Catholic women. Though it’s true that most of the chapters are written by married women, the majority of the topics – including the chapters on faith, style, engaging the culture, work, and friendship – are relevant to all women regardless of their state in life. Wrestling with the topic of singlehood was part of the plan from day one.
What’s your advice to CatholicMatch members yearning for marriage and growing weary of the wait?
Live in the moment. I love being married and wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are things I miss about being single. There is a lot of freedom – and opportunities for sleep! – during that phase of life that you lose when you get married and have children.
Sometimes I kick myself for not enjoying those things more while I had them. I know how hard it is, though, and don’t mean to make light of that cross. But to the best of your ability, savor the goodness that God has given you each and every day.
I really appreciated Jennifer Fulwiler’s exhortation to “reject your sins, but love your quirks.” In your own life, Hallie, how have you come to do this, growing in holiness as well as self-acceptance?
When I first converted to Catholicism I took a very narrow view of what it meant to be a Catholic woman. I rejected a lot of my passions and preferences because they didn’t fit into that vision. What I eventually realized, though, was that it was God who had given me my quirks – the fact that I love vintage fashion, dry humor, and am forever in search of the perfect red lipstick.
What we need to remember is that God plans to use all of these things. Embrace what you love – as long as it’s not sinful, as Jen points out so eloquently – be true to yourself, and trust that God will use that in ways that will astound you.
Your reflections in chapter two are wonderful! Can you show us an outfit you consider both modest and stylish?
Well, as I mentioned, I’m pretty smitten with vintage fashion, so I currently have my eye on this dress (right) from Pinup Girl Clothing.
More broadly put, you make the case that style and substance aren’t mutually exclusive. Since that’s the title of the book – along with that always-provocative three-letter word in the middle – reflect on that balance a bit, how a woman can admire Steve Madden pumps and reserve time for daily prayer, that there’s room for both in the right proportion.
Oh, you’re a girl after my own heart. Don’t you just love Steve Madden?
But to answer your question, I think the key is to not become preoccupied with any one thing. It’s fine and good for me to delight in fashion but if I’m emptying my bank account, neglecting my children, and failing to make time for prayer because all I can think about is my wardrobe, than something has gone terribly awry.
Ultimately, everything we do during the course of a day should lead us closer to God. Even fashion! God wants us to celebrate all of the many earthly joys He has given to us. Fashion is just one of those things that brings me joy. And when I am joyful I can more effectively serve my family, my community, and the world at large.
The older I get the more interested I become in self-care. As you point out, women seem to have a harder time with this. So paint a picture for me of a quick fix you turn to on a stressful day.
Nothing revives me quite so quickly as a long, hot bath. Scented epsom salts are a must. The scent relaxes me – I’m especially fond of mint and lavender – and the magnesium in the epsom salts revives my body.
I love the title of Karen Edmisten’s chapter on spirituality, “God and Godiva.” One of her suggestions is to play the kind of music that makes you think of God. What song does that for you?
Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” and Audrey Assad’s “Lament” are my current favorites.
Random question for you, unrelated to the book: I’m interested in names and their influence. (I blogged a couple months ago about popular baby names and saint names.) I’m curious how you feel about Hallie – what it means to you, how you’ve come to own it?
I was actually named after my grandfather, William Haley, which always meant a lot to me since we were especially close. I must admit to feeling a little bummed after my conversion that there isn’t a St. Hallie. A friend of mine recently discovered that Hallie is a derivation of Henry, though, so I’m looking forward to learning more about the life of St. Henry.
What writing advice would you give to the many members of CatholicMatch who are writers or aspiring writers?
There are three things that helped me enormously:
- Invest in your career. By that I mean be willing to work for free to get experience. There are a lot of Catholic websites that may not be able to pay but will give you exposure and experience and that is priceless.
- Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, claims the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Nothing beats plugging away at your craft. Don’t give up.
- It can be hard to hear criticism about your writing as it is such an intimate form of artistic expression but try to remain humble. Take to heart the feedback the experienced editors give you and use it to refine your writing.
To answer your own subtitle, what really matters for Catholic women?
Well, of course, what really matters is all of those most important elements of a woman’s life: her relationship with God, marriage, motherhood, sex, friendship, work, etc. Beyond that, what matters is bringing balance to all of these elements. That, ultimately, was the goal of this book: to help women to “order, heal, and foster the individual elements of our life so that our entire life, as a whole, will better reflect the light of Christ.”