Style, Sex & Substance is the kind of book that Catholic women will read through in a few days and then immediately make a list of their best girlfriends to send it to. From the first to the last chapter, this book is a pleasure to read.
Every chapter is written by a well-known Catholic female blogger. Each tackles a host of issues sure to interest faithful Catholic women, while keeping it “real,” as editor Hallie Lord puts it: discerning God’s plan for your life, taking care of yourself, the place of beauty and fashion in our lives, sex and passion, fruitful friendship, the meaning of motherhood and using the media to evangelize the world.
While there is spiritual inspiration in this book by the truckload, there is another welcome item which many of us women living in the trenches sorely need: humor.
Rachel Balducci’s chapter is a case in point:
“Several years ago, around Augie’s second birthday, I got a phone call that would change my life.
“Did you know,” said my friend on the other end, “that all four of your boys are standing on the top of your truck beating it with bats?”
Perhaps mothers with perfectly behaved children won’t find this funny. But most of us who have ever watched our own children performing similar escapades in public will roar. My children found me laughing out loud so many times during my reading of this book that they kept coming up to me so I would “tell the joke” to them as well.
One of the best insights in this book comes from Register blogger Jennifer Fulwiler about the face of female holiness. Beyond the stress of family life, marriage and the single life, an issue that haunts many Catholic women is: Am I really living sanctity? Fulwiler does her own research and discovers that female saints led incredibly diverse lives. Some saints were extroverts, and others were deeply introverted. Some had happy marriages; others had painful ones. Some were divorced. Some had clean, orderly homes. Others had a multitude of children and homes which were impossible to keep in check. It is for each of us to discover the unique gifts that God has endowed us with and the particular kind of holiness we are called to.
“When I took a fresh look at real Christian holiness, this is what I found: Diversity. Uniqueness. People of all different temperaments and lifestyles, with a wide array of personal strengths and weaknesses,” writes Fulwiler. “... In other words, there is not a one-size-fits all template for being a good Catholic.”
Elizabeth Duffy’s chapter on “Sex, Passion and Purity” was also a very well-written one. It’s a mature and honest discussion about the bumps on the road to a good conjugal relationship within a Catholic marriage. It’s not something you read every day, which makes it an important chapter in this book.
A few chapters about Catholic womanhood in the workplace would have been helpful. Most of the authors seem to be stay-at-home mothers who write from home, except for Barbara Nicolosi, who tackles the issue of using modern media technologies to evangelize. It would have been interesting to hear from women who are doctors, lawyers, singers, chefs, etc. — or even fashion designers.
What would be even better is if editor Hallie Lord takes on Volume II — and after that, Volume III. This refreshing book has tapped into an underserved market. I, for one, would love to see more.
Register correspondent Sabrina Arena Ferrisi writes from Larchmont, New York.
SEX, STYLE & SUBSTANCE
10 Catholic Women Consider the Things That Really Matter
Edited by Hallie Lord
Our Sunday Visitor, 2012
160 pages, $14.95
To order: osv.com