The Adventures of the Irish-German Family Robisons

Just a heads up, my family is going on vacation, which means I’m taking a blogging vacation too.

If you need me, we’ll be in the South because Lord knows, when it’s hot, it can always get hotter. Also, my sister found a cabin on a lake where our dog is allowed to frolic too.

How could we leave her behind?!

Emily of Day in the Life tagged me in a blog meme where you pick seven of your favorite blog posts. I’m sure I’ll miss a few, but here goes:

1. Most Beautiful Post(s)

“What is Real? asked the Rabbit” — later became my first post for TIC

“Master, to whom shall we go?” — Thomas Aquinas’ poetry and reflecting on the Eucharist

2. Most Popular Post(s)

“Hail, Mary!” and “Hillsdating and Other False Realities” both cleared over 1,000 views each.

3. Most Controversial Post

“Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings”Bright Maidens post no. 5, my issue(s) with the Catholic Church (for more insight into my thoughts on this subject, here is an earlier post/ excerpt from a FOC letter: “Flannery on Faith and Feelings”)

4. Most Helpful Post(s)

“I will be the one/ Drenched in Proverbs 31” — someone else’s helpfulness

“A Last Lecture, How Romantic” — a former professor and an excerpt from his wonderful article (which I heard as a last lecture), “The Romance of Domesticity”

“What’s Love Got To Do, Got To Do With It?” — most helpful post to me and my future discernment, especially in understanding the idea of wives submitting to their husbands and what that means

“Tamed, Thanks to Hillsdale College” — Dr. Jackson’s spring 2010 convocation speech is amazing, especially his voice, his beard and his discussion of Le Petite Prince

“I been leavened by the yeast he don’t believe in,” he said, “and I won’t be burned.” — from my college days; an excerpt from a FOC short story and one scholar’s take on it (and life)

5. Post(s) Whose Success Surprised You

“Saint Who?” — Bright Maidens post no. 4 on patron saints; nicest shout-out ever on CatholicVote

Also, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” — a short quote by Pope Benedict XVI on making the Church “more attractive” and “credible”

6. A Post You Feel Didn’t Get the Attention it Deserved

“Thursdays with My Mom’s Side” — death of a dear one, James Joyce, W.H. Auden, and coming home.

7. Post you’re Most Proud of

“Oh College Days, What Art Thou?” — a response to a friend who graduated summa cum laude

Here are some more honorable mentions:

“Confessions of the Un-Domestic” — is a person born domestic? or is domesticity thrust upon them?

“Happy Birthday, William Faulkner!” — read him.

“Homeless in Columbus” — a fateful meeting with a homeless man and his poetry

“Shun the Hipsters” — from a Paris Review interview with John Updike

“A Caucus-Race! In Alexandria, not Wonderland” — a game I played walking to the metro

Fun trivia from Weez and the USCCB: this week is NFP Awareness Week! Who knew?

The Bright Maidens reached 200 FOLLOWERS over the weekend; have you “liked” us on FB yet? Our next topic will be summer reading and will be due the first Tuesday in August.

See y’all in August!

Building Up My Excuse Wall Nice And High

Sorry my latest Bright Maidens post is late… again. I wasn’t out of the country this time. I wasn’t recovering from jet lag either. I did drive my brother to the doctor and then to his interview with the Navy, but that shouldn’t have prevented me from posting. My laptop refusing to turn on, however, did.

Okay Julie, you’re thinking. Not a big deal. Just a post. You couldn’t have prevented your computer from deciding to go black and then have little Windows icon to swirl around for hours.

But, I beg to differ. I missed a deadline.

In professional journalism, my past life, that doesn’t happen. You miss a deadline and… well, bad news bears, yo. You’re messin’ with the lay-out folks now. I used to lose a lot of sleep under the pressure of a deadline. It was wonderful and exhilarating. I took pride in it. I liked how hard I could work under pressure, and the beautiful prose tapped out of my fingertips.

As some older readers know, I used to be a reporter. I covered the statehouse and had a jolly good time. Then, for many reasons, I quit, moved home and began writing and researching for the family business. I’m still Arts and Letters Editor of a quarterly, but I’ve mostly hopped off my journalism perch, and am enjoying a more distant view of a business I once thought of as my life.

As Girl Scouts taught me, make new friends, but keep the old

It is amazing what distance will do for perspective. I talked to a good friend last week, and he asked me about what I am up to. The conversation almost made me laugh from glee, that pithy C.S. Lewis line about telling God your plans coming to mind, and I told my friend how much I am enjoying life. We have been friends since college: he knew me when I was dead-set on D.C., saw me lean towards marketing, helped edit my first academic journal piece, and has been a wonderful friend to me. My update was much longer than his, for better or worse. He’s still on the same track: rocking med school.

On one hand, I envy those in medical or law school, those working in their field of choice, those who shaken off the dust of their hometown and have arrived on the scene in the big city. There’s a plan and a path, and the fruit of one’s hard work can usually be seen on a larger scale. They’re makin’ their mark, and they won’t stop until they get there.

But where are they going, exactly?

I find there’s something alluring about striking out on my own path, beating my own drum, figuring “it” out. Belle sings in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast about the provincial life, saying she wants more and declaring that there must be more!

I sympathize with Belle, but only to an extent. I work for my family business. I like it, but sometimes I forget that one must work within one’s postage stamp of native soil to really excel. It takes experiences like talking to good friends to remind me of what I have, and how blessed I am to be at home.

Every choice is a give and take, and I’m freely and no longer choosing the promise of a career over my relationships with people. (Not that other people in their respective fields necessarily are– but I was, which is my point.)

Leaping down the hill in Georgia

Living at home again has taught me how to handle the unexpected. I have to be diligent at work, or else I won’t be able to get my work done on time when my parents need me to take my brother-with-mono to the doctor again.

In two weeks, I have a couple book reviews due. I need to plan ahead to make deadline, which includes Saturday Fun (a.k.a. all house clean-up) and washing dinner dishes. I’m helping someone do research for a book: there’s a schedule I have to keep to. I might go overseas again; I play tennis on Tuesdays, see friends and B. through the week, and go on walk-runs with my dog. I’m doing my own research, and writing letters, and writing more articles, including my Bright Maidens posts.

I realized today: I really should plan to publish earlier than the day of. Life happens, but that doesn’t mean writing shouldn’t.

Thus, I am sorry, sort of.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be. Maybe you didn’t even notice, dear readers, but nonetheless, please accept my apology for tardiness and bear witness to my persistence in attempting to publish things on time. I will return to my old habits, mostly.

As Tolkien wrote in The Fellowship of the Ring (which I am listening to during my daily hour commute, to lessen the time brunt), “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

I’m not sorry I’m spending my time with people, but I am for not publishing on time, which is, in a way, an opportunity to spend time and share my thoughts with y’all, as you share back with me.

Here’s something to read in the meantime: Knocking at the Door: Musings on history, philosophy, theology, literature, and culture. It’s a blog by my good friend Mitch, a grad student at TCU studying the Civil War. He also features the above Tolkien quote and offers lovely commentary on things he reads.

Also worth a skim: Holy Women & Everyday Hero Priests -UPDATE by Elizabeth Scalia

Happy Wednesday, y’all! And thanks for reading.

What Are You Reading?

I’m back, after a loooong time. Can’t promise consistency, but at least content. Volume 21, baby!

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This week, I bought more books than my New Years’ Resolutions allowed*. I said 3? Well, I meant 8! It’s summer, does that count for anything?

I also renewed two subscriptions (First Things and The New Criterion) and took out a third (Touchstone, because its price was blessedly and severely reduced). I sadly am letting one of my newspapers go, though, and am happy to still have my Wall Street Journal, National Catholic Register, Financial Times, and The Magnificat.

Have you bought any good reads lately? Are you supporting excellent writing and the advancement of intellect?

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Elizabeth is always marveled by how much I read. I thought I’d share the five books I am currently reading (yes, at the same time; I like multitasking):

I got this one for Christmas and am loving it:

Edith Stein and Companions On The Way to Auschwitz by Father Paul Hamans

This thick one will be finished before the summer is out – fantastic and meticulously written and researched:

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun

This one is really interesting and insightful:

Philosophy 101 By Socrates by Peter Kreeft

B. lent me this one, and it is hil-arious:

A Practical Guide to Racism by C. H. Dalton

I am listening to this one in the car, and it is, of course, just wonderful:

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

In July, I’m going to start Brighton Rock by Graham Greene for my long-distance book club with Tessa and Brenna! Excited to read more Graham Greene – I love The Heart of the Matter and The Power and the Glory. Highly recommend both as well, if people are looking for summer reading recommendations.

Up next: Christopher Dawson, Zora Neale Hurston, Pope Benedict XVI and some Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Here is my blog referral of the week: Born After Reagan

My friend Logan started it a few months ago, and now I am excited for the 2012 election just so I can read what he has to say about it!

Why yes, we did meet Ron Paul together three years ago:

CPAC 2008
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The topic for next week’s Bright Maidens‘ post is picked! Next Tuesday, please join us in discussing “Catholic Modesty.”

If you’re a first time participator, all you have to do is write on the same subject and post your response to the topic on our FB wall. Wa-la! If you’re not on FB but still want to participate, e-mail it and we will post it for you to share with the group. If you’re on Twitter, our hashtag is #brightmaidens (with an ‘s’ on the end!) to share posts and tweets.

Also, Bright Maidens refers to we three girls, but we have both males and females participating. The male hashtag on Twitter is #cathdudes if you want to read some some cool Catholic dudes.

A re-cap of last week’s topic, a response to Max Lindenman’s article on “Dating Nice Catholic Girls”:
Elizabeth: On Reading Confused Catholic Writers
Trista: Please Don’t Call Me A Prude
Julie: Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!

Elizabeth makes a list of all the contributions too, so please check our FB page later for that!

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I’ve been home for a week, and am still actively learning to adjust to a new sleep schedule, being back at work, and hearing people talk to me in English. As happy as I am to be home, South Korea was an amazing experience. I’ll give you a sneak peek from my weekend in Busan:

This is a kimbab, and the best thing I ate in South Korea (stay tuned!)
Best bathroom sign EVER.
The Eastern Sea, a.k.a. The Sea of Japan. But they don’t like the Japanese, so don’t call it that, please.
The Busan fish market. I’m going to have a whole post on food.

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I’m also going to have a whole post on drinking in South Korea. Here’s me trying authentic Korean beer for the first time:

So innocent.
There are so many patron saints of beer; they obviously did not invoke any of them!

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I bought Adele’s latest album, 21. I seriously do not know why I waited so long. It is wonderful, soul-filled and beautiful.

Here’s “Someone Like You” with Adele talking about why she wrote the song. Warning: I teared up a bit.

She’s a two months younger than me, too. Gives a girl perspective!

Okay, one more, this one upbeat: “Set Fire To The Rain”

SHE IS SO AMAZING. Buy her music. Make her famous and wealthy, she deserves it. I want her singing forever and ever.

Happy Friday, friends! See Conversion Diary for more. Also, say a prayer for Jen! She’s having her baby on Wednesday!!

*I’ve been miserably failing to follow most of my New Years’ resolutions, actually, which is why I take the book buying limit one so seriously!

Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!

The Bright Maidens, Topic 10: “On Dating Nice Catholic Girls” by Max Lindenman: a (delayed) response

“Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed!” by Julie Robison
“On Reading Confused Catholic Writers” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Please Don’t Call Me A Prude” by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Is it wrong that every time I tried to write this response post, the Beastie Boys’ lyrics kept playing in my head? “Her pants were tight/ and that’s okay!” they chorus, and I know Mr. Max Lindenman agrees, even though he scathingly used the adjective “tight” three times in his Patheos article “On Dating Nice Catholic Girls” in reference to three different girls’ bottom apparel.

The Beastie Boys, on girls: “I like the way that they walk/ And it’s chill to hear them talk/ And I can always make them smile/ From White Castle to the Nile.”

Later in the song, however, they lamented what happened during a walk down to the bay: “I hope she’ll say, “Hey me and you should hit the hay!”/ I asked her out, she said, “No way!”/ … So I broke North with no delay.”

Mr. Lindenman, I’m afraid dear readers, also broke North with no delay. His sub-byline is misleading, a backhanded compliment of “No hook-ups but no long-term ego-busts; nice Catholic girls teach tenderness and the valuable security of the everyday.”

Within the article, he confused readers by first he accusing the JPII generation of women of being “godawful” teases like Sexy Puritans (a.k.a. attractive Christians), then admiring his ex-girlfriends’ sunny dispositions and adherence to Catholic sexual morals before sharply criticizing those very virtues within the same page, and, the worst of offenses, did not properly fact check. Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae as our dating guide? Please. That encyclical is for married folk. Nice Catholic Girls read the Theology of the Body lectures first!

Mr. Lindenman does address an excellent topic though: how can girls only cuddle? How can they not succumb to their desires for more intimacy than handholding and playing footsie? If kissing is okay, why not taking a few tips from the Kama Sutra?

In the 2007 film Juno, after the 16 year old main character Juno MacGruff tells her father and step-mother that she’s pregnant, her father says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.”

Juno replies, “I don’t know what kind of girl I am.”

I found this part of the movie incredibly honest, and a good reflection of how sexual education is addressed in America. My own began at home: by the time I had my first sexual education class in the fifth grade, my parents had given me four siblings, with one more to come. My parochial grade school education was all scientific explanation of sexual intercourse, with a dose of religious reverence. My parents were extremely upfront about sex not happening before marriage, and God’s plan for sex within marriage. It was easy to see why saints had died for their virginity, and why they offered it up to God.

But there the formalities stopped. We spent one week in Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI) lectures my freshman year of high school, and barely skimmed the touchy subject in Ethics my junior year. I made friends with many boys, took boys to dances, and occasionally went on dates, but avoided more intimate relationships. When I did go to college, I was completely unprepared for the advances of some boys and, all I can say at most is that I am glad the teachings of the Catholic Church were so firmly pressed upon me and my conscience, because my emotions would have dictated me astray.

Catholicism’s response to the sexual revolution

I didn’t learn or start reading about Theology of the Body until after my junior year of college and into my senior year, giving me now more of a foundation for what was only a protest before. As Juno later and quite aptly said, there were times when I was “just out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level.”

Through all of it, I valued honesty, whether the guy bravely breached the gap or I had to step up and address the awkward silence of unsaid triflings. My heart, therefore, sank a bit deeper into my chest as I read Mr. Lindenman’s belittlement of such an effort.

He wrote, “My nice Catholic girls were completely different animals. Straightforward and unaffected, they sent no mixed signals, crowned their bedposts with no negative notches. In their orgies of chaste snuggle-wuggles I see evidence for a startling truth: where sexuality decreases, tenderness and sensuality increase.”

I, in turn, see evidence of confusion. Chaste snuggle-wuggles (hereafter known as “cuddling”), for starters, are the antithesis of orgies, which are unrestrained and excessive sexual activities. I submit as my thesis that in a pre-marital, non-sexual relationship, sexuality does not decrease, but remains consistent, in check, and in anticipation, as well as increasing tenderness and sensuality, not to mention creativity for fun and romance.

One topic not addressed by the author is the difficulty for a Nice Catholic Girl to find a Nice Catholic Boy.

Nice, of course, means more than pleasant to be around and no less than respectful in words, actions and thoughts; it is a vague word that indicates the virtues of men and women are being honed and prepared for delivery when called upon or needed.

Well, says the dear readers, maybe you two shouldn’t have gotten that far in the first place.

But would two people sitting feet apart, refraining from most contact, cultivate anything but sexual frustrations and tension? Holding hands would perhaps alleviate that, without overdoing it. To avoid temptation, one must avoid the near occasion of sin. But if two are both committed to not sinning, does proximity of one’s bodies determine the occasion?

I am not prepared to address every specific situation a couple may face together, but I think every situation can be correctly handled according to the Church’s teachings and without the tease of a Puritan courtship. This is where I quarrel with Mr. Lindenman.

Say what?!

He tells a tragic tale of woe: of Melissa, his former girlfriend, the nursing student. She was beautiful, but either didn’t know or didn’t care. She could draw parallels between saints and X-Men characters, participated in Eucharistic Adoration, and was courageous enough to ask Mr. Lindenman via e-mail postscript if they were dating since, apparently, he failed to properly ask her out.

He said his security was Melissa, and that he inadvertently told her he loved her during a hike. They talked long into the night, but the nuances of their relationship began to haunt him, like Dimmesdale’s guilt in The Scarlet Letter. Unlike Hester, however, Melissa did not keep things secret in the crevices of her heart. She was kind and open with all she met and knew, and her “buoyancy, the way she revealed herself as recklessly as a patient on a couch, worked on me like a stimulant.” But in the end, instead of admiring this trait, Mr. Lindenman “cooled off pointedly.”

No reader was shocked when Melissa broke up with him. He said, “That was Melissa: scrupulous in honesty and generosity, a nice Catholic girl to the end. …There’s a great deal to be said for nice Catholic girls: the up-front quality, all those depths made visible, like the ocean in a color-coded map. Even the prudery has its advantages. Getting kicked to the curb by a girl you’ve never slept with means never having to wonder whether you’re a bad lover. That cuts the ego’s recovery time exactly in half.”

I am sorry Mr. Lindenman did not take more time to “recover” from this relationship, or rather, reflect. Melissa was no prude. She was not shocked nor did she shun the topic of sex. She discussed it, and at length. She did not physically give her body, but she opened up her soul. This can be more terrifying than being physical with another person, because it requires a different kind of affection that people crave more than touch. This kind of affection has fewer lines, and allows for more creativity. To say I Love You is one thing; to show it is another.

“For God so Loved the world that he sent his only Son,” says John 3:16. Good experiences and good memories only really happen once. Nothing in this world can be repeated, even though it can be done again; the world writes its history based on the choices of individuals. Sex is a choice every person faces, and the idea of chastity is a contradiction to modern sensibilities, for which freedom is the ability to do whatever one wants to do, opposed to the freedom to do what one should do.

The bomb-diggity.

This is exactly what John Paul II persuasively argues for in his Theology of the Body lectures. The Catholic Church preaches authentic freedom through Christ, which leads to an authentic love. To love someone is to recognize their dignity. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13: 7).

In this same thread, dating a Nice Catholic Girl or Nice Catholic Boy is about seeing the other person as a whole person: not just someone to have sex with, not just someone to pass the time with, not just a possible vocation, and not just because they’re Catholic. The intimacy two Catholics seek in a relationship is beyond a want of sex. Of course they both want it, but they’re willing to acknowledge its significance, which is a true bond, but not as the pinnacle of the relationship, nor an indulgence for one’s own gratification.

Mr. Lindenman sees all the accidents of Love, and none of the essence. He gets distracted by the tight pants and sees pious hypocrisy in that same girl if she wears a mantilla too. He thinks not having sex is a decrease in sexuality, and downplays the honest desire to get to know another soul before allowing the bodies to join. He relishes in the feminine touch, but rejects its liberality if it won’t go beyond the cuddle.

Well, he can write his bishop about the tight shorts all he wants, but I think he’s missing the Church’s point. H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.” Catholics know how to have a good time, and do. Just because we’re not having sex before marriage doesn’t mean we’re prudes or Puritans. It means we bring the party when the time is right, and give the perfect gift too.

I’m Back in the States!

I’m back from Asia! I was in Busan, Daegu, Geoje Island and Changwon, South Korea, as well as Tokyo, Japan. It was amazing two week trip, and I can’t wait to write about it!

Well, erm, actually, I can. I am majorly slacking on my Bright Maidens post too, I know. I promise to post it ASAP. If you’re wondering what the hold up is, wonder no longer:

Heidi makes jet lag naps better!

Thanks for understanding.

Is Blogger Back?

Blogger deleted my last post and I’ve been pouting about it. I’ll re-post the poem soon, and tomorrow is another Bright Maidens post day: “Mary, Our Guide.” Please join us!

Here’s a TIC post I wrote a while back: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Here’s a bit of my weekend; while my college was sending off the new graduates, I was enjoying the scenery:

Sick today, but I expect a full recovery by tomorrow. If not, then I can’t babysit my baby cousins, Thing 1 and Thing 2! Please pray for another cousin, who badly broke his collarbone this past weekend.

Loving on this song — “Rumour Has It” by Adele:

She, she ain’t real. She ain’t gonna be able to love you like I will. She is a stranger – you and I got history, or don’t you remember? Oh Adele. So much soul.

Happy Monday!

Have You Filed Your Taxes?

I almost didn’t write one this week but, nonetheless, here is my volume 20:

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Today is not, I repeat, not Tax Day. Tax Day was moved to Monday, because there is a holiday of some sort happening in Washington, D.C. Or, if you work at a tax law firm like I do, then every day is Tax Day!

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Something I read for class, by Catholic Moral Theologian David Bohr:

The Christian life is like this. Faith is not usually a sudden inspiration that comes out of nowhere. Faith is a habit built up over time by doing faithful actions. Faith, as it was for the ancient Israelites, is not just a feeling or interior assurance, but is constituted in the real, material world by concrete practices. Faith is skillfully and wisely dealing with strangers, loved ones, money, genitals, and pots and pans. Faith is not usually something that comes in a flash of blinding light, but is built up over time by small actions like saying a prayer for a friend, cutting vegetables at a soup kitchen, putting one’s rear end in a pew every Sunday morning. If faith takes hold, these sort of actions and a thousand others become second nature.

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Spring is here, finally! Still cold-ish sometimes, but at least I can walk outside with my shoes off again, feet squishing against the grass and cool mud.

More things I like about spring: driving with my windows down again, bare legs, shorts, spring skirts, playing and running outside with the family dog, weekend croquet matches, no more cold weather, birds singing, warm breezes, anything nautical, sunshine.

What are things you like about spring?

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One of my best friends from college/ Kappa is at culinary school in New York and I miss her a lot. Fortunately, she keeps a blog. Even for a non-foodie like me, I enjoy it. She’s also been tying in Scripture verses to the beginning of her posts lately too, which gives new perspective. Check it out!

Vivy and me running down a hill in Georgia

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My best friend (Bear-Bear, to those unawares) has an incredibly talented younger sister, whom I call Old Sport. Listen to her beautiful song here:

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Doesn’t this song just make you happy? This website on St. Augustine makes me happy too– many thanks to Emina at Illumination for posting it! The libertarian allegory from the Mises Institute of Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” is worth a chuckle too; and, as always, are you reading WSJ’s James Taranto?

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We Bright Maidens had another lovely response to our post this week: saving sex for marriage. I must admit, I was rawther nervous about posting mine, but the responses, either public or private, were overall so gracious, that it made me feel very happy to share my stories and view point. Many thanks to Tito Edwards for featuring mine on National Catholic Register and The Pulp.It as well! AMDG!

In case you missed it:
“The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” by Julie Robison
“Cut to the Chaste.” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Three Strikes, I’m Out!” by Trista at Not a Minx

This next week’s topic is finally to be revealed…. REVERSION STORIES! How three cradle Catholics “re-discovered” the Church, and why we’ve stayed Catholic. Being friends with Trista and Elizabeth, I can assure the audience that y’all will be in for a treat.

After Lent, we’ll take a one week break, and then resume posts every two weeks. We’d like to invite anyone interested to write alongside us, and post it on our Facebook page! Or e-mail us the link, and we’ll happily post it for you.

Happy Friday, folks! See Conversion Diary for more.