I am excited to introduce you to my March 2019 “Bold, Brave, Catholic” writer. Leslie Sholly is a wife, mother, blogger, legal assistant, and all-around inspirational Catholic woman. She and I have been co-bloggers for Everyday Ediths for a while now, and are also members of Catholics Online, a group dedicated to promoting Catholic artisans, speakers, writers, and businesses. For more about Leslie, or to read some of her work, follow this link to her website! Read on to hear how Leslie, in her own words, has lived as a “Bold, Brave, Catholic” in her years as a child, wife, mother, and woman.
What does being bold or being brave look like to you?
A lot of people think of bravery in terms of combat or mountain climbing or running into a burning building to rescue someone. And no doubt it takes bravery to do those things. But I think most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit for the small moments every day in which we overcome our fear. I know I’ve read—and agree—that bravery is not a lack of fear but rather is feeling fear but acting anyway. Being bold to me means being a little extra-brave. It would be brave, for example, to pray in front of an abortion clinic. It would be bold to offer to pray with someone who was on her way inside.
Is there a time in which you were hesitant to embrace your Catholic Faith?
I continue to hesitate to fully embrace it. I admit I am afraid of what I believe really, REALLY embracing it would require—basically giving up almost everything to help others. God is merciful and loves us despite our limitations, but I do believe He would like me to do much more.
I think, though, that this question is meant to address fear of publicly embracing my faith. I live in the Bible Belt and when I was a little girl the local population was only 2% Catholic. Back then, I wasn’t a bit afraid of explaining (indignantly) to Protestant friends that NO, Catholics did not worship Mary or statues. And in fact I am still comfortable explaining those kinds of beliefs to non-Catholics. I start to get nervous when I have to embrace or explain uncomfortable or challenging beliefs. Sometimes I even fear my fellow Catholics, sadly, when it comes to certain social justice issues.
How did you overcome that hesitancy? Or, how have you worked through the fear?
I still hesitate. It can be exhausting to be challenged and I don’t always feel up to defending my positions. Often when I disagree with others I stay quiet. I don’t think we are always called to speak up. Sometimes we should listen, and sometimes it is enough to save our energy for another time.
What stops you from being bold or being brave in your expression of your Catholic Faith?
I would never hide the fact that I am Catholic. There’s a big statue of Mary in my front garden and the first thing you see when you walk in my house is a picture of the Pope. I often wear a miraculous medal, I keep my ashes on my head all day on Ash Wednesday, and I am very openly Catholic on social media. I am proud of being Catholic and have zero problems with that kind of expression.
But I sometimes find it very uncomfortable to be bold and brave about the intersection of my faith with the wider world. We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t discuss religion and politics in polite company but that’s a rule no one follows anymore. And I’m not sure it was ever a good rule. Still, those kinds of conversations are hard, and they are made harder when they take place in social media where people tend to be eager to take the gloves off the minute they disagree. I have actually done a lot of being bold and brave in this area, and it was so exhausting and painful that I have stepped back a bit.
Tell me about a time in which you were bold and brave in your expression of your Catholic Faith.
I was very open about how my faith affected my political choices during the 2016 presidential campaign. I tried very hard to foster discussions on my personal Facebook page where people with opposing views could express themselves. I tried hard to listen and learn, and spent a lot of time explaining my choices and how my faith inspired them. I also blogged about Catholic voting and activism. I was attacked, sometimes quite severely, by friends and acquaintances on both the left and the right. I am feeling anxious right now just writing about it! But several friends thanked me for what I was trying to do and for how I expressed myself. Others told me that they looked to me when they wanted unbiased information.
What encouragement would you give to others to be bold and brave?
Remember that we aren’t all called to great things in the eyes of the world. You should think about the areas where you are fearful and examine why that is. Start small. Bold and brave means different things to a shy introvert and a sassy extrovert.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that people are watching you and learning from you. I always remember what my mother would say to us when we went somewhere after school, still wearing our parochial school uniforms. She would tell us to behave ourselves, that everyone who saw us would know we were Catholics and they would judge all Catholics by our actions. If your co-workers or friends or Facebook followers know you are Catholic, then you are in uniform and you should think about how your words or actions reflect or don’t reflect your faith to those who are watching.