Meeting my new sisters in faith

When I first signed up to attend the Women’s Cornerstone Retreat sponsored by my parish this weekend, I decided it would be a warm-up to a “real” retreat later in the year. I hadn’t been on a retreat since high school, so I thought Cornerstone would be a good way to get my feet wet and maybe connect with some women at the same time. What unfolded during the 26 hours I spent at the Carondelet Hospitality Center in Latham, New York, however, was far beyond my wildest expectations, a gift and a blessing. For the first time since joining my large suburban parish seven years ago, I felt as though I had finally found the small faith community I had been searching for.

Something told me that this weekend was too important to miss. There were many reasons to cancel my retreat reservations, and I briefly considered doing just that, but something deep inside kept pushing me, making me feel as though I had to be at this particular retreat. Now, having met more than 40 other women — my new “Cornerstone Sisters” — I realize that I was, in fact, meant to be at this retreat at this moment in my life. It was amazing, powerful, inspiring, grace-filled, wonderful.

I was humbled and awe-struck by the deep faith and wisdom of the women on this retreat. Ranging in age from 30s to 80s, their obvious hunger to move deeper into their spiritual journey made me want to stand up and shout for joy. I have been struggling to find a way to move forward on my own faith journey despite the busyness and stress of everyday life, and here, right in my own backyard, were dozens of other women who wanted the very same thing.  (more…)

An interview with Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

An interview with Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

I recently had the opportunity to interview Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, author of the newly released Catholic Saints Prayer Book: Moments of Inspiration From Your Favorite Saints (Our Sunday Visitor). So grab a cup of coffee and sit down to enjoy a conversation with this award-winning writer.

First a little background:

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, a Catholic wife and mother of five children, is an internationally known best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Donna-Marie knew Blessed Mother Teresa for nearly a decade, during which time they both kept in correspondence and met in various locations. Blessed Teresa wrote Donna-Marie 22 letters and wrote the foreword to Donna-Marie’s book, “Prayerfully Expecting,” as well as quotes for her other books.

Donna-Marie was invited by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Rome to be one of 250 delegates worldwide to attend an International Women’s Congress in Rome recently.

She has a regular national radio segment called, “Mom’s Corner” at “Catholic Connection” with Teresa Tomeo on Ave Maria Radio (EWTN). In addition to her books, Donna-Marie’s writing can be found in many Catholic magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet in her many columns, as well as on her Web site and blogs.

Donna, your newest book, Catholic Saints Prayer Book, was just released. Can you tell me about this book and how it came to be?

My book, Catholic Saints Prayer Book: Moments of Inspiration From Your Favorite Saints, is a compilation of 32 saints; complete with biographies, patronages, quotes and prayers beseeching the saints’ assistance. It’s a sturdy hard-covered book that is a great size (approx. 4 ¼ in. by 6 ¼ in.) to tuck in the briefcase, diaper bag, purse, or set on the night stand or coffee table. It’s about 80 pages long and is adorned with some beautiful art work, which enhances the text. I think this book is suitable for anyone, young and old alike. Confirmation students may find it to be helpful when they are trying to discern a saint’s name.

I approached the Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company, asking if they would like me to write a saints’ book in the size and format of my other book that was published with them, Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers. I thought that a saints’ book would be a nice addition to complement their book series. Our Sunday Visitor liked the idea and asked me to write it.

What makes this saint book different from other saint books?

I think one difference is in the size. It’s a compact take-along book, which I think makes it easily accessible.  Additionally, all of the prayers are original except the St. Michael prayer, which was certainly perfect enough already (written by Pope Leo XIII)!

Was it difficult to narrow this book down to 32 saints when there are so many wonderful saints to choose from?

Yes, it was difficult in one sense to narrow down the saints to choose that would fit into this book. I originally had chosen 34 saints and two had to be cut out for size. However, I prayed as I laid out the Table of Contents and chose the saints that would “speak” from the pages. I hope that I may have the opportunity to write Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5! And maybe more! There are so many incredible saints for us to beseech. I love them all and turn to many of them for assistance.

Which are your favorite saints’ stories?

I have many favorites! I love the story of St. Catherine Laboure because I have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Miraculous medal. Of course, we know that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure and asked that she have a medal struck and gave her every detail in which to accomplish it. After some time of investigating and discerning, the Church had the medals made under the name of the “Immaculate Conception” medal. So many miracles began to occur immediately that the medal took on the name of the “Miraculous medal.” (more…)

Alleluia! He is risen!

Alleluia! He is risen!

My friend Anna Foster took the picture above at left, featuring a Euphorbia milii, also known as a Crown of Thorns or a Christ Plant. Aside from being a beautiful photo, what I really love about this image is that it captures our Easter theology so succinctly. The prominent thorns are a reminder of the suffering that Jesus had to undergo for our sakes, but the bright pink flowers reaching heavenward from the same stem are in perfect juxtaposition, reminding us that life’s beauty and newness cannot be divorced from its sharp edges and sorrowful moments.

Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who turned the cross into a symbol of victory, taking a sign of agony and making it a sign of love through his ultimate sacrifice.

We know that while Easter opens up the door to eternal salvation, it does not protect us from our own crosses. We must pick them up, trusting that God will not leave us to bear the burdens alone. Like the Christ Plant, our lives, too, will blossom with flowers while at the same time carrying the scars of thorns.

Today we cry out Alleluia, He is risen, and we have been saved.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Psalm 118

What I really said

If you happened to read the brief “profile” on me in today’s Times Union(and even if you didn’t), I would like to give you the “director’s cut,” the full and accurate answers to the reporter’s questions — in the order they were asked. I won’t bore you with the personal details he asked at the beginning, which most of you already know.

Why did you decide to send your children to St. Thomas School?

We were happy with the public schools, but we felt that sending our children to St. Thomas was a natural continuation of our involvement at St. Thomas parish and our professional careers. Religion is not just taught in one class; it permeates the entire atmosphere at the school, from the classrooms and the Masses and prayer services to the focus on social justice.

Your new book is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism.” What is the Catechism? 

I consider it to be an operating manual for Catholics. People think of it as a rule book, but it is so much more. It is an all-encompassing book on Catholic teaching, covering everything from the creed and our understanding of God to the sacraments and the Ten Commandments.

For me, this started out as a professional project but it quickly became a spiritual journey. It forced me to go deeper into the teachings of my faith than I ever had before. It was an intense experience, but in researching and writing this book, I noticed a change in the way I was hearing the prayers I had been saying my whole life. It was like I was hearing them for the first time.

So much of what we hear about Catholic teaching is given to us in snippets and out of context in the media. The full Catechism of the Catholic Church gives you a broad sense of where the teachings come from. It goes back to Scripture and Tradition and weaves everything together. When you see the teachings in context like that, it’s really beautiful. (more…)

Seven last words

Seven last words

Father forgive them, they know not what they do…

We see Jesus on the cross today and hear him forgiving his persecutors, forgiving us. It is a powerful scene, but it is more than just a scene out of our faith history. Jesus’ way is supposed to be our way. Forgive, forgive, forgive, even in the face of the most unreasonable suffering and injustice. Are we willing to forgive as Jesus did?

Today you will be with me in Paradise.

The “good thief” has always been a favorite of mine. Imagine in your last dying moment that you utter a few kind words and are assured by Jesus himself that you will be in heaven with him that day. It would be nice to assume that in that situation I would have taken the path of belief, like the good thief, but there is a much bigger part of me that probably would have been like the unrepentant thief, expecting mercy and miracles despite faithlessness.  (more…)

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