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.”
I give out blessed Miraculous medals to everyone at all of my book signings and speaking events at public book stores and Churches. I often keep some with me in my purse to give to people that I may meet out in public when I feel inspired to do so. I have seen so many amazing things happen. I keep up this tradition, which I learned from Mother Teresa who gave them out at all of her events and at her convents. Mother Teresa has given me many Miraculous medals over the years and perhaps the most special one is the one I still wear today, which she gave me over 17 years ago when I was pregnant for my daughter Mary-Catherine because she wasn’t expected to make it to her birth. Mary-Catherine is 16 years old now! Fr. John Hardon S.J., my former spiritual director (now deceased), renowned theologian, author, and spiritual director for the Missionaries of Charity, told me a story about a miracle that he saw occur because of the Miraculous medal. I recount the story in my Mother Teresa book, Unlikely Saints,which will be out some time in the near future. So you see, the Miraculous medal has touched my life from many different holy directions — all originating with St. Catherine Laboure! And I think you may have noticed that I named one of my daughters after her. Mary-Catherine!
I have many more favorite saint’s stories that I think you will see when you open the book!
Did you learn anything surprising about any particular saints as you
wrote this book?
One thing I learned that I hadn’t realized was that many early Christians confused Jude with Judas; therefore, they never prayed for his help. Devotion to St. Jude became a lost cause, and this was the reason he acquired the patronage of lost and impossible causes.
How did writing this book impact your own spiritual life?
I enjoyed working on this book very much. I actually like to do research and love reading about the saints. I think that anytime we reflect upon the saints’ lives we can’t help but be affected and impacted. So, the work brought me closer to the individuals who form the communion of saints in Heaven. I felt a special closeness to each one as I told their story. I, in fact, felt their nearness to me.
You knew Mother Teresa personally. Does she remain a significant part of your prayer life? Is she in the book even though she has not yet reached official sainthood?
Mother Teresa is in my book in the form of a quote by her that actually begins my book. I won’t spoil it by quoting her here now so that the reader may be touched by it within the pages when the book is opened and pondered. To answer your question, I didn’t use Mother Teresa as one of the saints who are compiled in this book just because although she is already declared “blessed” because of her beatification in 2003, she isn’t yet officially a saint who is recognized by the Church. In my mind and heart, she is a saint and was a saint when she walked the earth. It just takes time for the official process to be sealed and declared.
And yes, Mother Teresa remains a very significant part of my life. I call upon her often. Not a day goes by when I am not talking to her and asking her help for my family. Her words, spirit, and inspiration are woven through much, if not all of my work.
Have you always had a strong devotion to the saints?
Yes, I have always been drawn to the saints even as a little girl. My grandmother and mother were very faithful Catholics who set a beautiful prayerful example for me. My grandmother especially had lots of pictures of the saints around her home. I remember loving St. Bernadette when I was growing up — so intrigued with the fact that the Blessed Mother had appeared to her. I also began to love St. Therese. I read about other saints as well and grew closer to them, wanting to become holy myself.
I learned that St. Dominic said to his brothers when dying, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.” And also St Therese, who said, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.” The saints give us great hope and their promises to pray for us when they reach heaven. This and other information I learned about the saints captivated me and made me want to be more like them.
Can you talk about how the saints can help the rest of us “ordinary” Catholics as we travel through the joys and sorrows of our own lives and faith journeys?
Sure, and I think something that is good for all of us to keep in mind are the poignant and profound words from Pope John Paul II, “The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history” (Christifideles laici). I’m sure that dear Pope John Paul II was referring to the holy saints that are in our midst who are walking the earth and the communion of canonized saints in heaven who are interceding for us. God puts holy people on earth during certain eras. For instance, we are so fortunate to grow up in this era with Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, St. Padre Pio, Sister Lucia (Fatima), Fr. John Hardon, S. J., and the likes of them. They were here to initiate change in our world, as were the saints throughout the ages. The saints in heaven inspire us to holiness and intercede for us — praying that we receive the graces and courage to be salt and light to others.
So, to answer your question, the saints help us “ordinary” Catholics when we turn to them asking assistance — asking for their intercession of prayers. We shouldn’t be shy when it comes to the saints. They want to hear from us.
You’ve started a third blog to complement this book? Can you tell us about that blog and what people will find there?
I felt inspired to start a saints’ blog a few weeks ago. I hope that it will be a place for people to visit to find inspiration and maybe a little “shot in the arm” to boost them on their journey. The name of it is “Moments of Inspiration With Your Favorite Saints,” which is similar to the subtitle of my book. I have been posting submissions from people about their favorite saints, and they all have won signed copies of my book. I have also posted a little bit about my trip to Italy, specifically Assisi and have photos of St. Clare’s body posted there too. I will be posting about Saint Francis of Assisi, whose tomb I also visited, as well as some of the other highlights of my trip. Basically, all things saint related will be on my saints’ blog. I’m having fun with it, and people have told me that they appreciate it and are inspired by it. Now if I can only add more hours to the day!
For a complete list of Donna-Marie’s schedule of book appearances, as well as radio and TV appearances, or to buy her book, visit her Web site at www.donnacooperoboyle.com. To go directly to her saints’ blog, click HERE.