Thursday, August 9, 2007

Interview with Irish journalist, Lorcan Mac Mathuna

Some time ago, I received an email from an Irish gentleman, Lorcan Mac Mathuna who had read an article that I had written for Lay Witness magazine that was on the Internet. He asked if he could interview me for a story he wanted to do in the Irish Family Press, a weekly Irish national newspaper. We arranged a time to talk and Lorcan called me from Ireland. We had a very nice talk and chatted for about an hour. Lorcan told me that he would send the article to me when it was published.

A few weeks later, a large brown envelope arrived in the mail. I opened it and saw the Irish newspaper for the first time. It was attractively laid out, and oh, did I mention that my face was on the front page? That was a surprise. I then thumbed through the newspaper with my husband who had just come home and was leaning over my shoulder. I started laughing when I reached the centerfold (I think I was in shock)! I hadn't imagined that the story was going to be so huge! On the centerfold of the paper along with the story was a very big photo of me and another of Mother Teresa holding my son, Joseph as a baby about eighteen years ago. Lorcan did a very nice job with the story and I humbly offer it to you below...

A Nine-Month Novena
Interview with Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle by Lorcan Mac Mathuna - a newspaper article from Irish Family Press

An enforced rest turned out to be a very rewarding period in Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s life.

It was 1991, and she was pregnant with her fifth child. When she experienced severe complications after just ten weeks, she was instructed to take to bed for complete rest for the sake of her child. It was her second difficult pregnancy and she had had three miscarriages previously (in fact her doctor was pretty certain that this latest pregnancy would end in a miscarriage also), so it was a frightening and anxious time for her. Donna was always a devout Catholic. She believes that a prayerful life for a mother can be as simple as offering each day to God and being a good example to her children as is her duty -- but being confined to her bed left her in the situation where she could devote all her time to meditation and prayer.

Complete bed rest was what the doctor ordered and she followed that instruction carefully. Lying on her bed for the next seven months, she started to compose her thoughts. One of the things that occurred to her was that the nine months of pregnancy is similar to a novena and she started to write down her thoughts and prayers as the time passed. This made the material for her latest book, Prayerfully Expecting -- a nine-month novena for mothers-to-be, but she also wrote the material for two more books on motherhood. Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers (2005), and The Heart of Motherhood (2006), which became number one on the Catholic bestsellers lists after they were published.

With the latest book just coming out she is a very busy woman right now. But she took some time out to talk to the Irish Family Press recently and spoke about the inspiration behind her writings, which she explained happened with God’s will in a most unexpected

Lorcan: You have two Irish names you know. Have you ever been to Ireland?

Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle: Yes, my brother married an Irish girl and I’ve been there three times. I really love it there and I hope to go back again soon.

L: When and why did you write your first book -- what got you to start writing?

D: I always loved writing. Even as a teenager, I used to write down reflections and things so as I grew up I wrote about things I was passionate about --pro-life issues and things. But raising a family kept me busy and I was devoted to their care. I never thought I’d be an author one day, I wasn’t looking at that. I was raising my children in a Catholic household and teaching them well. But certain things I felt very strongly about; and people in my church would come to me for advice and sort of bounce things off me and I would do it in my quiet way. But during my pregnancy with Mary-Catherine I had to have complete bed-rest. I had a hemorrhaged uterus after ten weeks of pregnancy and I also had a heart condition that came on due to the pregnancy so I had to have complete bed-rest to preserve the life of the baby.

So I’d be at home on my bed conducting the household from that position. In retrospect I feel God gave me this as an opportunity to write because I would never have had the opportunity to write if I had a normal pregnancy and was running around looking after my children as I normally would.

I felt very inspired to write about motherhood and how I passionately feel about motherhood as vocation and not just ‘issues, demands and diapers’ that other people might look down upon, or feel are mundane and not so important. I always believe that all the little tasks are so, so important. Even though they might seem small to other people, they are huge in God’s eyes. God puts the mother in the heart of the home and the little loving tasks that come into every mother’s life are really significant in His eyes.

L: The first book you wrote is just coming out now but you had two other books printed already, when did you write the first two books you had published?

D: I felt very inspired to write about motherhood and I wrote three books during my pregnancy. The first one that came to me…I just felt a need for me to write my thoughts that would help an expectant mother to transform her pregnancy into a nine-month novena. I thought, ‘A pregnancy is really a living novena to “God’, so that was what I started writing about.

L: How did you do your writing?

D: It was all on paper. Later on I got a lap-top but during my pregnancy I collected a box full of my thoughts on manuscripts. They remained like that for a long time and I carried them place to place with me.

L: Did you continue writing after Mary-Catherine was born?

D: I didn’t really have the time. I had five kids and one of them was a little baby so I couldn’t do much. I did contact one publisher, Our Sunday Visitor, who were very interested in Prayerfully Expecting and encouraged me to publish, but they only did smaller books. Then life took over and I had to put it aside. Later on they asked me if I could write a prayer book for expectant mothers and I had a lot of material that I wrote during that pregnancy so I developed it into small book which came out in 2005. As soon as it came out it went onto the Catholic books bestsellers’ list. That surprised me because I had no thoughts of that whatsoever, I was just trying to get that inspiration out there for moms and do my part to help encourage and give moms a pat on the back, because in our society we are barraged with all these mixed messages on what a woman should strive for.

L: So was that the satisfaction you got from writing? That you were going to get your thoughts on your experience as a mother on paper to help inspire other mothers?

D: Yes, that’s why I did it. I just wanted to share what I knew in my heart with other mothers because we live in a difficult world where it’s not easy to be proud of the title mother. It used to be held in high esteem but these days we are pushed outside of the home to do other things and we are told by society not to feel satisfied with what we do inside the home. The family is a vital unit of society and if mothers are all working and putting their children in day-care they {their children} will be raised by other people’s values. I knew I had to share my experiences and thoughts to help other mothers because I know a lot of women are confused about their roles and their work is valued by the size of their paycheque. Some women are struggling with the fact that they don’t feel important enough and others are troubled with the fact that they need more money to survive. I try to encourage people to live with a little less and make some sacrifices and be there for those really important first years of their child’s life. I don’t mean to be judgmental of women who have to earn a wage but I want to give encouragement to women not to feel they have to go out and work because society is telling them that that is more valuable than minding their own children. So I try to encourage and praise moms and give them good information. I sprinkle my books with lots of good quotes from the saints, the church, and Mother Teresa.

L: Tell me about how you met Mother Teresa.

D: Almost twenty years ago I was invited to go down to Washington by my spiritual director, Fr. John Hardon. When I was there he told me about a Missionaries of Charity convent in the town that had a house for the dying called the Gift of Peace House. I always encouraged my kids to visit the sick so we went to visit the patients there.

The sisters were very welcoming and we were struck by how much joy they had. That’s how Mother Teresa trained them to let their light shine and let their joy in the Lord attract souls to their Christianity.

We were attracted by that and they invited us back the next day to attend Mass there. The next day we went to Mass and I brought my children with me. It was a very small, very humble chapel where you’d take your shoes off at the door. It was dark and empty except for the altar. The Missionaries of Charity live as the poor themselves because they want to understand the plight of the poor. Mother Teresa didn’t feel they should have fans or carpets or chairs in their chapel. There is an altar, a crucifix, and written on the wall: ‘I Thirst’.

I was concentrating on keeping the children organized when I noticed Mother Teresa was in the room with us. I had my three children, Justin, Chaldea and Jessica, with me and I had to bring the baby, Jessica, out a few times because she was a little fussy. After Mass we went out and as Chaldea was genuflecting, Mother Teresa gave her a big squeeze hug. Later on when we were standing around, Mother Teresa came out and stopped in front of me and said ‘Is this the baby who was singing at Mass?’

So that started our conversation and she asked me to pray for her and the poor. A while later I wrote her a letter and after a couple of weeks she sent me the first of twenty-two letters she would send me over the next decade.

L: When did she do the foreword to your book?

D: October 26, l991

L: That was a long time before last weekend’s print!

D: Yes, during that pregnancy I shared everything with her and I sent her the manuscripts and she wrote back encouraging me. Her spiritual director actually went over my manuscript and she gave me lots of words of encouragement.

L: How can our reader’s get your books?

D: They can get them on:
Or through my website:

I have been asked by Lorcan to participate in the parenting column at Irish Family Press, so I will be contributing articles for the paper monthly! So, if you are visiting Ireland, you may see my articles in this really great Catholic family publication. :)

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