Interview with Bear Woznick

We recently were able to interview Bear Woznick the author of Deep in the Wave: A Surfing Guide to the Soul. Bear Woznick is quite an interesting individual and we were honored to be able to feature this interview on My Catholic Blog for all of you to check out. Bear holds multiple Master World Tandem surfing titles, co-founded the World Tandem Competition Tour, is a private pilot, plays the ukulele, has a black belt, rides a Harley, and is a novitiate oblate of the Benedictine Monastery of Oahu. SurfingAfter checking out this awesome interview about Bear’s book, his inspirations, and his life make sure to connect with him on the  various different social platforms he is on. You can connect with Bear in the following places.

Facebook fan page : BearsWave.com

Blog Talk Radio: Deep in the Wave AdventureCast

Twitter: @BearsWave

Your book Deep in the Wave: A Surfing Guide to the Soul came out in July of 2012, what did it mean for you to be able to share your life’s experiences with a larger audience?

The response from the readers is what astounded me. I was very vulnerable and transparent in what I wrote so as readers responded to me they felt comfortable sharing with me things in their lives few people knew. It allowed me to see the depth of spirituality and longing in people that might otherwise never have opened up to me or anyone.

What made you want to share your experiences in the form of a book?

I had been challenged by friends that I needed to write this book. They had seen the impact I have had on people one on one, helping them to see their dreams and their gifts and bringing those together to pursue the mission and abundant
lift that God has for them, first by going deep with God and then through servant leadership and touching others life. I felt like I was able to take my readers one by one with my out on an adventure and then set them out on the edge of the
exposed reef of their heart and let them plumb the depths of themselves and then hear God’s voice whispering to them, encouraging them, drawing them and nudging them into a deeper walk.

What do you think people can take away from reading about your life and experiences?

Everyone who reads this book can find themselves in the stories and can in some ways locate themselves on their particular “Ascent of Mt Carmel”. They find encouragement in those days of great surf, big wipeouts, long hold downs and
worst of all when there is no surf at all, that God is there with them as their faithful surf guide, patiently bringing them Deeper in the Wave and deeper into union with him.

Personally, my favorite chapter of the book was “Wave of Healing”. Your encounter with the whale and the whole experience at Rincon was riveting. How did that humbling day in heavy surf change your perspective on life?

The humbling, the greatest gift of God, to bring us to an end of ourselves so that we can find ourselves, to bring us to that deepest place where “deep calls to deep as the waters roar” that place where we learn “when I am weak then I am strong”
That merciful place where all we can do is bend a knee before God, that place of humbling is where we most clearly see God and perhaps where see his gaze rest upon us. That place where no word other than “You” can come from our lips as we see him who sees us, only God can bring us to that place and perhaps through cooperation with his grace we can stay there Deep in the Wave.

The way in which you weave stories of surfing and its trials into personal stories about your life and family is flawless. Are these two things as seamlessly joined as they seem when it comes to your life?

Perhaps Teresa of Leseux learned much as she gazed upon a little flower. I learn everyday as a waterman an insight from God. That is my garden where “God walks with me” in the cool of the day. I sense his pleasure, his closeness and a great sense of adventure permeates my soul for his will is always the most radical adventure possible.

So on top of holding multiple Masters World Tandem surfing titles, being a private pilot, having a black belt, and playing the ukulele. You are also a novitiate oblate of the Benedictine Monastery of Oahu. How do you find time to have so many  passions in life?

I am very careful with the word “Passion” St Augustine taught us that the Latin root for that is the same as “pathology.” People sometimes say to me “you are quite driven.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Driven people
are empty people in a mad rush to fill emptiness with more emptiness. But true passion born out of the marrying of the desires God has places in our hearts with the gifts he has given us is a recipe for a full rich abundant life. I would say I am drawn or led but certainly ndeep in the waveot driven.

I have learned that the time taken going to mass or in prayer is always returned tome, never a waste time. The same is true as I pursue the enjoyment of physical adventure. It also brings me life. These both invigorate and empower our souls. So for those who are production oriented who say “how can you find the time for this or that,” I just think “God has made you a human being not a human doing.” I learned in my ninja training that life is about balance. Being out of balance in a fight or in life is precarious.

You update your blog www.BearsWave.com on a weekly basis, are active on Facebook and Twitter (@BearsWave), and have a weekly podcast. If any of our readers are looking for other ways to interact with you what would you suggest?

To “like” our Facebook Fan page it is called BearsWave.Com

Great things are happening in our Multi-media outreach. We are excited to be a part of Tampa Bay’s Catholic Christian Rock radio station SpiritFM905. People can download their smartphone app or listen on line to our “Deep in the Wave” four minute segment on Fridays at 5:35 East Coast Time. They can also listen in on BlogTalkRadio.Com/BearsWave too. We have all of our archived segments there. In April or May we will begin our new hour long BearsWave AdventureCast there as well. We are already in production for that. They will be able to chat with us live or even call in. I will talk story with adventurous people about their greatest experience and biggest wipeouts and then go deeper and discuss those same areas in their deeper personal life and will draw spiritual and life lessons from those. I am also on several episodes of TV’s Clean Break NBC’s Esquire TV channel (formerly G4). It is a reality adventure show where I serve as the mentor or a Big Kahuna to young men on adventure to find their hearts..

As far as the future, I really sense a call from the Lord “I will make you a fisher of MEN.” Through my DeepAdventure Ministries, God is calling me to target men. The cool thing is that actually women really identify with the message and are
often the first to discover it but then they bring the men in their lives to the message. Men respond more to the wild adventurous voice “Crying out in the Wilderness”. I feel God is calling us men to be courageous not macho, to bravely lay down our lives in servant leadership. Men are sitting on the sidelines too much. Women are so willing and able and make it so easy for us to abdicate our part in that responsibility. “Convert the men to convert the family, convert the family to convert the church, convert the church to convert the world.”

I want to offer DeepAdventure weeks out here in Hawaii too where we bring about ten men and their sons, if they have any who are old enough, out here to Hawaii for a week long Adventure where they have a chance to step out of their comfort zone in many ways and in the process go deeper with God and with each other. I could see filming this for an Spiritual/Adventure reality show on EWTN.

We will continue to produce more books and video of course.

Mahalo for the chance to share this with your readers.

Bear

Make sure to check out the following Youtube video featuring Bear Woznick doing some tandem surfing and is also a trailer for his book Deep in the Wave. Really cool stuff!

Interview with Josh Baker

We recently had the privilege to interview Catholic author Josh Baker. Josh was the grand prize winner of the Xulon Press Christian Choice Writing Contest, and chose to have his wonderful book Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses! published. This book is Catholic fiction, which I believe is a very underdeveloped genre that could potentially be a wonderful tool to evangelize with. We touch on that topic in this interview, as well as others including Josh’s inspiration for his book, Josh’s faith, the Xulon Press contest, and even Josh’s favorite Biblical verse. This is a great chance to learn about a truly unique and terrific person!

By leaving a comment on this post you are also entering yourself to win a signed copy of Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses! The contest will be open until this coming Friday (02/01/13) and a winner will be selected/informed by 5 PM of that day.

Catholic author Josh Baker signed copy of bookTo watch a video trailer about Josh’s book Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses you can visit his blog at MarGreatsGlasses.com. You can also find links to follow Josh on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, as well as to purchase the book!

Your book Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses! came out in November of 2012, what was your inspiration for this book?

The main inspiration for, Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses! was my desire to provide hope and clarity to young people entering adulthood who are questioning their faith, have abandoned it altogether, or are distressed by secular messages contrary to their beliefs.

Is there a reason that you chose to write this book for the intended audience of young adults?

I feel it is critical to evangelize to young people, and to do it in terms they can relate to. The enemy certainly knows this as evidenced by today’s mainstream television programming and popular music. In this digital age, we cannot be complacent and rely solely on traditional means of evangelizing. The book does a great job addressing common misconceptions and misrepresentations of our faith in contemporary language and presentation which young adults will find credible and engaging.

You were raised Catholic, but abandoned your faith after high school for some time. Thankfully you have returned to the Church now. How has this experience affected you as a person?

Being someone who was once seduced by secular thinking, I have an intimate understanding of the mindset of those who reject our faith. When the Lord woke me from my stupor, I was as far from God as I had ever been. I held harsh, intolerant positions, backed by self-serving motives. If you were to tell me three years ago that I would today be an active, repentant disciple of Jesus Christ, I would have scoffed and sent you on your way. Knowing that God loved me, even when I was disrespectful and disobedient – that He loved me so much that he pulled me out of a ditch – has been an overwhelming, life-changing experience. When I encounter a spirited non-believer, my heart bursts with compassion because I’ve walked in those shoes and I know God has great plans for them if they would receive Him. My reversion back to Catholicism has brought about a tolerance and love for my follow man that I never had before. My experience has made it clear to me that Jesus wants a personal relationship with every living soul, especially those in most need of His mercy.

Do youPlease Don't Remove MarGreat's Glasses reflect some of your own personal struggles with faith in Timothy (the main character of Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses!)?

Like Timothy, I am very fond of science and technology. And similarly, I developed an attitude that one needed to choose between science and religion. This attitude is prevalent in today’s scientific community, which I find very odd. You’d think that as one unraveled the intricacies of the human genome, studied the interoperability of the circulatory, skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems, analyzed the uniqueness of our fingerprints, witnessed human reproduction, that they would be left in awe – not denying the creator. It was more convenient (for my lifestyle) to defer giving credit to God when I could lean on the convenient assumption that all would be explained by science – eventually. Timothy exhibits a similar attitude.

You were the Grand Prize Winner of the Xulon Press Christian Choice Writing Contest. How did you come across the contest and what helped you to win it?

My whole life, I have always loved to write. After my renewal of faith, I often recorded the day-to-day graces I experienced. Late-night, after everyone was in bed I’d meditate on whatever had transpired that day. During one of these late-night reflections, the character Timothy Clement, and God’s plan for him came to me. Over the next few weeks this vivid story of Timothy’s journey of faith flowed out. Before I knew it, I had a lot of unexpected material. I wasn’t sure what I would do with it – in anything. Self-publishing was gaining traction and so I did a basic inquiry into what options were available. I quickly realized that self-publishing required a significant budgetary commitment that I was not in any position to make for casual late-night ramblings. Several months later the representative who had answered my inquiries about publishing opportunities at Xulon Press contacted me regarding a Christian Choice Writing Contest. I decided to enter one of my short stories, but ultimately, I did not win, or even place for that matter. In April of last year I entered another Xulon Christian writing contest with a short Easter story. I had come home that day around six p.m. and saw an email in my inbox announcing that the contest was ending that same evening at midnight. I figured I might be able to crank out a short story in time – but then I noticed that the deadline was six p.m. Eastern time leaving me just three hours! I hunkered down and got to work on a short Easter story. I ended up submitting my entry just minutes before the deadline- with very low expectations since I hadn’t adequate time to polish it. The next morning I received a call informing me that I had won the Grand prize which was a book publishing package! I just about fell off my chair! There truly was no limit to the Lord’s mercy. Over the next four months I finished assembling the book and submitted the completed manuscript for production in October of last year.

Do you have any advice for Catholics who are looking to get more involved with writing?

Write more Catholic fiction! Catholic bookstores are filled with many wonderful books providing important teachings about our faith. We are very fortunately to have such an abundance of Catholic resources available to us. However, I would love to see the anemic genre of Catholic fiction develop and spread the message of our faith to a broader audience. In this year of faith Pope Benedict XVI has called us to not only rekindle our relationship with Jesus, but also share the good news of the Gospel. I think Catholic fiction is a worthy manifestation of the New Evangelization.

If you could choose only one Biblical verse as a favorite, which would you choose and why?

1 Cor 12:4-11 because it shows how God has a plan for each of us. He has blessed us with unique talents that allow us to be instruments of His will, if we choose.

Brothers and sisters:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom;
to another, the expression of knowledge according to the
same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

What can we expect next from Josh Baker?

I am currently working on a series of MarGreat comic strips for children learning about their faith. They are a humorous, but tactful attempt to engage young people and drive home Catholic fundamentals.

Additionally, I am working on a new faith-based mystery that explores the ethical conflicts faced as new advances in genetic-engineering are achieved. It will have you guessing right up to the end!

Interview with Michael Seagriff

We recently had the honor of interviewing Catholic author Michael Seagriff. Michael is a Lay Dominican who has devoted his time to helping the cause of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration grow. He also led a Prison Ministry for a decade. We had a chance to talk to Michael about these experiences, as well as his his book Forgotten Truths to Set Faith Afire!: Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instruct.

Michael Seagriff Catholic author

Your book Forgotten Truths to Set Faith Afire!: Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instruct received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval in 2012, what inspired you to put together this collection of inspiring and instructive quotes?

There were a number of reasons. Whenever something I read struck me spiritually, I wrote it down on an index card. Over the years I accumulated thousands of these cards – words which had touched my heart, stirred my soul and changed my life. I was convinced they would do likewise for others who read and reflected on them. This collection of eternal wisdom fills a great void in the Church – a need for catechesis and evangelization. The book presents essential and often forgotten truths of our Faith in mouth size bites – a few quotes at a time. As a Lay Dominican I am required to share the fruits of my contemplation – hard to do that if I just kept these treasures on index cards in my desk drawer, Finally, and most importantly, because God persistently prompted me to do so.


You include quotes from the Bible, different Popes, saints, priests, and just regular people in your book. This is a really large base to draw from, why did you choose to do that?

When I became hungry to learn the Truth, I read as much and from as many sources as I could get my hands on. Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Papal encyclicals are obviously essential reads for anyone seeking to grow in their faith and love of God. After Vatican II we mistakenly got away from the written spiritual treasures left behind by so many of God’s great saints. I wanted others to discover these valuable gems. There are saints and prophets among us today whose work has much to offer as well. The book contains an extensive bibliography for those wishing to go more in depth than the limited quotations I have complied allows.


Forgotten Truths to Set Faith Afire!: Words to Challenge, Inspire, and Instruct includes seventeen different chapters that cover a plethora of topics. If you had to choose just one chapter as a favorite,
Forgotten Truths to Set Faith Afire Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instructwhich one would it be and why?

That’s tough and I’m going to cheat and pick two, since both are really inseparable: – Chapter XII – The Source, Center and Summit of Our Catholic Faith which focuses on the Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacred Heart, and Chapter XIII – The Greatest Event On Earth Each Day which discusses the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our Priests. Why these two?

The Eucharist, as Sacrament, Liturgy and Real Presence, must be everything to a Catholic and especially to our priests. Nothing less is acceptable to our God. The crisis in our Church today centers around the loss of reverence for and belief in the Eucharist. We must rediscover a sense of awe and amazement in this great Gift because It is the means through which God intends to transform all of us -clergy, religious and laity – into the saints He created us to be.


How has being a Lay Dominican affected your life?

Although I will remain a work in progress until my death, my Lay Dominican vocation has completely changed my life. Among many other things, it has provided me with a solid spiritual framework from which to work out my salvation, gave me a zeal and concern for the salvation of other’s souls, created an insatiable appetite to learn and share the Truths of my Faith, enhanced my ability to pray, re-invigorated my love for the Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, the Mass, the Rosary and our Blessed Mother, fuels and inspires my writing, and has helped me immensely in my vocation as husband, father, grandfather and friend. Have I left anything out?

If your readers are interested, they can find out more about the Lay Dominican vocation at: http://www.3op.org/.

You have spent a long time promoting Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration and led a Prison Ministry program at one point. Can you talk a little about these experiences and what they did for you and your spiritual development?

Sure. Let’s start with Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. More than 20 years ago, a friend invited my wife and me to get up on First Fridays each month at 2 AM to be with our Lord. We had never participated in Eucharistic Adoration, did not really understand it, and could not see how we could possibly get up so early in the morning and function at work the next day. We thought our friend was crazy, but we went, mostly out of Catholic guilt.

Our lives have never been the same. Ten years later, I came to believe that one hour a month was simply not enough! I helped our former parish and another nearby parish initiate Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration and for more than a decade now someone has been with our Lord every hour of every day at both of these parishes. So many lives have been changed! So many souls saved! Four years after our Chapel opened, a total stranger gave us a Monstrance that had been blessed by John Paul II the Sunday before he died!

I am a much different person today than I was before making a commitment to weekly adoration. I have a deeper and more profound love for God, my wife and my family. I think more often of others before myself. I still offend God but am quicker to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I love Mass and the Holy Eucharist.

My hunger to know and share the Truth, my vocation as a Lay Dominican, the inspiration to write Forgotten Truths and to create a blog all originated in the Presence of our Eucharistic Lord. I would not trade a second of the time I am blessed to spend with Him for anything.

Eucharistic Adoration is not a ministry; it is not limited to a special few. It is the premier devotion among all of the Church’s devotions. It is the fuel that sustains our faith and enables us to love others on God’s behalf. God deserves our Adoration. He is entitled to it.

What follows are links to three frank and challenging articles that I have written and shared over the years in an attempt to interest others in this essential devotion:

Unlock Doors Before It Is Too Late

Reflection on Unrequited Love

Prison Ministry

At a time of great personal and spiritual struggle in my life, a friend invited me to a weekend retreat. He promised me that I would not regret going. He was right. That weekend God became very real to me.

So when another friend later invited me to come to prison with him, I accepted his invitation hoping that God would use me to make Him real to someone else who was in need of experiencing His unconditional love. He did.

Amazing what God can do through simple sinful men who come to prison and simply treat their “brothers in green” with the dignity and respect they deserve as creatures made in the image of a loving God, let them know God loves them, is ready to forgive them and able to transform them into new men – men of God and of Faith.

The following example illustrates how powerfully God can work when we simply love someone on his behalf.

On one weekend we had a “Charlie Manson” look-alike at our table. They could have been twins. He meant business. He had intentionally come to the program with filthy clothes, smelling as if his body had never been touched by the cleansing and aromatic qualities of soap or deodorant. There was no way we would accept him, he thought. As difficult as it was, we did. Throughout the day, he challenged us and questioned us and then he began to listen.

When “Charlie” returned the next morning, he was clean shaven, freshly showered and wearing impeccably pressed green pants and white shirt. He was physically different. He joyfully interacted with us. He started the second day at least exteriorly different then he was the previous day.

He finished the day in the arms of a team member, crying uncontrollably and joyfully, having reconciled with his forgotten Lord through the Sacrament of Confession and having received Him in Holy Communion for the first time in twenty-seven years.

What can we expect from Michael Seagriff moving forward into 2013?

I am working on three books. One is a compilation of articles I have written and presentations I have made over the years in an attempt to encourage a greater reverence for and belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist and to promote Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. The second book is a mini-memoir of some humorous, serious and unique life experiences. The last is a novel involving a lawyer who shares his Catholic faith for the first time with a client as the two contest three successive criminal prosecutions and try to thwart a prosecutor’s attempt to send this man to prison for the rest of his life.

I will continue blogging at http://harvestingthefruitsofcontemplation.blogspot.com/ and promote Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.

God willing, I will attend both the Online and Live Conferences of the Catholic Writers’ Guild this year. Hope to see you there.

Finally, I want to thank you Brendan for this interview and for the opportunity to share a little something about myself with your readers.

I am very thankful that I was able to interview Michael, and I hope that you all enjoyed learning about him and Forgotten Truths to Set Faith Afire Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instruct. I encourage you all to visit Amazon and pick up a copy of this book today!

Interview with Mary DeTurris Poust

Today we have the absolute privilege of hosting Mary DeTurris Poust’s blog tour here at My Catholic Blog. Mary’s blog tour is part of the launch for her latest book, Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God.

My Catholic Blog will be giving away a copy of Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God to a lucky commenter on this post. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post to be entered into the contest. We will be picking our winner on Monday January 14th.

Also in addition to the book giveaway, Ave Maria Press is giving away a $100 Williams-Sonoma gift card. You can enter to win it here and may do so once a day until the 20th of January!

Mary DeTurris Poust

Cravings offers a Catholic perspective on the relationship that exists between food and spirituality. Mary shares her own individual experiences with food, and also the experiences of other Catholics. By using these examples she paints a perfect picture of how Catholics can create an approach to eating that works for them. To make the connection between spirituality and food Mary believes that, “the physical hungers that lead to constant snacking and high-calorie meals often mask something much deeper, a spiritual hunger that can never be satisfied with anything we buy at the grocery store.” You can learn more about Cravings, Mary’s inspirations as a writer, and her other work as well in the interview below. Mary DeTurris Poust is an extraordinary individual and we are so happy that we could interview her on My Catholic Blog.

– Where did your inspiration come from for Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God?

Initially the inspiration came from my publisher, Ave Maria Press. My editors believed in this topic and in my ability to write about it, so I have to thank them for their vision and their confidence in me. Once the book progressed from idea to reality, however, my inspiration came from the people who shared their stories with me. With every story, I became more and more convinced that this book could really help people get to the bottom of their food issues while strengthening their relationship with God. And I experienced that in my own life. I followed the practices I outline in Cravings as I wrote the book, and I noticed a dramatic shift in my spiritual life and in my relationship with food.

– I can see how food and self-image are closely related, but where do you see God as fitting into that picture?

I don’t see God so much as fitting in as holding it all together. We absolutely cannot face food or self-image issues without bringing God into the picture and without delving into our spiritual life. We often separate our lives into compartments: my physical self (where food fits in); my emotional/mental self (where self-image fits in); and my spiritual self (where God fits in). When we try to tackle just one area without the others, something – or someone – suffers. So we need to look at our lives from a more “holistic” place and really start to see how one area affects the others. Are you hungry for potato chips, or are you hungry for happiness, for peace, for self-acceptance? When food becomes a substitute for something else, we run into trouble. I think many people in our society are hungry for something more in their lives, and that involves getting to know God on a deeper level, not getting to know Ben & Jerry. So God is intimately and critically involved in our relationship with food and our self-worth.1-59471-305-7

– What is the main message that you hope readers will take away from Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God?

If I had to sum up my hope for this book in one line it would be this: I want people to come away from Cravings knowing that they are loved by God for exactly who they are right at this moment. That doesn’t mean they might not want to improve in some areas or work on issues that have been plaguing them, but that they know deep down that even if they don’t lose the 20 pounds, even if they never fit into their old jeans, even if they continue to battle whatever demons drive them to use food (or alcohol or shopping or gambling or any number of things) as a weapon against themselves, they are beautiful and beloved in God’s eyes. We are “wonderfully made,” as we hear in Psalm 139. When we can learn to start from that place of love and acceptance, powerful things begin to happen. The bonds of self-hatred and food obsessions are broken.

– When did it dawn on you that writing was something you truly loved?

I had been a good student in English or language arts classes as a kid, although I didn’t love to write and I certainly didn’t see it as a career path. Then in my freshman year at Pace University, my English professor (a Catholic sister, even though it wasn’t a Catholic college) suggested I might want to think about writing as a major and a career. It kind of blew me away. I don’t know if that thought would have entered my mind if she hadn’t planted the seed. And so I declared English as my major with writing as my concentration. I really planned on using my writing in a business field – marketing, advertising, public relations, but then I walked into my first college journalism class and everything changed. I knew I wanted to write for newspapers or magazines and set out to make that happen.

– You have written in several different forms including newspapers, magazines, journals, reports, and books. Do you have a preference when it comes to writing or do you enjoy it all? What are some similarities and differences that you have found?

I really have written for just about every type of publication, all the things you mentioned and then some. Prayer books, annual reports, cable TV scripts, fund-raising appeals. You name it and I’ve probably written it. When I started out, my first love was feature writing for newspapers, especially personality profiles. I loved meeting people and then telling their stories. In more recent years, my writing has taken a decidedly spiritual shift. I wanted to write less about the business of the Catholic Church – controversial issues, latest happenings, etc – and more about the heart of the faith. That transition was really prompted by the time I spent writing “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism.” That book project was as close as I get to a “conversion experience.” It made me want to focus my writing on helping people walk the spiritual path. That being said, I do think my many years as a journalist paved the way for this. I continue to write for newspapers, magazines, and other publications even as I write my books, and I try to blog daily at my own blog, Not Strictly Spiritual. The common thread in all of it is honesty and a willingness to put myself out there in front of my readers. No matter what I write, I write from the heart and from my truth.


– For anybody who hasn’t seen the TV show, Guided by Grace, that you co-host, can you explain what the show is typically about?

Well, this is a very new show. We’ve got three shows in rotation right now with three new shows slated for February. Television is new for me, so this was a leap of faith, but I am loving it so far. Telecare (out of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y.) wanted to produce a show that would be a Catholic version of “The View.” So we have four women talking about issues that are important to us, our families, and our faith lives. It’s like having a conversation in your living room, and that’s what I hope viewers get from it – that we’re inviting them into a conversation. Although it airs in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT) right now, it is available for live streaming and in the archives at www.telecaretv.org


– So Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God is your sixth book to be published. That’s awesome and impressive! What can we expect next from Mary DeTurris Poust?

Right now I’m focusing on getting the word out about Cravings and my other new book, “Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Spirituality,” which came out just a few weeks before Cravings. That book focuses on weaving prayer into everyday life, and that’s something I’d like to write more about on my own blog Not Strictly Spiritual (www.notstrictlyspiritual.com) and for other publication. I’m also hoping to do more speaking engagements and retreat-type events related to Cravings and Everyday Divine because I think part of the power of those books is putting them into daily practice, and sometimes that takes a little push. I’d like to give people the push they need to take that next step on the spiritual path. And I’d like to walk with them. I always tell people that just because I’ve written all these books doesn’t mean I’ve got it all figured out. I’m on the journey, too, and talking to readers – in person, by email, on my blog – is a gift and a blessing.

Interview with Brendan Barth

Author Brendan Barth lives in San Francisco, California with his wife and teaches at a Catholic school. He is the author of Andrew’s Christmas a children’s book about Christmas. The thing that I loved about Brendan’s book was that it is faith based and that is something difficult to find today. We had the pleasure of interviewing Brendan Barth about his inspirations and about Andrew’s Christmas.

Catholic Author Brendan Barth

So your book Andrew’s Christmas came out in 2011, what were your inspirations for creating a holiday themed book?

The inspiration came from teaching; my students came in hardly knowing anything about the origins of the Christmas story, from the Infancy Gospels to how the traditions came to America. So I set aside some time to do a unit plan on the history of Christmas, because if these smart Catholic students are so clueless on the history, how can they be confident about how they, in their present lives, view the season in relation to their faith?

What is the one thing that you want young readers to take away from Andrew’s Christmas?

That Christmas isn’t about commerce, and not to let that divine spark in all of us be dulled by media. This is a time for reflection and redemption, to be better people all year long. Hopefully, it’s a message that will connect also to the parent who is reading the book to their child.

Andrew's Christmas by Brendan Barth It seems that so many holiday books focus on things other than the birth of Christ. What inspired your focus in this book?

Because it’s in the name: CHRISTmas, meaning Rite of the Anointed One. If we as people of faith don’t have this in the forefront of our minds and actions, the reason of the season becomes meaningless. So then people write books on reindeer or gift wrapping.

When did you begin writing and what made you want to continue doing it?

I always loved to write, whether it was letters, stories, even papers for school. If I don’t write every day, I feel bad. And to this day, I believe writing is the most elegant way to express an idea that is lasting.

Where did the idea for Andrew’s journey through the tree’s ornaments come from?

The idea came at a Christmas party at a good friend’s house. His six year old child at the party was bored by all the adults and their conversation, and he sat me on the couch and wanted me to tell him a story. We were looking at their Christmas tree with the angel on top, and I just riffed about what if we became really small and could have an adventure in the tree? He liked the idea, and we just did it. His name, by the way, is Andrew, and he and his family are true faith filled Catholics, and an inspiration to me personally as well as in my writing.

Will there be more children’s books or other books to come from Brendan Barth?

Yes! I have eight more planned based on the Andrew character on topics such as fear, faith, family, and Easter. The next one, hopefully out soon, will be on prayer.

You can find out more about Brendan Barth on his website or by following him on Twitter!

Interview with Charlotte Ostermann

Charlotte Ostermann, a Catholic convert, is a freelance writer and editor. She is also a veteran educator, poet, homemaker, humorist, and spiritual mentor. Her newest book, “Catholics Communicate Christ: How to Serve the Catholic Church as a Writer” came out two weeks ago, and we had the pleasure to interview her about her new book and some of her inspirations!

 So, your Kindle Book, “Catholics Communicate Christ: How to Serve the Catholic Church as a Writer” was released on November 7, 2012. What prompted you, or inspired you, to write this book?
I went to the Catholic Writers Guild LIVE Conference in August, and was profoundly grateful for all the encouragement I received. As I drove home, my heart just overflowed with the desire to share that encouragement, and some of the great practical advice, with others. I know how it feels to be very hesitant and unsure about ‘self-promotion’ as a writer who wants to give God the glory. At the conference, humble men and women, and godly priests assured us all that, if God gives the message and the skill, then we ARE honoring Him if we do everything we can to get that message into people’s hands, computers, consciousness! Something inside me opened up – I say I ‘got over myself’! As I reconsecrated myself, and my writing, to Mary in the days that followed, this booklet became a reality.

How long have you been writing? And how did you get started?

I’ve been writing since I was a child! I don’t know what it feels like to go through life without turning everything into words – experiencing life as narrative, wanting to share what I learn with others, turning passion into poetry. As a non-Christian, I never wrote professionally. After I became an evangelical Christian, I wanted to write – to share the Good News – but God seemed to hold me back. After I became a Catholic, I felt so glad He had caused the seed to ‘fall into the ground’ for a time. I needed to mature, to have my writing burned into my very being, to be purged of self and error as much as possible so that Christ-within-me could shine. My hubby took all the kids to Colorado for a two-week camp out fifteen years ago, and in that at-home quiet time I began to write and haven’t stopped since! One of my first Catholic venues was Canticle magazine, and Envoy published my conversion story, “A Closet Catholic Comes Out’. Since then, that writing retreat has been the annual event I most fervently look forward to! Russ, God bless him, has taken kids as young as two so I could have this amazing experience.

In your Amazon biography, you mention you live on a “farm wannabe” north of Lawrence, KS. What do you mean by “farm wannabe”? I’ve never heard that phrase before.

Ha! If you knew what lame ‘farmers’ we are, you’d see what I mean! We get the importance of sustainable agriculture, organic food, distributist initiative, and all that, but we are city-raised and pretty lazy gardeners, so it is truly a ‘Patchwork Farm’ (our new name for it). Most of our activities are in town, so we don’t feel like ‘real farmers,’ yet the land is here and I think it sort of hopes we’ll grow up. There’s a big garden, chickens who do actually lay eggs for us, two goats that my daughter will be milking in the spring, and some ducks we call ‘farm props’. As Chesterton said, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly”!



Why do you feel it is important to find more writers in the New Evangelization?

Here’ s the huge truth: EVERY SINGLE PERSON stands at the intersection of a unique set of realities. Only he or she can fully respond to those realities, and to those people. Everything we writers are saying is already ‘out there’. None of it is original with us. We are all re-writing truths you could get from a hundred other places. But each of us is speaking for a new audience. The Gospel hasn’t been realized fully until it is realized, re-presented, made real through each of us. If you deal in words, you MUST get the truth of what God has done for you into words!! Some writers are going to be true ‘artists’, but many, many more will simply be human beings – ordered to words not necessarily because we are artists with words, but because we are humans created in the image of the Word. The use of words is a critically important skill in the New Evangelization because it is, in itself, a recapitulation of the human person!

You mention that our words can help “stem the tide of destruction”. How do you, as a writer yourself, stay motivated to continue writing and spreading God’s word?

Well, I think of the architect Gaudi, in his last years, working on the Sagrada Familia. He was asked a similar question and said that if he did not create, did not do this work, he would die. I feel the same way. I simply do not know how I would live without shouting about the hope that is in me, the joy that overflows from me, and the destiny that is mine and yours and everyone else’s!!

You mention the Catholic Writers Guild. How has the Guild helped you develop as a writer?

Frankly, the Guild hasn’t helped me develop as a writer so much as helped me feel I am in a community of people who understand this Thing I Do! In the ‘real world’ of daily life, there are not a lot of people who understand the drive to be creative, to give oneself with abandonment, to do work that is essentially lonely because of a love for people. People misunderstand and reinforce our own hesitations and inhibitions. They hurt us and that’s a challenge to deal with, because we have to stay vulnerable to keep giving. In the Guild, we have others who understand the various struggles of the writing life, and who can help us stay the course. Since it is solidly Catholic, we don’t have the different issues that come up among fellow writers who understand writing, but have no comprehension of what we go through when writing is a religious kind of vocation.

Interview with John Desjarlais

From 6th Century Irish legend to Mexican-American woman: John Desjarlais entertains, thrills, and intrigues.  Mycatholicblog is honored to present our interview with this incredibly talented author, professor, and former radio producer.

Let’s start at the beginning.  Your first book The Throne of Tara, first published in 1990, is based-off the true story of Columba of Iona.  What compelled you to write this story, and what kind of message are you hoping readers will take away from it?

I began “Tara” soon after producing and scripting a documentary on the history of Western Christianity. During the research, I became fascinated by Irish monasticism and discovered Columba in particular. This was the best man the 6th Century could produce: a warrior, scholar and poet, gifted with Second Sight and a thunderous voice, a natural leader with a serious flaw – his Irish temper. He went to war over a book (a copy of the Latin Vulgate, most believe, that he copied by hand but lost in a court dispute to the owner of the original) and in the “Battle of the Book” in A.D. 560 nearly 3,000 men were slain. In remorse and in order to avoid excommunication, Columba exiled himself among the savage Picts of Scotland, vowing to win as many souls to the Church as were lost in the battle. The records say he encountered the Loch Ness monster on the way. Once in the royal court (which he entered miraculously), he dueled the Druids, miracles versus magic, in a contest of power. Well, all that said ‘great novel’ to me and I was off.

As for the ‘take-away value,’ it’s hard to say. Writers with a message in mind often mess up a great story. There are some clear themes, though, such as the conflict between nascent Christianity and the Old Religion of the druids. Both respected nature and recognized power in the natural order but had a different understanding of where the power came from.

And what made you transition from a producer with Wisconsin Public Radio to college professor?

I was let go during the recession of 1993 and since I’d just published my second novel, “Relics,” and I was placing short fiction in magazines, I decided that earning a second Master’s degree in English or Creative Writing that enabled me to teach writing at the college level would be a wise career path. Funny thing is, given my media background, I also teach the mass communication courses at my community college, including Radio Production.

Looking at more current literary achievements, your novel Bleeder tells of protagonist Reed Stubblefield, a professor who must face the challenges of physical disability, the loss of his wife and (as the story progresses) becoming a murder suspect. Why did you feel it necessary to portray a character that has faced so much suffering?  How does it facilitate the character’s spirituality and religious perspective?

One reviewer called BLEEDER ‘a novel-length contemplation of the mystery of undeserved suffering,’ and that captures it pretty well. Surely a traditional ‘mystery’ is about an unsolved crime and the restoration of justice, but I wanted to explore “higher mysteries” that we all think about: why is there evil and injustice in the world at all? Why do we endure undeserved suffering? Is it, in any way, ‘redemptive?’ What meaning can we draw from the suffering of Christ – exemplified in the stigmata of Father Ray – to comprehend our own? All mystery novels consider to some degree the problem of human grief, loss, and woundedness – but awfully few go beyond the solving-of-the-puzzle. The Catholic understanding of human frailty and fallenness, of human promise and potential, is very deep and profound, and something that moved me as I wrote the story as a devout Presbyterian. Soon after finishing the book I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. My character Reed doesn’t. One of the things that makes so much “Christian fiction” sentimental and spiritually smarmy is the inevitable conversion at the end. Reed, an Aristotle expert and logician, comes to recognize new possibilities beyond his secularized understanding of the world. He grows to respect people of faith as intelligent and winsome, and not as superficial or saccharine. One might say he is newly opened to the mysteries of faith, hope, and love, although much remains unresolved at the end.

Along these same lines, with so many deep questions to ponder, why did you decide to write Bleeder as a mystery novel?

Mysteries – classic murder mysteries, I mean – connect with something deep inside us. They are the modern form of the medieval morality play, where the sleuth is Everyman who works against time, big money, a determined antagonist, daunting odds and his own flaws to expose evil and to restore the balance of justice. At the end, readers who identify with the successful hero or heroine feel a little better about the world and about themselves. A critic might say that mystery novels are escapist, since they offer a fantasy world in which justice prevails, right always wins over wrong, and love finds a way. But what’s wrong with that? That’s healing. I really think the ‘entertainment’ aspect comes first. This is why people read mysteries.

However, mysteries are close to the barest human desires and fears, and because they deal so openly with death, they have a built-in opportunity to explore life’s higher mysteries, as I mentioned earlier. All literature tries to make meaning out of the frightfully short dash between our birth date and departure date on our tombstones, and the hardships during that short dash. So the ‘mystery novel’ is a perfect vehicle to consider the mystery of undeserved suffering and the problem of evil in a world created by a good God.

What can you tell us about the inspiration for your newest novel, Viper?  How did you create the character of Selena De La Cruz, and how do you write so convincingly as her?  Was much research into the Mexican American community necessary?

As a new Catholic, I was excited by observing all the new customs and practices I hadn’t known as a devout Protestant. One of them was the “Book of the Dead” on All Souls’ Day, where a ledger is placed in the church for relatives to record the names of loved ones who have passed away during the year so they can be remembered and prayed for. The mystery writer in me asked, “What if there were names in the book of people who weren’t dead yet? And what if they were killed one by one in the order in which they were listed? Who are they, and who would kill them and why? At about the same time I learned about the Mexican “Day of the Dead,” a festival celebrated at about the same time and blended with All Souls’ Day in Mexican-American culture. That’s when I knew my Mexican-American insurance agent minor character from BLEEDER, Selena De La Cruz, would be the protagonist in the sequel. And her name would be last on that list. Once she walked on the stage in BLEEDER in those cherry high heels, with that attitude and driving that vintage Dodge Charger, I knew she had a story of her own. It took me a little while to realize she had a former career with the DEA and she’d left it under a cloud and was trying to start her life over as an insurance agent in rural Illinois. It took off from there.

And I was scared to death. How could I – an Anglo guy – presume to write the story of a Mexican-American woman? I feared the audacity of it and anticipated objections from the Latino community: “How can you, an Anglo man, tell our stories? And how can you, an Anglo man, represent a proud Latina?

So for nearly two years I became a second-generation Mexican-American woman.

Not literally, of course. Lacking any personal experience as a Latina, I immersed myself in the experiences of Latin women vicariously in many ways. With the recent meteoric rise in this population’s numbers in the USA, there are many new books in circulation by Latinas about coming to terms with one’s culture and traditions (especially family traditions and the Old-World expectations placed upon women) while trying to fit into New-World American society. I read most of them and took careful notes, as with any other research I had to do for VIPER (DEA undercover operations, police interrogations, crime scene processing, shooting a SIG Sauer which I really did, snake handling which I really didn’t, Aztec religion and so on). I studied Mexican holiday customs (especially The Day of the Dead and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe), Mexican Catholic practices and Mexican cooking and proverbs and on and on, all online. I subscribed to Latina magazine for fashion, beauty, relationship and lifestyle issues. I paid attention to any news related to this community, especially immigration issues. I browsed Latinas’ blogs and web sites to see what everyone talked about, especially with regard to family life, work and social life, negotiating two cultures at once and living with a bi-cultural identity. Just like the Dad says in the movie Selena, “We’ve gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans both at the same time. It’s exhausting!”

I interviewed Latinas and visited social spaces online where Latin American women (Cuban, Puerto Rican, Guatemalan and so on, not just Mexican) talked about their life experiences. By dipping into so many other Latinas’ life experiences, I noticed things that were common to them all that I could easily adapt, and other things I could tweak and make my own – well, Selena’s own. I built a very thorough backstory – life story – for her based on all this research. I had pages of notes and stacks of cards that I browsed through repeatedly to remind myself of small details that were of possible use as ‘bits’ in the story or for possible flashback scenes. In these ways I was able to construct an authentic Mexican-American woman with a real family and real-life inner conflicts most Latinas could identify with – not a ‘composite’ but a unique and genuine person.

A Latina translator helped me with the Spanish phrasing and reviewed the work-in-progress, and at one point she told me, “I am SO into Selena!” That’s when I knew I was getting it right – down to the 3-inch heel faux leopard Giuseppe Zanottis.

Finally, what else can we expect from John Desjarlais in the upcoming year?

I’m gathering material for the third book in this series and it’s all vague at this point. Insofar as VIPER considered Selena’s relationship with her mother in some detail (to correspond to her developing relationship to Our Lady of Guadalupe), I think the third book needs to consider her troubled past with her father, a former PEMEX executive who suddenly moved to Chicago to take a position with the Mexican Consulate there shortly before he died under questionable circumstances. I expect Selena will have to investigate and resolve all this before she can move ahead in her life.

Interview with Jerry Weber

Meet Jerry Weber — host of the integrated Catholic radio program, The Catholic Revolver.

First of all, we’re big fans of The Catholic Revolver.  We especially like the integration of various topics (such as politics and health & wellbeing) into the show.  Why do you feel its important to discern a tangible connection between the secular and religious?

Well first let me say thank you very much for being fans!!  When I decided to create The Catholic Revolver I wanted to keep the option open of discussing various topics because we all have different interests and hobbies outside of our spiritual life.  I make it clear though that God and his Church come first and that will always be the primary focus of the show overall, but it’s nice that I can have guests on to talk about music or sports for example as well.  God is perfectly fine with us having interests outside of the Church, as long as our interests are moral and don’t go against his word or the Church’s teachings.  And so I feel that having flexibility on my show regarding topics helps to make it a more well-rounded show and ultimately a more successful one.

Along these same lines, what do you hope to accomplish through The Catholic Revolver?

To simply provide good quality Catholic radio on the internet.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter to me if my show becomes the biggest or the best, because I don’t feel Catholic Radio whether it’s on the traditional airwaves or on the internet should be about competition, but rather it should be about helping eachother grow as Catholics and hopefully bringing Non-Catholics home through the process.  I want my show to help educate, touch, or inspire at least one person, and if it does that then it is all worth it to me.  A huge bonus has been having my faith grow through the process of this show, I get to interview such great guests from all walks of life, and I learn so much about Catholicism and about being a better Catholic.  I even learn from those guests who aren’t Catholic, but simply shared their story or whatever it was that they were passionate about.  There is always room for improvement in our faith, for each and every one of us.

We understand that around your late teens you experienced a change in perspective, lifestyle, and behavior.  Can you explain a little bit more to us about the role faith has played in altering your life?  Why do you think, though you have been a Catholic your whole life, your faith was strengthened as this particular point in your life?

Yes, I lived a very different lifestyle in my teens which often included sex, drugs, and rock & roll.  Of course I don’t see anything wrong with the rock & roll part depending on the artists, but the other two of course were big no/no’s.  I felt God calling me when I was 17 to change my life, and to begin to obey his word, and become a better Catholic.  I answered his call and began to take interest in Catholicism, and did what I could to turn my life around and grow closer to Christ.  It wasn’t smooth sailing from that point forward or anything, as much as I tried I often fell away from the faith in my twenties even though deep down I always had the desire to return to the Church to be a better Catholic.  I think my faith has strengthened at this point of my life because with age comes wisdom, and I feel I’m at that point of my life where I’m much more grounded and know what I’m hoping to achieve out of life.  And ultimately I realize that without God not only will I never achieve true happiness, but my soul would remain dead just like branches on a rotting tree.


You’ve openly stated that depression and anxiety have been prevalent forces throughout your life.  Do these ever test your faith?  How do you maintain conviction of belief in the face of them?

Yes, all the time!  Included in my battles with anxiety has been Social Anxiety, and let me tell you this form of anxiety is tougher than most people realize.  And this really kept me away from Mass for many years because dealing with crowds of people has never been something I’ve been comfortable with.  Both anxiety and depression seem to enjoy becoming masters of your whole being, in other words if they can take full control of your life and dictate what you can and can’t do they certainly will.  I would say my faith in God has done more for my battle against anxiety and depression then anything else ever has.  I understand that it is my part of the Cross to carry, and that God has allowed me to deal with this for a reason.  At the same time, it’s with my faith that I truly believe the day will come in my lifetime where I will be free of these mental disorders.  And yes I said FREE!  I believe this because I feel through the Grace of God I have learned so much about what causes these problems, I’m very much into natural-healing and I don’t subscribe to the theory that western medicine does when it comes to mental illness.  And I feel that in due time I will be taking care of my body in the right way through diet, nutrition, the proper supplements, cleansing the kidneys and liver, etc.  I’m very confident about the success this will have, but the credit will go to God for giving me the strength and wisdom needed not only to make it happen, but to continue to strive at dealing with these disorders presently.

You’ve also mentioned that you thoroughly enjoy music, especially artists/bands such as Jimi Hendrix, The Carpenters, and the Doors.  Besides Karen Carpenter, any other all-time favorite artist?  What about song?  What is it about music that resounds so strongly with you?

I would rank my favorite artists as follows; The Carpenters, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, & Bob Marley & The Wailers.  I have many other favorites, but those have always stood out to me and I never tire of their music.  Some will say that as a Catholic it might not be moral to listen to a band such as The Doors because of the destructive lifestyle that Jim Morrison lead for example, but in listening to the music it’s not condoning the lifestyle of a band member, it’s appreciating the creativity that the musicians had.  For example I was not in Morrison’s shoes, it would be easy for me to sit back and say he should have done this or that, but he had his own personal battles like many of us do.  His life doesn’t change the fact that he was a gifted Poet who really helped change the face of Rock & Roll with his words and theatrics on stage.

Now in terms of songs my favorite song of all time is from my favorite band of all time The Carpenters, and that song would be “This Masquerade”.  Although not originally written by Richard & Karen Carpenter, their version of this lovely song to me is simply amazing.  It showcased Karen’s angelic voice, and Richard’s brilliant arrangements as good as any song they ever did.  Also, I think the song in many ways could relate to Karen’s short lived marriage, it was also fitting that they played this song in the 1989 made for TV movie “The Karen Carpenter Story” during the scenes of Karen and her husband’s troubles.

Music is a form of art, and I’ve enjoyed music ever since I was a kid.  I personally feel it is a wonderful way of expressing one’s self, and can also teach you more about yourself as well.  And if you want to talk about music from a Catholic perspective, there are some tremendous Catholic musicians out there who have created some beautiful Catholic music over the years.  I’m personally not a big fan of traditional Christian music, but genuine Catholic music from Catholic artists to me is absolutely Heavenly!

And finally, what is next for Jerry Weber?

Well I began RCIA in September of 2010, and I’m so pleased that this journey has finally begun for me.  I’ve been Catholic my entire life, but never received my First Communion, and so I have been wanting to join RCIA for many years, but put it off constantly due to the things in life that often pull us away from our faith to begin with.  So if all goes well I look forward to officially entering the Church on Easter of 2011!!

I’m also looking at relocating out of California probably in the next 2-3 years.  I truly love it here and it will always be home, but long term it just doesn’t offer the kind of living that I’m seeking.  Things have gotten out of hand here with high taxes and ridiculous laws, etc.  At this point I see myself ending up either in Arizona where I spent about 4 years living before, or in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas.

Thanks so much for this opportunity, it was great speaking to you!!

Thank you, Jerry!

Interview with Nancy Carabio Belanger

Meet Nancy Carabio Belanger, the award-winning author behind Olivia and the Little Way and the new sequel, Olivia’s Gift.

Your admiration for St. Therese is seen through your blog as well as through the story of Olivia.  What is it that initially drew you to St. Therese?

Honestly, I think it was the fact that she struggled with holiness like any average person, just like I do.  She had her strengths and weaknesses; she was not perfect, nor does God expect any of us to be. Through the ups and downs of her life, Therese learned to embrace her littleness.  She teaches us that anyone can do something for Jesus, even the least powerful and the littlest among us.  She wrote, “Love your littleness and your poverty, it is that, as well as your blind trust in His Mercy, which pleases the good God.”


Mycatholicblog absolutely loves St. Therese’s words on loving others, which read: “Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” (Story of a Soul, Chapter 8). Do you have any words of St. Therese that stand out in particular as motivational or influential in your life?

My absolute favorite quote of hers is not one you see very often, but the first time I read it, it spoke to my heart. It is taken from a letter she wrote right before she died: “…you will not have time to send me your messages for heaven, but I am guessing at them, and then you will only have to tell me them in a whisper, and I shall hear you, and I shall carry your messages faithfully to the Lord, to our Immaculate Mother…and I shall be near you, holding your hand.”  WOW. I love that!

Another is something she wrote to an unsure, young seminarian she was corresponding with while she was in the convent. She was a spiritual mentor to him.  It is:  “Believe that I shall be your true little sister for all eternity.”  Those words are very powerful to me, and remind me that she, like the rest of the saints, is always there, waiting to be an intercessor for us in Heaven.

Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia’s Gift both focus on the pre-teen age group.  With so many distractions and temptations facing children and young
teens today, what is one piece of advice you would give kids, or their parents/family, to help them achieve the sense of modesty that you advocate through your writings?

In Olivia’s Gift, Olivia has a heart-to-heart talk with her mother. I won’t give it all away here, but the essence of it is this:  From the moment of every human being’s creation, God has given us great dignity.  As young ladies and young men, what does He want you do with that dignity?  And if we ignore that dignity of the human person, how does that take away from our relationship with God?  Our dignity is a great gift God has given to us out of His immense love for us, to protect us from harm and not to be taken lightly; if we waste it and don’t show it respect, then what are we telling God?

Along these same lines, though both books are written with a “tween” audience in mind, who else can benefit from these books?

I have lots of families reading the books together at bedtime, which leads to great discussions among parents and children.  Also, I have so many grandparents who tell me they love the books because it reminds them of how they felt growing up. They also enjoy learning about the life of St. Therese that I weave into the stories of Olivia.  It is so sweet because, at book signings, they clutch these books and say to me with sheepish smiles, “I’m going to give it to my grandchild, but I want to read it first!”  I love that!

I also enjoy hearing from Catholic schools that are teaching the books as part of their curricula.  I truly believe that Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia’s Gift are great teaching materials for Catholic classrooms.  I have discussion questions to help teachers get started.  Teachers tell me that their students can’t wait to get to religion class when they are teaching the books. It humbles me that I can provide this for Catholic classrooms, and that the kids get so involved in the discussions.  With all of the pressures kids are facing today in school, they can really relate to the struggles Olivia goes through.  I get letters from students all of the time who tell me that they are now interested in following St. Therese’s Little Way, her path to holiness.  She is such a great role model for ‘tweens.  And parents and teachers alike love the fact that my books are wholesome and teach valuable lessons that are true to our Catholic faith.  With so many mixed messages being thrown at this age group, my books are safe places for kids to go to to learn about God’s plan for each of us.  Many homeschooling parents are also actively teaching my books.

We loved your article on catholicmom.com about Lent, in which you stress the importance and peace simplicity can often bring.  You also write about the characteristics of children — full of trust and able to love unconditionally, to name a few.  Have your own two children served as inspiration in your own quest for these traits?

I think parents can learn so much from their children.  Children may sometimes act like they want all of the latest and greatest things, but really, all they want is your time and love. I wish I could give my children everything they desire on the store shelves, but I know that spending time with them and really listening to what they have to say is worth more than anything I can buy them with my Visa card, and they know that too.  They are very bright and caring kids, and they love to help me with my writing.  My husband and I strive to teach them every day about how simple things are best and have the most meaning, more than anything else. Material things will always break and rust and fail you eventually, but God never will. Also, that trusting God for all your needs, and His Blessed Mother, is the key to a happy life.


Finally, what’s next for Nancy Carabio Belanger?

More books!  My goodness, have you seen the shocking material that is available at the public library or the bookstores for our children? Don’t get me wrong, there are many great books there as well, but I cannot get over some of the books I see on the shelves. It is very dangerous. I think a lot of parents just don’t realize what’s in those books. They’re just so happy their kids are reading…but at what cost to their children’s souls?  As a writer, I am a very small fish in a gigantic ocean; I realize that. This ocean is filled with writers who celebrate teen sex, disrespect, the occult, and immodesty, and they make big bucks from doing so. Perhaps these writers sleep just fine at night doing that, but I never could. I feel called to write quality books for youths that celebrate being Catholic and the gift of our faith.   And I’ll never water our faith down to please the masses; that I can promise you.  I am working on a ‘tween fiction novel right now with a troubled boy as the main character, and I love how it is turning out so far.  I will let God lead me and tell me what He wants me to do, and I know everything will turn out fine.  After all, I’ve got his servant Therese nearby, holding my hand!

Interview with Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

Author, television host, blogger, speaker, mother:  Meet Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, and find out what keeps her driven to accomplish so very much.

Donna-Marie, your friendship with Mother Teresa’s has undoubtedly affected your work; one need not look farther than the foreword for Prayerfully Expecting: A nine month novena for mothers-to-be or Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship for evidence.  How exactly did your friendship with the Mother Teresa begin, and is it possible to pass along any wisdom she has given you that has held particular affect?

By the grace of God, my friendship with Blessed Mother Teresa began. I recount all of the details in my book: Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship.

I traveled with my family to Washington DC to visit Father John A. Hardon S. J., a renowned theologian and author who happened to also be my spiritual director. We had a wonderful meeting and he then encouraged us to visit the Missionary of Charity sisters and the sick and dying they cared for at the convent in DC. Well, Mother Teresa happened to be visiting the country at the time and was at the convent! The rest is history, as they say. Again, it’s all in my book, the whole story. Suffice it to say that Fr. Hardon was responsible for me meeting Mother Teresa.

Is it possible to pass on any wisdom from her that has affected me? That would include everything she’s done or said or written to me. That could take quite some time! But very briefly, Mother Teresa was a woman of deep prayer and radical love. She lived to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the Cross. She lived the gospel of Matthew 24: 31-46, that whatever we do to others, we do to Jesus. She took this quite literally as we should too, as Christians.

Re-focusing a bit on Prayerfully Expecting, the book undertakes a unique perspective and finds an impressive balance between a religious and secular world.  How did you come up with the idea of drawing a parallel between pregnancy and a novena?


During a very complicated pregnancy with my daughter Mary-Catherine, I was required to be on complete bed-rest to preserve the life of my unborn baby. It was during that blessed time that the inspiration came to me to write about a pregnancy as a novena of living prayer to God. It all came to me as a powerful inspiration as I prayed and stayed put to save my baby’s life. It was many years later that the book was published and I was very blessed to receive Blessed Mother Teresa’s foreword which graces the beginning of my book.

In A Catholic Woman’s Book of Prayers, you write about all the ‘mixed messages’ women face today that may ‘distract’ them from fully realizing God’s divine love. Besides prayers, what would you suggest  as one pro-active step women can take to better connect with their spirituality?

To offer our days to God first thing in the morning and then all throughout the day, raise our hearts to Him in prayer, asking for His help and guidance. Turning to our Blessed Mother, through praying the Rosary and even in short aspirations to her, asking for help and guidance to aid us on our journey as a Catholic woman will help a great deal.

Taking time to pause and ponder throughout our busy days will help us to be mindful of our sacred responsibilities. Turning away from the culture and all of the negativity and evil it offers through television, the Internet, and advertizing can help us focus on the Sacred rather than the secular. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded Christians for support, as well as choosing reading and media material that will help nurture us as Catholic women can help to keep us inspired. It’s also wonderful when possible, to gather together with other Catholic women in study groups to learn more about and share the Faith.

In 2008 you were chosen as one of 250 to be a delegate for the Women’s International Congress in Rome. When you began on this journey as an author/speaker/etc, did you ever
anticipate this much
success or notoriety? What does it mean to you to reach such milestones?

I don’t look at any of it as “success.” I consider it all as blessings – blessings that are meant to be shared with others. I was very honored to be chosen by the Holy See for the participation at the international congress for women and I certainly counted my blessings, all the while knowing that it was also a huge responsibility. I tried to be a “sponge” while there so I could take it all in and bring it back to share.


Congratulations on the success of your show, “Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms”! What inspired you to transition into television, and what is the main objective you hope the show achieves?

Thank you very much for your words of congratulations. “Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms” was born because I really felt there should be a series for Catholic moms filled with inspiration and tips to aid them through their everyday joys and challenges as they trudge their way through their “domestic church,” working out their salvation. I think that hearing a friendly and encouraging voice from one who has been there in the trenches of motherhood is many times all a weary mother may need to help in her own faith journey.

When I proposed the idea of the show to Doug Keck and Peter Gagnon at EWTN, they were very open and supportive. They knew me and my work as a Catholic author and that I was on several EWTN shows already. I am very thankful to them for the opportunity.

Through inspiration and prayer, I created the series, and along with EWTN, I am able to bring it to Catholic and Christian women all over the world. It turns out that not only Catholic and Christian women watch my show, I have heard from an inmate who wrote to me who watches
my series and told me that he’s inspired to learn more about Catholicism because of the show. God is so good! We need to use the media for good to help counteract the bad by bringing the Truth to others.

And finally, what is next for Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle?

God is in control so whatever He wants is what I want! Currently, I am writing a new book for Catholic moms, which discusses the joys and challenges of raising children in our world today. It will also go over the really tough issues affecting families too. It should be released next fall. In addition, I may be doing some more TV segments on EWTN, more radio possibly, and of course, more books! I also do many events and give many retreats all over. Check my appearance calendar on my website: www.donnacooperoboyle.com

Thank you for your interview. May God bless you and yours!