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The Heart of Motherhood
The Heart of Motherhood
Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home
When dirty dishes and laundry pile up, it’s easy to believe that the call to sanctity is for someone else. But this inspiring book written by a Catholic mother of five and based on the teachings of Mother Teresa shows us how faith can support mother's in their most holy task—raising children.
Reviews and endorsements
Author Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle has a mission. As a devout Catholic and mother, of five who has dedicated the past 29 years to raising her children, O'Boyle is now encouraging other Catholic mothers to embrace the vocation of motherhood.
With the publication of her new book "The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home,” she hopes to share her message about the sanctity of motherhood.
O'Boyle is passionate about her ministry to mothers, and says that this is something she has been doing since last year’s release of her bestselling book. “Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers.”
The author frequently speaks to groups about the vocation of motherhood and its importance. Not a fan of public speaking. however, O'Boyle says that she has had to overcome her hesitation because she feels that she has been called by God to share her message with other mothers.
Somewhat surprised by the response of women who have been moved to tears by her talks, O'Boyle remarked, “I am happy if the Lord can use me through the words that I say or write to help, women.”
She added, "Motherhood is a very lofty vocation and hopefully they, will be able to embrace it fully and have peace of heart and soul.”
O'Boyle notes that women can often feel confused, inadequate or depressed because they are trying to figure out what they are supposed to do.
"I've always tried to help mothers realize that life speeds by" she said, “and it is important to be there for your children as much as you can when they are little because it is so critical to their development."
In her soft-spoken voice, O'Boyle explains that her books are aimed at mothers who are striving to find more meaning in their vocation and are look in for a deeper relationship with God.
“I try to impress upon them that it really can be done and it really is quite easy" said O'Boyle. Calling her concept a kind of revolutionary approach to prayer, O'Boyle says that she tries to help mothers realize that their very lives are a prayer, because they are the ones God put in the heart of the home to take care of the children. O'Boyle believes that her philosophy is empowering and hopes that it will provide comfort to mothers.
Her book has been blessed by Pope John Paul II and endorsed by Mother Teresa who read the manuscript, as O'Boyle wrote the book 16 years ago when she was on bed-rest during a pregnancy.
The book offers Catholic mothers a way to practice their religion in a simpler, easier fashion. But the author is humble about her role in encouraging mothers to embrace the vocation of motherhood while also drawing closer to their faith.
"I feel God's calling me to do it," O'Boyle reflected. "God gave me the grace to write these words."
O'Boyle finds her work extremely fulfilling. “It’s amazing what words can do. I weave these words together for inspiration to other people."
—News Times Live
Recalling her own personal conversations and communications with then-Mother Teresa of Calcutta, now Blessed Teresa, Donna-Marie wrote this book that speaks of the heart and attitudes that women can aspire to as they perform their daily duties as mothers.
Donna-Marie's perspective is one of prayerful encounter with Christ within one's own home. Mothers often experience this as they serve their family in what Donna-Marie calls this "ordinary, yet quite extraordinary" vocation. Extolling the benefits and beatitudes of mothers, and in particular, stay-at-home mothers, the book draws on the classic examples of the Blessed Virgin Mother and Catholic mothers who are canonized saints. Less of a "how-to" and more of a "what-can-be" meditation, The Heart of Motherhood calls women to go deeper in prayer and personal sanctity within their vocation. Donna-Marie carefully weaves modern reflections from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the late Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, with her own anecdotes and prayers about this state in life.
The Heart of Motherhood calls women who are mothers to an interior life that is designed to produce saints, while living the external life that raises them. This book follows her previous book, Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers.
The search for a meaningful present for a daughter, grand daughter, relative or friend can be daunting. However, the role good news is the search is ended with this delightful and deceptively simple book. How often does a reviewer get to read a book by an author whose writings have been endorsed both by our late Pope John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa? Yet Cooper, a Lay Missionary of Charity, was able to obtain their blessing on her works when she submitted portions of her manuscript for their comments. Her devotion both to the Holy Father and to Mother Teresa shines through the pages of her book.
Just what is it that O’Boyle is trying to tell us? Her reflections on mothering are really applications of St. Theresa’s (The Little Flower) Little Way - the offering to God of every single moment of the chaos, rewards, sufferings, satisfactions, joys and disappointments experienced in the average home where parents are raising children. And it is evident from the narration that Cooper knows all about it. This is a young wife and mother raising five children and having to contend with the influence of the outside world on what she describes as her personal “domestic church.”
She first of all challenges modern parenting myths. “Remember that we are parents, not the best friends” of our children. This means that one is always ready to be open and listen to them, but must always “hold tight to our values and teachings of the truth about God. We have the immediate duty to instill the proper teachings into our children.” She adds a cautionary note - we are not to water those truths down!
Throughout this book, the author reminds mothers to turn to Mary when days are difficult. She quotes from the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity - “Indeed, while leading a life common to us, one filled with family concerns and labours, Mary was always intimately united to Christ, furthering the work of the Saviour.” She quotes from saints such as Bernadine of Siena and Louis de Montfort who remind us that “Mary’s holy feet crushed the head of the Serpent,” thus Satan can never have power over us if we pray. By inculcating our children with a love for the recitation of the Rosary, we can be assured of Mary’s help in times of temptation. She is the best role model a mother can have.
O’Boyle warns that prayer with children should never be forced to the point where they turn against it. This delicate balance requires judiciousness and patience on the part of parents.
The text is sprinkled with quotes from Blessed Mother Teresa. One that informs the author - and the reader - about how Mary models to tis the concept of selfless love is the episode when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth: “Our Lady, the most beautiful of all women, the greatest, the humblest, the most holy, the moment she felt she was full of grace, full of Jesus, went in haste - and here she is a model to all women - by sharing immediately what she had received.” This, the author points out, is how God has fashioned a woman’s heart - to be nurturing and giving.
O’Boyle stresses the need for personal and family prayer. It is in this way that the family can become a “holy family” unto its own. Again she quotes Blessed Teresa as to how to turn action into prayer: “Love cannot remain by itself - it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service. How do we put the love for God into action? By being faithful to our family, to the duties that God has entrusted to us.” Was there ever sounder advice? Establishing the routine of making a Morning Offering every day transforms our actions into prayer. As Cooper puts it, "our life becomes a prayer."
Helping our children individually realize the enormity of God's love for us is accomplished one person at a time. Blessed Teresa is again an example for mothers, as she extended loving hands and a selfless heart to each person she met. Very seldom did she address mass crowds.
The chapter dealing with Family Prayer is very beautiful. It talks about the importance of children seeing their mother and father at prayer. "By praying with and in front of our children, from an early age, we will lay down a very important foundation that will remain with them throughout life." This complements O'Boyle's belief that establishing Family Nights once a week will lead to the fulfillment of Pope John Paul's sentiment that "if the family is the place where children first encounter the world, the family must be for children the first school of peace.”
This little book is sprinkled with concrete suggestions as to how to foster all the above virtues that build one's personal "domestic church". There is also realistic attention paid to the fact that we all can experience the "splinters of the Cross" in our role as parents. Again, faith and love will carry us through these moments of trial and suffering.
At the conclusion of the book, the author reminds mothers (and all parents) that “When we draw our dying breath in this earthly life, we will not be judged by how many projects we completed, how far up the ladder we managed to climb, or how many careers we succeeded at; rather we will be judged only and explicitly by how we loved".
Though this book in parts seems repetitious, it is never tedious or condescending. It reiterates truths that need to be heard over and over, because mothering can become so all-consuming at times, that one can lose touch with its spiritual side. Another helpful component of the book's structure is that each of its ten chapters ends with prayers echoing the theme of that chapter. As a mother of five, I'm grateful for this book, because even though my children are grown and out of the home, I can still apply the principles so clearly delineated here.
—Catholic Insight Magazine
During May, Mary's month and the month in which we celebrate the vocation of motherhood, it seems fitting to write about what is undoubtedly one of my favorite mothering books in recent years. The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home by noted author Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle offers and encouraging and inspirational look at the vocation of motherhood.
In her introductory remarks, Donna-Marie shares that today's mothers need encouragement and recognition. Her mission statement for the book comes in these early pages: "My hope is that I can help more mothers realize and embrace the sublimity of their missions as mothers, responsible for the souls entrusted to our care."
Having savored the pages of this book through several readings, I would say that Cooper O'Boyle manages to hit that mark head on. Among the highlights of this book, along with Donna-Marie's warm and engaging writing style, are the many quotations she shares from two luminaries of our Church: Pope John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, with whom the author shared a personal correspondence. The Heart of Motherhood is the type of parenting book I favor most. Concise enough to be read in a few short settings, yet thought provoking enough to invite its reader back repeatedly for in depth illumination. Each chapter ends with dual prayers, inspiring pause and reflection upon the content discussed.
In her chapter on the need for saints in our world today, Cooper O'Boyle shares the life story of Mother Teresa, reminding readers that each of us is called to be a saint in our own walk of life. It is fitting that the author reminds mothers that an, task, done with love, becomes an act of faith, love and prayer. In this manner, she commends and affirms the role of any mother who may feet that the mendacity of her day to day lives is not "good enough" or sufficiently holy. Remarks by Pope John Paul II reinforce the dignity of the role of every mother. Cooper O'Boyle also underscores the vital necessity for mothers to take breaks for prayer and refreshment throughout the course of their daily familial service.
As Catholics, we have in the Blessed Virgin Mary the greatest role model for parenting with faith and love. Cooper O'Boyle (reminds mothers to strive to imitate Mary and her virtues in their lives and to turn to Mary, mother of Jesus and our mother, when in need of help or consolation. Additionally, she reminds mothers of their duty to pray on a regular basis, to teach their children to lead lives of constant prayer, and to seek out opportunities for evangelization in our everyday relationships. The age old conundrum of taking small children to Mass is lovingly and patiently discussed as the author shares her own experience as a mother of five. Donna-Marie encourages mothers to pray throughout their day and to model this prayer to their families. Families should emphasize family dinner as a time of spiritual and physical nourishment and each day should end in quiet prayer with our children.
In subsequent chapters, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle shares the story of female saints whose lives of quiet service to their families shine as a true lesson for today's mothers. Additionally, and with great charm, Donna-Marie addresses the topic of suffering as a form of prayer and encourages mothers to look for life's "everyday miracles", those moments of grace and opportunity that are sprinkled throughout family life.
—Catholic Mom Magazine
I recall a day not too long ago when our first child was around 6 months old. My husband and I had just stepped into church with our daughter for daily Mass. In an unusual turn of events, we had actually managed to get ourselves and the baby to the church 15 minutes before Mass began, and as I sat down in the pew with the baby quietly resting in my lap, I relished this rare opportunity for a new mother to have quiet and uninterrupted prayer.
Suddenly, a familiar sound emanating from our daughter not only interrupted the silence, but also indicated that my prayer time was over and a trip to the changing station was immediately in order. When, I wondered, do mothers ever have the opportunity to pray?
In The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle describes the common dilemma of mothers seeking to balance the demands of home life and responsibilities of mothering with opportunities to pray and grow in holiness. "Duty calls constantly. Moms are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week," she explains. "So we learn to make our life a prayer."
Drawing largely from her relationship with BI. Teresa of Calcutta and quotes from various saints, Church leaders and documents, and Sacred Scripture, Cooper O'Boyle emphasizes the mother's God given role at the heart of the home and of the family. She balances these sound theological and catechetical reflections on the dignity of Christian motherhood and family life with a good dose of practical advice for daily living and personal reflections from her own experience as a wife and mother of five children. A particular focus of this book is the importance of a woman's work in the home and ministry of presence to her family, especially to young children in their most formative years.
Cooper O'Boyle encourages mothers in their daily tasks, and especially commends those duties that get little recognition or praise as possible places of grace and encounter with God. She extols the virtues of those self-sacrificing and saintly mothers who are often quietly and humbly hidden in their families, but whose impact is nonetheless of great import not only to their own families, but to society at large. To mothers in particular, Cooper O'Boyle recommends the little way of the great St. Therese of Lisieux, who encourage us all to “remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God,” and to “do all that you do with love.”
Seeming to recognize that her appreciation and endorsement of the traditional role of mothers in the heart of the home and family may be met with resistance from those of us formed by the influences of modern society, Cooper O'Boyle wisely shares the mind of the Church on these matters. She heavily quotes Pope John Paul II, who said that it is "necessary to counter the misconception that the role of motherhood is oppressive to women and that a commitment to her family, particularly children, prevents a woman from reaching personal fulfillment and from having an influence in society." She also quotes him (twice, for some reason) as saying that "the mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome."
In addition to good advice pertinent to all Christian mothers, Cooper O'Boyle adds many distinctively Catholic features to her hook. Such reflections include those on Mary as our sublime model of motherhood, tips on praying the Rosary throughout a busy day, praying to receive a spiritual communion with Jesus when we cannot receive Communion at daily Mass, blessing ourselves with the Sign of the Cross throughout the day, and imparting parental blessings upon our children. She also gives examples of holy mothers-including Sts. Monica, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Rita of Cascia-as inspiration to all of us mothers striving to travel the path of sanctity.
While I enjoyed this hook overall, I did find Cooper O'Boyle's writing and organization of thoughts to be a hit choppy and confusing at times. For example, in a chapter titled "Mary, Our Sublime Model," Cooper O'Boyle does not actually make any mention of Mary until the fourth page of the chapter, and the opening pages consist of a series of true but disjointed thoughts on various attacks on the family and motherhood that confront us in modern society. In addition, there are other areas of the book where I felt the author presented some good and praiseworthy thought, but it was either in a slightly confusing location or was never followed through to its full conclusion.
The Heart of Motherhood encourages and inspires mothers to strive for holiness within their families through sound theological and practical principles, while still being easy to read and to understand. And while light enough for any Catholic mother to read and enjoy, it is not just some "Chicken Soup for the Catholic Mother's Soul." The author bravely delves into more weighty topics, such as learning not to run from our sufferings, but to offer them to Jesus as we learn to embrace the Cross. Finally and most importantly, Cooper O'Boyle urges mothers to learn to live and rest in God's presence always, for often, as Pope Benedict XVI describes, "the deepest cause of suffering is the very absence of God."
A Stamford-born writer is releasing a book next month that aims to inspire Catholic mothers to view their job as God’s work.
“I try to praise mothers,” Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’50 said of “The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home.” “I want them to see how sublime their role is.”
The contemporary mother has many challenges, she said. She pointed to the pressure to work outside the home and said the job of looking after children can be stressful on its own.
O’Boyle said the biblical figure of Mary did not try to rescue the suffering masses all at the same time. Instead, she helped one person at a time, and eventually the number of people was in the thousands. So if all mothers chip in by raising good families, the world will end up being a better place overall.
O’Boyle a lifelong Catholic and a mother of five children who lives in New Milford, is the author of a prayer book for mothers and is set to release another book aimed at expectant mothers this spring.
For 12 years she was a single mother while running a preschool, teaching religious education and, more recently, writing her manuscripts and articles.
She embarked on a spiritual quest 20 years ago when she met Mother Teresa in Washington, D.C. O’Boyle became active in Mother Teresa’s order, Missionaries of Charity, as a layperson and carried on a correspondence with the Nobel Peace Prize winner until her death in 1997.
But it was when O’Boyle was pregnant with her fifth child 15 years ago that she found her calling. The doctors told her that she would have a miscarriage. But O’Boyle confined herself to bed rest, prayed and corresponded with Mother Teresa. She gave birth to her daughter, Mary Katherine, who is a healthy teenager today.
During that pregnancy, O’Boyle, who had loved creative writing but had never published, started writing manuscripts about motherhood, including one that would become “The Heart of Motherhood.” The manuscripts sat in boxes, and it was not until her children were older that she sat down to revise them and get them published.
For spiritual consultation, O’Boyle turned to her friend Mother Teresa, who later endorsed O’Boyle’s works. Although the book is aimed at Catholic mothers, she says she has readers from different faiths.
“I think there is a whole movement of young mothers who really are spiritual,” she said. “I’m trying to show them that they can find holiness right in the heart of the home.”
—The Advocate Magazine
"I pray that this book does much good."
—Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta