Catholic Book Spotlight - Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas by Maria Rodgers O'Rourke


orourke_christmasAlthough it’s almost time for Advent to draw to a close, we Catholics are really just getting ready to begin our celebration of Christmas!  I am happy to share with you an interview with Maria Rodgers O’Rourke, author of Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas.

Maria’s book is the gift every Catholic Mom should give herself this Christmas – warm, reflective and a resource you’ll want to revisit time and again every Advent and Christmas season.  Check out this great book and Maria’s other work at her website.

MRO 2009 for webMaria, thank you for writing such a wonderful and greatly needed book!  Please introduce yourself and your family to our readers.

Hello, Lisa!  Thanks for your kind words.  By way of introduction, I have been married for 17 years and have two daughters, age 16 and 9.  In my professional life, I am a speaker, author and teacher.  I have served in church ministry for over 20 years in communications, adult spirituality, family life and retreat direction.  I love to find the hidden meaning in life and help others to see it, too!

Please share with our readers a bit about your book Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas – what makes this book different from other Christmas books?

Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas is a one-of-a-kind book because it combines timely, scripture-based reflections with journal pages to write a gratitude list, the day’s intention, and your to-do list.  I’ve found daily reflection books, and Christmas planning books, but this is the only one I’ve seen that combines the two.  I think this is important because God is at work in the details of our lives, so this format brings our prayer and practical lives together.  I wrote it for busy women, like me, who want to enjoy the Advent and Christmas seasons in the spiritual sense of it.  It’s so easy for us to get caught up in all the tasks of holiday preparations that we lose sight of the wonderful opportunities to grow closer to God that Advent and Christmas give us.  By taking quiet prayer time everyday, we’re tending to our most important relationship–with God–and bringing that peace and love into the tasks of our day.

I love the fact that you encourage readers to pause and reflect each day during this hectic season.  What are some practical pointers for prioritizing this daily quiet time when things feel so very busy?

This is a great question, because daily prayer can, unfortunately, become “one more thing to do.”  That’s one reason why the book’s reflections and journal pages are brief.  The reader need not feel that it’s a burden to do the daily prayer.  So, I invite readers to put prayer at the top of the day’s agenda.  In my experience, my days go so much more smoothly when I’ve taken time to pray in the morning.  Not that the circumstances are different, but my response to them is.  Seen through the eyes of faith, the events of the day are easier to manage and place in God’s hands.  On the other hand, some women prefer to use the book in the evening, or at bedtime as a way to reflect on the day and make plans for the next.  Either way, I think its the mindfulness of the prayertime that’s important.  Tend to that, and see what miracles unfold.

How can we, as families, reclaim some of the original intentions of the Advent and Christmas season?  What are some of your family’s favorite Advent and Christmas traditions?

To answer your second question first, we love to set up the creche and tell the Christmas story together as we place each figure in the manger.  Also, we light Advent candles each Sunday during the season, and our daughters get a special ornament each year.  We have a daily Advent calendar that creates the nativity scene with a new character added each day.  And, music, music, music!  We all have our favorite Christmas CDs, and my husband plays piano by ear, so he takes requests anytime.

In response to your first question, I encourage families to make the Advent and Christmas traditions a priority and not just add them to an already busy schedule.  For example, if decorating the tree is a family project, schedule the time to do it, don’t just try to squeeze it in and end up doing it at a time went people are tired or distracted.  The most important thing we can do to reclaim some of the original intentions of Advent and Christmas is to set our priorities and stick to them.  Most people I talk with value time with family during the holidays over anything else.  So, cut back on some of the activities and build in lots of time to hang out with your children.  The spontaneous moments often become the beloved memories.  And, get the kids involved as much as possible.  They love to make a contribution to the celebration. I know it can be hard for some moms to give up some control of the outcomes, but there will be some wonderful surprises and blessings when the energy and creativity of the children is brought to the task!

I know that you do quite a bit of speaking to groups and organizations.  What are some of your favorite speaking topics to share with others during Advent and Christmas?

My favorite topics are:  Advent—Wait, Watch, and Wonder; Mary—the First to Say “Yes!”, and: Finding Ourselves in the Christmas Story.  This year, I’ll also speak on Loving, Laughing and Longing: the Gifts of Christmas.

Taking a page from your wonderful book, how would you answer the question, “Today I am thankful for…”

The warm sunshine, even in the chilly air
Hot tea
My daughter’s silly sense of humor
Our home and food
The post office
The chance to connect with!

Thank you so much for your time and for this great book Maria!  Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

I pray all your readers will find peace in their hearts this Advent, and celebrate a wonderful Christmas with those they love.  Thank you, Lisa!

Order Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas and support with your purchase.


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

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