“I think that however old the reader is, they will find part of their own story,” O’Leary said. “When we write [our stories], we want the reader to actually be able to contemplate and ponder… to kind of find their own story. So you're not just consuming another person’s content, you're actually looking at yourself too.”
One story particularly moved O’Leary (even though she compared picking her favorite to “picking a favorite flower”). She pointed to writer Liz Kelly, who shares with readers her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis toward the end of the book.
While Kelly originally “thought that meant her role would become really small,” God “used her in that time and in that diagnosis to broadcast his message even further than she thought,” O’Leary summarized.
She added, “I think the reason I love that story so much is because where we see limitations, God just sees more opportunities for grace.”
A theme in the book that O’Leary herself touches on is God’s unconditional love — that he loves you as you are right now, regardless of what you do or don’t do, regardless of how your family or friends treat you, regardless of your past or future. He loves you.
“I suppose people in general struggle with the idea of unconditional love because it's so rarely manifest in our human interaction,” O’Leary said of accepting God’s love. “And so, because the human level of relationship in our lives are fraught with other imperfect people, to really trust in and experience God's love takes this trust and this faith.”
Her first piece of advice for women who doubt God’s love or think they aren’t good enough is to visit the confessional.
“Get all those embarrassing sins off your chest,” she said. “The priest has heard it all ... you can go behind the screen.”
“It's nothing that’s too embarrassing to bring to the sacrament and really unload yourself of the burden of all those sins and experience God's grace filling you,” she added. God’s unconditional love can get “so shrouded and clouded by my own, my own humanity, my own mistakes, my own sinfulness.”
Community and Covid
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Another topic in the book — and a priority for Blessed Is She as a whole — is community. O’Leary addressed the challenges of community, particularly during the pandemic.
“Living in a global pandemic, so many things being more online, we just see that highlights reel…those drive those envy twinges of, ‘Her life looks perfect. She doesn't have my struggles,’” she said. “Really puts in wedges in our sisterhood and we need our sisterhood.”
“When we can't be together, it just starts to look like everyone has it together,” she added. “We don’t.”
O’Leary advised women to read the free daily devotions offered by Blessed Is She. And delete social media apps off of their phones, even if just for the weekend.
“I know that our phones and the internet are wonderful for connecting us, but they're also really toxic for making it feel more lonely,” she said. “Live the life that's in front of you.”