As we prepare to celebrate Advent together as a sisterhood, we’re deep diving into the creation of this year’s Advent Journal called Bearing Light. We sat down with Blessed is She’s Managing Editor, Nell O’Leary, to learn about her role in the refining of the Advent Journal and what she hopes for us as we walk together toward Christmas.
Bearing Light: An Interview with the Editor
First, why do you think we as Catholic women crave an Advent Journal and keep returning to these year after year?
I see women looking to prepare their busy lives and hearts for Advent. And it’s a struggle for us! Every year we are facing down new challenges and changes in our lives that mean we want, again, something to ground us liturgically.
While the world shouts, “Get your gifts ready!” Blessed is She says, “Let’s get our hearts ready.”
As Editor, what kind of role did you play in the planning and refining of this year’s Advent Journal?
It’s such a joy to work as the Managing Editor on these projects! I play the role of cheerleader, guide, and sounding board.
Shannon crafted an outline and shared it with Jenna and me. We all three hopped on a call to hear how Shannon’s idea would unfold, and left the call invigorated and joyful!
As Shannon wrote, she would share chapters with me and I’d suss out ideas or concepts as need be. But it’s such a light touch as an editor. I’m working with a stunning, well-seasoned, and imaginative writer!
Once things wrapped up, our amazing Theological Editor, Susanna Spencer, read through everything carefully and offered tweaks here and there based on her extensive theological knowledge.
Between Shannon, Susanna, and myself, we turned over a polished book to Jenna and Erica Tighe for the creative parts!
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What practices were helpful in getting into the mindset of a Catholic woman during Advent before the season itself?
A practice that helped the writing and editing team feel the Advent vibes was praying the Magnificat and studying those Scripture passages sharing when Our Lady uttered this beautiful prayer. She is our primary example of having a receptive and open heart for God’s plan!
Instead of just thinking about Advent as the time before Jesus is born, I thought about it as a time to prepare my heart to be open like Our Lady’s was!
You’ve edited all the Blessed is She liturgical devotionals. Why do you think the message of this particular Advent Journal is needed for this particular time in the Church?
Right now, looking at the scandal in the Church, I vacillate between feeling enraged and helpless. This Advent reflection book reminds me that I am called to bear God’s image into this world. I can do something!
I can personally become a bigger vessel for God’s love, an image bearer of additional depth. And as women, we have special gifts and talents to share to effectuate positive changes in the Church, this beautiful Mystical Body of Christ of which we are blessed to be a part.
I think women at this time need to hear that they can do something in the face of evil: be a greater force for good!
What do the themes in this year’s Advent Journal mean to you personally?
I never thought about being made in the image and likeness of God in depth. The words stayed in my memory from my days reciting the Baltimore Catechism, but I never had really gone beyond the words into what they really meant for how to live out my life. Shannon’s words have opened my heart to more! I’m inspired to strive harder to live a life of heroic virtue and be a Saint. I’m inspired to be open to God’s will and not just pursuing my own agenda. And mostly, I’m inspired to bear His image in everything I say and do to really be more like Him.
Can you explain the purpose behind the rhythm you all have chosen for each day and week of the Advent Journal?
So Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as Thursdays and Fridays, the reader has a pairing of Scripture and reflection. You can opt to journal those days or not (it’s okay if you’re not a journaling kind of gal—I’m not!).
We built in Wednesdays as a day to ponder a powerhouse female Saint from the rich tradition of the Church. And Saturdays likewise are a day of reading a short reflection. A pause day.
We women can easily feel guilty when we’re “behind” on something and then the guilt makes it so we are ashamed and, if you’re like me, then you want to avoid the thing that triggers this response! Our cadence and pace for this reflection book is to suit the busy woman’s life. That way you never feel behind or like you have to “catch up.” Instead you can go at your own pace and find enjoyment in that.
What role, if any, did Our Lady play in your editing process?
I prayed the Magnificat a lot and then a Hail Mary before I started my work on any given day. I’m often working after my kids are in bed, or maybe even on my laptop when they’re asleep in my bed with me! I felt Our Blessed Mother’s loving embrace a number of times while working in the off-hours. She’s the best mother ever.
What is it that you hope women learn and experience from the Advent Journal?
I hope they know how valued they are and how treasured they are by God.
I hope they experience the sensation of a lot of pieces coming together in their life to confirm these facts.
Finally, I hope they learn the Magnificat by heart because it is a life-changing prayer.
May all of our hearts be bigger vessels of God’s love, ready to bear His image into the world in all we think, do, and say!
Don’t forget to order your Advent Journal so you can pray through the Magnificat with us this year!Bearing Light Advent Journal // An Interview with the Editor #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Nell O’Leary is Managing Editor for Blessed is She, as well as a recovering lawyer married to her law school love. They live with their four kiddos in the great city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. She can down a iced chai tea latte in no time flat. Blogging about natural parenting and sewing organic baby textiles are her sanity. Find out more about her here.
Olivia Spears lives in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She works from home as an editor and social media manager while raising her children and laughing with her husband. Although she now spends most of her free time away from the internet, past adventures are still on her blog. You can find out more about her here.