Matthew was an ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran who had been a leader in O’Boyle’s Catholic parish and she believed that he would make a good husband. But then something snapped inside him and he suffered a nervous breakdown. With several guns, including a machine gun, in his home, he threatened to kill O’Boyle and her family if she ever left him. Fearful of what would happen, she stayed put, but kept trying to come up with ways that she could safely escape this situation.
One day, Matthew lunged at her, forced a pistol into her hand, got her finger on the trigger, and pushed her to shoot him. Tears streamed down O’Boyle’s face because, even though she wanted to get away from Matthew, she didn’t want to kill him. That’s when she prayed, “Jesus, help me, please.”
During an interview on “Christopher Closeup” about her new memoir “The Kiss of Jesus,” O’Boyle recalled, “Jesus did help me because [Matthew] got up immediately off my lap, threw the gun against the wall and ran out of the room screaming all kinds of crazy things. He came right back, picked up the gun and put it in his pocket. I had to sit there and not make one sound, one move, one blink, one breath – and then try to stay clear of him until I could figure out what to do next.”
Thankfully, O’Boyle did finally get away from Matthew and move on with her life – and she believes that Jesus was there to help and guide her every step of the way. But that doesn’t mean her road was trouble-free or pain-free. In fact, it was often just the opposite.
O’Boyle is a woman who exudes calm and grace, so discovering some of the ordeals she’s had to endure throughout her life – from sexual assault to an alcoholic husband to physical and emotional abuse – comes as a surprise. She’s got every reason to be cynical, even angry, yet she remains a person filled with hope and faith.
The reason for that is inferred in the subtitle of O’Boyle’s Book: How Mother Teresa and the Saints Helped Me to Discover the Beauty of the Cross. O’Boyle said, “[The saints] have always been my companions. Some of them are featured on the cover, like St. Faustina, St. Therese, St. John Paul II, St. Padre Pio and the Blessed Mother. They all had difficulties and deep pain and heavy crosses in their lives, and our Lord gave them the graces to keep putting one foot in front of the other to walk in faith. So these saints have helped me quite a bit – and I believe they have interceded for me when I’ve asked for prayers.”In addition, O’Boyle was blessed to be friends with a future saint, Blessed Mother Teresa, who she calls “a dear mentor and spiritual mother. At the time that she was in my life, I had no idea why God was giving me that great blessing and privilege of knowing this living saint. But I now know I am to pass on these blessings to others in every way that I can in my talks and books. She said to me at one point, ‘You have come so close to Jesus on the cross that He can kiss you. Please offer some of your suffering for us and our people.’ She would be constantly telling me about satiating the thirst of Jesus on the cross. And she lived that gospel of Matthew: ‘Whatever you do to the least of My brothers, you do to Me.'”
O’Boyle admits that it’s not easy to see grace come in suffering at the time you’re going through it. It’s only in retrospect that she saw the “beautiful threads of grace woven through” her life. Now, she simply trusts that God’s graces are guiding her, even when she can’t see or feel them. She adds, “We need to offer up all of our prayers, works, joys and sufferings, and ask our Lord to use them for His glory.”
That’s what O’Boyle is doing by sharing her own experiences in “The Kiss of Jesus,” many for the first time publicly. It’s her way of allowing God to turn her darkness into light. And helping others is something she’s naturally inclined to do.
She concludes, “A man on an airplane one time asked me, ‘How did you do that?’ because I was helping someone on the plane. He said, ‘You don’t even know her.’ And he was really impacted by watching [me]. That’s why I say we are the aroma of the Church. We may not realize that wherever we go and whatever we do, we’re being watched. I said to that man, ‘Well, I guess God put a lot of love in my heart. I like to help people.’ A lot of times it means stopping what you’re doing. A lot of these times, people need that help right then, and we can put our own needs aside and be God’s love, Christ’s love to that person in that moment. And wow, their life can be transformed, their heart can be transformed – and ours gets transformed at the same time. It’s a beautiful miracle of God that when we reach out and try to help someone, our Lord helps us, too.”
(To listen to my full interview with Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, click on the podcast link):