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Hi everyone. My name is Father Michael Denk. I’m the Administrator at St. Matthias in Parma, Ohio, and I’m here also with the Prodigal Father. We do a lot of book reviews that the publishers send to me. I’m so glad to review this brand-new book that I’ve been able to preview beforehand, and actually, my endorsement is in it. The book’s name is ‘The Shepherd at the Crib and the Cross,’ by Patrick O’Hearn and illustrated by Michael Corsini.

I’ll read you my endorsement because I think it’s pretty good. He has many people that have endorsed it, like Father Callaway. My endorsement says this: “I immediately loved the artwork in this book, but then I read the story and was even more in awe. I am so moved by the shepherd’s desire to see the Messiah and to tell his family about Jesus. There was such a longing in the ‘Shepherd at the Crib and the Cross’ as well as wonder and awe.”

This season of Advent is a time of wonder and awe, so I’m glad to have Patrick with us here to share his experience writing this book. Tell us a little about yourself and the book you wrote.

Patrick O’Hearn: Thank you, Father, for having me on your show. I grew up in the Midwest. I would say in Illinois, but I always called Ohio my home and your area. My parents live in Ohio, and it’s my home away from home.

Going back to writing this book, what inspired me were two things. I feel like at Christmas time, there is often like we know, everything about the Christmas story, and it becomes kind of almost too familiar. People go to Mass because you can take it for granted, but this mystery’s being revealed to us, and that’s why I felt like this story is God nudging me. I had this longing to hold the baby; Jesus, like a lot of the saints like Saint Anthony, got to hold the baby Jesus. Even St. Faustina, when she was in prayer, would see the baby Jesus. Part of that is just how I can write something that conveys this longing to hold Christ and be with Him at the foot of the cross.

I saw Ben-Hur for the first time just recently, and I’m kind of ashamed that it took so long, but it was neat that the fictional character was involved in the life of Jesus, which led me to write this book. 

Then another reason was that we have a son, about seven, and I saw that the top children’s book was a Disney Advent book with these secular characters. That upset me, and I said, “OK, Lord, maybe you want me to write something that will glorify you even more than Disney does.” Sometimes I don’t think Disney does glorify God. That was kind of the inspiration behind the book.

Fr. Michael Denk: You’re very familiar with the Saints. You’ve also written a book about that. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that too.

Patrick O’Hearn: I wrote a book called “Parents of the Saints,” which took me three years to write. I spent a few years in religious life. I discerned there, and I discerned out, and after I left, I had difficulty relating to many of the Saints. Just because God had called me into a marriage, I felt like every Saint I was devoted to kept pointing me to their parents. I’d be at Mass, and out of nowhere[I would hear] ‘write about my Mom and Dad.’

Father, I think I’ve spoken with your mother before, but you know, any priest you can see comes down to their mother and father. They’re the reason behind their vocation, all the prayers and sacrifices, which led me on that quest to write about over 100 parents and their virtuous lives.

Fr. Michael Denk: It’s a beautiful book and a great insight that speaks of the importance of parents in the lives of Saints.

Patrick O’Hearn: Thank you.

Fr. Michael Denk: “The Shephard at the Crib and the Cross” begins with this shepherd whose name is . . . 

Patrick O’Hearn: There are a couple of ways you can pronounce it, but I go with Nissim (Nee-some)

Fr. Michael Denk: I was making sure there. I’ll just read the first passage. “Nissim propped himself against the rock and stared at the sheep dotting the hillside. As the cold mornings’ bit at the young man’s cheeks, he pulled his thick wool blanket around his shoulders and buried his face in it for a few moments. Though tattered, his mother’s blanket for him as an infant kept him warm in the pasture and made him long for home.”

I want to start off first of all with that image of the shepherd and also the image of the blanket. Tell us about those two images and why you chose that to begin this story with that.

Patrick O’Hearn: When we get to more in the story, when you see the baby Jesus kind of cold, there’s this impression like he’s shivering he’s cold in the manger, and that’s why I wanted to start with this blanket. This gift that he eventually wants to give to the Messiah, and the just out in terms of the shepherds just out there in the pasture, just kind of as we think about the shepherds; they were just vigilant, they’re out tending the sheep and praying, and so I think those were the two reasons behind starting with that to set up the story kind of.

Fr. Michael Denk: I couldn’t help but think of a baby blanket, or blankie we sometimes call it, where babies will have them, and they’ll never want to let go of them because they bring them such comfort and even into adulthood sometimes people keep their blankets; and so this story of the shepherd, he keeps his blanket throughout and Patrick weaves that image of the blanket 

Continue reading and enjoy more of the interview here