Roma Downey, Irish actress, Hollywood producer, and New York Times bestselling author, is back with her new book "Be An Angel: Devotions to Inspire and Encourage Love and Light Along the Way."
In the last few years, we have all needed some pick-me-ups. Whether they were spiritual, physical, or otherwise, the pandemic left many people struggling with issues like isolation, loneliness, and even moments of despair.
"We have never needed kindness more," actor and producer Roma Downey, 62, tells IrishCentral.
“That's why in my new book I want to encourage you, as I've been encouraged, to live like an angel on earth,” she says.
But we begin by talking about Co Donegal, a place she's known since her childhood, visiting from her nearby hometown of Derry. The beauty of Lough Swilly and the hills beyond are something she still thinks about, she says.
“I always find that instead of that making me feel in any way insignificant or unworthy, there's just a great sort of humility and beauty to be found in places like that.
"And if I have worries or I'm stressed about work or deadlines or whatever things are going on in my professional life, there's something about bringing it all to the water's edge and just setting it down for a minute that can be restful and restorative.”
Taking the time to reconnect to your spirit and to other people is one of the recurring themes of Downey's third book "Be An Angel."
“As you know, angels are no strangers in my life having played one on TV for almost 10 years,” she says, referring to the hit 90's show "Touched By An Angel."
"But in preparing to write this, I went back to the Good Book and to the literature, to find any references to angels, and time and again the significant message that they deliver is just to not be afraid. Fear not, they most frequently tell us.”
That was a message that Downey felt she could enthusiastically share. “I wanted this new book to be a devotional because I find devotionals very helpful in my own life.
"Anytime you can create something that's habit-forming in a positive way, I always hasten to add it, because it just sort of anchors you to make a habit of it.”
There's a great quote by leadership coach John Maxwell where he says you'll never change anything about yourself until you change something you do every day, Downey says.
“The secret of your success can be found in your daily routine. And so I just begin with morning prayer, morning meditation, morning mindfulness, whatever that is for you. Just take that time in the morning to sort of reset yourself.”
Downey's personal reset formula in the book is as simple as it is effective. “I offer an anecdote, I offer a reflective quote or a piece of scripture, and then I suggest an action. If the story you have just read in the book has touched you in some way, is there an action that you might in turn do for somebody else?"
Books take a while to write, Downey admits, and she's been busy doing other things like producing and editing her next movie called "On A Wing And A Prayer," which will come to Amazon Prime on April 7, starring Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham.
An extraordinary true story of faith and survival. On a Wing and a Prayer stars Dennis Quaid, Heather Graham, and Jesse Metcalfe. Coming to Prime Video this Easter on April 7. #OnAWingAndAPrayer pic.twitter.com/QOJjfrCipj— Roma Downey (@RealRomaDowney) February 22, 2023
“To make time to get the book finished, I would get up very early in the morning and write,” she confesses. “It took time but I'm delighted with how it looks and feels because, as an old art school grad, the sense of aesthetic was just as important to me.
"My original thought is that 'Be An Angel' could and should be used as a gifting book, for people to give to those who have been like angels in their life, people have been kind or good.”
Looking for Irish book recommendations or to meet with others who share your love for Irish literature? Join IrishCentral’s Book Club on Facebook and enjoy our book-loving community.
Every time we speak, Downey reminds me, some new outrage has occurred in America. “Just last week here in California, we saw not just one but two horrific mass murders. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. And it's heartbreaking to see for most of us who don't have any way of making a difference. It creates a kind of a helpless feeling.
“But one of my favorite quotes always has been Gandhi's, when he said you have to be the change that you want to see in the world. I really do believe, call me naive or overly optimistic, that if each of us was just to set an intention each day to try to be more conscious and kinder that maybe together we could just make the world a wee bit better.”
Monica, the angel character that Downey played in the hit show, has stayed with her in since the show ended, but the deep friendship that Downey had with her co-star Della Reese turned out to be life-defining.
“My friend Bella Reese was everything to me. I actually dedicated this book to my mum and dad and also to my adopted mother and former co-star Della who taught me how to be an angel and how to trust my wings. She was one of a kind Della, she talked the talk but she walked the walk, she was funny and sassy, bright and strong.”
Then Downey confides something extraordinary: “When we were working on 'Touched by an Angel' together, I did some work volunteering at the Children's Hospital. On one occasion I found myself walking by a ward and a family came out and a kind of gust of grief came out ahead of them.”
It became apparent they had just lost their child. “And so I tried to just make myself very small, to get by them. I just wanted to give them the dignity of their grief in that moment and I just cast my eyes down.
“But the next thing, the mom saw me and she, of course, associated me with 'Touched by an Angel' and she started to cry.
"She said 'Monica,' which was the name of the angel I played in the show. She said 'Monica, I prayed that God would send an angel for my baby and here you are.'"
Downey was thunderstruck. “I honestly didn't know what to say, so I just held her quietly. I held her close. I silently prayed for her that she would be comforted.”
When she got home that evening she called Della. “I said, I didn't want the woman to think I was pretending to be an angel, because I'm just an actor. And she said, 'She didn't need an actor, she needed an angel.'
"And I said, 'I understand that. But she thought that God had sent me there.'
"Then Della said, 'And who said he didn't?'
"She said, 'if we're going to be used by God, during the show, we need to get out of the way.''
“And that's really what this book was about. It's just a way to encourage a reset each day to offer some gratitude, to live with kindness. to encourage the reader, and in return, to ask them to encourage somebody else and pay it forward. And always throughout, you know, remembering that we reap what we sow, and and what goes around comes around, you know.”
Meanwhile, Downey has noticed a significant change in her own life. “I'm much more nostalgic about Ireland now than I used to be. Maybe it's just 'the pipes, the pipes are calling' but I feel a longing for the place. COVID prevented me from traveling, and I found I had incredible homesickness.
"So I think that in my future, in the next decades, I'm hoping to spend a bit more time over there, and my dream would be to actually write my next book in Ireland!”
"Be An Angel: Devotions to Inspire and Encourage Love and Light Along the Way" is published by Convergent Books, $22.00.