Dec 082011

Roma Downey is best known for her role as Monica, on PAX-TV’s long-running series, Touched By An Angel. For almost a decade, Roma gained a devoted following with her heartfelt portrayal of an angel assigned to bring guidance from God to people facing a crossroads in their lives. Since the series ended in 2003, Roma has continued to touch lives through her work with international children’s medical charity, Operation Smile, a mobilized force of medical professionals and caring hearts who provide safe, effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities, such as cleft lip and cleft palate.

Roma was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, and her enchanting Irish lilt has contributed to the popularity of her spoken word CD, Healing Angel, and she’s also the author of a children’s book, Love is a Family. Through her production company, Lightworkers Media, she is the executive producer of a DVD series for children called Little Angels, written by Adventures in Odyssey author, Phil Lollar. This animated series was created exclusively for preschool children, to teach practical learning skills – such as ABCs and 1-2-3’s – and to introduce the spiritual, moral, and ethical principles of the Bible. The main characters, 4-year-old twins Alex and Zoe, have eight Little Angels painted on the ceiling of their nursery. The angels watch over them, and come to life when the children need them most, helping to encourage and guide them through the challenges of their young lives.

I recently had the opportunity to conduct a telephone interview with Roma about Little Angels. Unfortunately, on the day our interview was scheduled, I had two children home sick with a tummy bug, and I’d been up with them many times the night before. I was nervous about talking to a celebrity, but when Roma sweetly expressed empathy for me, and concern for my children, (she said that she would keep my “little wee ones” in her prayers), I felt immediately at ease. Roma Downey is a celebrity, but she’s also a devoted mother, a compassionate humanitarian, and a woman of faith. Her love and reverence for God and family are evident when she shares the central inspiration for the Little Angels series – a nightly prayer said by her father when she was growing up. “I was raised as a Christian in Ireland, and my Dad every night would say this little prayer, ‘God in heaven, my Savior dear, watch over my children and draw Thou near.  Send your little angels to be at their side, to light and to guard, to love and to guide.'”

One of the goals of the Little Angels series is to partner with parents and grandparents to uphold traditional family values, and to support the teachings that are already happening in the home. “At this age, children learn so much – they’re like little sponges, soaking up information – and Little Angels combines a pleasurable viewing experience with learning opportunities, and a way to introduce children to beloved Bible stories,” said Roma. “The angels are the messengers, and the message is God’s love.”

The angels painted on the ceiling serve as a comforting reminder to the children in the series – and those watching at home – that God is always present and watching over us. Roma hopes that children will be reassured by this message of faith, and that parents will embrace the opportunity to talk with their children about God. “When I was creating the series, I knew that it would be a great opportunity to trigger a discussion about faith,” she said. “I would love to imagine families watching Little Angels, and having that conversation.”

MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), an organization devoted to meeting the needs of mothers of young children, has awarded a seal of approval to Little Angels – a first in the organization’s history. As a busy, working mother herself, Roma understands how difficult it can be for Moms to find balance, to carve out time for what’s most important, and to nurture their relationship with God. To keep her family close and connected, family meals are an important tradition in her home. “We’ve always been a family who doesn’t have TV on during meals. It’s really our time together,” Roma said. “As a family, we’ve always taken time to pray, and we start each meal with a prayer to give thanks for the day, and our children take turns offering the prayer. It’s a great anchor for us in our busy lives.”

Roma feels that prayer is important because it encourages children to stay focused on God, and to have thankful hearts. “Gratitude opens our hearts, and it’s so important to always appreciate the fullness of what we have – not the lack of what we don’t. There are many people out there who are hurting right now because of the recession, and it’s very hard, but if you can keep your focus on God, and give thanks for what you have, it can really, really help.”

Roma believes that when prayer becomes a daily habit, “we start to see God everywhere,” and to help parents and children take advantage of little moments for prayer throughout the day, the Little Angels app development team is working on a Daily Prayer App. You can start each day with a simple and heartfelt prayer – read by Roma– and illustrated with imagery from the Little Angels series.  Additional apps, coming soon, include Uri’s Paintbox – a color and paint app – a matching game, and Little Angels ABCs, which will introduce the alphabet with an interactive tracing tool so children can practice letter formation. There are also plans for a Cooking With Mommy game, as well as number and animal apps (visit Little Angels Apps to learn more).

Roma agrees with the message of Want What You Have – that contentment can only be found when you appreciate your blessings, instead of always wishing for more. “I live in Hollywood, and here, the people who have more have a lot,” she said. “The imbalance of the world is very great sometimes, and even out here, people are always looking over the fence, worrying,’Their swimming pool is bigger than my swimming pool!’ It’s crazy, it never stops! If you live your life that way it will never stop because there will always be somebody with more, someone prettier, or richer. We have to look inside ourselves, look to our faith. One of the biggest keys to happiness is to keep our hearts centered on gratitude.”

When her own children were young, Roma taught them about thankfulness with a very firm rule. “If you didn’t say please, you didn’t get it. If you didn’t say thank you, it was taken back…and you didn’t get it back.” A lesson about gratitude is also taught in an episode of Little Angels, where the children travel back in time to witness Jesus healing the 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19). The men are so excited to be healed that they run away to tell their families – and only one stops to say thank you to the Lord. When the children get back to the nursery, the Little Angels use this story to teach Alex and Zoe about the importance of showing appreciation for others, and being grateful for your gifts and blessings.

My children love the characters, the gentle humor, and the upbeat music in this series, and we watch our DVDs several times a week. For us as Christian parents, Little Angels provides safe, positive, educational entertainment for our own little angels, and we’re fortunate to have such a valuable resource.

“I’m so excited to bring Little Angels to market, and I can’t help but wish that I’d had these DVDs when I was raising my own children!” said Roma.

To celebrate the release of the Little Angels DVD series, Grace Hill Media, a company that promotes quality entertainment for faith-based audiences, has graciously provided six DVDs to be given away to Want What You Have readers.

To enter, please leave a comment on this post. Contest ends Tuesday, December 13th at noon (CST).

To learn more about Little Angels, please visit the Little Angels web site, or the Little Angels Facebook fan page. You can also follow Roma on Twitter @realromadowney.

Note: I received free copies of these DVDs for review. DVD giveaways are provided by Grace Hill Media. Postage to ship to winners will be provided by me. I was not compensated in any other way for this promotion.