How can your family find healing, strength, and protection in the sacraments? They can learn how in the book, Seven from Heaven (The Crossroad Publishing Company) by Elizabeth Ficocelli. As a matter of fact, that question is the exact subtitle of her book. “God’s powerful presence in the seven sacraments is the reason they hold the answers to every problem faced today by family and society,” she states in the introduction.
As an adult convert to the faith, Ficocelli appreciates the gifts that were not present to her before she became Catholic. “Sacraments are the key to turning our lives back to God and stopping the downward spiral that is taking families and society with it. They are the means to invite God into our hearts and keep him there,” she writes. Ficocelli goes on to attribute the sacraments with protection against evil and a way for families to stay unified, balanced, and healthy.
Who would not want all that? But who among us truly appreciates the full power we can tap into through the sacraments? For those who do not, our lack of enthusiasm likely stems from a combination of apathy and not being fully informed. If enthusiasm is contagious, then Ficocelli effectively spreads it in her book. And if information is all that is lacking, again, she provides that and more. Not only is each sacrament explained, but she also shares personal insights and creative suggestions for making it relevant to your children.
For instance, how did you prepare for Baptism? If your children are baptized as infants, then you likely spend most of your preparation time getting a baptismal gown for the baby and arranging for a reception to celebrate afterwards. Ficocelli has an array of suggestions for parents that relate directly to the sacrament rather than just the accouterments surrounding it.
Parents can pray together for their child. She admits that this might be something new for couples and thus awkward at first. Becoming new parents, however, supplies the incentive and helps usher in a spiritual bonding within the family. How about writing a letter to your baby? I never heard of such a suggestion but what a beautiful opportunity to share your thoughts about your son or daughter becoming a child of God.
Ficocelli asks parents to consider the importance of choosing the right baptismal name. Rather than picking a name based only on how it sounds, she encourages parents to utilize a name that can yield surprising fruits. By naming a child after a saint, they gain the patronage of someone whom the Church has raised up as an example that can be a role model to our child. Then, she points out the importance of choosing the right Godparents as vital links between the family and Church that will last a lifetime.
After preparing for the beautiful sacrament in which the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and fills our child’s souls with grace and removes original sin, our job has only begun. Now, in union with the Church, we have an obligation to raise our children in the faith. Ficocelli offers suggestion for this stage in which bringing active babies and toddlers to church presents a challenge. She not only offers understanding as the mother of four children, but advice.
Ficocelli strongly discourages bringing food. Not only is it distracting and sometimes messy (even Cheerios fall and get stepped on), but Church is not a picnic and toys end up being just as distracting. As the mother of ten children, eight of my own that went through the baby and toddler years, I fully agree with Ficocelli. With my older kids, I would bring a whole bag of books, toys and a plastic bag with Cheerios. I came equipped. In time, however, I came to see that my toddlers expected to go from one thing to another to keep occupied during Mass. By the end of the service, I not only had a mess to clean up, but I think my child was harder to handle as a result of all the stimulation.
Like Ficocelli, our family chose to sit near the front where they could see better and were more likely to behave. She suggests giving firm guideline for expected behavior, complimenting and reinforcing good behavior and having the courtesy to step out when a child is disruptive to the congregation. Church nurseries and crying rooms are options, but Ficocelli points out that crying rooms are usually used incorrectly. They should be a place where people are still paying attention to the Mass and not a playroom or hangout.
These are only the highlights of the chapter on Baptism where Ficocelli explains it is the best way to start life. After all, it is only logical since this sacrament frees us form sin and makes us member of the Church.
The book goes on to handle each sacrament in a personal way—both personal with God and within the family. Even the sacrament of Holy Orders has suggestions for personal encounters such as adopting a seminarian, novice, or retired priest or sister. In this way, children can pray for them and be prayed for and perhaps even keep in touch through letters.
As a religion teacher in my tenth year of teaching, I see the importance of teaching well. With only an hour at week at best, there is so much to give the students and so little time. Seven from Heaven offers support to children’s primary educators—their parents. Ficocelli did not start out as a Catholic so she had to learn along the way. As a result, she takes nothing for granted, giving comprehensive explanations. Even cradle Catholics can experience the sacraments on a deeper level by seeing them through fresh eyes and learning new ways to hand them down to our children.