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.
—Patti Maguire Armstrong is a speaker, Catholic author and winner of the 2011 About.com
Reader’s Choice Award. Her latest books Big Hearted Families, (Scepter Publishers) and children’s book, Dear God I Don’t Get It (Liguori Publications) will be released in Spring 2013.
The timing for this marvelous book couldn’t be better. Elizabeth has given Catholics a real gift as we enter into the Year of Faith and do what we can to help the Church’s efforts in the new evangelization. Seven from Heaven is an example of what Pope Benedict is asking of all believers: to understand our faith more deeply and to proclaim it more effectively from the housetops. The more we know about the Sacraments the more we can all grow in our faith and help others on their journey to heaven. This book is a great resource that can make a real difference in achieving these spiritual goals.
—Teresa Tomeo, syndicated talk show host and bestselling Catholic author
The sacraments are God’s gift to us in order to grow closer to Him; however, many individuals fail to fully appreciate the beauty of the sacraments. Elizabeth Ficocelli provides a powerful, practical guide on how to better integrate the sacraments into family life. Seven from Heaven demonstrates how the sacraments can help families grow closer to each other, their community, and God.
—Katherine Becker, The Dating Fast
Now more than ever, Catholic families need support and encouragement for the tremendous task of bringing the Faith to life in the hearts and souls of their children. With inspired advice on everything from navigating the Cry Room to contemplating the commitment of Confirmation with our teens and beyond, Elizabeth Ficocelli’s Seven from Heaven is the perfect resource for busy parents and teachers who endeavor to instill a love for Christ and His Church with their families, students, and parish communities. This book belongs on every parent’s kitchen table, on every catechist’s desk, and in every pastor’s library.
—Lisa M. Hendey, founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms
In Seven from Heaven, Elizabeth Ficocelli taps into her experience and wisdom and shares it in a book that’s equal parts guide and reference. Reading it is like having a good friend give you tips, and families are sure to find the ideas within it indispensable and inspiring.
—Sarah Reinhard, creator of SnoringScholar.com and author of Welcome Risen Jesus: Lenten & Easter Reflections for Families
The sacraments are such wonderful gifts! Seven from Heaven will help foster or renew your enthusiasm for them. What makes Seven from Heaven truly valuable and unique are the ways Elizabeth Ficocelli suggests to make the sacraments come alive for children. Children, as much as adults, are prone to asking ‘What is in it for me?’ When it comes to the sacraments, the answer is ‘everything!’ It is a Catholic parent’s job to help their children understand the beauty and blessings of these gifts from God. With her practical suggestions, Ficocelli helps make that job much easier.
—Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, author, senior editor at CatholicLane.com
Absolutely outstanding! Elizabeth shines light on the essential elements of our Catholic faith, the sacraments, and equips us to more fully integrate them into our family lives. In the pages of this wonderful book, the transformative power of the sacraments is described in practical, relatable terms. A must read for all Catholics family members who need the healing, nurturing and protection the sacraments provide!
—Kevin Lowry, husband and father of eight, and author of Faith at Work: Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck
An outstanding, practical guide for every Catholic parent! Use Seven from Heaven to give your children the greatest gift of all—joyful participation in Christ’s presence every day.
—Matthew Kelly, New York Times bestselling author