Written by Elizabeth Ficocelli
Illustrated by Shannon Wirrenga
Review by Christine Mooney
This past weekend, my cute, sweet, compassionate, blink-and-she’s-grown-up niece married her beau, a young gentleman who is her kind, caring complement, in a fairy tale setting at the foothills of the Catskills. What was so remarkable though, about their nuptials was not so much the stunning, pearl-encrusted, ivory gown. Not the breath taking views of the sun sinking into the Hudson from the reception venue, periwinkle sky laced with chunky marshmallow clouds just narrowly escaping Hurricane Earl’s predicted drama. Not the impeccable toasts, sometimes bittersweet, sometimes humorous, presented by maid of honor, best man and father of the bride. Not even the fact that the couple married in St. Martin’s church where the bride’s family has decades of history and where the bride was conferred all of her sacraments, is cause for incredulity of the event. Oh, these combined to make an extraordinary and memorable day for the couple and all guests, without question.
What made this wedding remarkable indeed, is the fact that the bride and groom secured the catering hall, the florist, the gown, the limo service and the photographer almost two years in advance, as they chose to delay their nuptials, scheduling their wedding day around the celebrant. The Priest! Even more extraordinary? The celebrant is a friend of the couple, from The College of the Holy Cross, who, after receiving the call to priesthood, continued to the seminary and received the Sacrament of Holy Orders just months ago.
Imagine the added graces of receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony at a Mass officiated by your friend, who answers God’s call to a vocation? Imagine. That was truly the beauty of this couple’s marriage vows. Beauty that each congregant
felt, due to the tenor of personal touches brought by this man of God to the Mass. Yes, undeniably. Additionally, beauty in our collective witness to the sheer power of vocation. Particularly during these many recent, troubling years for our Church. It was revealed to me in a very real way, as the bride’s aunt and godmother, that individually and collectively, WE are the Church. And we are learning to heal and move forward.
I felt it a great privilege to be asked to review Bezalel Books’ new children’s title, Where Do Priests Come From? Practical and informative, Elizabeth Ficocelli’s flowing text and Sharon Wirrenga’s engaging illustrations offer a delightfully inside journey from the steps a boy may take as he is called to a vocation, to the details of his years as a seminarian and finally, to his ordination.
I love how Mrs. Ficocelli introduces the notion of vocation as one of many options that boys may consider, as in “They may have dreamed of becoming an astronaut, a doctor or a fire fighter. But somewhere along the way, these young boys also thought about being a priest.” Mrs. Ficocelli clearly plants seeds of vocation as a life option among all the lofty dreams that boys enjoy, when she states that “these boys listen to God’s voice in their hearts” to discern their calling and yet sometimes the boy may be “all grown up” before considering the priesthood.
Mrs. Ficocelli demystifies a seminarian’s training by illustrating his time spent as a lector, an acolyte and a deacon before ordination. Also clearly explained is a priest’s vows of celibacy, as the freedom to serve God’s people; obedience, as the promise to do God’s will and follow the Church’s teaching; poverty, as the living of a simple life with other priests.
Where Do Priests Come From? contains much information regarding the type of work a priest may do, how a priest enjoys leisure time and which order he may choose to enter. Additionally, a glossary of words key to the understanding of the book’s message is included.
The author continues to make the priesthood real to children, toward the conclusion of her book, by stating that “Because a priest is still a man, he goes to confession to be strengthened.” This gave me pause to remember when my younger son received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a community service at our church, just last winter. He was floored to witness his favorite parish priest, with whom he chats incessantly at every opportunity about all things Jesus and soccer, receiving the sacrament himself! What an awesome sight for a child to witness….. for any Catholic…… for any individual. As the author tells us, a priest is “a man who makes Jesus real to others, through word, example, and the sacraments.” What a clear, simple, and yet, earth shattering message for the readers of this picture book. And couldn’t we all use more of God’s graces in our daily lives as well?
To place an order for Where Do Priests Come From?, please visit the publisher at www.bezalelbooks.com or phone (248) 917-3865. To order for vocations awareness programs, or for use in religious education and CCD classes, please contact the publisher for bulk rates.
Copyright 2010 Christine Mooney