Friday, September 17, 2010

Review of Where do Priests Come From?

Where do Priests Come From?
Written by Elizabeth Fiocelli
Illustrated by Shannon Wirrenga
Reviewed by Christine Capolino
Recently, my sweet, compassionate, blink-and-she's-grown-up-niece married her beau, a young gentleman who is her complement-in-kindness, 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 the Roman Catholic church where the bride's family has decades of history and where the bride was conferred all of her sacraments is cause for the incredulity of this event. Oh, those combined to make an extraordinary day for the couple and all the guests, without question.
No, 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 receving the call to the 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. Undeniably. Additonally, beauty in our collective witness to the sheer power of vocation. Particularly during these many troubling years for our Church. It appeared to me in a very real way, that collectively, WE are the Church. And across generations, we are learning to heal and move forward.
I felt it a privilege to be asked to review Where do Priests Come From? Practical and informative, Elizabeth Ficocelli's flowing text and Shannon 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."
The author clearly and beautifully plants seeds of vocation as a life option among all the lofty dreams that young boys enjoy, when she states that "these boys listen to God's voice in their hearts" to discern their calling and yet sometimes the boys may be "all grown up" before considering the priesthood.
A seminarian's training is demystified as well by the discussion of time spent as a lector, an acolyte and a deacon before ordination. Also, clearly explained are 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 regading 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 messages is included.
The author continues to make the priesthood real to children toward the conclusion of the book, by stating that "because a priest is still a man, he goes to confession to be strengthened." This gave me pause to remember last year when my younger son received for the first time the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a community service at our church. 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."
And couldn't we all use more of God's graces in our daily lives as well?
For more information or to place an order for Where do Priests Come From?, please contact the publisher at or (248) 917-3865. Please inquire about bulk rates for vocation awareness programs and for religious education classes.

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