Get Sharp on the Sacraments


Doubleday, 2003

176 pages, $19.95

Available in bookstores

Experience anything often enough and, eventually, it will seem commonplace and mundane.

Even the sacraments are no exception to the rule, extraordinary as they are. Sacred Passages, the new book by popular Catholic author Bert Ghezzi, aims to change that.

“I wonder,” writes Ghezzi, “if we Catholics simply don't expect enough of the sacraments.” With a little reflection and prayer on the material he presents, what we come to expect might even make us a little nervous about participating in the sacraments. If so, it would be a good thing.

Early on, Ghezzi eloquently describes how blessed we are to have full and present access, through the sacraments, to a past event — the most significant event ever. “In some mysterious way, God made it possible for us to stand at the foot of the cross, as close to Christ as his mother, the beloved disciple, John, and the faithful women disciples,” he writes. “And, with Mary Magdalene, to encounter him in the garden, near the empty tomb.”

Initial chapters also address the way the sacraments develop our personal relationship with Jesus, as well as bond us intimately with the Church and all its members. He emphasizes the “Godpower” that we are plugged into as a result of our participation in the sacraments: “As divinized human beings,” he writes, “we can read a book, mow i a lawn, cook a meal, help j a friend, change a diaper — all with a supernatural touch.”

Ghezzi's approach to the sacraments is practical and personal. He excels in present- , ing grand theological concepts succinctly, concretely and in plain language. For this reason, the book will be a joy to catechists, teachers and preachers, as well as the average Catholic layperson who wants to get more out of the sacraments “between Sundays.”

For example, Ghezzi explains the teaching of St. Paul (and the Church throughout the ages) that we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ by reflecting on his own baptism as an infant:

“The moment Fr. Angel poured the water on my head, I died with Christ. In some mysterious way, a way I cannot fully understand, the sacrament transported me to Calvary where I died with Christ on the cross,” he writes. “Or better, where God put me in Christ, and Christ died with me on the cross. Again, the moment the baptismal water touched me, somehow I rose with Christ from his garden tomb.”

One of the book's most enjoyable aspects is the way Ghezzi, who has written several previous books on the saints, has allowed the witness of the saints throughout history to bring the 1 sacraments to life for readers today. St. Thomas Becket teaches us the meaning of the grace of holy orders, l and Blessed Mary Anne Taigi provides her example of marital love and fidelity amidst the daily grind of life. In explaining the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in a chapter on confirmation, Ghezzi provides an example of how each gift worked in a specific instance in the life of a saint.

The book, in short, enables us to integrate the saints' experience of the sacraments with our own.

“The sacraments take the ordinariness out of everyday life,” Ghezzi writes. Just so, Sacred Passages can help take the ordinariness out of our experience of the sacraments.

Barry Michaels writes from Blairsville, Pennsylvania.