Book Review: Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting by Laura Kelly Fanucci

With the celebrations of Mother’s Day last month and also frequently hearing the exasperation of many parents in “Lockdown” struggling to cope, I’ve been thinking back to the chaotic years of raising small children.

A life where I constantly wondered how in heaven's name, I was expected to deal with all this raw, human need.  Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting by Laura Kelly Fanucci, lifts these normal, every-day moments I faced as a new mother and changes how you see them; the fear of bathing a slippery baby for the first time, battling to survive the months of broken sleep and the constant “Why?” of a pre-schooler.

Fanucci leads readers through the seven sacraments, all the while interweaving the story of her own parenting journey. Her words are poignant, but not false or frilly. She paints an accurate picture of real-life parenting; and the exposed, truth of her picture carries more impact, is more beautiful, and more sacred than any photoshopped version will ever be.

Henri Nouwen wrote in Beyond the Mirror that his “deepest vocation is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.” As a writer and a mother this is what Fanucci tries to do: to notice God at work around her and to ask her readers; Do you see this, too? Christianity has always been a faith of sharing stories; Jesus spinning parables about baking bread and sweeping floors and forgiving children.

Through the personal stories gathered in her book Fanucci allows readers to find echoes in their your own life - to notice how the ordinary can be holy, to see the sacred in the everyday, leading them into the surprising truth of what the sacraments really mean: that God is always present, even in the muddle of motherhood.

Theologians call this truth the “domestic church:” that we first learn about God within our experience of family life.  Catholics call this perspective a “sacramental imagination”; that God is present in all of creation, all around us. This book looks at each of the seven Catholic sacraments as a lens through which ordinary moments of raising children reflect a new -even holy - meaning.

This is not a self-help book with preachy advice, but rather a down to earth and humble look at one woman’s journey through the ups and downs of life with little ones and a quiet meditation on the seven sacraments and the way each task as a parent can be meaningful. Her interesting stories, collected as brief essays, allow you to dip into the different situations in the book as needed. Anyone, male or female, who feels disillusioned or worn down while caring for their families may benefit greatly from her shared experiences.

Whether you are Catholic or not, whether you are struggling with the faith in which you were raised or searching for a way to think about God, Fanucci’s stories help readers to see how our home can feel as holy as church, how the seven sacraments can strengthen and transform parenting by inviting all of us to open our eyes to a wider world view in which every moment with our children offers opportunities to encounter God’s grace so powerfully in the exasperation of the ‘everyday’.

Laura Kelly Fanucci is a writer and the director of the Communities of Calling Initiative, housed at the Collegeville Institute at Saint John's University. She earned her Master of Divinity from Saint John's School of Theology and her BA from the University of Notre Dame.

Laura is an award-winning columnist for Catholic News Service, and her nationally syndicated “Faith at Home” column runs monthly in Catholic newspapers across the U.S. 

Follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.