SAN DIEGO — Rose Rea’s name may be on the cover of the book, but she downplays her role in the creation of Spirit and Life: The Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church (Sophia Institute Press).
“I cannot take any credit. It was all inspired by the Lord,” Rea said of the hard-cover coffee-table book, which combines vivid photographs of sacred spaces and natural landscapes with an exploration of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, reconciliation, the anointing of the sick, holy orders and marriage.
Rea is given the “Created by” credit on the title page, but the idea came to her during prayer. And she continued to pray and fast, seeking divine guidance at each stage in the coffee-table book’s development.
The Catholic mother of five likens herself not to an artist, but to a “paintbrush” wielded by the Divine Artist Himself.
For each sacrament, Spirit and Life provides its readers with a Scriptural passage and explanatory paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a historical commentary on that particular sacrament written by a Church Father or a pope, and a reflection penned by a contemporary Catholic.
“The entire book is meant to be a prayerful and artistic experience,” explained Rea, who hopes that the book’s format enables it to offer something that will speak to all readers, whether they are practicing Catholics, fallen-away or non-Catholic.
The authors of the various reflection pieces, most of whom Rea had previously collaborated with as the founder and publisher of the Catholic young adult magazines Radiant and Valiant, include several names that are well-known in Catholic circles. Among them are pro-life advocate Lila Rose, author/blogger Kendra Tierney and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver.
One contributor, Deacon Raymond Philip Napuli, has a local connection. He is a transitional deacon who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of San Diego this June.
“I made sure to feature reflections from men and women of every single vocation in life,” Rea said, “so someone reading Spirit and Life will be able to say, ‘Yes, I relate to this!’”
For Rea, who grew up in a large Catholic family in North Dakota and is today a member of Santa Sophia Parish in Spring Valley, the sacraments are not just interesting subject matter for a book.
“They are my entire life. They are the answer to everything our heart longs for,” she said. “When we learn the frailty of human love and that human beings will fail us because we are imperfect, it calls us even stronger to seek one who will not ever fail us, will not ever leave us.”
The idea for Spirit and Life was first conceived during a time when many Catholics were feeling that they had been failed by their clergy. It was 2018 and the Church was reeling from a resurgence of the clergy sex abuse scandal, sparked by the release of a grand jury report on decades of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses and the revelation that then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, now laicized, had been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.
Rea had read reports that many Catholics were so scandalized by the sins of predator priests and the subsequent cover-up of their crimes that they were leaving the Church. She wanted to remind them that the Catholic faith is rooted in Christ and His sacrifice, not in the sanctity of individual priests.
That was why she set out to create Spirit and Life, which she says is all about “embracing the beauty and power of the gift of grace that awaits us when we encounter Christ in the sacraments — each and every one of us.”
Her hope is that the book will inspire readers to return to the sacraments.
“We are all one body of Christ and, when one suffers, we all suffer; when we are well, we thrive,” she said. “Everyone is needed and plays a vital role in our body of Christ, so I pray every day that the Holy Spirit moves and inspires hearts to come back.”