Welcome to the fourth session of Lawn Chair Catechism! You’ll find a run-down of all posts related to this topic on my page dedicated to this project, which was dreamt up by the amazing women who run CatholicMom.com. Links to each of the previous sessions are there, as well as information on ordering Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples, which is the basis for these discussions.
Previous chapters have been difficult reading for me. It’s hard to read about how the average parishioner hasn’t internalized his faith yet. That most people don’t go to Mass or get involved. That people don’t understand what it means to be a disciple of Christ, or even have a desire to be on fire for Him. It’s hard to read that if you have a fire in your heart for God and it bursts forth, it kind of freaks people out a bit.
But this was a chapter with all kinds of hope! Not all parishes are in a quagmire of faith; there are shining rays of hope coming from parishes where there’s a 98% Mass attendance rate (even if parishioners are on vacation!) and where vocations to the priesthood are flourishing! Through the Gifted & Called process, many parishes are helping people discern what kinds of gifts God has given them and what they can do with them to further the Kingdom of Christ. After all, how can we evangelize the rest of the world (and truly make a difference) if we haven’t been evangelized ourselves? And meeting the future clerical vocation needs our our Church starts with helping people understand what their charisms are. How has God equipped me to serve the Church? What are my talents and how is the Lord calling me to use them?
In the study guide, these are our discussion questions:
In your own faith:
- Can you recall a “before” and “after” time in your life, when you became a true disciple of Jesus Christ?
- Have you ever witnessed that change in someone else?
In your parish:
- What success stories can you share?
- In what ministries of your parish is “discipleship thinking” the norm?
- In what areas is Christian discipleship not yet the standard for ministry?
Again, I want to focus on the personal questions here rather than the parish questions. (Many times, these are good questions to ask within your parish but not exactly questions you might want to discuss on a public level.)
Can I recall a “before” and “after” time in my life? I don’t know if I can see a real change at one particular time in my life. I can’t remember when it started, but I know that over the years, I’ve studied the Faith more and more, largely as a result of homeschooling my children. I’ve learned many things I didn’t know as I was growing up Catholic, and I’ve gradually worked my way to the point of wanting to be a true disciple of Christ. Even now, though, I know that I falter constantly. But I know that because I’ve been trying – seeking Christ earnestly, working to set aside my pride and accept what the Church teaches – God has done some amazing things with my spiritual disposition.
The clearest example I can think of is when I am able to pray for people who do bad things, as well as encourage others to do the same. For example, I earnestly have prayed for the two men who set off the bombs at the Boston Marathon, including the day it happened. I don’t hate them. I don’t want them to go to Hell. I wanted the older brother to be buried with dignity. These were not particularly popular things for me to be saying on Twitter (or anywhere else, for that matter). But I felt compelled to try to remind people that despite their sins, the Tsarnaev brothers are still children of God. Jesus died for them, though they have the free will to accept or reject His gift.
I haven’t always thought this way about criminals and terrorists. I haven’t always prayed for the repose of the souls of people who do horrific things. But God has been working on me. Here’s how I got to this point:
On the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, I was watching the various movies and specials on that day’s events. I cried for the thousands of people who had died that day, and I prayed for the repose of their souls. But I was very angry at the terrorists who had done this. As I was laying in bed that night, I was praying a Rosary to try to calm down and sleep. And right smack in the middle of the first decade or so, I felt a sudden and clear urging: Pray for the terrorists.
No, I thought. I don’t want to pray for them. They killed all those people! But this urging would NOT go away. Reluctantly, I started praying for them. I started to cry as I finished my Rosary, and made sure that I prayed for all 19 of the terrorists. After that, I would feel that same prompting when I heard about any kind of horrible crime. Pray for the murderer. Pray for the abortionist. Pray for the man who was jailed for beating his kids.
Gradually, this kind of prayer became much easier for me, and eventually it became my natural reaction upon hearing bad news. I’d pray for the victims and then immediately pray for the perpetrators. The day I realized it was natural was the day that George Tiller was killed. All I could think was, “I hope he repented before he died! God have mercy on his soul!”
I was shocked at this difference in my reaction, and I realized that God had been working wonders on my heart, softening it up. Replacing my stony heart with a real one.
I can’t look back and see exactly when this difference happened, but I can usually look back and see when I realized it had happened. I am sure that as I work on my life as a Third Order Dominican, I will see more differences that are clear only through the lens of time.
What about you? Can you look back on your life and see that you’ve become someone different – a better version of yourself – thanks to God’s grace and mercy? Leave a comment below, and be sure to stop by CatholicMom.com’s site and see who else has written about this chapter.