Welcome back to Lawn Chair Catechism! If you’ve missed any sessions, be sure to check out my page for this series. There, you’ll find links to CatholicMom.com’s terrific resources, as well as links to purchase Sherry Weddell’s book, Forming Intentional Disciples, which is the source for our discussions. Don’t worry, though. The study guides can help you through this series if you decide not to buy the book!
This week, we’re taking what we’ve learned about the five thresholds of discipleship and beginning to apply them. The first step in the process of helping people become intentional disciples is to “Break the Silence.” Remember early in our series, we talked about the silence that surrounds many Catholics’ faith: we just don’t talk about it, lest we appear odd or “too Protestant.”
There’s this Spiral of Silence that ensues when we sense that we are holding an opinion that is different than the majority of a group we’re in. Our brains literally and physiologically turn a switch that tells us we’re doing something wrong. We tend to stop ourselves from continuing to do something or speak about something when we realize that we are in the minority. Sherry talks about the idea of “normal” being different from what is “typical” in parishes around the country. Typically, we don’t talk about our faith with others very much; we don’t wear it on our sleeves. Typically, we see people who are “on fire for Jesus” as a little Protestant and get a bit freaked out by that sort of talk. But this is not what normal Christianity is supposed to look like.
So how do we begin to break through? First, we have to pray about it. But we also need to have what Sherry calls “threshold conversations,” wherein we talk about our relationship with God and as disciples of Jesus, as well as listen to the stories others have to tell about where God is in their own lives. Listening is critical here, for if we just talk about our relationship and never ask how the other person relates to God, we’ll never help them get past casual acquaintance and move into a deep relationship with the Lord.
Critical, too, is the idea that this discussion is not about judging or correcting anyone’s conception of God or His Church. It’s our responsibility to listen to where a person is in order to understand their relationship with Jesus. And this means to ask questions that help you understand better. A good question to ask is, “If you could ask God any question that you knew He would answer right away, what would it be?” This gives great insight into a person’s needs and struggles.
In your own faith:
- Have you ever listened to a “threshold conversation”?
- What was it like?
- Can you think back to a time when perhaps you should have listened supportively and asked clarifying questions, and instead you jumped in with catechesis, or apologetics, or giving personal advice?
I’m not completely sure I’ve had a threshold conversation with anyone, though I realize that I must be sure to have one with my own daughter as she approaches her Confirmation next Spring. I know there are a lot of pressures on her that I never had as a kid, and she’s struggling to get a hold on the reasons for what we believe. I’m starting to wonder if my call to the Dominican Laity has something to do with this. I’m learning more and more about the Faith, and I’m learning new ways of helping my children understand it better. I think listening more to my children’s questions and concerns will help me guide them rather than pull them along.
I admit, though, that I feel utterly inadequate when I read this book. I’m feeling as though I might not even be over the final threshold – and how can I help my family get there if I don’t know how to get there myself? I keep hoping that I’ll find a key in the next chapter, that small spark that I can pass on to help light a fire in each of us to spur us onto greater faith and love of God.
At the same time, I have to also remember that I cannot really lead my children to Christ. All I can do is plant the seeds of faith and do my best to nurture them in each child. And each of them has a unique personality that demands a different sort of nurturing, a different kind of fertilizer for the seeds. This is what I need to strive to do: find that right combination so that their faith is nurtured, so that we all can become disciples of the Teacher.