Welcome back to Lawn Chair Catechism! We’re at the penultimate chapter this week, but if you’d like to catch up, I have a page dedicated to the project, which was cooked up by the brilliant minds behind CatholicMom.com! You don’t have to have the book to join the discussion. Heck, you don’t even have to read all the back posts. (But you totally can!) Just jump in where we are today, which is…
Chapter 11: Personally Encountering Jesus in His Church!
Since Jesus isn’t physically walking around with a name-tag at your parish, we must introduce Him to people ourselves. The last chapter was about breaking the silence and telling the kerygma – the Great Story of Jesus. I was surprised to learn how many people simply don’t know much about the Gospel story, let alone how many who have heard it haven’t internalized it. But thinking back on my own journey to this point in life, I realized that I hadn’t internalized it myself until adulthood.
Sherry Weddell discusses how parishes can help people encounter Jesus personally at the parish level. This is something we must do if we are to help people stay Catholic. (And who doesn’t want that!?) The key to this, though, is not just gauging where people are within the thresholds, but also making use of the various gifts and talents each member of the parish has to help reach them. In addition, we cannot reach everyone the same way: we must have many opportunities for both formal and informal encounters with Christ, through friendships, Scripture studies, religious education, reverently celebrated Masses, Sacraments, RCIA, prayer, retreats, and more.
We need this wide spectrum because each individual is gong to need a different approach to help them become closer to God through Jesus. As Sherry said in the book, “There is no single silver bullet.”
Each parish will have people with a wide diversity of gifts, and each kind of gift is given so that a particular kind of person can be reached with the kerygma. We mustn’t overlook the kinds of gifts that don’t fit with our preconceived notion of what our parish needs. As much as we need administrative gifts or craftsmanship, we also need people with a gift for intercessory prayer and prophecy. We need teachers and writers as much as we need those with hospitality and who give generously. Each of these gifts will be an encouragement to people along their journey through the thresholds of discipleship.
In your own faith:
- How would you describe what your spiritual gifts are (or might be)? In what ways could you evangelize or disciple others using those gifts?
- Think for a moment about the other members of your parish. Who do you know who seems to have a very evident gift for some type of ministry, but perhaps is not aware of it?
For pastoral leaders:
- Think for a moment about the lay leaders of your parish. Which would you describe as “disciples”? As not yet disciples? [Or: Don’t really know.] Over the next six months, what steps can you take to help the disciples learn to evangelize? To help disciples-to-be grow in their faith?
Again, I’ll focus on me.
My spiritual gifts: I’ve always felt called to teach the faith. For a very long time, about ten years, I was a catechist. I got a little burned out a few years ago – I teach religion to my own children every day as a homeschooler, I was teaching two apologetics classes at our homeschool co-op, and then teaching at the church at the time – and I dropped out of it. Ever since I started my journey with the Dominicans, I’ve been feeling called to go back. Fearing the burnout, I’ve resisted until this year, when God used two good friends to pull me back into it. Now I’ve just joined a team of four catechists who will be teaching the middle school kids at our parish on Sunday mornings before Mass. I’m still at the stage where I’m a little grumpy with God over this, but I’m working on my attitude.
I think the ages I’ll be teaching are ripe for discipleship. They are old enough to think through things themselves, yet young enough that they still want to listen to adults and please them. (High schoolers can be that way, too, but because of the way society treats them – assuming they all want to roll their eyes at their parents and never listen – they have tremendous pressure to not listen or at least act as though they aren’t going to take us seriously.) Throughout the year, I want to purposely focus on helping them internalize the Gospel. I want to make it very real for them.
I’ve always hoped that my enthusiasm for Christ and His Church would rub off on the children I was teaching, but after reading this book, I am going to make more of an effort to assess where the children in class are among the thresholds and help bring them across to the threshold of discipleship.