Lawn Chair Catechism 2.0: Week 1: Laying a Firm Foundation

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Welcome to the first installment of this year’s Lawn Chair Catechism, the brainchild of the amazing ladies at CatholicMom.com! This year, we’ll be using A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic’s Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe by Joe Paprocki as our basis for this discussion.

You don’t need to have the book to join in (I’m starting off without my copy, to be honest), but feel free to blog your own answers, or discuss in the comments below this post. You can find the basis for our discussion questions at this online leaders’ guide, which you can download for free. (I saved mine in iBooks on my iPad for quick reference.)

Don’t forget to be sure to check back each Wednesday for new discussions on this book.

This week, we’re discussing Chapter 1 (Laying a Firm Foundation: Transmitting Faith) within Part 1: The Creed: Holding on to Faith.

Our discussion questions are:

* Who is someone you know who has a “well-built faith” and what do you attribute that to?

* What have you been doing/could you be doing to deepen your understanding of the Catholic faith?

* Who has been a “pillar of faith” in your life?

* What event(s) in your life have most significantly shaped you into the person you are today?

* Creed: What is the difference between an idea and a belief? What role does trust play in believing?

* Sacraments: When was a time you felt compelled to express yourself without using words?

* Morality: Why do you think it is so difficult for us as God’s own people to live moral lives?

* Prayer: With whom do you have the best communication? What makes that communication so effective? How good is your com- munication with God?

Who is someone I know who has a “well-built faith” and what do I attribute that to?

I have a friend whose faith really amazes me. She is the kind of person who prays for the people who have hurt her most deeply in her life, and she has complete trust in God. She’s a homeschooling mother of seven who has been raising them alone for the last 7 years, and has come close to losing everything. Every time she has been on the verge of that, though, she smiles and says, “I have to trust that God will work it out. He’ll give me a miracle. I have no one but Him to do this for me!” And it works out. She has more reason than most people I know for complaints or for feeling downcast. If she is feeling downcast, I can’t tell, though! She is a picture of Christian joy at all times. I’ve often said I want to grow up to be like her, and I attribute all of this to her complete trust in God.

What have I been doing/could I be doing to deepen my understanding of the Catholic faith?

My journey with the Dominicans has been deepening my understanding of the Faith, and has helped me pick up and study things I may have never studied before. I also have been picking up books and CDs from the Lighthouse Media kiosk in my parish’s narthex.

Who has been a “pillar of faith” in my life?

I’ve really had a lot of people who have been influences in my faith life, each at a different time and in a different way. My father’s love for the Catholic Church played a big part in my desire to always remain Catholic, even though I spent plenty of years not living a Catholic life. I’ve had priests who have inspired me to fall in love with the Church again and begin to study Her teachings so I could understand them. The women in my homeschool co-op were inspirational to me because they showed that you could live the Faith happily, even as the rest of the world scoffed. And my husband has pushed me to delve even deeper into the Catholic Faith, at first to keep up with his studying as he worked his way into the Church, and later to study together and take classes offered at church as a couple.

What event(s) in my life have most significantly shaped me into the person I am today?

I think that having children, and taking seriously the responsibility of educating them in the Faith, has shaped me more than anything else in my life. Before I started teaching them at home, I had a shaky understanding of the Faith, though I had studied a bit on my own and begun to learn more about the Church I was raised in. But when I started teaching them the basics, I learned how much I really didn’t know, and that opened me up to a desire to learn more. It’s that desire that eventually brought me to the Dominicans and my secondary vocation in the Lay Fraternity of Saint Dominic.

Creed: What is the difference between an idea and a belief? What role does trust play in believing?

I think there’s a huge difference between the two, and I only really gave that any thought last year after reading Forming Intentional Disciples! I think most of us give little though to the Catholic Faith, especially if we were raised in it, as more than an idea or concept that we have in our lives. Treating it as a real belief requires action on those beliefs, though. If I believe that processed foods are bad for my family – really believe that – I am going to change our shopping and eating habits in order to avoid eating those processed foods as much as possible. I won’t say, “Well, I know that’s bad, but what am I gonna do? Let’s just have Doritos for dinner!”

The same goes for the Catholic Faith. I can’t treat it as an idea – something nice to do on Sunday mornings if it’s not too much trouble, or Sacramental check-boxes that we get ticked off by the DRE every few years – but as a real belief. If the Faith is an idea, I’m not going to invest a lot in it. It’s no more important than the idea of what I’d do if I won the lottery (go to Rome and renovate my kitchen). But a belief is something that demands a life change. If I believe that Jesus is God, that He came to save me, that He makes demands of me to live a holy life — well, this is something that I can’t really ignore, can I? I have to act upon this belief and find out what I need to do for this Jesus. If I really believe He is God made Man, then I need to think about what He said and act upon it. If I believe God founded the Catholic Church, I need to do something about it, like learn what exactly does the Church teach about how to live. And if I don’t understand the rule, or think it’s a stupid rule, I have to figure out why the Church says it’s not a stupid rule.

Real belief gives no room for laziness. If Jesus is God Incarnate, and Jesus founded the Catholic Church, and He sent the Holy Spirit to guide this Church, then I really need to pay attention and do my best to live by the guidelines and rules of said Church!

The biggest obstacle to this is probably trust. I have to trust God first, so that I can believe that what He says is true. If I begin with a trust in God, I can eventually extend that trust to those who speak in His name—namely, the Church and Her Magisterium.

Sacraments: When was a time I felt compelled to express myself without using words?

I’m a very word-y person. I really like using those words—this is, after all, the purpose of having a blog, is it not? But sometimes I really need to express myself to my family without words, and those are the times when I need to use actions. Sometimes it takes the form of doing my girls’ laundry, which they are usually responsible for doing themselves. Sometimes it involves ironing for my husband, who usually does his own because he’s more patient about it and get do it better than me.

I remember doing his ironing one day, and deciding that I would make it an act of love for him. I would consider every push and pull of the iron a little “I love you” to him. It was probably the best I’ve ever done with his shirts, too.

Morality: Why do I think it is so difficult for us as God’s own people to live moral lives?

While part of this has to do with the scars on our souls from Original Sin, I think we can also get caught up in the world. It’s so hard for me to be in the world, and yet not allow myself to be caught up in being of the world. I have to constantly monitor myself when I’m online: am I being a positive, happy person? Am I charitable towards others, especially if they are being hurtful towards me? Do I represent Christ and His Church well?

And, of course, there’s the idea that I’m online too much, or becoming too attached to my worldly goods. I have to strive to not become jealous of families who are able to do things we can’t do, or of people who take the trips I wish I could go on, or of the people who are able to buy the things we can’t afford.

I think I have to sometimes cut myself off from the influences of the world to avoid the idolatries that surround me day in, day out. I have to unplug, read a Dead Tree Book, avoid the time-wasting games on my iPad or iPhone, and give myself time to enjoy my family and the blessings I have in my life.

If we don’t do these kinds of things, it becomes a real challenge to live a moral life centered on God.

Prayer: With whom do I have the best communication? What makes that communication so effective? How good is my communication with God?

I think I communicate best with my husband. Nathan and I have been married almost 21 years now, and we have always worked hard to talk things over together so we’re on the same page. When we were dating, we discussed everything from how we would bank (one set of accounts) to how we would discipline our children to whether or not we would move for a job to whether we would homeschool or send our kids to public or private school. When we went to Engaged Encounter, there was almost nothing on the lists of discussions that we hadn’t already covered by then.

I think what works so well for us is that we really try to listen to each other and consider what the other wants. Both of us tend to want to do whatever it takes to make the other happy, which helps us. If we need to discuss something really difficult, neither of us freaks out at the other. Somehow, we’ve always been able to keep in mind that yelling isn’t going to change an already-difficult situation for the better. I can give two examples of situations that fall into this category:

On a business trip, Nathan accidentally left his Video iPod in the seat-back pocket on the plane. It was an extravagant purchase at the time, and we couldn’t afford to replace it. He spent his free time on his business trip calling the airline to see if anyone had turned in his iPod. When he finally told me the night he got home, I had two choices: I could yell at him for losing his $200 iPod, or I could sympathize with him and forgive him. Yelling wouldn’t have brought back the iPod, and he’d already spent a week beating himself up for it. I went the forgiveness route.

Years later, we were facing a financial crisis that I had kept from Nathan. We never kept a budget, and we were spending more than we were bringing in, thanks especially to the nifty new minivan we decided we wanted to buy. I was feeling suicidal, things were so bad. I finally decided, in December 2007, to tell him what was happening; I admitted that our finances were in big trouble, and said we needed to sell my spiffy van if we had any hope of ever getting out of this trouble. This was far bigger than the iPod situation, and Nathan was faced with the same choice: freak out about the fact that I had kept this from him, or he could forgive me and work with me to figure our way out of the mess. Fortunately for me, Nathan went with forgiveness, too. He knew I had been tormenting myself for months over it, and getting angry at me wasn’t going to make money appear in our bank accounts.

In short, we know we can trust each other when we need to talk to each other, no matter what the subject.

Communicating with God should involve as much trust as I put in my husband. No matter what I’ve done, God loves me and is ready to welcome me back to Him with open arms. I should be ready and willing to share everything with Him, and be just as ready to listen to what He tells me, whether it’s in the silence of my heart or through His Church or when He works through my friends and family.

And, of course, my communication with God can’t be a list of needs and requests any more than I can treat my husband like that. This is one thing I need to work on in my own life: making communication with God a two-way street instead of a litany of requests that I present Him each day.

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Now it’s your turn! Join in the discussion! Use the link above to order a book, if you’d like it, or just join in using the discussion questions at the leaders’ guide.