Welcome to this week’s installment of CatholicMom.com’s Lawn Chair Catechism. For more details on the book we’re using this Summer and links to my past posts, head to my dedicated page on this series.
Here are this week’s discussion questions:
• What does it mean to say that spirituality is not just a slice of the pie that represents our life, but is the whole pie?
• What’s the difference between belonging to the Church and being Church?
• What does the concept of stewardship have to do with spirituality and Church?
• What does it mean to say that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic?
• Why do Catholics place such great emphasis on Mary and the saints?
• Explain our understanding of the Communion of Saints.
• How would you summarize the Catholic understanding of the afterlife?
This week, we read about the four pillars, or marks, of the Church. Our Catholic Church has these marks, which we can use to know that we are looking at the Church that our Lord founded: she is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. We confess these things whenever we say the Creed, and this chapter helps us grasp better what we mean when we recite these things.
We also read about the Communion of Saints, which is our extended family in the Church. The Communion of Saints is something peculiarly Catholic, and it’s something that a great many non-Catholics don’t understand.
I grew up Catholic in an area that was mostly Catholic, and never gave much thought to devotions to saints, especially to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s not that I didn’t believe in having such devotions, or that I never learned to pray a Rosary, but I just never thought about what that meant. It wasn’t until I was an adult, and I was confronted with the idea that I might be doing something wrong, that I learned about the Church’s teachings on the saints.
What I discovered was what I’d heard all my life and never quite pieced together: Jesus promises His followers eternal life if they keep His Commandments. The saints are people who demonstrated this kind of discipleship in their earthly life, and so we have reason to believe – on the world of our Lord – that though their bodies have died, their souls are in Heaven with God. So they are not dead – for God is not a God of the dead, but of the living – but alive in Christ, reigning in Heaven with Him!
The love the saints have for the Church and all Her members would certainly not end when they attain Heaven! The love we have while here on earth is perfected in Heaven, and so we will love more perfectly than we ever did in this life. And because we cannot be separated from the Church, even by death, the Church Triumphant (as the saints in Heaven are called) can to this day pray for us. When Catholics say that we’re praying to a saint, we’re using a figure of speech that means we are asking that saint, who stands before the Throne of God, to pray for us to God the Father, through Christ His Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the same as asking the holiest person you know at church to pray for you. The only difference is that we have faith that the saints are in the very presence of God Himself, and that their prayers can be even more efficacious than those of our best friends at church.
There are saints from every walk of life: young and old, cradle Catholics and converts, married and single, lay or vowed religious, professors and simple children with little-to-no education. The one thing they all have in common is this: They loved God without reserve and followed His will for their lives.
It’s never too late to become a saint, either. The greatest sinners in the world can turn around and begin a new life in Christ. One of the most famous examples is Saint Augustine, whose mother, Saint Monica, never stopped praying that her son would become a saint. Saint Paul calls himself “the greatest of sinners” for his life before his own conversion. Confession gives us each that chance to begin again and wipe the slate clean each and every time we avail ourselves of it.
When we begin to live our lives for God – to live holy lives – each thing we do throughout the day can be done as a kind of prayer. We can offer everything we do for the Glory of God, doing our best always to give Him glory. After all, every gift we have, every talent, is from Him. When we use them well, when we use them for good, that gives glory to God. Our lives stop looking like a pie that’s divided up into slices for family, church, work, and play and start to look like … well, a casserole! Everything overlaps and mixes together.
When I wash dishes or iron my husband’s shirt, I can do it out of love and offer it to God as a kind of prayer. When I go for a run and my joints hurt a little, I can offer that pain up for the intention of my nieces’ faith to grow. When I write a blog post, I can strive to do it well and edify someone’s faith through it. Every little thing we do can be done for God, and the easy thing is that you just make up your mind to do it, and it’s done! God is too big to be kept just inside the sanctuary during Mass – He wants to be a part of our entire lives!
This week, challenge yourself to offer up your daily tasks as prayers. See if it makes a difference in how your day goes!