Lawn Chair Catechism: Roadmaps, Sacraments, and Signs

Welcome back to CatholicMom.com’s Summer study program: Lawn Chair Catechism! We’re reading and discussing A Well-Built Faith this year. For details on the program and links to purchase the book as well as the free study guide, head to my Lawn Chair Catechism 2.0 page. You don’t need to read the book to join in the discussion; just check out the study guide and jump in!

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This week’s chapter gets into worship, and gives us a chance to think about our Sunday obligation in a new way. The Church takes seriously the idea that we need to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Traveling isn’t an excuse to miss Mass, especially when we’re a part of the Universal Church! (Thank God for Mass Times!)

But why are we expected to do this? What’s the purpose of worshipping at Mass?

Let’s take a look at this week’s discussion questions to get a better idea of the answers:

• How do worship and liturgy help to align us with God’s will?

This is the biggest reason we have for setting aside a particular time – at least once a week – for worship: to realign us with God’s will.

Think of it like taking a trip: if you haven’t been somewhere before, you need directions on how to get there. Most people can’t look at the directions once and be done with it — they need to constantly check their surroundings and the map to be sure they’re still on the right path. The longer and more complicated the trip, the more often we have to check our map and directions to be sure we’re going the right way.

How much more complicated is it to navigate this world as we make the journey to our Heavenly Home? Going to Mass on a regular basis is how we check our directions along the way. Are we living the way Christ intends us to live? Are we bending our fallible will towards God’s perfect, divine will? If we’ve gotten lost, are we making sure we’re going to Confession to be put back on the right road again?

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And we don’t have to wait for Sundays to check the directions, either! Aside from daily Mass, we can also pray the Liturgy of the Hours, in part or in full. When I pray morning and evening prayers (Lauds and Vespers), I know that I am praying with the Universal Church, pondering the Psalms and canticles and applying them to my daily life. It’s a way to keep my mind on God as I go through my day, and a way to move my will towards His. In fact, my family tries to pray Lauds and Vespers with me, and my daughters both have told me that they can tell a difference when we don’t start our day with morning prayers together.

• What is your understanding of the word efficacious?

Efficacious simply means that something is effective.

• What does it mean that the sacraments are efficacious?

The Sacraments are efficacious in that they do what they symbolize. When the priest consecrates the bread and wine, they become the actual Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. When he speaks the words of absolution, those words do what they say they’re doing: our sins are truly forgiven. When the bishop anoints each of the confirmandi, the Holy Spirit comes to them in that moment.

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This comes from the idea that the Word of God is always efficacious. What God says is completely true and real. He spoke the universe into being, and when He speaks to us — even through the priest — His Word is efficacious.

And the Sacraments are meant to help us better grasp that reality, as visible reminders of God’s grace and love. The old definition of a Sacrament tells us that a Sacrament is a outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. Sacraments are things that we can see, touch, taste, smell, and feel that help us understand that there is something very real happening on a spiritual level. We can’t see the spiritual realm, and so Jesus gave us the tangible symbols of the Sacraments to help us understand that something is happening to our souls. They are visible realities that convey invisible ones.

• What are some examples of visible realities, such as a hug, that convey invisible realities?

One thing that comes to mind for me is my wedding ring. To some people, it’s just another piece of jewelry, but to Nathan and I, our rings are a symbol of our life together as husband and wife. When we were first married, I could look at my wedding set and think of our love and our new life together. When I had to go back to school in another city for my last semester of academics, my ring was a physical reminder that we were married, even though we didn’t see each other during the week. But when I look at my wedding ring now, as we approach our 21st anniversary, it reminds me of everything we’ve been through together: the good times and the bad, sicknesses and health, happiness and struggles.

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I remember when things were so hard we started to wonder why we were ever married in the first place. I remember when I was pregnant and he had to take care of everything because I was so sick. I remember when we celebrated each other’s accomplishments together — whether it was when I passed my tests to be an interpreter or when he ran his first marathon. I remember when our girls were born, when they received First Holy Communion, when our older daughter was Confirmed.

I remember our family vacations to exciting places, and I remember the times when we just stayed home and hung out together. When we tore down our swimming pool and built raised beds for our garden. When we went to soccer games and dance recitals.

That band of gold on my finger is a lot more than a piece of jewelry — it’s a symbol of everything my life has been for the last 21 years, and, God willing, everything it’ll be for the next 50+ years!

• What season of the Church’s liturgical year do you most look forward to and why?

I tend to vacillate between Christmas and Easter here. I love both seasons, and I love the feeling of newness and spiritual rebirth that comes after the dry, penitential seasons of Advent and Lent.

If it can count as its own season, though, I love the Triduum best. I have written before about the beauty of Holy Thursday Mass, and I have always loved reading the Passion each year.

But the Easter Vigil is, by far, my favorite Mass of the entire year! Nearly every Sacrament is celebrated, and the joy of seeing people being received into the Church is overwhelming. Last year, our parish had the honor of receiving almost an entire family at once. (The mother had been raised Catholic, and the three youngest children were received the year prior.) The most moving part of the entire night for me was when I looked over at the father of the family during the Eucharistic Prayer, and saw that he was weeping for joy. To this day, I get goosebumps and tear up at the thought of it.

It’s pretty tough to beat that, as far as I’m concerned.

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Okay, now it’s your turn! Join the conversation here, or blog about your experiences and share the link at CatholicMom.com!