Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism Session I


These are my thoughts on part one of's weekly discussion of Forming Intentnional Disciples.  I'm putting my answer to the study questions here in order to link it on the CatholicMom study site. Those of  you who aren't interested in this topic, just skip any post the has Lawn Chair Catechism in the title.

From the book, Forming Intentional Disciples. The author has just asked a parish leader to describe her relationship with God.

"After thinking carefully for a few moments, she responded briskly, “I don’t have a relationship with God.”  Her answer stunned me.  My first thoughts were, “That’s not possible.  You’re a leader in your parish.  You wouldn’t do that without some kind of relationship with God . . ..”
. . . By the end of the interview, I realized she had accurately described her spiritual reality.
Sherry goes on to explain that she began asking the question routinely.  And here’s what she discovered:
We learned that the majority of even “active” American Catholics are still at an early, essentially passive stage of spiritual development.  . . . We discovered, to our surprise and dismay, that many pastoral leaders do not even possess a conceptual category for discipleship.  As long as this holds true, the theology of the laity and the Church’s teaching on social justice and evangelization will remain beautiful ideals that are, practically speaking, dead letters for the vast majority of Catholics."

Here are the study questions with my replies:
  • How would you describe your lived relationship with God to this point in your life?I was blessed with a good catechetical formation--my first three years of religious education (mid-sixties) were a blend of traditional, memorize-catechism questions with wonderful Bible stories,  saints' stories, and explanations of doctrine suitable to my age. I was enchanted with the faith from the first, was aware that God was real and was with me. When things changed in 1968 or 69 to the post Vatican II felt-banners/love and peace/experiential style of catechesis, my parents had the good sense to withdraw me from these classes and give me the Baltimore catechism and children's Bible to read at home. This worked for me! I recall vividly what an incredible encounter with God my confirmation was (grade 5 in those days).I also recall that when our family became interested in Marian apparitions (both approved as well as some that have since turned out to be bogus)my faith was boosted immeasurably by this kind of evidence of heaven's interaction with mankind.  ..Since that time, my relationship with Christ has been like a marriage, which means that at times the intensity and committment wanes, due to my own periods of neglect and selfishness. So I"m still a disciple, learning, messing up, and trying again.  Praying the daily psalms of the Liturgy of the Hours teaches me to both talk to God and listen to what he is telling me. Committing myself to daily prayer is like being committed to marriage, day in and day out, both on the days when it's all sunshine and glory, as well as the days when it seems humdrum and boring. 
  • What does the word “discipleship” mean to you?  Do you perceive a need in the Church  today to help lay Catholics become more fervent followers of Jesus Christ?Oh boy, yes! Despite losses in recent years, there are still a HUGE number of practicing Catholics.Why don't we have more of an impact? It's pointless to look back, but I suspect that widespread dissent/neglect/ignorance of Church teaching on marriage has lots to do with the current situation. But you can't get people to sign up for NFP courses and/or quit co-habiting and/or live a marriage of sacrificial love if they don't first want to follow Jesus with all their hearts. How do we make this happen? Where do we start? How do we work with our priests on all this? I sure hope this study leads to some concrete answers. 
  • How would you describe your parish’s current efforts at discipleship?  A hotbed of discipleship?  A weekly gathering of spiritual sleep-walkers?  Or perhaps something in between? I know I can't judge for sure, since who knows what it in everyone's hearts, but the appearance is: A gathering of sleep-walkers with a minority of disciples. Weekday devotions are attended by the same handful of people. Periodic Bible studies--same thing, same people. Outside of teaching religious ed, most outlets for being "active" in the parish involve helping with the liturgy (choir, lector, EME) or parish social and fundraising events. We have a food bank, too--a great work of mercy that I"m grateful to be involved with, but these activities seem totally disconnected from the work of evangelization.  Our pastor is definitely preaching with a view to arousing people from complacency and increasing their appreciation for the Eucharist, but it doesn't appear that the results are that astounding. Those of who care are not sure what we can or should be doing. We Catholics aren't comfortable with approaching others and starting  the "Are You Saved?" type of discussion. (not that a Catholic would start with "Are You Saved?", but you know what I mean.) Anyway, as a "disciple" who is definitely not great at being an "apostle", I'm longing for answers.