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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Session 13: Chapter 12 Expect Conversion

 " . . . some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

I double checked - there isn't a final chapter or epilogue named "Conclusion". I am unsure if this goes for one more week or if this week's postings stay on the site through next Wednesday. I want to be sure that I don't miss out on saying goodbye.

It is  time to thank each and everyone of you for making the journey with me this summer. Thank you to all of you who made the time to read my weekly ramblings and a really big thank you to those of you who actually left comments. In some ways this experience was what I thought it might be, but truly it has been more than I thought it would be in most ways. 

I'm not a woman - I kind of knew I would be in the minority when I first thought about jumping in, but Catholicmom.com, duh? I mistakenly thought, well at least there would be one man's thoughts out there. Little did I know that guys as eloquent as LarryD - early on and Will Duquette would be participating on a regular basis. Humble pie now being severed!

A special prayer for Will and his embarking on a new ministry - if you didn't catch his blog last week. He is taking over the leadership of the RCIA process at his parish. Go Will! May this opportunity be filled with the Holy Spirit and may you give it all that it needs.

Back at the end of May when we started this I thought I would be entering my thoughts on the Lawn Chair Catechism page every week. Little did I know that I was going to have to figure out what a blog was and how to post it, every week. I even felt bad for bothering our moderator - Sarah Reinhard to learn what a gravatar was and how to make one. She's been so busy this summer, and she was so patient and obviously helpful. 

What truly made this experience challenging was that most of you are very accomplished writers - it's what you do. Second helping of humble pie, please? It's not what I do and my typing usually involves four rather wide fingers and an occasional thumb. You guys are awesome, and inspiring and you motivated me to try to keep up. 

I'm not really sure that my experience this summer is a conversion - the kind our our author talks about in this week's chapter, but - in way it could be. I have normal ups and downs in my life - some tragedies, a lot of joys and have been very blessed to have had the opportunities to encounter Christ though some very special people. I am grateful to all of you for helping me find another encounter with Jesus through you.


To get back the The Lawn Chair Catechism site click here.




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Session 12: Chapter 11 Personally Encountering Jesus in His Church

"We need to have a variety of different paths . . . "

Only two more weeks to go! Can you believe that Labor Day is just around the corner? Where did the summer go? It seems like August is the busiest month yet this summer; not only at work, but at church too. It seems like the more we have to do the more we somehow manage to get done. The gift of administration?

There are so many charisms of the Spirit that are available to us if we only pay attention to those around us. Jesus can be found in the ordinary.
"We need a wide spectrum of opportunities, because there is no single silver bullet."
As I have mentioned when writing in response to earlier chapters, I have been richly blessed by participating in a Small Faith Community (SFC). For the last four years eight of us have gathered on a weekly basis. Two of our members were part of the same RCIA group - both were baptized in 2009 so we enjoyed their gift of enthusiasm for their new relationship with Jesus. We pray thanksgivings and petitions together; we read the readings from the upcoming Sunday and with the assistance of multiple resources break open the Word and apply it to our lives.

Two years ago, our SFC took on the leadership of this ministry at our parish. I'd like to be able to tell you that we have doubled the participation and there is a waiting list for people to form new communities. It hasn't really happened that way, BUT there have been some real encounters with Christ. Twice each summer for the last three summers, our SFC has served ice cream after the Saturday Vigil mass. Last year for Lent we organized Stations of the Cross; we lined up different groups to lead the prayers - talk about getting people to step out of their comfort zone and use their gifts.

Prior to our involvement in the leadership of this ministry, SFC's were just a Lenten thing. We have lead by example and now more of the groups that have come together want to make their group a year-round endeavor - pretty cool! With a little encouragement, and the Holy Spirit leading the way it's amazing what can happen. 

To get back to the discussion Lawn Chair Catholic, click here. 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Session 11: Chapter 10 Do Tell: The Great Story of Jesus

Secret Sauce?

Welcome back to the continuation of what I thought would be a cool adult "vacation bible school" this summer - the review, chapter by chapter of Forming Intentional Disciples. If you would like to review the complete study guide for this Session, click here and scroll down to Session 11.

This week's chapter is the one we've all been waiting for . . . the secret sauce is revealed! Well, maybe not so secret and maybe once you set the book down you realize that it's time to put your mouth where your money is? As our author, Sherry Weddell so pointedly reminds us, 
"We can no longer assume that even an educated adult knows the basic story of Jesus Christ. But knowing this story is essential to conversion: Our own personal witness can help illuminate and make living, compelling, and believable aspects of Jesus’ story, but it cannot take the place of Jesus’ story." 













On the one hand it is startling to me to not assume that everyone knows the Jesus story; on the other hand that realization makes me feel somehow, a little bit emptier knowing that so many people are missing out. There has been a well laid out path in our book. It's now time for us to tell His story, not just our story.

Maybe you weren't expecting to end up here when you started the book? Maybe you thought there were going to be some "magic words" we'd learn about and could use in forming intentional disciples? Are you disappointed?

Telling the Jesus story can at first seem daunting for most of us. You might have even convinced yourself already this is perhaps something better left to the experts. Sister, Father, or even the deacon, "they may be able to recount the history more authoritatively and better than me", without giving it a second thought. But what I took away from this chapter is this; it just might be more effective if the seeker actually heard it from you or me - one with whom they have built a level of trust. It is important to recognize as our author points out,
"The essentials of this story can be broken down into a series of “acts” that need to be told, but the order and timing may vary according to the needs and questions of the hearer." 
It is time to step out of the boat - but how? This is our salvation history - we know the "acts". We here them all during Lent and especially in an all-together version at the Easter Vigil. Break them down, practice them with another disciple first, a trusted friend and believe that the Holy Spirit will guide you. Consider the four questions posed in the book.
1.  Does our friend know the essential “acts” of the Story?
2. Has he or she connected the dots? Does he or she understand the story as a whole?
3. Does our friend understand the personal signi´Čücance of the Story?
4. What is or has been his or her response to the story?
We are Jesus' hands a feet - and this case perhaps His proclaimer for the seeker. We must tell the Jesus story and strive to get the seeker to ask . . .
“What does this mean for me?”
Click on the the following link to get back to the discussion at catholicmom.com.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Session 10: Chapter 9 Break The Silence



Seeds . . . Indications for Growth

In chapter Chapter 9 of Forming Intentional Disciples - Break the Silence, Sherry Weddell gives some very practical lessons on how to do this next step.

During my time as co-director for our RCIA process, peoples' stories were what we tried to make the Inquiry stage all about. Everyone has a story - everyone. Creating a safe atmosphere where people feel a level of trust existed was the key. To hear peoples' stories and be able to enter into that story with the right questions is a gift. Weddell is right,  these are much more than faith sharing stories. Looking back with a few more years of wisdom, I know that I would be an even better listener today.

“Does this person have a have a bridge of trust in place and where is it?”

Becoming a better listener takes patience and I believe we become more patient with maturity. It’s not to say that as almost 54 year old old man I still can get passionate about a topic and talk when I should be listening . . . did you ever feel like you were on a soap box while you were speaking; wondering if people were listening or if you were able to verbalize your enthusiasm well enough so that  others catch the fire?

As for our parish, we’re on the cusp of initiating a path forward that I believe will lead to true intentional discipleship. Our mission has been made quite simple and it involves these three words: Know, Grow and Go.
  • Know Jesus personally to the point where you actually have a relationship with Him. Fr.Dave has fostered the meaning of the word “faith” to be interpreted as "a relationship with Jesus".
  • Grow in that relationship with Him.
  • Go make a positive difference in our church, community, and world.

“the Spirit is at work in the heart of every person, through the seeds of the Word . . “

The homework for our parish and administrative councils this summer has been the reading of Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran’s new book Rebuilt.  
Without going into detail, there are some valuable tools and lessons about bringing new life to a dead parish or increasing the level of intentional discipleship in a growing parish. I think their ideas coupled with the principles and ideas from Forming Intentional Disciples could be a real  formula for success. I look forward to sharing what I have read in "our" book and from your weekly blogs. Pray for us.



To get back to the discussion at Lawn Chair Catholic site click here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Session 9: Chapter 8 Thresholds of Conversion: Seeking and Discipleship

I've really struggled with this week's chapter - which is the reason for the tardiness of my posting. If you would like to review the complete study guide for this Session, click here and scroll down to Session 8.
In Chapter 8 of Sherry Weddell's Forming Intentional Disciples we're facing ourselves in the mirror. It's too easy without examining ourselves first to become self righteous or even judgmental , particularly of our leaders. Regardless of the progress any of us have made in our relationship with Jesus, none of have been canonized yet. There are times when we slip, forget, ignore or go from on fire to lukewarm in our journey.  We need to remember we can all be seekers. We need recognize where we've been, the guides the Lord has sent to us and to acknowledge often that our faith is a gift from God.
In the book a "seeker is one actively seeking Jesus Christ. He is not yet following Him, but he’s considering it. When he makes the decision to drop his net and follow Jesus, he becomes a disciple." I understand why Weddell is making the difference, but I struggle with the who gets to fit folks into these categories?
I agree with and support Weddell as she states,
“ It is far more important that your relationship with Jesus exist and is real than that it conform to some imaginary template of Catholic perfection. The seeker can be helped to move towards discipleship by exploring what obstacles still exist, and by helping the seeker see how he fits into the Church and what gifts he has to offer.”
Perhaps my difficulty this week comes from the self-realization acknowledging that there are times when I still need the example of “intentional disciples” because I am - at times, still a seeker.
“But seekers need to see what life is like for an authentic disciple of Jesus whose struggles are real—and whose victories are therefore believable.”

That Is that exactly what the stories of the lives of the saints show me. It’s what sharing the upcoming Sunday’s readings in our small faith community do for me. It's what sharing our gratitudes and petitions in prayer together does for me. And by the grace of the Holy Spirit - this Sunday’s gospel, “. . . seek and you will find . . .”  So maybe being a seeker from time to time isn't as bad as I first thought?

To get back to the discussion on Chapter 8 at Lawn Chair Catechism, click here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Session 7: Chapter 6 The Second Threshold: Curiosity

The hands-on practicality continues in Chapter 6 of Sherry Weddell's Forming Intentional Disciples. If you would like to review the complete study guide for this Session, click here and scroll down to Session 7.

I had the opportunity last Saturday night, to invite a friend from work I've know for many years, his wife and daughter to accompany my wife and me to mass. Both my friend and his wife were "raised Catholic" but for a variety of reasons had become inactive.

Our book became almost a "how-to" guide for yours truly. I have to admit that it was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.
"It is very important that we tread lightly. You can easily quench inquiries by drowning a teaspoon full of curiosity with a gallon of answers."
Our pastor, who is a gifted homilist was away on retreat, and our visiting presider was a Monsignor from Cross Catholic Outreach; I was anxious about what to expect. 
"How to arouse curiosity?  . . . one of the most helpful ways to arouse curiosity is to pose a question."
Fr. Hays
If you've ever read the Fr. Edward M. Hays allegory,The Magic LanternMonsignor Bertagni is Fr. Fiasco come to life - I even told him so after mass! 

The Holy Spirit was definitely watching over our celebration as I received an email the next day from my friend thanking me for the invitation and letting me know that they would be returning.
". . . The point of this approach is to allow the natural curiosity of the human person to draw him or her to an encounter with the person of Jesus."
Thank you God that the words from our study guide were ringing in my ears . . . 

To return to Session 7 of Lawn Chair Catechism, click here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Session 6: Chapter 5 Thresholds of Conversion: Can I Trust You?

Welcome back to this summer's journey through Sherry Weddell's Forming Intentional Disciples. We're getting to where the rubber meets the road now, beginning with the five “thresholds” towards mature faith:
1. Initial Trust 
2. Spiritual Curiosity 
3. Spiritual Openness 
4. Spiritual Seeking 
5. Intentional Discipleship 

There is no one-size-fits-all way of negotiating the journey to discipleship. People will move through at different paces . . . or ping-pong back and forth between different thresholds . . . . The thing to remember is that we are not in control of the process. We are dealing with the mystery of a relationship that God himself is initiating in the human heart. 

In chapter five we explore the first threshold, “Initial Trust”. This is not the same as an active, personal faith. It is a positive association with the Church that makes it possible to move closer to God.

The first task of evangelization is to find out if a bridge of trust already exists. . . . Many don’t trust God or the Church, by they do trust a Christian in their life. Maybe they trust you. You may be the bridge that will one day lead them to a life-changing encounter with Christ.

Questions for Discussion In your own faith:

How was the bridge of trust built for you? Who are the people who helped you to come as far as you have in your personal journey? Have you ever been that link of trust for another person?

In your parish:

What are actions you can take at your parish to make your congregation a place of trust? Are there barriers in the public imagination – such as a concern about scandals or financial misdeeds – that require increased transparency in order to foster genuine trust?