It’s time again for Lawn Chair Catechism at CatholicMom.com!
This week we are reading chapter 3 of Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell.
A study guide for the entire book is provided here. You don’t even have to read the book to participate in the discussion (either here or at the CatholicMom main link for this chapter) but this is an excellent book that really makes you stop and think about a lot of things you might be taking for granted–or be missing entirely and not even realize it.
This chapter, to be honest, was a difficult one for me to read. It brought up–again–all those feelings I had when I read the introduction to this book. I put off writing about this chapter for a little while, which turned out to be a good thing, because I was able to stop focusing on the whole issue of my own failings in this area and instead found an area in which there has been some success–for myself and, I think, for others.
So I’ll focus on part of the “In Your Parish” section of the discussion questions:
What success stories can you share? In what ministries of your parish is “discipleship thinking” the norm? In what areas is Christian discipleship not yet the standard for ministry?
At the beginning of the chapter, I confess, I was experiencing real feelings of jealousy as I read about the dynamic parish the author described. The pews are full! The kids are there! Everyone’s engaged! Why can’t my parish have that?
I started thinking about the capital campaign that my parish is currently running. In the parish described in chapter 3, that wouldn’t even be an issue. Of course, the parish described in chapter 3 has not just gone through a parish merger within the last 5 years. Want to mess with people’s connection to the Church? Merge (or close) their parish. There has to be a better way. I think our parish has weathered the storm better than many others in the area, but it has been difficult in many ways and, yes, many people have walked away.
But then I started thinking about “charism.” On page 92, “charism” is described as a “‘gratuitious grace’ given to a member of the body of Christ to empower him or her to build up the Church and to witness Christ to the world.” And I started thinking about what’s on my calendar for tonight.
My charism is music. Music, for me, is a way to serve, a way to pray, a way to build community. When I was a fourth-grader beginning piano lessons, my music teacher encouraged all her students to occasionally come with her to the Masses she played at a local parish. She would play the organ, and we children would sing. Two songs that were always on the menu: “Seek Ye First” and “All Creatures of Our God and King.” In harmony–with almost no rehearsal. I was blessed to have the experience, at the age of 9, 10, 11 years old, of using song as a form of worship. I have never stopped.
For over 30 years I have been part of folk groups–at the various parishes where I’ve lived and at the music ministries of 3 universities. In my current parish, I believe that our folk group has become for me (and I hope for others) a means to discipleship.
Folk groups are not the most popular ensembles for church music these days. And I will be the first to admit that there are times when we are not as reverent as we could and should be. However, we know what we are there to do, and we take that very seriously. We are not there to perform for the priest, the congregation, or for God. We are there to lead the congregation in sung prayer.
When we get together for our Wednesday night practice (also known as folk-group therapy) we are intentional about making sure the hymns we use are accessible to the assembly. Sometimes that means we transpose the music. Sometimes that means we rearrange the hymn selection within the Mass, or swap out one hymn for another as needed. We smile when we see little kids dancing in the pews to the entrance hymn. That means they are feeling the joy that we feel as we play and sing. Our goal is always to sing it like we mean it–and to inspire the assembly to do the same. When people approach us and tell us that we make it easy for them to be able to sing at Mass, we know we are doing our job.
I am blessed to be part of the folk group at my parish. We make a commitment to get together to rehearse each week. During that rehearsal, we practice the music. We discuss the lyrics. We share what we do (or do not) like about particular hymns. All of that makes us better musicians and better ministers. We also laugh together (a lot) and even cry together. Our bond has made us better friends and better ministers.
Hopefully it is making us better disciples.