Join the CatholicMom.com’s Summer Reading Challenge! This is not a mindless “beach novel.” It really makes you think. You can participate in the discussion without reading the book (you’ll find reflection questions here) but this book really is worth the read.
Chapter 4 of Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples was particularly challenging and fascinating. The study guide summarizes the chapter:
. . . the council’s Decree on Justiﬁcation describe in great detail the sort of spiritual development that needs to be in place in order for an adult to receive baptism fruitfully. It includes the following:
- Being moved to faith by hearing the basic proclamation of Jesus Christ and his work of salvation.
- Moving intentionally toward God.
- Believing in what God has revealed – especially that God saves sinners through redemption in Jesus Christ.
- Recognizing that one is a sinner.
- Trusting in the mercy of God.
- Beginning to hope in and love God.
- Repenting of personal sin.
- Resolving to be baptized, to begin a new life, and to walk in the obedience of faith.
That’s a tall order. I was intrigued by the discussion of how important it is that anyone receiving the sacraments as an older child, teen or adult be properly disposed to receive the sacraments. There’s a school of thought that says that even if someone isn’t prepared properly to receive a sacrament, he should receive it and the sacrament would take care of itself. But our faith doesn’t mean that we are passive receptacles for grace–as if we are an empty container, and grace is poured in.
I like to cook and bake, so I’m going to use a kitchen analogy here. We’re not mixing bowls: we’re the mixer. Grace is poured in, but it has to be integrated into the rest of our lives–our experiences, personalities, intentions, actions, words, everything. When we freely choose to cooperate with grace, Saint Augustine says, “He cooperates that we may perfect” (quoted on page 113.)
Cooperating is hard. Integrating the grace offered, freely given, and poured out generously by God into the rest of our messy lives is not easy. The dough in that mixer is stiff and does not yield easily to what is ultimately best for us–but what is tough to do at the moment.
When you bake bread and mix the ingredients, they do not always come together easily. You really have to work at the dough as you knead it to blend the ingredients together and to develop the gluten in the dough. If you don’t work the dough properly, it will not rise and you’ll get a brick: a waste of ingredients, time and effort. While any grace given by God is certainly not wasted even if it isn’t properly received, it is that proper reception that allows it to act upon the other ingredients in the mixer that is our souls.
A dear friend and I have been facing some challenges lately, and we’re battling frustration, resentment, anger and other negative feelings. We’re trying not to let that get the best of us. We’re trying to soldier on in faith and we’re trying to do the right thing with the right intentions. When I recently expressed my frustration with my own situation, she reminded me that we are “saints in training.”
This “saint in training” has a lot of work to do. Would the fruits of the graces I have received through the sacraments be visible to people who listen to what I say and see what I do?
Join in the discussion of Chapter 4 at CatholicMom.com, or leave a comment below!