Lawn Chair Catechism Ch. 6

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Join the Lawn Chair Catechism discussion at every Wednesday this summer. well built faith lawn chair catechismWe’re reading A Well-Built Faith by Joe Paprocki, but you can participate even if you haven’t read the book. Check out the free Leader’s Guide, which covers the main points of the book.

Discussion Questions from the Leader’s Guide:

  • What does it mean to say that spirituality is not just a slice of the pie that represents our life, but is the whole pie?
  • What’s the difference between belonging to the Church and being Church?
  • What does the concept of stewardship have to do with spirituality and Church?
  • What does it mean to say that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic?
  • Why do Catholics place such great emphasis on Mary and the saints? Explain our understanding of the Communion of Saints.
  • How would you summarize the Catholic understanding of the afterlife?

Joe Paprocki starts off strong on page 37 with the statement that “the Church is not a club.” This is a concept that Father H at my parish drives home very regularly. At every baptism and wedding, he reminds the congregation that these sacraments are not private family moments but joyful occasions for the whole parish and the whole Church. And he exhorts the assembly to offer not only prayer support but the support of a true community to these families, because these sacraments are not only for a moment, but the beginning of a lifetime.

This is a concept that, I feel, is lost in a world where the Catholic culture is not as strong as it was when my parents were young. And I think that Father H is telling all of us that we need to be Church, not just “belong” to the parish and show up when we feel like it.

My parish, right now, is engaged in a community-building effort that they’ve described in our church bulletin:

Many times we ask ourselves, what more can we do as  individuals and as members of a Church family to reach out to others in our parish community. We would like to create a caring community where fellow parishioners know the names of their neighbors and where the church members come forward in times of difficulty and joy.

This is sorely needed, and I’d venture to say that my parish isn’t the only one that needs an effort like this.

The folk group I’ve belonged to since 2006 is that community for me. We’ve celebrated births, baptisms, First Communions, graduations and marriages together. We’ve rejoiced together at someone’s good news, prayed for each other frequently, delivered dinners when someone is ill, laughed together, and even provided tech support. I am so grateful to call these fellow musicians my friends, and I know I can call upon them for whatever’s needed–and they can call upon me. But we are united by more than friendship and the common bond of music. We are united by faith. We are Church for each other.

I used to dislike the phrase “being Church” because I felt it was just more spiritual jargon with nothing behind it. That’s before I had an actual experience of what it means to be Church.

What’s your take on this week’s chapter?

Lawn Chair Catechism Ch. 5


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Join the Lawn Chair Catechism discussion at every Wednesday this summer. well built faith lawn chair catechismWe’re reading A Well-Built Faith by Joe Paprocki, but you can participate even if you haven’t read the book. Check out the free Leader’s Guide, which covers the main points of the book.

These sentences from Chapter 5 really struck me:

Salvation in Jesus is not a guarantee–it is a gift. The only way to embrace salvation is to embrace the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This means that we constantly strive to die to sin and live as a new creation, performing good works in response to this great gift. (p. 36)

Salvation is not only a gift. It is a gift that came at a great price:  the Passion and Death of Jesus. We can honor the gift of our salvation by trusting God, by praying, by performing works of mercy even when they cost us greatly. Especially when they cost us greatly.

What’s your take on this week’s chapter?


well built faith lawn chair catechismSomething I read in an early chapter of the Lawn Chair Catechism book reminded me of a passage from a book I read in college. I had copied it down and hung it on the bulletin board over my desk.

That piece of paper is long gone, but I did manage to remember the title of the book where it had come from.

Of course, the book is out of print now, but I was able to locate a copy of it on Paperbackswap, which is a great way to unload books you don’t want anymore and pick up books you do want, all for the price of media-mail postage.

This afternoon, the book landed in my mailbox. I still wasn’t positive that this book was the source of the quote I could sort of still remember. I was a little disappointed that the previous owner of the book had “helpfully” highlighted various passages, but the one that meant so much to me was left unmarked. But it was in there.

the hunger you feel inside IS God. He is with you. You could not even want to be found and touched by God if he were not already touching and moving you to seek to be found by Him.

make space make symbols-from Make Space Make Symbols:  A Personal Journey into Prayer by Keith Clark, Capuchin

The truth behind those three sentences has stayed with me for over 25 years. I’m going to reread the book, and if you find yourself in a used bookshop or out-of-date church library, I recommend that you pick up a copy of this little treasure.

I guess I don’t need to write down those words again and post them on the bulletin board above my desk, because they are already written in my heart.


Lawn Chair Catechism Ch. 4

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Join the Lawn Chair Catechism discussion at every Wednesday this summer. well built faith lawn chair catechismWe’re reading A Well-Built Faith by Joe Paprocki, but you can participate even if you haven’t read the book. Check out the free Leader’s Guide, which covers the main points of the book.

Are you brand-loyal?

Over the years I’ve come to develop a short list of brands I’ll choose as a rule:

peppermint bark talenti gelato

  •  Talenti Gelato
  • Arm & Hammer or Purex detergent
  • PG Tips decaffeinated tea
  • Martin Silk & Steel guitar strings

I can be flexible on most other things–but not these. Joe Paprocki makes the point in chapter 4 of A Well-Built Faith that there’s a reputation associated with brand names, much like there’s a reputation behind our faith. In fact, there are three names behind the Catholic Faith:  the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The best part of this chapter was the “So What?” section at the end.

To live in loving relationship with others is to share in the divine life of the Trinity. This also means that we have a name to live up to….Since we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we need to live up to the name of God, the Trinity. (pp. 29-30)

We’re also reminded that acts of self-giving love share in the life of the Trinity. I never though of it that way. It takes that whole “give a cup of water in My Name” thing to a whole new level.

What’s your take on this week’s chapter?

Lawn Chair Catechism Ch. 2

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Each week this summer at, we’re exploring a chapter of Joe Paprocki’s book, A Well-Built Faith.

What struck me most about this chapter was the section on being spiritually proactive. We’re all convinced that being proactive is a good thing. But in the spiritual life, we need to step back and let God be proactive.

My own desire to become closer to God, whether through prayer, daily Mass, works of mercy or some other means, is not something I have earned or initiated. It is, in fact, a gift from God. I can choose to accept that gift and respond to it by deepening the relationship, or I can leave the gift behind.

Join us at this week’s chapter!

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Lawn Chair Catechism 2.0

Summer vacation hasn’t started here yet, but at it’s already time for Lawn Chair Catechism!

well built faith lawn chair catechism

We’re reading Joe Paprocki’s A Well-Built Faith. My copy is expected to arrive sometime today, but between substitute-teaching for the first grade and attending Middle Sister’s Baccalaureate Mass at the high school this evening, I won’t get to start reading this book for the first discussions.

If you don’t have the book yet, you can still participate by downloading the free Leaders’ Guide and then heading over to!

Lawn Chair Catechism 8.0

LawnChairCatechism-550x183On Wednesdays we join as we explore Sherry A. Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples. (Until July 31, you can purchase this book at the special price of $10 with free shipping. It’s a fascinating and challenging read.) If you haven’t read the book, you can still follow along with the study and discussion guide.

This week we are reading Chapter 7 on Openness. This is a chapter that really resonated with me. I did not know that this is the stage of faith where we lose many people to other traditions because their “spiritual needs were not being met” (p. 161) but as the chapter went on, this all made sense to me.

People in the stage of Openness are hungry and they might not know how or where to be fed. Weddell mentions “if they hesitantly come to talk to parish staff or leaders, the response is most often to try to connect them with some parish or diocesan activity” (p. 161). I’ve seen this happen. A lot. And some people stick around, while others drift away and still others abruptly disappear.

Worthy though these activities might be, that’s not necessarily what’s going to nourish the faith of a person in this stage. I think if you want to bring someone to the point of discipleship, this is the place where you need to provide them with a mentor of sorts.

The chapter concludes with a suggestion and a testimony. This is the time, the author suggests, to encourage such people to go to Adoration.

The study guide question:

Over the next six months, what changes can you personally make, to help your parish disciple those who are at the threshold of openness? If you are currently at this point yourself, to whom can you go for spiritual mentoring?

My parish is blessed to have an Adoration Chapel that is open 24/7. I think, though, it is underutilized by most of the parish. There is, of course, a core group of people who make sure someone is always present. But I feel that in a way the Adoration Chapel “belongs” to that small, closed core group. I have not visited it much, but when I do, I feel like I am barging in on someone else’s private prayer time. This might be a function of the size and layout of the chapel, which seats about 12 in a triangular space. Visiting more, not less, would probably help in that regard–yet I don’t really feel “welcome” in there. But I would also like to see my parish host an Adoration event on a larger scale, perhaps in the church itself, on a regular basis so that people would feel more welcome to experience Adoration outside of that tiny chapel.

Lawn Chair Catechism 7.0

LawnChairCatechism-550x183This week’s chapter in Forming Intentional Disciples, the book behind Lawn Chair Catechism, focuses on curiosity. One of the discussion questions focuses on the way in which we welcome the curious:

If a newcomer walked into your parish today, curious about the Catholic faith, would someone actively welcome him? Introduce him to others? Who would help him answer his questions?

I certainly hope that someone would. (And without trying to add to the workload of our already very busy and very active permanent deacons, I hope that our deacons would be the ones answering the questions. They’re knowledgeable, personable, approachable and faithful.)

Our parish (like many others) hosts an event during Advent and asks parishioners to invite their families, friends and neighbors who have wandered away from the Church. I don’t deny that this is a good idea–in theory. But year after year I listen to our pastor describe this event as having a “non-threatening atmosphere” (yes, he uses those words) and I wonder:  Is non-threatening the best we can do?

If that’s all we can manage, we’ve got a lot of work to do, and not just in conjunction with that one Advent program.

If we want people to move beyond trust, to be curious, we have to show that our faith is compelling rather than non-threatening.

Just this morning, the Pope tweeted: “If we wish to follow Christ closely, we cannot choose an easy, quiet life. It will be a demanding life, but full of joy.”

Join the discussion of this chapter at

Lawn Chair Catechism 6.0

LawnChairCatechism-550x183When I was a teenager and young adult, I attended retreats every year or so. It seemed that every retreat featured a “Trust Walk” and a “Trust Fall.”

If you’ve never had the pleasure, here’s how those work.

In a “Trust Walk” you are given a partner and a blindfold. Once your eyes are covered your partner leads you around, using verbal and nonverbal cues to make sure you don’t trip, fall, or walk into things (or other blindfolded people).

“Trust Falls” involve allowing yourself to fall backwards into the waiting arms of a person or group of people who stand behind you, ready to catch you before you crash to the ground. You can’t see the people who will catch you–you have to trust that they are there and that they’re paying attention.

cover-formingintentionaldisciplesWhile these exercises are good team-builders and ice-breakers, I’m not sure that they say all there is to say about trust where faith is concerned. In Chapter 6 of Forming Intentional Disciples, the topic is trust:  not of the blind variety, but trust with eyes wide open. The author states on page 134,

“Many people don’t trust God or the Church, but they do trust a Christian in their life. Maybe they trust you. You may be the bridge that one day will lead them to a life-changing encounter with Christ.”

For someone who is just getting started in faith, or someone whose faith has been terribly shaken but who wants to renew the relationship, trusting in a person is a huge first step. It’s also a daunting responsibility for the trusted person. You are then challenged to be more loving, to learn more, to share more, and to clarify and deepen your own beliefs. You do not want to do or say anything that will lead someone in the wrong direction.

One of the discussion questions for this chapter asks, “Have you ever been that link of trust for another person?” Yes, I have. The responsibility is huge–but it belongs to each of us.

Join the discussion of this chapter at!

Lawn Chair Catechism 4.0

It’s time again for Lawn Chair Catechism at!Image


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.