Thursday, June 13, 2013

"They Have No Wine"

It's Carnival Time at Little Brother's school and the attached parish.

I'm no fan of Carnival, but my kids are. Little Brother was sad last night because the Big Kids went there without him (he's going tomorrow!)

At dinner Little Brother asked what happens to the money that is made from the event. "Do they use that to pay for the Carnival workers?"

I explained the difference between gross receipts and profits, and listed a few of the things that the parish would have to pay for, such as ride rentals, game prizes, and the workers' salary. Then he wanted to know where the extra money goes.

"Some goes to help the school, and some goes to help the parish," I told him.

He had an easy enough time figuring out some of the things the school would do with the money. But he was mystified at why the parish might need cash flow as well. After considering it for a bit, he said, "Well, I guess they use that to buy bread and wine. There's never enough wine."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism 3.0

Once again I'm linking up with's Lawn Chair Catechism series. This week we're reading and discussing Chapter 2 of Forming Intentional Disciples, "We Don't Know What Normal Is."

Even if you didn't read the book, you're welcome to participate. But I highly recommend that you read this book. It's like a retreat in book form. (You can still get it with free shipping from OSV!)

When I hit page 54, I might as well have been looking at a picture of myself when they describe the Catholics who have received their sacraments and actively practice their Faith, but really have not developed a "personal interior journey of a lived relationship with Christ resulting in active discipleship."

I'm an introvert. I don't live life out loud anyway. But after reading this chapter, my conclusion is that the author is talking about what I'm supposed to be doing as a Secular Franciscan:  going "from Gospel to life, and life to the Gospel." Sherry Weddell uses the word "kerygma" and defines it as "the essential nucleus of the Gospel that awakens initial Christian faith." (page 66)

On to the discussion question du jour:  "Are you comfortable talking with others about your relationship with God?"
No, I'm not. I do better writing about it than talking about it, maybe because I have the delete button and arrow keys to help me rearrange the words and figure out exactly what I want to say, rather than stumbling over my clumsy spoken words. And because I can't see my audience, though I do tweet about my faith occasionally with people that I see in person. I can discuss God with one of my neighbors, and with some of the members of the folk group I've been singing with since 2006, but not so much with my family and not with strangers, either.
Plus, I'm not sure I have a good handle on that relationship. I've got a long way to go. And when others talk to me about their relationships with God, I just wind up feeling like a fraud--which proves that I do, indeed, have a long way to go.

My greatest inspiration right now is Pope Francis. Every time I read an excerpt from his homilies, or see his tweets, I am reminded--and challenged--about what it really means to follow Christ. I marvel at his ability to show the world how to live as a disciple.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Bells Are Ringing

This morning I went to Mass at the school, because they were honoring the parents who volunteered during the school year. Usually I avoid this event (it's a social-anxiety thing) but Little Brother was persistent in telling me he really wanted me to be there.

He's 11. How much longer is he going to be happy to see his mom volunteering at school? I returned the form saying I'd attend the Mass and social afterward.

When I got there, dripping from the rain because TheDad had mistakenly taken both our umbrellas to work with him, a smiling student met me at the church door and told me that all the volunteers were supposed to sit up front. So I did, because Little Brother wanted me to be there.

Fortunately there was no naming of names, just a group "all volunteers please stand up so we can thank you" at the end of Mass. I could deal with that.

Afterwards, we went into the cafegymatorium for a nice little reception. There were two decorated tables with these cute gifts that the first and second grades had put together--with handwritten thank-you notes from the kids. There were smiling seventh-graders pouring our coffee and juice and inviting us to take fruit and pastries.

I sat next to a mom whose oldest son is in Little Brother's class, and across the table from a mom whom I don't know, but who had a beautiful one-year-old daughter with her. The little girl had made an impression on me during Mass; she was very quiet most of the time, but when the altar server rang the bell, she exclaimed, "Yay! Bells!" Both times.

That reminded me of Little Brother at the same age. Big Brother was an altar server then, and I was up front with the choir. TheDad would sit in the back with Little Brother, and when the servers rang the bells, Little Brother would yell, "Big Brother's ringing the bells!" You could hear him throughout the whole church.

I was telling the other moms at my table about this, and the mom with a boy in Little Brother's class said that her sons used to ask her why the servers rang the bells. Her answer was that they ring the bells to show that this is an important moment. Of course, the next week, when the bells would ring, one of her boys would (loudly) say, "It's an important moment, right, Mom?"

I was dreading that reception, and even thought about ducking out on it, but I'm glad I went. I'm glad I sat with moms who bring their children to Mass. I'm glad my child attends this school where the kids are taken to church and can learn about Jesus and why it's an important moment when the bells ring. I'm glad that the parents can share, through funny stories about what their own kids did in church, how we help our children understand those important moments.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism 2.0

Joining up with Lawn Chair Catechism, hosted at!

I'm not through chapter 1 of the book yet, but it starts out with some distressing stats about retention. Specifically, is the Church keeping the folks it baptizes? (Sadly, not very well.)

I'm a cradle Catholic, as are my parents, my husband, my siblings and my children. But participation varies, despite childhoods centered on Catholic school and Mass attendance.

Right now I struggle with my older kids' attitudes about Mass. I wish that all my kids wanted to go to Mass on Sunday, wanted to find a way to serve the Church and to know God better.

I am here to say that bringing them to Mass each and every Sunday of their lives is not enough. Sending them to Catholic school is not enough. Praying Grace before meals is not enough. All of these are good things. None of them are guarantees.

I wonder, sometimes, if that fact that my own relationship with God has not been enough to inspire my family. Do I show them that faith is a joyful, difficult, exciting, scary struggle? Or do my actions (and words) lead them to believe that faith is less about living and more about following the rules?

To form intentional disciples we must first become intentional disciples. Does the faith I have on the inside show on the outside? Do my actions speak louder than the Tau cross I wear around my neck?

I've got a lot of work to do.

(My impression of the book, Forming Intentional Disciples? So far so good! You've still got time to order it at the discount price of $10 with FREE shipping, through Saturday, June 8!)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Thinking Ahead

Little Brother:  "My pen pal this year has so much in common with me! He wants to be a Marine or a soccer player, and I want to be in the Army or a soccer player."

Me:  "The Army? Not the Air Force?"

LB:  "Definitely Army."

Me:  "Why not Air Force?"

LB:  "Air Force is too dangerous."

Me:  "They're BOTH dangerous."

LB:  "Yeah, but if you get hit in a plane, you definitely die. Unless you have a parachute."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism 1.0

Lawn Chair Catechism has officially launched over at! I don't have my book yet, since I only just ordered it yesterday, but I'll be sure to catch up on the Recommended Reading once my copy arrives.

In the meantime, I read the introductory discussion that Sarah posted this morning. There's discussions going on in the comment box, and there's a link-up for blogs as well, for longer responses to the questions raised.

I really related to the story of the parish leader who confessed that she didn't have a "relationship with God." I have felt that way myself. I remember attending a Christ Renews His Parish retreat shortly before I was married. My husband was very involved in that retreat program at the time, and he encouraged me to go on the women's retreat. It seems to be a self-seeding organization--you attend a retreat and then you're on the team of presenters for the next one.

I was 25--a good bit younger in years and life experience than most of the other women there. That was fine during the retreat itself, but in the weekly meetings afterward where we began to prepare for the next retreat, it became an issue. We were supposed to be able to give a talk about the moment where God really came into our lives.

I didn't have a big, dramatic moment. All the other women did. I actually fled the meeting in tears, feeling like a fake because I couldn't come up with some time in my life when God smacked me in the head and made me notice Him.

Throughout most of my life, I have been a leader in my church:  through music ministry, campus ministry, religious education, and Secular Franciscans (where I hold a leadership position in my local fraternity.) And many, many times I feel like a fraud because I don't have that outward, obvious Relationship With God for all to see. I pray the Liturgy of the Hours. I play music at Mass and attend daily Mass when possible. I wear a Tau. And I find myself leaning on God more, and trying to do the right thing.

Am I an Intentional Disciple? I think I'm working on it. I'm getting better. It's a SLOW process, this growing-up-in-faith, and baby steps seem to be the name of the game, at least for me. Could I define my Relationship With God? I don't think so, and if pushed, I'd probably flee in tears, just like I did at that meeting 22 years ago.

Recently on Twitter, someone mused that she wished she had a thicker skin. I replied that I wished the same for myself, but that a thick skin can keep love out just as effectively as it keeps hurts out--and God is love, so praying for a thicker skin might be counterproductive.

The fact that I recognized this is, I think, a sign that I'm opening the door a crack--a door that I've kept closed far too long.