This week’s Lawn Chair Catechism post is up over at CatholicMom.com, and I’m joining the discussion here.
What song came up as I started this but “Amazing Grace”? No, really. (I often write to the tune of the Great Outdoors on my back porch. The soundtrack of actual music is not my usual thing.)
But what is grace? I liked Weddell’s approach:
Grace is a word that bears the weight of multiple meanings, both in English and in Greek (charis). It is at once the fruit of God’s acting upon us and a free supernatural gift of God to help us attain eternal life. Grace empowers our intellects and wills to understand God’s will and obey it, yet at the same time it leaves us free to resist if we choose. It is, in a word, love received and given.
Well then. Mark that down, future Confirmation students, because it’s a definition I’m committing to memory.
I’ll admit that this chapter struck about three different chords with me, and maybe I’m a little troubled and confused.
I’m an example of the graces of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. I don’t think I walked into that Easter Vigil in 2001 with the right disposition at all. And I think I really, REALLLLLY needed the sacraments to start the Great Takedown of Sarah’s Huge Ego and open the way for God.
Weddell states in this chapter that “Passively receiving a sacrament is not enough.” She continues,
The grace we receive is directly related to the personal faith, spiritual expectancy, and hunger with which we approach the sacrament.
And later on, there’s this bit quoted from Karl Rahner,
It is meaningless to increase the frequency with which a sacrament is received if there is no growth in the personal moral participation by the individual in the accomplishment of the sacrament, i.e., in his disposition.
In the margin, I wrote, “My brain just exploded.”
Without the sacraments, I wouldn’t be where I am today, spiritually, however wounded and thwarted and imperfect that place is. It’s better than where I was, where I have been, where I was heading.
But then, this:
If we don’t intentionally seek to continue to grow in our faith, the initial grace we received can be thwarted.
Safe to say I never got this memo before. Not once. Never.
And wow. Wow. WOW.
What comes to mind is the scads of Confirmandi who will continue with their intense practices and social commitments and stop all religious education. What makes me sad is thinking of the many who just show up.
But showing up is the first step. I don’t want to read into this something that’s not there (and I think, in this chapter especially, I’m tempted to do that).
I’m broken. I can’t define, so often, what “love” is or what it looks and feels like. Oh, I can write about it, exhaustively. But to live it? I’m less able.
In my brokenness, woundedness, and imperfection, I find a lifeline in the sacraments. When I let go and let the Holy Spirit use me, I realize that I may not ever feel anything. The tears may seep out of me, and I’ll see them from a distance, marveling and annoyed.
This chapter was beautiful for its presentation and explanation of not just what the sacraments are and how they work, but for the greater conversion they effect. Part of being a disciple is folding your fingers back over Jesus’ outstretched hand, gripping on and not letting go. And, when you’re in doubt, letting his firm hold pull you through.
Join the discussion over at CatholicMom.com! There’s a summary (you don’t have to read the book to participate!) and some great questions to get you started.