I'm enjoying the reflective component of participating in Lawn Chair Catechism. You can participate too, even if you don't get Sherry Wendell's book, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012).
This exercise is designed for both the individual called to discipleship, and the parish at large, but since I cannot speak for my parish, I am only a member, I will focus on the individual component.
Most are steeped in their faith. I don't feel I should speculate or discuss a faith story that is not my own. I do know, what makes us followers of Christ is a sense 1) that we know God is and that 2) He is profoundly interested in our lives, in our happiness.
How do we come to know the first fact and thus the second?
In my own life, it was the efficacy of prayer. I knew we prayed. I prayed for certain things. I also understood or had the grace of knowing when my prayers had been answered, yes, no, wait. God was not a genii, but He remained present in all things, I couldn't miss Him.
Having parents that prayed, that went to mass more than weekly, that told us to pray whenever we had a problem no matter how seemingly hard/small, as part of the process and who would ask if we were still grousing, "Did you pray?" helped. So prayer. Daily talks and walks with God, no matter the method, Dad's favorite was the rosary, Mom read the daily readings or went to mass, helped instill prayer as a first response to all things such that my own kids roll their eyes when I say the same thing. Even though they also swear that I have Saint Anthony on speed dial given his response to my requests.
How do we know He is profoundly interested in our lives? For me, it is the daily readings of scripture, that seem always when I need it, to speak directly to whatever it is that is going on in my life. You would think I'd know and be used to coming to the mass or the readings and finding God's words written just for me by now. But I am always shocked to the core when the gospel or psalm or the songs line up to explain to me whatever it is I am pondering and how immediate the understanding is, almost before thinking, as if these words or thoughts were always written on my heart, I just had not read them yet.
How do I teach this to the next generation? This is the challenge of every parent.
We're taking them to mass. We pray daily. They hear the stories of our faith struggles. I'm hoping, all this witness sticks. I do worry that sometimes, they only see the duty and not the joy, or that they don't recognize that this is joy when they feel overwhelmed by the level of craziness of our everyday. When this worry tempts me to become anxious, I use the rosary as my lifeline to talk to God and discover all the things I've been carrying around. Petitioning with each Hail Mary, I feel very confident laying everything at Mary's feet, the big and the little stuff.
But ultimately, some of my strongest memories of childhood come from having a family, even an extended family, that would go to mass together and then feast on a regular basis. Sundays at mass and then a meal with cousins and uncles and aunts and friends, fried chicken and eggs benedict and bacon, grits and tamales. This was a ritual. Mass mattered, it mattered to the whole family, the tall and the small.
And it wasn't just my family. Sundays at the Newman center where my parents volunteered as retreat coordinators, with the college students who said mass and played guitar and talked about Who am I, Who am I in relation to others and Who am I in relation to God...or that's what my brain remembers from the posters they'd make when I was allowed to tag along and listen and draw pictures illustrating whatever they said. My drawings had probably more bunnies and rainbows than they talked about, but the substance despite going over my head, sunk in eventually. Mass was central. Mass mattered. Mass was the essence of our faith.
So what do we do to be disciples...pray, witness, and feast on the Eucharist, and afterwards with each other. Sounds like a fun way to live.