Lawn Chair Catechism: Initiate Catholic Life

Welcome to this week’s Lawn Chair Catechism discussion! For an explanation of the project, hosted by CatholicMom.com, as well as links to the book and discussion guide, go to my page for Lawn Chair Catechism 2.0. For links to other bloggers’ thoughts on this week’s readings, head here.

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This week, we read about the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Through these Sacraments, we become transformed into followers of Christ.

In Baptism, our sins are forgiven and our souls washed clean. God adopts each of us in that moment as His child. Original Sin is washed away, symbolized in the water, but actually happening in our souls. Remember that the symbols of the Sacraments are efficacious — they do the very thing they symbolize. Water washes our bodies clean, and Baptism washes our souls clean.

Confirmation (which is tied directly to Baptism in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church) seals us with the Holy Spirit, Who we received at Baptism. Confirmation is not, as some of us were taught, a rite of passage to adulthood in the Church, but is meant to strengthen us as Christians in order to be soldiers of Christ. This doesn’t mean that we are called to fight in a literal sense, but that we are called to defend the faith publicly. Confirmation strengthens us to do this, just as the Apostles were strengthened by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and went from frightened men, hiding in a locked room, to bold preachers of the faith, Baptizing 3,000 new Christians the very same day. Never underestimate what the Holy Spirit can do through you. All that’s required is to be truly open to Him.

Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith. It is the end-all-be-all! It is Christ Himself! Jesus promised us in John 6 that He would provide His own Flesh and Blood as real food and drink, and He fulfilled that promise in the Last Supper. We take part in this — which is what it means to “remember” — at every Mass. While we are required to go every Sunday, more frequent reception of Holy Communion does so much to strengthen us for our lives as Christians. Just as daily prayer can start the day right, we can also be fortified in our faith by daily Mass. Even one extra Mass during the week is something that brings us strength and feed our souls in a way that nothing else can.

The discussion questions for this week are:

• What does it mean to be initiated into something? When was a time that you experienced initiation into a group?

• What does it mean that our Initiation into the Church is not a once-and-done deal?

• Why do you think the Church celebrates Initiation on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil?

• How do the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit affect our lives?

• What does it mean to say that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians?

• What significance is there to the fact that the word Mass comes from the Latin word for sent or dismissed?

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I’d like to focus on just one of these questions this week:

• What does it mean to say that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians?

The source of our lives is God. As our Creator, He holds us all in the palm of His hand, and without Him, we have no life. If He stopped thinking of us, we would cease to exist.

The Eucharist is also Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and so in a very real way, it is the source of our lives. At the same time, it sustains our spiritual lives, which is the most important kind of living we do. When Christ works through the priest at the Consecration, the simple bread and wine we bring forward as gifts become the very Body and Blood of God!

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I read once that to really understand what it means for the Eucharist to be the summit of our faith, we need to climb a really big mountain. It’s difficult work, and there are times when you are working towards that summit when you don’t think you’ll make it, but when you finally get there, it’s amazing! The views are stunning, and all that hard work made it worth it.

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I can think of it like my Couch to 5K training. There are days I do not want to run. But I want to get healthier, and I want to get better, so I make myself go out and run. This morning was a perfect case: I didn’t feel like running, and I didn’t even feel that great when I got up. I knew the next day of Couch to 5K was going to be a 25 minute run without walking intervals, and I considered chickening out and doing something else. Maybe I’d just run for 15-20 minutes and do the training session tomorrow.

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But I pushed myself, and decided that I would give it a go. When I started, my legs felt tight, and I started getting a cramp. I suddenly decided I was tired of my warm-up song (“Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin), and my knees were angry at me for running again. I started questioning the wisdom of parking where I did, knowing I’d be near the end of my run when I had to go up this nasty hill. But after running for about 10 minutes, I started feeling better. Not less tired, but better. In the middle of the run, I was still tired, but I was feeling grateful for the little things along the way: the shade of the trees, the cool breeze coming off the river, the fact that the construction guy near my turnaround point held off traffic so I didn’t have to stop.

Then it happened! I finished my run — all 25 minutes! — and I felt so great! Yes, my legs were still tired. Yes, I was still out of breath. Yes, that stitch was still there in my side. But I finished the run! I just felt good for having made it through!

Our week between Sundays can be like that. I want to live a better Christian life, but it’s hard. I don’t feel like it some days. I get up and pray Lauds, but I’m not feeling it. It’s like I’m going through the motions. I’m sure you’ve had weeks where praying isn’t really high on your list of “Fun Things To Do Today.” Days when you just aren’t getting consolations. Dry times.

But when we push through, there are abundant graces and mercies that come from it. Being there to receive Jesus in the Flesh is one of those graces that can help us carry on for another week. If you’re feeling discouraged, if you’re feeling stuck in a spiritual rut, push on. Climb to the summit. Keep on reaching out to God. He’ll come through — He always does.

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