Archive for the ‘Lawn Chair Catechism’ Category

railwaytracksWith such instability in our world today, we may be searching for perspective. Consider first, perspective in Art.

Perspective drawings have a horizon line, which is often implied. This line, directly opposite the viewer’s eye, represents objects infinitely far away. They have shrunk, in the distance, to the infinitesimal thickness of a line named after the Earth’s horizon.

In a perspective drawing, the scene  includes parallel lines that have one or more vanishing points.   All lines parallel with the viewer’s line of sight recede to the horizon towards this vanishing point. This is the standard “receding railroad tracks” phenomenon.

But this line is seen not only in Art, but also in Philosophy–the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

The French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, refers to it as The Omega Point,  and thought of it as a cone–one that we are all rising through to its apex–Christ.  He clarifies it like this: “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” (Flannery O’Connor fans will recall this as the title of her last short story collection, influenced by the philosophy of de Chardin).

“In a Universe of “Conical” structure Christ has a place (the apex!) ready for Him to fill, when His Spirit can radiate through all the centuries and all beings; and because of the genetic links running through all the levels of Time and Space between the elements of a convergent world, the Christ-influence, far from being restricted to the mysterious zones of “grace,” spreads and penetrates throughout the entire mass of Nature in movement. In such a world Christ cannot sanctify the Spirit without (as the Greek Fathers intuitively perceived) uplifting and saving the totality of Matter. Christ becomes truly universal to the full extent of Christian needs, and in conformity with the deepest aspirations of our age the Cross becomes the Symbol, the Way, the very Act of progress…..”

I will pause the quote here–because this speaks to me–in a philosophical way– as an explanation of  why there is suffering in our God-created world, something so hard for a human being to accept!

But de Chardin continues…”Within a Universe of convergent structure the only possible way in which an element can draw closer to its neighboring elements is by tightening the cone. In such an order of things no man can love his neighbor without drawing nearer to God and, of  course, reciprocally (but this we knew already). But it is also impossible (this is newer to us) to love either God or our neighbor without assisting the progress, in its physical entirety, of the terrestrial synthesis of the spirit: since it is precisely the progress of this synthesis which enables us to draw closer together among ourselves, while at the same time it raises us toward God.”

Another pause, because I see in this a value for suffering.

de Chardin, continuing again…”Because we love, and in order that we may love even more, we find ourselves happily and especially compelled to participate in all the endeavors, all the anxieties, all the aspirations and also all the affections of the earth….”

As a child, my grandmother –who lived to be nearly one hundred years old– never failed to comment on the pain of my skinned knees, the loss of a boyfriend, my less than good grade, or any of my youthful disappointments  Her words were always. “Offer it up.” I had no real idea what she was talking about until I reached adulthood and went through some very trying and tearful times. Her words were the same, with a little added on: “Offer it up. Suffering has a value.”

But because  we are humanour physical selves  find that hard to accept. So I think we have to be philosophical about it. We have to have a perspective. We have to raise our minds to the intangible to come to any idea of why suffering?


rough water Walking on Water

Beginning something new and unknown is often frightening. We fear the results. We think we don’t know what we’re doing. But not knowing what we’re doing isn’t always a bad thing. Especially if you’re trusting in someone who does.

The trick in beginning anything is not to lose faith. We have to keep our eyes on the prize. And if we need help, ask for it. And who better to ask than Jesus?

So we’ll get our feet wet. We’ll try. And we’ll expect success. Because in our souls, we possess the only real model, and we are made in His image. He will not let us drown.

After feeding the 5000, Jesus sends his disciples ahead of him in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. Later in the night, a storm comes up and the disciples are afraid. Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. This terrifies the disciples who think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” So Jesus invites Peter to come.

shadowWhen we follow a person on Twitter, it’s because we either admire him or her, or because we’re curious. We may not be a fan, yet; but we want to see what makes this person tick, how he or she goes about things, even what he has to offer us in return. If we like what we see, we’re enthusiastic. We’re devoted. We are a Fan.

Are we true fans of Jesus? Do we attempt to shadow His goodness?
Shadowing Jesus isn’t about showing up for the church committees we may serve on. Following Him isn’t about putting in an appearance at Mass on Sunday. Following Jesus is personal: Jesus and me.

My path to growth is taken as a child of God. This path involves others, but if it doesn’t begin with me, it is a fruitless and futile effort. Once we have that personal beginning, we will naturally reach out to others.

On our new path, we attempt to emulate–to be like Jesus. In the beginning of our imitation of Him, we discover the stirring of a fact we may not have realized: we are already His. We are made in His image. We are made to be good.

And He wants us. He wants us to freely choose Him. But we have the ability to say yes or no. On our path of following Him, when He turns to us and asks us to be a reflection of His goodness, how many times have we said, no? I would suggest many.
However, each step we take with Him, each communicative step, each conversation with our God—whether positive or negative on our part, is a step to growth. Because God will never leave us, though we may leave Him, time and time again.

The trick is never to give up on the following. To learn what makes Him tick. How He goes about things. We have to understand what He offers us in return.

Outward discipleship can be an off and on thing, like pulling petals off a daisy in a reversed child’s game: I love Him. I don’t love Him. I love Him. I don’t Love Him. After all, we are flawed and fragile.
But God is perfect. God is always. His grace through the Holy Spirit is forever present. We have to choose, and sometimes re-choose it; nevertheless, our genuine path as Human Beings is to continue to follow Truth in our walk with Jesus.

Lawn Chair: Surrender

Posted: August 14, 2013 in Lawn Chair Catechism

This week, the questions for discussion are:

In your own faith:
•How would you describe what your spiritual gifts are (or might be)?
•In what ways could you evangelize or disciple others using those gifts?

For parishioners:
•Think for a moment about the other members of your parish. Who do you know who seems to have a very evident gift for some type of ministry, but perhaps is not aware of it?

For pastoral leaders:
•Think for a moment about the lay leaders of your parish. Which would you describe as “disciples”? As not yet disciples? [Or: Don’t really know.]
•Over the next six months, what steps can you take to help the disciples learn to evangelize? To help disciples-to-be grow in their faith?

I think all these questions hinge first on knowing “Who’s the Boss?”
The answer, of course, is God. Before any of these questions can be answered or even considered, we have to recognize that. Because sometimes I think we as Catholics get ‘very heady.’ Yes, we’ve been given gifts–each of us, distinct gifts–but many don’t know what our gifts are because we haven’t truthfully surrendered ourselves to the only one who’ll give us that knowledge.

Tomorrow is the Feast of The Assumption. Of all people, Mary knew surrender. So, I’m re-posting the following:


Mary, the mother of Jesus, surrendered. If she hadn’t, there would be no Jesus Christ. If she hadn’t, there would be no Christianity. If she hadn’t, we’d never have heard the words, “eternal life.” In fact, we would have no idea how to attain it.

Mary allowed God to use her; and yes, she could have said no. She had free will just like the rest of us. Almighty God would never have forced her to bear His son.

For a moment, put yourself in her position. When Mary was asked to be that vessel by a messenger from God, what would she have thought–“Am I going crazy? Do I really see an angel? Am I dreaming?”

She was engaged to be married. How would Joseph react if she turned up pregnant? He had the right to have her stoned. But there was something in her, a grace given by God that allowed her to trust that the angel was His messenger. She didn’t ask for proof that she would become the mother of the Redeemer. Her only question was, “How?” She trusted that nothing is impossible for God, and then she surrendered.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy will.” Luke 1:38

Why do we feel we have to be in complete charge of every aspect of our lives? Why are we so afraid to give up control and surrender ourselves and our problems totally to the will of God? Is it that we don’t believe that He loves us—-really and personally loves each one of us? Because if we don’t first believe that He loves us, then there’s no way we’ll trust Him. sad

Stop a minute and think about it. The person I trust most in the world is the person who loves me, who wants only the best for me, and would lay down his life for me if he had to.

If I believe that Almighty God loves me—-and he does–then why shouldn’t I trust Him enough to surrender all?

Lawn Chair Catechism

Posted: August 7, 2013 in Lawn Chair Catechism



When my oldest daughter was about four or five, she looked up at the Crucifix and then to me for an explanation of why Jesus was hanging there.

“The bad men didn’t like what He was saying and they got mad,” I told her. “So they put Sweet Jesus on the cross.”

“What did Sweet Jesus say to make them mad?” she asked. (more…)

writingBreaking the Silence: Recognizing God’s Grace

On September 14, from 9 am until noon in my parish hall, I will lead a workshop supported by our pastor, entitled “Stories of Faith.”

What do we hope to accomplish with this?

We’d like to uncover some of the wonderful stories from Saint Columba parishioners about the presence of God in their lives—specific times when a parishioner felt most led, or protected, or comforted by their faith in God. On the other hand, there may have been situations in which some parishioners felt the lack of God. So this will also be a very personal opportunity to understand and consider reasons why they felt alone. (more…)

talkingA Threshold Conversation


I think I’m so fortunate to live where I do, in a place that often discusses God. There’s no ‘hush, hush’ about speaking the name of Jesus Christ, no hesitance to ‘give God the Glory,’—a phrase often used by local Protestants. I don’t mean in church either. I mean in the grocery store, the Mall, or the dentist’s office. If you want to talk about God, you just do it. If there’s a silence here, it doesn’t come from most Protestants.

However, many Protestants here still have reservations about Catholics, so in a Threshold Conversation with Protestants, a Catholic should stress the beliefs we agree on, not the beliefs in which we don’t agree.

In my local Catholic church, there are two basic groups of Catholics: those who have been transplanted here, and those who are native Southerners. The first group is varied within itself, because our parish is solidly multi-cultural with Asian, African American, Hispanic, and other parishioners from all over the USA. The second group, native Southerners, is now probably the minority. (more…)


To open a thing implies some sort of effort. It may be a somewhat violent, forceful effort, such as opening a lock box when you can’t find the key, or even cracking a coconut with a hammer. Or it could be a gentle opening, such as the quiet pushing open of the door to a sleeping child’s room to check on him. Whether forceful or gentle, some result will be had from the effort, but that result will not be because of us. We need to be careful of seeing ourselves as that important. We need to know our limitations.

When it comes to Faith, I think only God, by His grace, does the opening. And I think it is sometimes a gentle opening, but often a forceful one. How many times do people ‘hit the bottom’ and then change and rise to the top. Could they have risen if they hadn’t first fallen? These sorts of things are in the hands of a loving God’s permissive will.

I do believe we can influence a person’s opening to Faith by our example, our presence, and our prayers. And these are heavy-weight things. When he or she is experiencing sorrow or joy, we can be alongside as conduits of God’s grace. But we should not think of ourselves as the ones ‘doing the opening.’

Be there for them? Yes! But ‘meet someone else’s spiritual needs’ and expect them to change because of it?’ Only God can do that.

What is the difference between an active and passive faith? 

A passive faith is rote: a mechanical repetition of something so that it is remembered, but often without real understanding of its meaning or significance.

A passive faith is a Sunday thing.  We go to Mass and Communion. But on Monday, other ‘more pressing’ things take over and Sunday is forgotten. We may throw out a few prayers. We may read a little scripture, but literally, we sleep through being in tune with Jesus.


“Act and God will act, work and He will work.” —Joan of Arc (more…)

I’d like to comment on the following quote about discipleship as it pertains to my parish and her priests.

The question is not, “Who can I persuade to fill this vacancy?”  The question is, “Who has God put in my parish, and what does He want them to do?” (more…)