Lawn Chair Catechism, Session 5: Grace and the Great Quest



Welcome to the 5th session of Lawn Chair Catechism, using Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, by Sherry Weddell (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012).

A few notes:

  • You’ll be able to leave comments and/or leave your link at the end.
  • You do not have to read the book to participate. Check out our discussion guide. There’s plenty to get started with if that’s all you use (one page a week).
  • And don’t forget: Our Sunday visitor has extended their $10 and free shipping offer until July 31.

This week, we’ll be covering Chapter 4: Grace and the Great Quest.



Will “the sacrament take care of it?” How much does it matter whether a candidate for the sacraments desires to know Jesus Christ, and has a basic understanding of what that relationship entails?

A belief in the efficacy of the sacraments – that supernatural grace is indeed imparted – mustn’t devolve into superstition.  Sherry Weddell summarizes Church teaching on the question of mature faith:

 . . . the council’s Decree on Justification describe in great detail the sort of spiritual development that needs to be in place in order for an adult to receive baptism fruitfully.  It includes the following:

  • Being moved to faith by hearing the basic proclamation of Jesus Christ and his work of salvation.
  • Moving intentionally toward God.
  • Believing in what God has revealed – especially that God saves sinners through redemption in Jesus Christ.
  • Recognizing that one is a sinner.
  • Trusting in the mercy of God.
  • Beginning to hope in and love God.
  • Repenting of personal sin.
  • Resolving to be baptized, to begin a new life, and to walk in the obedience of faith.

There is one obvious descriptor for someone who has lived all the above: disciple.

She clarifies that a concern for the inward beliefs of those in the pews is no excuse for an inquisition.  Jesus is quite emphatic in insisting we do not know what is going on in our neighbor’s heart.  But she insists:

But this does not meant that no fruits of personal faith are observable from the outside.  And it certainly does not mean that a dramatic and widespread absence of these fruits in the community overall cannot be recognized and addressed.  Nor does it mean that we shouldn’t talk about these realities and structure our pastoral priorities and practices around doing everything we can to foster positive disposition and the fruit that flows from it.

For discussion:

In your own faith:

  • It can be hard to settle our minds on the idea of “cooperating with grace”.  How would you explain the Catholic doctrine on salvation to others?

In your parish:

  • How does your parish currently respond when there are serious doubts about the readiness of a candidate for the sacraments?
  • How would a discipleship model of preparation fit into your current approach?

Join the discussion!

We’ll be “talking” in the combox, too, so please leave your thoughts there as well!


About Author

When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Three Shots and follow her writing at Snoring Scholar.


  1. What a challenging chapter! Can anybody help me locate a Latin-to-English dictionary? I am reminded in St. John’s Gospel, He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit. (John 15:2)

    I’m feeling a bit pruned . . . now I just need to figure out if it’s because I was or wasn’t bearing fruit.

  2. Pingback: FID Week 5: Grace and Works | Jennifer Fitz

  3. Kelly Guest on

    My daughter who is about to be Confirmed in September was just lamenting on this same subject. Many of her fellow confirmandi do not know the 10 Commandments, not alone the Gifts of the Holy Spirit or much else about their faith after 10 years of Religious Ed. Plus, they think they can dissent on Church teachings, without even knowing what exactly and why the Church takes certain stands on moral issues.

    When she got into the car after Confirmation class with tears in her eyes one day, I suggested she talk to the DRE. To her credit she did share her concerns about her classmates and her desire and fustration in their desire for holiness. In short, she received the “Can’t judge their hearts; the sacrament will take care of it” answer. So sad. Pastors, Bishops and DRE are at fault. And I am speaking as a former DRE.

  4. As many adults as there are who suffer from the “code of silence,” I think we forget that teens suffer from it too. How many of them have actually been told about the difference between OBJECTIVE salvation and SUBJECTIVE salvation? Do they know why they’re there, or are they being expected to do it for another reason?

    That’s the question, particularly since they’re old enough that their consent is important in the matter. I mean, I’m no expert on confirmation, but isn’t that part of the reason for confirmation?

    • Susan Martin on

      Hi Jan,

      I would love to hear more about the difference between objective and subjective salvation.
      Is that in the Catechism? (Displaying my ignorance, I know…)


      • Yes, but the concept is at once very simple and very profound, thus the theological concepts and distinctions that surround it and make it difficult to sum up in just one or two quotes. Sherry Weddell does an excellent job of using the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), theology and other Church documents to make these ideas easier to understand.

        However, very simply put it can be sketched out roughly, with a few references which you can follow up on and look at in more detail as you wish:

        Christ died for the sins of the entire human race. This is objective salvation.
        CCC 622-623. But obviously that’s not the end of the story or there would be no Church, no evangelization and no choices to be made. Everyone would be automatically saved. There would be no need for the mission of the Church spoken of so often in Scripture, or for the very personal language of the Vine and the Branches. So, there is another part.

        A Christian must undergo conversion to accept Christ’s saving act. This is subjective salvation.
        CCC 1425-1429 & 1431. This is the response to the gift which has been given. All gifts require a response and this is no different. Without the response, the gift goes unopened, unacknowledged. CCC 2002.

        In the CCC, there’s whole section on “God’s Salvation: Law and Grace” which explains the idea of salvation very well. It’s paragraphs #1987-2029.

        Note that the CCC is very explicit about the fact that the fruit of the sacramental life is both ecclesial and personal. Some Catholics have a tendency to minimalize the personal demands and consequences of the sacraments.

        The catechism is also clear about what reception without response is: superstition. CCC114.

        If you haven’t read Sherry Weddell’s book, I really recommend it. It’s very good, explains in a much better fashion, and covers many misunderstandings around this topic and misunderstandings about the spiritual life in general.

        PS. In the book, Sherry used the words “objective” and “subjective redemption.” (p.99) I have paraphrased, using the words “objective” and “subjective salvation” in my comment above.

      • PS. In an everyday manner of speaking, we tend to use “objective” to mean “verifiable” and “subjective” to mean “a matter of opinion.” That’s common parlance. However, this use of the words “objective” and “subjective” is somewhat more technical than that. Here, “objective” means “once and for all” or “by Christ alone” while “subjective” means “receptive” or “responsive.”

        Christ gives the gift, the offer once and for all, and we choose to take him up on his offer. The Church does it as a whole, and we within the Church, do it individually, since the relationship that is formed is at once both ecclesial and individual. You can see this in scripture as well as in theology from many sources, both old and new. For this reason, “subjective” can also mean “individual.”

        So, your journey matters, but the interesting thing is that we are all pilgrims on the same journey, and the Church we are in is on the journey too. You’ll hear many times that Catholicism is not the religion of Either/Or, but Both/And. This is a good example.

  5. Susan Martin on

    I was confirmed via RCIA in April and nobody asked me to recite the gifts of the Holy Spirit or even the Ten Commandments. I would have been thrilled! I thought there would be tests and quizzes and scary Catholic education directors asking us to recite involved questions on obscure points of doctrine. Alas, no. It was a lot like Protestant religious education, in that it was all about one’s “personal journey”. I thought to myself, “No, it’s not about my personal journey, it’s about Christ’s journey from heaven to the cross and ultimately back to redeem all the earth.” Surely there are some objective measures of whether or not one is adequately catechised to receive the sacraments. It cannot be completely subjective on the part of the believer, or we would be on shaky ground indeed regarding formation. On the other hand, I firmly believe that the church sacraments and sacramental life are what is missing from the other half of the Body of Christ, so the grace that they impart is unique and cannot be exchanged for any other type of gifting.

      • Susan Martin on

        Thank you Jan, for an excellent introduction to receptive vs. objective salvation. It really made my day. I am fascinated by how much more there always seems to be in Catholic theology. How rich I feel! It’s like pulling a wonderful string of scarves out of a trunk only to find the fabrics growing more intricate and of a more intensely glowing color each time. You are right, an individual’s growth process in grace and knowledge must surely matter, but it seems like there should be some criterion that the Church should use to determine the stage of growth, rather than just leaving it up to the individual.

  6. Susan Martin on

    Er, speaking of sacraments, does anyone want to talk about confession? No? Drat.

    I actually love the sacrament of confession, but I don’t understand why I am not better at it. I have read all about it, and I still end up thinking to myself, “gee, that is not what I wanted/ intended to confess..” Is there a better way? I also always end up with exactly the same penance. Is this my lack of proper catechesis? At the same time, I wonder if the sacrament of confession is a great way to increase your faith in all the sacraments, because it is the one that is least dependent on circumstances.

    • Yes, let’s talk confession, Susan! 🙂 And I’ve been struggling with that “I’m no good at it” thing too…for YEARS.

      Here’s what I’ve found, and just recently.

      1. I just have to do it. Practice may not make perfect, but monthly, minimum. It keeps me in right relationship with God, and when that relationship’s off, EVERYTHING is off.

      2. Having a regular confessor is great. He gets that I’m fumbling and bumbling and stumbling. He helps. And he is truly the face of Jesus to me, loving me and extending that hand of discipleship to me.

      3. I suspect no one is “good” at confession. Seriously.

      There’s a book that will be out in August by Vinny Flynn that I got to read in advance. It’s AWESOME and I will be touting it like crazy, because it gave me a whole new perspective on confession. It’s called “7 Secrets of Confession,” and it will be out from Ignatius Press. Really good. One of the things it made me see, that was a big CLICK for me, was that confession is about RELATIONSHIP, not really about sin. Forgiveness is great, but what we do when we go to confession, when we tap into the graces of the sacrament, is we put things right with God.

      Seriously, I’m pretty sure my brain exploded.

      Confession is a gem of the Catholic Church. I am always telling people that I love Catholic guilt. It’s what sends me to confession and gets things all taken care of.

  7. Susan Martin on

    Thanks, Sarah! I’ll be tracking down that book yet today…it confirms what I suspected: that it does not really matter how you confess as long as you are building a relationship with Jesus. I heard a pastor once compare confession to taking a shower; “how odd,” I thought, “since I don’t have a relationship with my shower stall.” To me the sacrament is also about being filled up with grace in addition to being about the sin you are getting rid of.

  8. Well, it took me long enough, but by the grace of God, I finally got my submission in.

    As you can see, my charism of procrastination is flourishing. >:-(

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