The Grace of Belief: Chapter 1 {Grace of Yes Book Club}

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Welcome to the Grace of Yes Book Club! We’re reading Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living.

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Lisa’s beautiful testimony in this chapter, “The Grace of Belief,” shows how blessings come from sticking it out through the hard times to get to the gold.

Do we really believe there will never by any hardships or trials in life? Maybe not consciously, but I think we often operate that way on a subconscious level. We complain when things don’t go our way as if bad things aren’t supposed to happen to us if we’re faithful Christians. However, grace flows from the crucible where mature Christian faith is born. The fruit of Lisa’s faith, strained but not broken, is the proof.

I was struck by her admittance that even though she had a very strong faith in high school and college, looking back she could see that it wasn’t mature.

“I can see now that believing back then was largely a ‘What’s in it for me?’ proposal. I believed that God would hear and answer my prayers. I did not yet understand the mandate that being a believer also meant being first and foremost a generous spirit.”

In many ways, Lisa recounts an idyllic Catholic upbringing. She grew up with a family environment richly blessed by two generations of faithful Catholic witness. Nurtured by this fertile Catholic home, a loving and affable parish pastor, and the faith-filled surroundings of a Catholic university, it seems almost impossible that her faith would not grow.

And yet, I know that faith is not a given in any situation. Many factors come into play. As a father I’m zealous to make sure my children are solidly formed in faith. I continually try to engineer a kind of lovingly tended garden of grace where faith can grow. But ultimately, it is a person’s “yes” to belief that makes the difference. Lisa’s childhood faith grew, in part due to her strong Catholic home, but due in larger measure from her willingness to cooperate with and love her God. And that’s why her faith survived.

So it was that, once outside her Catholic bubble, her yes had to really become her own…though sometimes only through sheer force of will. I think God recognizes and rewards those times when belief is burdensome and still we push through. I’m reminded of St. Therese of Lisieux who remarked that devotion lived out through great effort in spite of our feelings shows more love, and through that God is better praised. It’s easy to follow God when things are going our way. But do you follow him even when you don’t feel like it? That’s the true test. Lisa’s faith was strengthened during those times of begrudging yeses so that it could blossom and then be given away—first to her children and then to her husband.

“By that point my belief—my yes to those things I had been taught over so many years—was finally fully my own. I knew God’s love, I had witnessed it so fully that I couldn’t’ wait to share it with this precious little soul. Here was overwhelming evidence of grace.”

Then, of course, the grace of her yes to God was extended to millions on the internet through a humble quest to share ideas on how to be a great Catholic Mom. I am a recipient of that grace, along with so many others who contribute to CatholicMom.com.

Lisa learned well the connection between believing and generosity…and she lives it! I have been, and continue to be, seriously blessed by her generous spirit. She not only extended a hand, she leaned far out over the rail to help me. And, I’m sure there’s countless others that could say the same. I am truly grateful Lisa said yes to belief and to the challenge of sharing it. I pray that many will be inspired to cooperate with their own grace of belief through this witness.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. Think back to a time you found it difficult to believe, do you think your faith grew from that experience? How?
  2. In what way does your experience resonate with Lisa’s statement that being a believer means being first and foremost a generous spirit? How have you been blessed by blessing others generously?
  3. How has your life, or the lives of those around you, been blessed by saying yes to your own grace of belief?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 2: The Grace of Generativity. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Grace of Yes Book Club page.

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Copyright 2014 Marc Cardonella

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About Author

Marc Cardaronella is the author of Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick coming in May from Ave Maria Press. By day he works as director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute for Faith Formation at the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO. By night he writes about Catholic parenting and how to share the Faith on his personal blog. Marc lives in Kansas City with his beautiful wife and two awesome boys.

51 Comments

  1. Marc – thank you so much for your thoughtful commentary on Chapter 1. I’m honestly always so moved by what people connect with in the book. I love your comment about — as a father — trying to form a solid foundation for your children. That is certainly what my parents gifted to me, and what I’ve tried to share with my sons. But now that they are older, I see that their own “yes to belief” will be uniquely theirs… Of course our job as “parental prayer warrior” is never done.

    Again, thank you for your thoughtful treatment of chapter one!

    • You’re very welcome Lisa! It was a pleasure! I have to tell you, I was a little jealous of that gift your parents gave you. So wonderful! It’s not something I had. I definitely want to give that kind of solid foundation to my kids. But I can also see that, at some point, it has to be their’s. They have to own it. And, I can surely imagine that the prayer warrior status never goes away. How could you stay away from it, huh? Thank you for sharing your life and experiences with all of us.

  2. Hi! Yes, I’d agree that generous spirit is required, but I think we often come to understand this through the generosity others have showed us. When that love is given to us, we can’t help but want to turn around and give it to others. I guess what I’m saying is, generosity begets generosity, and by and large, that is something we are not necessarily predisposed toward in our fallen human nature, but through grace and the example of others, we can “confront” generosity in our lives and then, through that, open ourselves to the same. It takes humility and and selflessness to be generous, and oftentimes, there is a long journey toward realizing the benefits of that. In the end, we are blessed by blessing others in this way. Thanks for your reflections, Mark, and for your beautiful book, Lisa!

    • I love what you have shared here Roxane. I’m wondering if the contrary is unfortunately true–if someone has never known or been the recipient of generous love–is there any hope that that person can bless others by being generous (in the absence of an example of what it looks like…). An interesting thing to ponder.

        • Barb, it’s heartbreaking but unfortunately I believe it’s very true in our world, and often in unexpected situations. It reminds me that we have to be on the lookout for it… And obviously we are all unconditionally loved by our Creator, but sadly there are those who either don’t know or don’t believe that.

        • There are people who cannot receive. I have members of my family who are like that, so proud that they cannot receive sympathy, empathy, nursing when they are ill, etc. Sometimes though I give things I think someone might need when actually they need something else. Being a compulsive problem solver, when my grown kids call to complain about something and I’m all over them offering solutions, they push back saying they didn’t call me for solutions – they just want a sounding board. Sometimes the most generous thing I can give someone is my silence and a heart ready to listen.

    • That’s an excellent thought Roxane. I think you’re right! The experience of generosity not only gives us an example to follow, but fills our own souls with the grace to be generous. Unfortunately, I think your comment is probably right, Lisa. Not experiencing generosity in your life and close you off to being generous with others. Definitely something to ponder as I think about ministering to others, and how to overcome the times when I don’t feel like the recipient of grace…how can I give it anyway?

  3. “All along I had prayed for Greg’s conversion when what I should really have been begging God for was my own.” Ouch! That really hit home for me. There is so much truth to the statement that God does not ask us to change others – that’s His job. He’s asking me to let Him change me! And to pray for others.
    I can also relate to the husband’s strong, solid, but subtle witness. I have a husband like that.
    Looking forward to the next chapter!

    • Elyse, in my speaking on this book, especially to women’s groups, I have truly been trying to stress the line you pointed too. Coming to that realization was (and has been continually) a great blessing for me. I thank you so much for reading with us!

    • Elyse, that was the other quote I latched onto and wanted to include in my reflection. What an awesome realization! And, it does hit home on many levels. That’s something we can think about for many different and sometimes difficult relationships, trying to see where I need conversion and change instead of automatically thinking someone should..and, how can my deeper conversion further their’s. Thanks for commenting and bringing that up!

    • Yeah, that one hit me too as I struggle over kids who no longer want to attend church. Trying hard to let go and trust that God will take care of everything. He needs me on the sidelines praying and following him as best I can to be the best example I can be.

      • Susan, I have to believe that your kids had an amazingly strong upbringing. They know the truth in their hearts, because they have parents who consistently witness it for them.

  4. I am way past the first chapter lol! I find this so easy to read, and relate to much of what Lisa shares! I had a similar upbringing – and would go so far as to say that I took my faith for granted somewhat. I moved to an unfamiliar place and Mass is what kept me grounded and connected me to home to a degree but maybe that’s all it was? I didn’t appreciate the gift of the Mass at that time. My husband was not practicing early in our marriage (family fell away from the Church when he was a teen), I still went to Mass each week but very much identified with those lonely feelings described in this chapter, and to questioning ‘what am I doing this for?’ when others among my peers seemed not to give jot about faith or practicing any worship etc…
    When my second child weaned from nursing, I ended 4 solid years of being pregnant or nursing. I was not prepared for the ensuing dip into a sort of depression, and I stopped attending Mass for a while. I didn’t have the strength in my beliefs that I know now would have seen me recover from that much faster. It wasn’t until I realized what was causing this ‘funk’ and got myself back on my knees that I was able to push through it and leave that behind. In taking my faith and beliefs for granted, instead of cherishing it and nurturing it as the gift that it is – I didn’t have the support from my faith when I needed it. Since that surrender and recognition that my ‘yes’ needs to be to God first – my husband has started attending Mass again – and we go as a family faithfully each week! We also serve in our Parish, independently, and as a family as opportunities allow. It’s very important to both of us that we teach our children that faith, and that being a Catholic, is more, much more than showing up to Mass for an hour on Sunday.

    • Annie, being far ahead just means that you have to backtrack and rejoin us every weekend 🙂

      I’m so glad that you’re connecting with the book. And how amazing that you were able to see the connection between your depression issues and not receiving the Eucharist. I think what you’ve mentioned about us modeling service to our parish for our children being important is really a critical thing. They learn from what we say to them, but also from watching us.

      Thanks for reading with us!!

  5. I continually try to engineer a kind of lovingly tended garden of grace where faith can grow. But ultimately, it is a person’s “yes” to belief that makes the difference.

    After an intense weekend of battling a teenager under my roof, this was a comfort to read. I have four children, and I have made it my top priority to build our home on a solid foundation of faith-so it is interesting to see four very different responses that have taken shape. It can be terrifying on one hand, to know I have no control over my children, and that no matter how rich the soil I provide, it is up to them..it is up to their “yes”. Because what if they do not choose “yes”? And so this is exactly where the grace of MY belief and MY yes comes in…to continue to believe, to continue to say yes, to continue tending a garden of grace, no matter the circumstance.

    Thank you Lisa for YOUR YES to writing this beautiful and much needed book! And thank you Marc for an awesome reflection that was clearly written for ME today!

    • Oh Laura, it’s such a challenge. On those days, St. Monica is my best friend. I think I keep her very busy with my intercessory prayer conversations. But God is good and you are an amazing Mom. Your children, especially the teen in question, is very blessed. Sending a hug and prayers!

    • You bet Laura! Glad to help, although I’ll have to credit the Holy Spirit for that. I have to constantly remind myself about this when I catechize too. I can do as much as in humanly possible to get the message across, but ultimately, conversion and the “yes” is the work of the Holy Spirit. Prayer helps too! God bless!

  6. In reading Lisa’s ongoing conversion, from childhood to adulthood, I reflected on my own faith journey. As a child, I grew up in a vibrant Catholic parish, but one that didn’t have many of the timeless traditions of our Faith, like Marian devotion or traditional prayers. I didn’t discover many of the rich treasures of the Catholic faith until adulthood. I learned things like the St. Michael prayer right along with my oldest daughter when she was in Kindergarten! Perhaps God used a more ongoing, steady conversion of faith in my life to keep me open to an ever-deepening love for Him and His Church. I certainly had those years where I wondered too often, “What’s in it for me?” But God didn’t give up on me, and through His grace, my selfish question has turned into “What can I offer to God?” Now, as a Catholic mom, I am trying to use my own joy of the Lord to lay a solid foundation of belief for my own children. I really appreciated the part in chapter 1 when Lisa talks about how her faith complements her husband’s and that “journeying toward a common spiritual goal with my spouse has also taught me to judge neither our family’s domestic church nor my own holiness by anyone else’s measure.” I am grateful to share a common faith with my husband. We are spiritual partners in this life. Just like my own virtue of belief has grown over my nearly 40 years, my and my husband’s common belief also has grown in our 13 years of marriage. We are far from perfect, and like the author, I serve my family much better when I am more concerned with my own holiness than with how holy my family members are. But in looking back, I can see that God has steadily walked with us, showing us His plans and giving us the grace to say yes.

    • “But in looking back, I can see that God has steadily walked with us, showing us His plans and giving us the grace to say yes.” That is so beautiful Sarah.

      In writing this book, and I think our experience in general with Greg’s faith journey, has made me acutely aware of how many women do not have a solid spiritual partner. And when we don’t, some of us tend to blame ourselves for that instead of trusting in God’s providence.

      I’m so glad you are reading with us!

  7. Sandi Belleque on

    I am the same age as Lisa and grew up with the same type of Catechesis. I echo her feelings though that I had a firm belief that Jesus loved me unconditionally. I think that type of Catechesis has kept me in the church and led me to be a dre (a yes to God that has been so rewarding). . I do wish I had had a bit more of the Baltimore catechism because I’ve had to learn so much as an adult. Without really thinking about it I feel that I’ve had a gracious heart. It comes natural to some people (if that makes sense). However, I can totally relate to “what’s in it for me” and still wanting to be entertained at Mass. There is always room to grow!

    • Sandi, first off thank you for giving God your “Yes” by being a DRE!! That is awesome. I always tell our DRE that I want to be a catechist when I “grow up” (if I ever do!). And we who were catechized in the 60s and 70s have the joy of learning much of this with our children. We’re never to old to learn, right?

  8. To be a believer, your spirit must be open to the gift of faith. I think people who are generous, are more open and aware of the world around them. Generous people see possibility and believe in the goodness of others. That sort of spirit is more docile and makes it easier(in a sense) for God to enter and then there is belief.

    • I was having trouble understanding the questions until I read your post. It clarified my thinking and made sense of the questions for me. I agree wholeheartedly with your post.
      Truly generous people have the ability to graciously receive gifts from others. This enables them to receive the gifts of God, resoundingly saying, “Yes!” to all God offers us.
      It reminds me of “The Circle of Life.” One yes leads to another, enabling us to be open to all God offers, including the ability to bring positive change into our sphere of influence.

      • I tell you what, this is one of the biggest takeaways for me in this discussion. Gracious giving begets a generous giving spirit. I’m going to start thinking how I can be more generous and gracious in my interactions with people instead of what can I get from them. It also makes me think I should reflect more often on how much I’ve been given and how much others give to me. That might make me more appreciative and generous to them.

  9. As I read the first chapter of Lisa’s book, I couldn’t help but remember how my life has been touched by someone else saying “yes”. The yes I’m talking about is one that saved my life, literally. When my mother was pregnant with me, her doctor was extremely worried because, according to him, I wasn’t developing as quickly as I should have been. The doctor urged my mother to have an anortion because he feared I would be born with severe Down syndrome and other developmental problems. But, my parents saw the possibility that existed in the gift that God was giving them.

    When I first heard this story, I was in the process of becoming a seminarian. I had no clue that any of this had happened. It made me seriously think about my life. What if my parents had not had such a strong faith, would I even be here today? My parents’ “yes” saved my life. They knew that God had a plan for me from the beginning. Just goes to show you how the grace of belief can impact the lives of multiple people.

    • Hooray – a seminarian in the house!
      Tom, what an eloquent witness and what a blessing for your mother that you recognize this. Just imagine that even then, their “yes” to your life was a step to where you are today. So glad that you are reading with us. You are in my prayers!

  10. Wow….I flew threw chapter one. There were so many “AHA” moments for me and so many times where I thought, “I’ve been there too”. We have much in common. This book is a blessing, the timing perfect. On to chapter 2.

    • That would be awesome Mary Lou! If I live my life in such a way that others can testify to my belief, woohoo! That’s a life well lead in my book.

  11. I am going for the literal approach here; answering the questions as posted. Great sharing going on here. Deanna shared a beautiful a sentiment of what it takes to be a believer.
    1. Think back to a time you found it difficult to believe, do you think your faith grew from that experience? How?
    My faith absolutely grew in those times I have felt it difficult to believe. Looking back, there is not a doubt in my mind that those moments when I found believing most difficult were times that I could not have been more in His presence. My complete reliance on Him to complete the simplest of tasks is proof enough of His grace, mercy and love. In those darkest of times when my default state of being was on my knees or in bed He had my full and complete attention. Sure, denying His presence and existence was easier but then that meant I was fully reliant on myself and myself was in no position to do anything.
    2. In what way does your experience resonate with Lisa’s statement that being a believer means being first and foremost a generous spirit? How have you been blessed by blessing others generously?
    In those dark times did I feel generous? No. I felt alone. As stated above I was in no position to do anything. But, I could be physically present. This is all I had to offer. As it turns out it was often times enough. Just being present was enough to help others and in turn I was helped too. So, I guess this could reflect a generous spirit at the core of my being. In essence I had nothing to be generous with except for my physical self and so that is what I gave.
    3. How has your life, or the lives of those around you, been blessed by saying yes to your own grace of belief?
    In all honesty my experience with the grace of belief is ever growing and a series of “Yes”. I am comfortable working for those opportunities to say “Yes”. While I could totally do without those dark and lonely times, I do feel they are pivotal moments in my life that have affirmed and strengthened my belief.

    • Gina, I love your “literal approach” and your responses give me a greater insight to you as a friend and a writer. Your second response is so key, and so true. Often the best “love” that we can give is to simply be emotionally present when someone is in need, to promise our prayers and to give them.

    • Gina — I can relate to your sharing of the dark times.

      ” My faith absolutely grew in those times I have felt it difficult to believe. Looking back, there is not a doubt in my mind that those moments when I found believing most difficult were times that I could not have been more in His presence.” Really resonated with me.

  12. I’ve read only chapter 1 and already you have given me three things to contemplate and work on: 1) my own conversion, leaving my husband’s in God’s hands; 2. letting others help, 3) listening, not only to God more, but to others, too. Nonetheless, it is nice to have a friend who encourages you in the growth of holiness. Even better when it is done via a book, so she doesn’t have to say it to your face!

    • Kelly thank you for sharing your response to chapter 1. Your #2 is especially significant to me. Glad for your friendship and that the book has been a blessing for you so far!

  13. This discussion has been fantastic – truly though provoking.

    When I look at question 1 – my mind goes back nearly 20 years. The days following my first miscarriage and the months after my second. I was afraid to pray – because I had prayed so hard for the second child to survive the pregnancy. I longed to hold him or her in my arms, and when they too were lost it shock me to the core of my prayer life. My belief in God – didn’t sway as much as my desire to pray. I felt betrayed at first, confused and definitely abandoned. 20 years later, I can see all God did in those days and months, and the Good He brought from it (as promised in Romans 8:28).

  14. Samantha Hough on

    I am a little behind this week, but I just got my book yesterday and so far really enjoyed this book. I grew up in a much different background than a lot of people here. I was not raised in a Catholic household, or a religious on in general. The oldest daughter of a southern baptist and a methodist, religion was just not discussed in my upbringing because my parents grew up with such fundamental differences on their belief structures (sort of like Lisa and Greg in the beginning, however unlike your marriage, my parents were never able to come to a middle ground). I watched the eventual destruction of their marriage, and looking back on it I think the main contributor was a lack of faith and God in the relationship.

    Once I hit my late 20’s, I met and married my husband, who is a Catholic. I went through the RCIA process and was baptized and received into the Church this past Easter. Going from a life relatively absent of God to one so abundantly blessed by God has been transformational. What I have found is that when you say yes to God, he blesses you over and over. Sometimes is obvious, at other times you have to wait to understand. But everything roots from having a grateful heart.

    What is so strange about these reflections is that two weeks ago, my priest randomly called at a time when I was doubting the purpose and meaning of certain things in life, and I firmly believe that God was behind that phone call. He asked me to speak to the church about what it means to be a good steward. This was very uncomfortable for me because I’m still so new in my faith, but what I found is that when God asks something of you and you say yes, no matter how you may feel about it, the Heavenly reward is immeasurable.

    At the end of the day, Jesus never said any of this was going to be easy. But I think that when we say yes to Him, yes to our beliefs, yes to the sacrifices, He will always give us the strength necessary to make it through.

    • Samantha, I just got “the chills” reading what you shared about your pastor calling you. That is one of those “yes” moments that I was trying to pinpoint in the book. In many ways, your coming to belief as an adult is a unique gift. I love the last paragraph of your comment!!

    • Samantha, you’re last paragraph is the quote of the day! I think, in addition to strength, God gives us his peace to make it through when we say yes to the sacrifices and belief in the hard times. I believe that’s part of the beauty of Christianity, we won’t be free from trouble, but it’s a lot easier to endure and see it through to victory. Thanks for commenting!

  15. I’m not sure I am remembering this right, but Lisa made it sound like she was thinking of a Bruce Springsteen song when Eric Michael was being baptized.
    In slight contrast to her family story, I have felt the grace of yes in my life both through my wife (who is Jewish and a much better person than I am) and my daughter (who became a neophyte this past Easter).
    In recognize/remember much of my/our Catholic story growing up, but experience the openness of God’s embrace in a life that includes being married to someone that brings me outside Christ’s Body to encounter the love of a Jewish woman and the mystery of life that has come from her womb.

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