Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lawn Chair Catechism

Don't you just love it when you're enjoying a book and then you discover that the author has written another one just like it? I've frequently had that experience when reading novels, but I can honestly say with the exception of one devotional series, I've never felt that way about a book even remotely related to religion. But today, while reading chapter 3 of Joe Paprocki's A Well-Built Faith, I found myself so enthusiastic about the fact that he'd written a book about the Bible that there was no debate as to whether or not to read it; my only decision was whether to buy it for my Kindle or in paperback.

But I digress. This Lawn Chair Catechism post is about the third chapter in A Well-Built Faith, a chapter in which, once again, Paprocki appeals to the elementary school educator in me. In Chapter 2, he used the common playground phrase, "He started it!" to talk about relationships.  His opening salvo in Chapter 3? "Says who?"

What a great intro into the symbiosis between the Bible and Tradition as sources of authority in the Catholic Church.

Between Pentecost and this week's Lawn Chair Catechism chapter, it's been a busy week for the Holy Spirit. Then again, if I'd been paying attention, I'd have known the Holy Spirit was there all along.

I apologize if that sounds flip or sacrilegious. It's just that despite being a cradle Catholic, then a lapsed Catholic and now a practicing Catholic again, despite hearing about the interrelationship between the Bible and Tradition in Bible study and as an RCIA sponsor, I never really thought about the role of the Holy Spirit in the interpretation of Scripture for the Church as a whole. Those who are better informed than I are probably shaking their heads, but that's okay. Thanks to Paprocki, I've got it now.

And the thing is, this follows logically from all the conversation about relationships in Chapter 2. No matter how much you enjoy a book, even one as inspired and inspirational as the Bible, you can't have a relationship with it. That's where Tradition comes in. Tradition enables us to deepen our relationship with God by teaching us more about what's contained in those pages. Tradition is what makes the Bible a living, breathing blueprint instead of an historic artifact. It's what draws us to the church we attend every week rather than simply sitting at home and reading the Bible.

But the really cool thing here is that this information, combined with the personal relationship discussion from last week, leads me to a conclusion that's diametrically opposed to a common, but misinformed notion of Catholicism, one that probably springs from the equally common misconception that we don't read the Bible.

We are not lemmings. Tradition and prayer are meant to enlighten us, not hamstring us. If we listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit and allow it to lead us, then we will be headed in the right direction. (Thanks, Fr. John, for that bit of wisdom last Sunday). It's not a matter of checking off the right boxes (Reconciliation? Check. Mass? Check. Staying awake for the homily? Check). Sure, those things are important. But they're only part of the story. We jump through these hoops, so to speak, for a reason.

Tradition, then, is a kind of a road map. As we develop a personal relationship with God, we become increasingly spirit-led. Tradition, which forms the foundation of Church teachings (and gives us things like the sacraments), provides us with checkpoints along the way, allowing us to look at both the big picture and the relevance of Biblical teachings in our daily lives.

As someone who pretty much hates being told what to do and who values thinking for herself, I love the interconnectedness of all of these pieces. The Trinity. A personal relationship with God the Father, through God the Son and nurtured by the Holy Spirit, which sheds its light on the Bible and leads to the development of Tradition which guides our faith.

Completely simple and yet totally complex, much like Paprocki's summary:
"Simply put, Catholics believe that the Bible is the Word of God and everything in it is true. We simply do not take every line of the Bible literally." (page 22) 

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