Saint Patrick's Church Schola

Lenten 2006 Class -- Classical Spiritual Disciplines

Friday, May 05, 2006

Yes Virginia -- we are still reading Celebration of Discipline

I am sorry I haven’t posted anything from Celebration of Discipline in the last few weeks. I guess Holy Week threw me off more than I realized.

I want to finish the book and I want to keep talking about it. I am going to read 2 chapters a week until it is completed. I will post again next week.



Monday, April 10, 2006

No Reading During Holy Week

Hi Everyone,

A reminder that there is no reading assignment for Holy Week. See you in the blogosphere next week.



Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 5 -- Is this discipline really a classical discipline?

Okay, I have been wrestling with the discipline of study. Is it really a classical discipline. Here are some questions I have rolling in mind.

  • How did pre-literate Christians practice this discipline?
  • How was this discipline practiced before the wide proliferation of books?
  • Could it have been practiced before the wide proliferation of books?
  • Does this call into question its status a classical discipline?
  • Is Foster proposing a discipline that could only have existed during the last 400 years our of 2000 of Christian history?

Any thoughts on my musings?



Monday, April 03, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 5

The Discipline of Study

In chapter five Foster examines the discipline of study. He lifts up study as an important and essential discipline.

Foster defines study as, "a specific kind experience in which through careful observation of objective structures we cause thought processes to move in a certain way." The outcome of this process is that habits of thought are ingrained in our minds.

Foster outlines four steps to study:
1. Repitition -- this regularly channels the mind in a specific direction.
2. Concentration -- this centers the mind
3. Comprehension -- i.e., understanding what is studied
4. Reflection -- applying and noting the significance of what is studied

After these initial points abot the nature of study Foster examines the study of books and the study of "non-verbal" books.

A couple of things struck me in the chapter.
1. Foster puts Bible study and reading books right up there as central disciplines. I have to admit that I never tend to think of these as disciplines. Perthaps this is because I am a paid holy man and do this kind of stuff for work.
2. By the way -- I have read "How To Read a Book." I highly recommend it.
3. A question Foster speaks to -- but which I would value discussing is: How do we integrate study into our lives? There is a lot to do already. Any thoughts?

The floor is officially open for comments.



Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 4

The Discipline of Fasting

In chapter four Foster takes up the topic of fasting. A topic that emerges in the pages of the Bible but one that is not always surfaced in contemporary church life.

Foster argues that while fasting is not a biblical command in the strict sense of the word, it seems to be an assumption of scripture that God's people fast. It is also true that Christians throughout the history of the church have fasted.

"Abstaining from food for spiritual purposes" is Foster's definition of fasting. That is a simple and doable definition. After defining the practice Foster goes on to make a biblical and practical case for the practice. The chapter ends with tips on how to fast.

I thought the chapter was challenging and helpful. The truth is that I do not like to fast. I like to eat ( rib!!). I do not like to feel hungry. I don't feel spiritual when my stomach is growling. But as I read this chapter I was reminded that both Christians I admire from history and Christians I know and admire fasted. Maybe the case for fasting isn't so much an exegetical or theological case but is a practical case. The proof is in the pudding. Many holy people have pointed to fasting is essential to theri spiritual journey. I should listen to them.

Although the chapter was very helpful in terms of giving practical guidance to fasting, I wish Foster would have spoken to the diversity of fasting practices that have existed in the life of the church over the centuries. For Foster fasting primarily involves eating no food but drinking water. He mentions the partial fast but does not develop the idea. In the Christian tradition the partial fast is more the norm. For example, the Eastern Orthodox fast all during lent. That does not mean they only drink water for 40 days! They go veggie, no deserts, simple fare, small portions, no alcohol (except for communion wine of course). For many of us this kind of fasting is doable and might be something we can practice on a more regular basis.

All in all a good chapter I think.

This week I'll just throw open the floor for discussion rather than compose specific quesitons.

The floor is open. Discuss away!


More comments are up on the previous post. Be sure and check them out.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 3 -- Questions

Hi Schola,

Here are some discussion questions for chapter three.

1. On page 30 Foster writes, "All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives."
  • Do you view prayer as the main business of your life? Why or why not?

2. On page 35 Foster writes. "Meditation is the necessary prelude to intercession."

  • What does Foster mean by this? Do you agree with him?

3. On page 36 Foster writes, "Imagination opens the doorway to faith."

  • Do you agree with Foster? Have you experienced this in your own life?

4. On page 39 Foster writes, "We must never wait until we feel (italics Foster's) like praying before we will pray for others."

  • Why is this so? How have you experienced this in your prayer life?

As usual, do not feel compelled to restrict yourself to these questions as we discuss chapter three.

Let the talks begin!



Monday, March 20, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 3

Okay, it's my turn to write the chapter summary so here it goes . . . .

Chapter three focuses on the spiritual discipline of prayer. Foster starts this chapter defining prayer and lists various Biblical characters and religious figures who "viewed prayer as the main business of their lives." On page 36, Foster begins the section "Learning to Pray" by explaining how prayer is a learning process and offers actions we can take that help lead us to successful intercession.

The last section of the chapter is called "The Foothills of Prayer." Foster suggest to us that prayer is not complicated and lifts children up as an example. Children teach us the power of imagination and imagination "often opens the door of faith," according to Foster. He cautions us as we consider how the imagination is connected to prayer and we're reminded that these ideas, pictures, etc. are of no value if they don't come from the Holy Spirit.

For more fun, discussion questions will follow. (Peter, are you writing those?)

Stay tuned!