Saint Patrick's Church Schola

Lenten 2006 Class -- Classical Spiritual Disciplines

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!



Thursday, March 16, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 2 -- Questions

I read chapter 2 for the first time about 20 years ago. It has been that long since I have read it. It was helpful and challenging to be reminded of the meditation and the practices that go with it. I'm looking forward to doing some wof what Foster suggests in the next few days.

Here are some discussion questions:

1. On page 22 Foster writes, " the inner world of meditation is most easily entered through the door of the imagination."
--Is this a new idea for you?
--Do you agree with Foster?

2. In the section on practicing meditation Foster speaks of centereing prayer.
--Have you ever practiced this?
--How has it benfitted you?

3. Foster encourage the reader to meditate on all sorts of things, but argures that scripture is central.
--Why does he argue this?
--How is meditating on scripture similar to and different from having a "Quiet Time"?

How about if each of us set aside 10 minuste to try the Center Down praying that Foster advocates. After doing so we can post thoughts on the experience.

Let the comments begin!



Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 2

Here begins some discussion questions for Chapter 2. More later.

According to Foster, what is meditation?

Early in chapter 2 Foster argues that Christian meditation and Eastern meditation are different.
How are they different? Why is that important to Foster?


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 2


I will have some specific discussion questions posted by Wednesday afternoon. At this point, I am wondering if anyone has any initial thoughts on chapter 2.

Is anyone interested in posting next week about chapter 3? I will pass on the username and password for the blog to whoever is interested.



Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Chapter 1

The Spiritual Disciplines: Door To Liberation

In this chapter Foster sets the agenda for the book and the use of the disciplines. His overarching point is that spiritual growth is a gift of grace while. But this does not mean we are passive in the process. We are called to cooperate with God by using the disciplines.

Here are some questions to get our discussion started. If you have other issues or questions you want to raise feel free to surface them as our discussion unfolds.

Tell me how this format works.

Let the discussion begin!!

1. On pages 3 -4 Foster writes,
"We are accustomed to thinking of sin as individual acts of disobedience to God. That is true enough as far as it goes, but Scripture goes much farther. In Romasn the apostles Paul frequently referr to sin as a condition that plagues the human race (i.e., Rom. 3:19-18). Sin as a condition works its way our through the ‘bodily members’; that is, the ingrained habits of the body (Rom. 7:5ff).”
Do you agree with Foster’s assessment of sin?
How might Foster’s approach shape our understanding of the disciplines?

2. On page 4 Foster writes,
“willpower will never succeed in dealing with deeply ingrained habits of sin.”
Why does Foster think this is the case?
Have you found this to be true in your life?

3. On page 6 Foster writes,
“the disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”
How does this statement set forth Foster’s view of the role of disciplines?

4. On page 9 Foster writes,
“as we enter the inner world of the Spiritual Discipines, there will always be the danger of turning them into laws.”
How do we keep from letting the disciplines turning into new ways of making new laws for others or ourselves?


Celebration of Discipline -- Syllabus

Here is the suggested syllubus for Celebration of Discipline. I don't mind putting all the chapter summary posts up, but it might be nice to trade around that duty within the class. Let me know if that is something you want to do and then I will email the login information to everyone in the group.



Week of …
3/5 1 – The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation

The Inward Disciplines
3/12 2 - Meditation
3/19 3 - Prayer
3/26 4 – Fasting
4/2 5 – Study

4/9 Holy Week – No Schola

The Outward Disciplines
4/16 6 – Simplicity
4/23 7 – Solitude
4/30 8 – Submission
5/7 9 – Service

The Corporate Disciplines
5/14 10 – Confession
5/21 11 – Worship
5/27 12 – Guidance
6/3 13 -- Celebration


Monday, March 06, 2006

Celebration of Discipline -- Reading Plan

Celebration of Discipline is 13 chapters long. To finish the book during lent, we will need to do at least 2 chapters per week. In my mind that raises a question. The book is best read, I think, with plenty of time to ruminate on the issues addressed therein. Also, it seems to me it would be good to actually practice each of the disciplines discussed in the book.

What think ye -- 2 plus chapters per week to finish the book in lent, or 1 chapter a week and turn it into a Lent to Pentecost read? I am leaning toward 1 chapter per week, but will bow to the will of all the participants.

I await your comments.



Celebration of Discipline

Saint Pat's lenten study is Celebration of Discipline (CD) by Richard Foster. CD is a an overview of the classical spiritual disciplines and how they work in a Christian's life.

The book is almost 30 years old. It has become a classic in its own right.

Amazon offers this summary:

When Richard Foster began writing Celebration of Discipline more than 20 years ago, an older writer gave him a bit of advice: "Be sure that every chapter forces the reader into the next chapter." Foster took the advice to heart; as a result, his book presents one of the most compelling and readable visions of Christian spirituality published in the past few decades. After beginning with a simple observation--"Superficiality is the curse of our age.... The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people"--Foster's book moves to explain the disciplines people must cultivate in order to achieve spiritual depth. In succinct, urgent, and sometimes humorous chapters, Foster defines a broad range of classic spiritual disciplines in terms that are lucid without being too limiting and offers advice that's practical without being overly prescriptive. For instance, after describing meditation as a combination of "intense intimacy and awful reverence," he settles into such down-to-earth topics as how to choose a place and a posture in which to meditate.

Each week a post will go on this blog addressing two chapters. The post will offer a short summary of the chapters and set out some discussion questions. Participants are invited to use the comments link below the post to respond to the questions and/or offer their own comments and/or questions for discussion.

Foster directs Renovare. Renovare is ministry dedicated to aiding Christians to embrace spiritual formation as a normal aspect of Christian living. I recommend you follow the link to the site.