As we continue to look at becoming an intentional disciple we can discover that there are five steps or “Thresholds” as Sherry Weddell calls them. First there has to be that initial trust of Jesus Christ, the Church, a believer, in order to move closer to God. This leads to spiritual curiosity where a person wants to know more about Jesus, his life, and his teachings. A person who is curious about something still has not made a commitment. Next comes Spiritual openness where a person acknowledges the possibility of personal and spiritual change. This is not commitment yet. Then a person becomes a spiritual seeker actively seeking to know God and to see if they can trust God enough to make a commitment to Christ and the Church. The final step is to become an intentional disciple. To make that lifelong commitment.
We have to remember that, like the stages of grief, the stages of discipleship are not set in stone or guided by the clock or calendar. We are dealing with a person’s intimate relationship with God. God is calling the individual. We are just there to answer a question, or to share our journey, or to give some encouragement.
We have to always make room for the Holy Spirit of God to operate, first in our own lives and then in lives of those who are seeking something. If we try and force a timetable on them or dump a lot of Church information on them too soon they will become overwhelmed and turn away. Maybe it is time for a study group in the parish to reflect on Sherry’s book to see how we might become parishes of Intentional Disciples.
Blessings … Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT : What have been the moments I have had conversions? Do I recognize these stages in others? Would I like to join with others to see what we can do for parishioners? (see Father)
In the book “Forming Intentional Disciples” Sherry Weddell shares a list of what should be considered NORMAL for a Catholic who is an intentional disciple. They would have a living relationship with God. They would be an excited Christian activist, be knowledgeable about faith, scriptures, doctrine, history, and the moral teachings of the Church using their gifts (Charism) in fulfillment of their vocation, understand their vocation and mission in life, would be actively discerning and living this vocation in the world, and have fellowship with other committed Catholics. Finally she writes that the local parish would function as a house of formation for lay Catholics to empower members to achieve all of the above.
All of Sherry’s list is normal in the sense that the Church itself views them as normative part of Catholicism. St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Lay Faithful, “Christifideles Laici,” that the Good News calls us to conversion and life and to cling to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by helping a person to be open to receive Baptism and Eucharist. That allows a person a new life according to the Holy Spirit.
Now I know that this all may seem somewhat strange to many of us. However, if we are to truly follow Christ Jesus into the Kingdom of Heaven we will need to be in a relationship with him now. All of us know how uncomfortable it is to be in a house of someone we do not know every well. Surely we do not want that to be our experience in eternal life.
Blessings, Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT
Is my relationship with God, Christ personal or distant? Do I believe that I can have
an intimate relationship with God? Do I live out my vocation in the world?
So what does to mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? First of all there has to be a hunger and a desire for a relationship with Him. According to Sherry Weddell it is the Holy Spirit who inspires a thirst for righteousness. That means having a desire to love God with all your heart and to see that love overflows into loving our neighbor as our self.
We are invited to make the basic message of the Gospels ours. Jesus Christ, through his passion, death, and resurrection has given us the promise of eternal life. This changes everything and we recognize that this powerful message is not ours to keep. No, it is a message that we are called to share because we know that Christ’s message is for everyone.
Think of the early Apostolic Church. The apostles were sent out into towns and villages where there were no great Basilicas or Cathedrals. When they arrived in a location they set about sharing the story of Jesus with others, retelling the parables of Jesus and then inviting others to receive baptism. Finally the new converts would join the apostles in the breaking of the bread.
Does the Church today mirror that same personal one on one invitation? Maybe just a little. We have the Gospel and we may know people who are not Catholic, but we rarely think about our responsibility to share our faith with others. We may say, “That’s the priest’s job.” But, if we are all called to intimate discipleship then it becomes the joy of every Catholic to share the faith.
Blessings… Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT: Have I had that moment when I accepted my discipleship? Is the Gospel something that moves my entire being? Do I see my role in helping others come to faith as important?
“Forming Intentional Disciples” by Sherry Wendell gives some interesting statistics about attendance at Mass. Those considered the builder generation, born in 1943 or before, attendance at Mass was 45%. The boomer generation, those born between 1944 and 1964, attend Mass 20% of the time. The Generation Xers, folks born between 1965 and 1984 have 13% attendance rate. The Millennials are those born since 1985 attend Mass only 10% of the time.
This information is not meant to scare us into a panic, but it’s meant to help the Church, all of us, to consider other avenues for being a thriving church in the future. We have to recognize that the faith will not be handed down as in the past through the Sacramental hooks, (Marriages and Baptisms), cultural or peer pressure (Italian, Irish or friends hanging out), nor by family’s ties.
The Catholicism in the future will have to be one based in a person choosing to be a disciple, an intentional disciple, rather than one who is a Catholic because of the culture. The future of the Catholic Church is for individual members to have personal relationship to Christ. Most people desire a relationship with someone, not with an institution. This personal relationship is what the Apostles shared and Popes and Saints proclaimed throughout the history of the Church. So let’s discover if it is possible to claim it for ourselves and the future of the Catholic Church.
Blessings… Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT: Do the stats above ring true in rural Iowa? What is my percentage of attendance at Mass? Is the culture supportive for me to attend Mass? Do I desire a “personal relationship” with Christ?
Several years ago I read the book by Sherry Weddell “Forming Intentional Disciples”. She noted that for the last 400 years the Catholic Church has primarily been focused on teaching the children the faith through Religious Education programs and Catholic Schools. The Church has also spent a great deal of time with sacramental initiation. However what worked in the 17th century might not work in the 21st century.
The old paradigm was that a young person might drift away from the practice of the Catholic religion after leaving home but would probably return when getting married or when the first child needed to be baptized. Ms. Weddell noted that since the year 1972 marriages in the Church have dropped 60%! So why would a couple bring their child for baptism if they are not attending Mass?
What can be done? What used to work, ain’t! We have to help people come to a personal relationship with God through Christ Jesus. The Millennial generation, those born from 1985 on, may not believe that a personal relationship is possible so why would attendance at Sunday be important. It is our responsibility to help the younger generation have the personal encounter with God, but we ourselves must have that encounter first and … have we?
Blessings, Father Dooley
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT Do I consider my faith as a personal encounter with God? Do I believe that it is possible to have that encounter? Why do I come to Mass – obligation, habit, or relationship.
From Our Question Box – What is the correct knee to put on the ground when genuflecting? The short answer is the right knee. A catholic is invited to make a genuflection towards the Tabernacle where the Eucharist Lord, our true King is reserved. This is done normally when a person enters the pew for the first time and as they leave and also anytime in which a person passes directly in front of the Tabernacle. I will go out on a limb here and say we use the right knee because it goes back to the etiquette of the medieval court of a king. Since the majority of the knights were right handed they would wear their sword on the left hip. When they would enter into the presence of the king they would genuflect on the right knee as a sign of homage to the King. Since the sword was hanging on his left side genuflecting made it more difficult to draw a sword since the left thigh was in the way. Even in the building of castles the spiral stairs going up were built turning to the right to give right handed defenders an advantage. They could slash and thrust downward and towards the left better than the right handed aggressor could coming up the narrow winding stairs.
In Latin the word for left is “sinistra” where we get the word sinister. I apologize to those who are left handed but, is just would not be proper in medieval times, to use the left hand or the left knee when giving homage to a king. Today it is probably not as important which hand we use or which knee we genuflect with.
Blessings, Father Dooley