Life After Sunday: Intentional Discipleship, Intentional Community Print
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 14 September 2007 08:22
If your small group or parish is looking for small group discussion materials, consider Life After Sunday.

Life After Sunday is clearly influenced by the lay movement, Communion & Liberation, and has a balance that I don't often find in Catholic small group materials: Heart and head, intuition and intellect, catechesis and companionship. Reflecting C & L's emphasis on living encounter with Christ in and through others, their materials seem remarkably inclusive of whole person and their longings for love, beauty, joy, and significance while remaining totally faithful to Church teaching.

As their website puts it:

While in Boston attending the installation of Archbishop Sean O’Malley, Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, then president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, sat with a reporter for The Pilot to talk about the crisis in the Church. “Many of the problems that we are experiencing in the priesthood, I think, especially the sexual abuse, are due to a crisis, not just an acute crisis, but a long-term crisis in the parish and in the community of the parishes that is lived out. Part of it is rooted in the fact that people do not really experience love within the parish; it is a place in which they really do not trust one another enough to be able to experience the forgiving love of Jesus as that is mediated by the community.”[emphasis ours]

We believe the Cardinal has articulated well the most pressing need for the new evangelization in America today. In many parishes, relationships among parishioners can be casually indifferent in a way that often does not communicate Christ’s passionate, merciful love for each person “in the flesh.” As a result, the personal experience of God’s love can appear as distant as the impersonal contact with a fellow parishioner; faith in the Presence of Christ can become increasingly difficult to recognize in the breaking of the bread, in the Word and in the faces of the people in the pews or on parish committees. In the meantime, many Catholics attend Mass on Sunday, but then live the rest of the week without the mystery of the intimate Presence they have just received, a Presence who longs to permeate their lives every day. While many Sunday Catholics make an earnest attempt to live their faith, they still experience the faraway God of isolated Christians in the popular culture.

When Jesus is experienced only as One who “left a long time ago,” when parish leaders organize and plan as if they are on their own with only “a book to believe in” and “a lot to learn,” they may worry that everything is principally up to them. Failing to recognize and live the mystery of Christ’s living Presence in their midst, some parish leaders now fall back on calculating practices of the secular culture to “build community.” Some parish councils rely entirely on corporate models for planning, organization, communications, leadership skills and team-building. Even models of catechesis are often based on “values education” and psychological methods, rather than the real encounter with the Person who lives at the center of all existence. While many pastoral initiatives are well-meaning, there can be little fruitfulness among the persons the Lord has gathered unless there is first a foundational appreciation for his love…for his movement…for his mystery in their lives. In the midst of the very real work of parish life, Christ calls parishioners to shed their dependence upon secular practices alone and retrieve a real sacramental view of human life as his Body, lived through, with and in HIM in union with his Spirit of Love for the Father.

Clinging to Christ in Everyday Life

Inspired by the words of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Life After Sunday seeks to help parishioners see that intimacy with Jesus Christ—an intimacy that begins with recognizing his living Presence in the heart of the parish—is the key to the new evangelization and the discovery of the truth and destiny of each human person. When parishioners have an encounter with “the forgiving love of Jesus,” when they have the experience of being brought into his “event of Love” with the Father and the Holy Spirit as a member of his Body in parish life, then they truly begin to live Life After Sunday.

"If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great," says the Pope. "Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human experience truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation."

With Cardinal Stafford and the Pope, we believe that this intimate friendship with Christ is meant to be experienced in a deeper way within the larger community of the parish, within smaller groups of friends that can help each other recognize the Presence of Christ in the sacramental life of the Church and experience that Presence “in the flesh” through their enduring bonds of friendship with each other.

To which I can only say "Amen!" We saw this hunger for fellowship manifested so clearly and intensely when putting on Making Disciples this summer and at our Building Intentional Community Day.

Each of the 23 topics (with names like Wonder, Follow, Beauty, Security) can be covered in 1, 2, or up to 4 meetings, depending upon they dynamic of your group. They can also be organized for groups with special focuses like New Catholics for mystagogia, men's groups, mom's groups, established groups, etc.

You buy and download the materials online. I've done so and really liked what I saw although I haven't had a chance (because of my schedule) to try them out with a group. Check it out.