A new year
begins, and with it a new venture from the Institute - the blog,
"Intentional Disciples." Check it out!
The New and
Improved Making Disciples
You can teach a couple
of old dogs new tricks! Sherry and Fr. Mike are completely revamping
the four-day Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles. The new version
will incorporate some retreat-like elements, as well as new material
and practical hands-on experience on recognizing thresholds of
faith. Participants will come away with a new appreciation for, and
new skills to help foster intentional discipleship.
a Foundation When the Second Floor's Finished
need to focus first and foremost on creating a culture of
discipleship in our parishes. Why is this so crucial? Well, pretty
much everything depends upon it.
Faith of a Child
Darcy Hall is in her tenth year as an English teacher at
Doherty high school in Colorado Springs, CO. She loves to write and
treasures the gift of writing and the power of words, and hopes her
students master the English language and have fun with words as
well. Faith of a Child was recently published in a seasonal
anthology of poetry titled "Home for the Holidays."
Do you want to inject some energy in your parish or
campus ministry? Take a look at this website for some resources. The
EC vision focuses on the renewal of individuals and parishes through
an emphasis on interior conversion, devotion to the Scriptures,
formation in the habits of discipleship, intense Christian
community, and a commitment to evangelization. Sherry Weddell,
co-Director of the Institute, will be one of the speakers at their
conference in Madison, WI, April 13-15.
Since approximately half of the Catholics in this
country are not married, it's about time we highlighted a website
that focuses on single Catholics!
out a powerful resource to awaken the vocational culture of your
parish at Awakening Vocations. This new ministry of Called &
Gifted workshop teacher Mary Sharon Moore blends charism awareness
with a theology of vocation and vocational discernment for both
ministry and mission in the world. For more information call
toll-free: 1-877/687-2046, or e-mail Mary Sharon.
This is a new four-day workshop for
pastors, parish staff, and other lay leaders who would like to
explore how to foster a culture of intentional discipleship
and discernment in their parishes. The formation provided will help
participants learn how to recognize significant thresholds in the
life of faith as well as how to encourage the deepening of the
commitment to following Christ. Participants will gain practical
experience in a process that will help evangelize parishioners who
will then worship, pray, give, study their faith, and discern God's
call for them out of a loving relationship with Christ. For
information or to make reservations, contact Mike Dillon at the
July 29 - August
through Thursday noon.
Location: The Franciscan Retreat
Center, nestled in the foothills of the Rockies just north of
Colorado Springs at 6500 ft elevation. The Retreat Center provides
panoramic views of the Rampart Range and the Pikes Peak
Sunday evening through Thursday noon.
Location: Priestfield Pastoral Center.
Enjoy the splendor of autumn color in scenic West Virginia, just
outside the Washington, D.C. metro area. Situated on a large wooded
property along the Opequon Creek, the overall serenity of
Priestfield is complimented with well-maintained walking trails
through the woods and along the creek, water gardens, outdoor decks
and patios providing many choice places for quiet reflection. Rooms
with private baths and hermitages are part of the facilities.
12, 13, 2007
More Catholic Church
Suzie Hamilton, Pastoral Associate, or the parish office at (713)
(Diocese of Boise)
Paul's Catholic Church
CONTACT: Joan Ann Piper or the
parish office at (208) 466-7031.
January 18, 2007
Menlo Park, CA
(Archdiocese of San
St. Patrick's Seminary
A special, one-day Called & Gifted Workshop
for seminarians. Not open to the public.
January 19-20, 2007
(Archdiocese of Portland,
Called & Gifted
Workshop for member couples of the Columbia Worldwide Marriage
Encounter - Section 13 Conference. Not open to the public.
January 26-27, 2007
Colorado Springs, CO
(Diocese of Colorado
Holy Apostles Catholic Church
CONTACT: Bill Sydow or the parish office at
(Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN)
Our Lord Catholic Church
CONTACT: Randy Mueller, Faith Formation
Director, or the parish office at (651) 696-5454.
St. Brendan Catholic Church
CONTACT: Patt Reade, Pastoral Assistant, or the
parish office at (425) 483-9400 ext 3.
San Francisco, CA
(Archdiocese of San
St. Dominic's Church
CONTACT: Scott Moyer (415)
(Diocese of Spokane)
St. Patrick Catholic Church
CONTACT: Father Daniel Barnett,
Pastor, or the parish office at 509-487-1325.
February 2-3, 2007
(Archdiocese of Seattle,
Blessed Sacrament Church
CONTACT: Marilyn Thornton, Director of
Religious Education, or the parish office at (206) 547-3020.
February 10, 2007
Dodge City, KS
(Diocese of Dodge City, KS)
Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe
A special, one-day Called & Gifted Workshop
for catechists of the Diocese of Dodge City
Hessman, Vocations Coordinator for the Diocese of Dodge City, (620)
February 11, 2007
(Diocese of Dodge City,
St Mary Catholic
School/Teen Called & Gifted Workshop
CONTACT: Jenni Winter,
DRE at St. Mary Church or the parish office, (620)
(Diocese of Dodge City, KS)
St. Mary's Catholic
A special, one-day
Called & Gifted SPANISH Workshop for catechists of the Diocese
of Dodge City.
CONTACT: Becky Hessman, Vocations Coordinator for
the Diocese of Dodge City, (620) 227-1530.
February 23, 2007
(Archdiocese of Milwaukee,
St. James Catholic Church
A special, one-day Called & Gifted Workshop
for Catholic school teachers.
CONTACT: the parish office, (262)
February 23-24, 2007
(Diocese of Rapid City,
Our Lady of the Black Hills Catholic Church
CONTACT: Fr. Mark McCormick, Pastor, or the
parish office, (605) 787-5168.
March 2-3, 2007
Woodland Hills, CA
(Archdiocese of Los
St. Bernardine of Siena Catholic Church
CONTACT: the parish office, (818) 888-8200.
Christ King Catholic Church
CONTACT: Joan Carey, or the parish office,
(Archdiocese of Denver)
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic
CONTACT: Mary Vulcani,
or the parish office, (303) 233-6236.
Coeur d'Alene, ID
St. Pius X Catholic Church
CONTACT: Cathy Adams or the parish office,
April 20-21, 2007
(Diocese of Charleston)
St. Mary's Catholic Church
CONTACT: Kate Tierney (864) 230-7767; or by e-mail.
April 27-28, 2007
(Archdiocese of Seattle)
St. Michael Catholic
Wright, Steward for Time, Talent and Evangelization, or the parish
office, (360) 754-4667 x115.
Fr. Mike Fones,
O.P. will be offering two workshops; one for clergy and seminarians
from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and one for the laity from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.,
titled, All Are Called: Stewarding the Gifts of Vocation.
Leaverton, Office of Stewardship, (714) 282-3026.
February 25-March 1, 2007
(Archdiocese of Milwaukee,
St. James Catholic Church
CONTACT: parish office, (262)
(Archdiocese of Seattle)
St Michael Catholic Church
office/Kathleen Wright, Steward for Time, Talent and Evangelization,
(360) 754-4667 x115.
(Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis)
Nativity of Our
Lord Catholic Church
parish office/Randy Mueller, Faith Formation Director, (651)
(Archdiocese of Seattle)
Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic
office/Colleen O'Connell, Pastoral Associate, (425) 391-1178
to help others (as individuals or in small groups) to discern their
* Basic listening skills and
spiritual maturity (best if practicing Christian for 2 years
* Must have attended live Called & Gifted workshop or
listened to CDs or audio tapes, took Catholic Spiritual Gifts
Inventory, did some personal discernment, had a one-on-one personal
March 9-10, 2007
St. Mary Catholic
CONTACT Mike Dillon
at (719) 219-0056 or Kate
Tierney in Greenville, (864) 297-8232.
March 16-17, 2007
(Archdiocese of Los
St. John Eudes
Dawson, Director of Evangelization at St John Eudes Parish (818)
341-3680; or Bobby Vidal, Religious Education Director, Blessed
Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, Santa Clarita CA, (661)
Cedar Rapids, IA
Manternach, Director of Stewardship for the Archdiocese, by her e-mail.
"For Such a Time as
This: How to Find and Live God's Purpose for Your Life."
devoted to the practical art of discernment with Sherry Weddell,
co-Director of the Catherine of Siena Institute.
April 21, 2007
(Diocese of San Bernardino)
St. Andrew's Catholic Newman Center
CONTACT: Newman Center office (909)
682-8751; or e-mail.
The Catherine of Siena Institute is a religious
non-profit with 501C-3 status. We receive no financial support from
any diocese or from the Western Dominican Province, but are entirely
self-supporting. Your donations and gifts-in-kind are essential to
our ongoing operations. To learn how you can help us, please contact
our Development Officer, Mr.
George Martelon at (303) 847-7052.
What power, O robber, led you to the light?
Who taught you to worship that despised Man, your companion on the
Cross? O Light Eternal, which gives light to them that are in
darkness! Therefore also he justly heard the words, Be of good
cheer; not that your deeds are worthy of good cheer; but that
the King is here, dispensing favours. The request reached unto a
distant time; but the grace was very speedy. Verily I say unto
you, This day shall thou be with Me in Paradise...Adam by the
Tree fell away; thou by the Tree art brought into Paradise...This
day shall thou depart, but, This day shall thou be with Me.
Be of good courage: you shall not be cast out...O mighty and
ineffable grace! The faithful Abraham had not yet entered, but the
robber enters! Moses and the Prophets had not yet entered, and the
robber enters though a breaker of the law...The robber has a will to
work righteousness, but death prevents him; [Jesus] waits not
exclusively for the work, but faith also he accepts.
Catechetical Lecture of St. Cyril of Alexandria, 350
Thanks to Darcy Hall for the use of
Faith of a Child, Liz Anderson for the use of Lazarus, her
Ford SUV, and Fr. Paul Wicker, for the use of his guestroom. Thanks,
too, to the meticulous editing of Anna Elias-Cesnik and Patrician
by Fr. Michael Fones, O.P., co-Director of the
Catherine of Siena Institute
My childhood in central Illinois was filled with
sandlot football games, neighborhood-wide editions of cowboys and
Indians, dirt clod fights in the cornfields that began at the end of
our subdivision, and exploratory forays into the deep, dark woods
that lined the creek near my friend Tom's house. Whatever game we
were playing, however, could be instantly interrupted by the cry,
"Looky here!" That meant someone had found something really
interesting that should take precedent over anything else in which
we were engaged. It might be a line of ants carrying the remains of
a cookie to their nest, or a large cricket caught in a spider's web,
or a half-buried bone left by some mongrel that would lead to all
kinds of speculation as to whether it belonged to the Tyrannosaurus
or Allosaurus genus.
So, with that in mind, I invite you to, "Looky here"
at what Sherry, the Institute co-Director, has been working on. It's
a new tool for the Institute - a web log, or "blog" called Intentional Disciples!
We hope Intentional Disciples will be a resource for people all over
the country (and beyond) interested in the baptismal call,
spirituality, gifts, vocations, ministry, work, history, theology,
evangelization, formation, bad jokes, and pastoral support of lay
Christians seeking to live their faith in the 21st Century.
Intentional Disciples is a group effort, with entries
submitted from Sherry, me, Clara Geoghegan and Fr. Anthony Walsh,
OP, our Australian co-Directors, as well as Institute teachers and
collaborators from around the U.S. We hope it becomes a forum for
insightful, respectful, intelligent and passionate discussions about
99.96% of the Church - lay Catholics!
The New and Improved Making
by Sherry Weddell and Fr.
Michael Fones, O.P., co-Directors of the Catherine of Siena
During the last three years, 200 pastoral leaders from
60 dioceses all over North America and Australia have attended our
four-day summer training seminar Making Disciples, Equipping
Apostles. It's been an amazing ride and we have learned so
much from meeting and sharing with so many creative and passionate
When we began asking participants what percentage of
Catholics in their parishes were intentional disciples, we had to
first wrestle with what intentional discipleship was, and then we'd
have a long discussion on the topic. Several issues always came
- Some participants felt like we were asking them to
judge the spiritual lives of parishioners.
- Many participants realized that they seldom knew
enough about the spiritual lives of parishioners to evaluate what
their needs might be.
- If they were pressed to guess the percentage of
intentional disciples in their parishes, the estimate was usually
five percent or less.
It became very clear that even Catholic leaders who
are passionate about evangelization and the formation of laity
seldom know how to help those who are spiritually seeking to make
the journeyjourney to true intentional discipleship. So helping
pastoral leaders gain the awareness and skills necessary to
facilitate the journey to intentional discipleship is going to be
our primary focus in the "new and improved" Making
As with any Catherine of Siena Institute offering,
there will be a solid overview of pertinent Scripture and
Magisterial teaching. We will examine the Church's teaching on
grace, the nature of faith and discipleship, and the prerequisites
for the fruitful, life-changing reception of the sacraments.
One of the most helpful new segments will cover the
significance of pre-discipleship" stages of relationship with God.
Each threshold along the way to intentional discipleship is a kind
of conversion, a work of God's grace, and takes genuine spiritual
energy. We'll examine in detail five spiritual thresholds that
individuals usually cross on their way to becoming an intentional
disciple: trust, spiritual curiosity, spiritual openness, active
seeking and the commitment to intentional discipleship. Different
challenges are experienced at each level which require a different
response from those who are assisting the seeker.
Also, we will examine how to invite people to talk
about their lived relationship with God in a comfortable,
non-threatening manner, how to listen respectfully to another's
journey, and how to recognize and facilitate the next step on that
journey, whatever it might be. Our goal is to pass on a basic set
of evangelizing skills that can be used in a wide variety of
pastoral situations by a wide variety of ministers. Each day will
conclude with prayer experiences that will help participants reflect
on their own lives as disciples and their experiences as pastoral
Some of you may be thinking, "this sounds a)
Protestant; b) invasive; c) judgmental; d) not Catholic, e)
all of the above." In all honesty, Fr. Mike says he would have
probably felt the same way three years ago. But, he says, "the
people I have met and the study of Church teaching in which I have
been immersed over these last two and a half years with the
Institute have changed me. I now look upon this sort of awareness
and inquiry as crucial to evangelization and effective ministry. It
is an act of humility to examine my own relationship with Christ
honestly. It is an act of love to invite others to speak openly of
their relationship with Jesus and to desire to journey with them in
an ever-deepening mutual relationship with Him that will eventually
We are excited about the potential fruitfulness of
this tool for ministry. The five threshold structure gives us a way
to think about evangelization and ministry both within the Catholic
community and outside of it. It can help us approach people as
individuals with unique spiritual needs and questions and on a
unique journey of faith. It can change the way we approach
- RCIA Helping RCIA team members determine where
inquirers are in their spiritual journey and direct them to
appropriate resources and/or small groups tailored to their needs.
- Parish registration processes An initial
conversation can help ministers determine which parish
ministries/resources might be most helpful to them.
- Sacramental preparation
- Infant baptism Where are the parents and
godparents in the faith journey? What kind of preparation can also
facilitate the spiritual development of the adults involved?
- Confirmation If the sponsors are intentional
disciples, there's a better chance the newly confirmed will become
intentional disciples as well. We are developing some questions
that challenge seekers to become disciples.
- Marriage the initial interview of the couple
could easily include a spiritual inventory. The marriage
preparation process can then be tailored to prepare them not only
for marriage, but to encourage intentional discipleship, which
will be the best way to ensure a more fruitful marriage.
Conversations based on the FOCCUS inventory already offer
opportunities to ask about the couples' faith life.
- Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction could
be more effective if the minister has a more refined sense of the
lived spiritual issues and questions the directee has.
- Confession Fr. Mike says he has already begun
listening to confessions with an ear for clues indicating at what
threshold of faith the penitent is.He relies more consciously on
God's grace to help him respond in a way that encourages a deeper
commitment to discipleship.
Finally, Sherry and I hope that the
skill of identifying the five thresholds and listening to faith
stories will be readily transferable. Our hope is that pastoral
ministers will share these skills with members of their parishes who
are interested and we think many will be. We can't recall meeting
a Catholic who didn't have a friend or a member of their family who
had "fallen away" from the Catholic Church. Often they were not
practicing any faith, sometimes they had joined a Protestant
denomination or "non-denominational" church, and in a few cases they
had joined a non-Christian faith. Practically every day at Mass a
parent prays during the Prayers of the Faithful for their children
who no longer practice their faith. Making Disciples may
literally be a partial answer to such prayers.
We do not "make" disciples, God's grace does. But graced
human effort can create an environment in which intentional
discipleship, i.e., a well-formed faith, is nurtured, celebrated,
and expected as the norm. We are all invited by Jesus to come and
follow him. He preached the Good News of God's kingdom and offered
Himself on the cross for our redemption. Shouldn't we take our
following of Him more seriously, so that His death is not for
naught? We have stories of the great ways in which God has changed
individual lives and sometimes the world - through His grace at
work in the saints. We are all called to be saints. That
is God's will for us. Intentional disciples are
saints-in-the-making, and thus are the goal and purpose of every
ministry and every parish activity. The intent of Making
Disciples is to make that ministry more fruitful.
Building a Foundation When the Second
by Fr. Michael
Fones, O.P., co-Director of the Catherine of Siena
In the two and a half years I have worked with Sherry
Weddell, I have heard her lament on several occasions at the
conclusion of a Called & Gifted workshop, "I built a second
floor presuming there was a foundation upon which to build!" The
second floor to which she's referring is the Called & Gifted
workshop that she developed with Fr. Michael Sweeney around the
Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory. The foundation that's often
missing is intentional discipleship.
"What, exactly, is intentional discipleship?" you may
well ask. It's not a phrase commonly used among Catholics, and
admittedly, it is difficult to pin adequately down. Intentional
disciples have somehow heard Jesus' invitation to, "come, follow me"
and have made a conscious choice to obey. Like many cradle
Catholics, there have been periods in my life in which my faith was
more or less unconscious or accidental; just something I was "born
into." I have at times (sometimes lengthy) associated the
successful practice of my faith with "following the rules" or "being
good," or making sure I not miss Sunday Mass. Now that I'm a priest,
the latter is not likely to happen. But intentional
discipleship requires more from us. It requires a deliberate
decision to follow Jesus as Lord including being Lord of my
life within the community He founded, the Church.
Intentional discipleship, and faith itself, is
fundamentally conversion to Jesus Christ. Conversion "re-orients all
aspects of the person's life to Christ. This conversion is the
acceptance of a personal relationship with Christ, a sincere
adherence to him, and a willingness to conform one's life to his."
(National Directory for Catechesis, p. 48) Such a
conversion can lead the Christian to say truthfully and joyfully
with the converted Saul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who
lives in me." (Gal 2:20)
Discipleship flows from our relationship with Christ.
Of course, any relationship has its own unique characteristics. My
relationship with my sister, Barbara, is different from my brother,
Dave's, relationship with her. She is the same person; it is Dave
and I who are different. So, too, intentional discipleship with
Jesus; it will necessarily look a bit different for each one of
us.Thus, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who tried to
describe the nature of obscenity back in 1964, I am tempted to say
of intentional discipleship, "I know it when I see it" Yet even
then I must be careful because only God sees into our hearts and
knows our motivations and deepest longings.
After our experience of the last few years with the
four-day workshop Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles,
Sherry and I decided that MDEA was attempting to build a two-story
structure when the folks attending the workshop indicated they
needed to work on the more foundational aspects of faith with their
parishioners. They needed a way to help foster intentional
Evidence of a lack of intentional
discipleship in our parishes
It used to be that a "practicing Catholic" was one who
attended Sunday Mass. But regular attendance at the Sunday
Eucharist is more and more uncommon. A 2005 Center for Applied
Research on the Apostolate (CARA) survey of
Catholics regarding the frequency of Mass attendance found that only
one third of those surveyed attend Mass once a week. Intentional
disciples, by definition, are interested in sharing their faith with
others, but a 2002 Pew
Research Center survey indicates that a majority of white
Catholics don't even think it's necessary to share their faith with
their children! In that survey, only 42% of white Catholics said
that one must believe in God in order to be moral, and a 59%
majority said that children are just as likely to develop morals
Finally, a 2005 CARA
survey of Catholics who were college graduates attempted to
correlate participation in campus ministry and the post-college
practice of the faith. Just over two-thirds (68%) of Catholics, who
had graduated from college and had participated in some way in
campus ministry during their college years, had read a Catholic
magazine or newspaper in the last year, compared with 53% of those
who had not been involved with campus ministry. Only 36% and 27% of
the people in those two groups had read a book about Catholicism in
the last year. I would presume these are among the best-read
Catholics in our parishes, yet interest in deepening the
understanding of the faith does not seem very high.
While there are many ways of interpreting these data
and the causes behind the results of these surveys, I don't believe
it's wise to rule out the possibility that John Paul II's lament in
in Our Time may be justified. "Many Catholics are still without
any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ; they only have the
capacity to believe placed within them by Baptism and the presence
of the Holy Spirit. (19). Furthermore, if intentional discipleship
and conversion lead one to begin to ask, "What does God want
of my life" and to recognize a need to discern gifts and vocation,
then the lack of intentional discipleship could be one of the
reasons we are living in a time of a shortage of vocations of all
kinds; including priestly and religious vocations.
As Sherry and I have been studying Church teaching
concerning conversion, grace, justification, and the fruitful
reception of the sacraments, we have discovered some startling
Church teachings that indicate there are serious consequences
following from the lack of intentional discipleship.
At the Council of Trent, in reply to the Reformers cry
of, "justification by faith alone," the bishops
decreed that only faith that is active in charity and good works
(fides formata, i.e., "well-formed faith") possesses any
power to justify us (Gal 5:6, 1Cor 13:2). This fides
formata is what Sherry and I are calling intentional
discipleship. It is distinguished from two other fairly common
expressions of faith. One is a faith marked by an intellectual
understanding and assent to the truths of the faith, but lacking in
charity and good works (which the bishops at Trent called fides
informis). The other is a general belief in God and a reliance
on one's good works for salvation, rather than the atoning death of
Jesus (the heresy of Pelagianism, which basically asserts that we
earn salvation). Inasmuch as both of these expressions of faith are
lacking in a conversion of heart and true contrition for sin, they
are dead in the eyes of God and insufficient for justification
Faith that justifies is not simply an assent to
revealed truths, nor is it a vague belief in a supreme being, but a
loving relationship of trust in our Savior and a desire to know and
do His will that shapes our human relationships as well. The
recently published Adult Catechism for the U.S. describes faith
this way, "God makes himself known to us through Revelation in order
both to give us something and to draw a response from us. Both this
gift of God and our response to his Revelation are called
faith. By faith, we are able to give our minds and hearts
to God, to trust in his will, and to follow the direction he gives
us. St. Paul describes this response as the 'obedience of faith'"
(Rom 16:26) The adult catechism goes on to include the following
aspects in the definition of faith.
- Faith is a personal and communal relationship.
(CCC, 150)? A personal faith says, "I believe in God. .
." It is as though we gather all that we are and gratefully give
our hearts and minds to God. We have a personal relationship with
the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. . .Our personal
faith brings us into a relationship with God's people and the
faith of the entire people strengthens us in our relationship
- Faith seeks understanding and is a friend of
- Faith is necessary for salvation.
- Faith is a gift of grace.
- Faith is a free human act. Faith is a gift of God
that enables us to know and love him. Faith is a way of knowing,
just as reason is. But living in faith is not possible unless
there is action on our part.
- Faith believes with conviction in a message.
Adult Catechism, pp. 37-38.
Clearly, faith involves the whole person: our mind,
emotions, will, and actions. It also requires our personal response
to the proclamation of the Good News. According to Pope Benedict
XVI, "Our knowledge of Jesus needs above all a first-hand
experience: someone else's testimony is of course important, for
normally the whole of our Christian life begins with the
proclamation handed down to us by one or more witnesses. However,
we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep
relationship with Jesus." General
Audience, October 4, 2006
Ramifications of Intentional
Why are Sherry and I spending so much energy
investigating the nature of intentional discipleship? Here are four
1) It is a matter of salvation! The
Church indicates that faith that justifies follows upon a conversion
of heart characterized by love for others and contrition for one's
sins and a desire for a new way of life which leads the adult to
seek baptism or, if already baptized, confession. What does it
mean, then, that so few Catholics go to confession on a regular
basis? Why are Catholics parked in opposing camps labeled
"traditional" and "progressive", hurling invectives at one another
with no regard for Christian charity? Is it possible that our
churches have significant numbers of nominal Catholics whose faith
is insufficient for justification, and yet who are not being
challenged by clergy, religious, or lay Catholics to take their
relationships with Jesus and His Church more seriously? If we do
not expect our lives and the lives of other parishioners to be
transformed by the encounter with Christ in the sacraments, the
scriptures and the community of faith, are we in danger of
presuming our salvation? We must not forget the
observation of St. Augustine that "God will not save us without
2) It shapes our spiritual life around
Christ. In addition to the matter of our eternal life, there's
also the question of how we are to live in this world. Jesus
promises us that if we follow him, we will receive a peace the world
cannot give, that his joy will be ours and our joy will be complete.
(Jn 14:27, 16:24) One of the signs of a justifying faith is a trust
in the love and presence of Christ, even when everything in our life
seems to be headed south. This is not to say that intentional
disciples don't experience grief, sadness, or frustration. But
intentional disciples can find in life's difficulties reminders to
cling all the more closely to Christ, to participate in his passion
for the sake of his body, the Church (Col 1:24), and to make an
effort to once again trust in his loving will for us. Moreover, the
intentional disciple, in the words of the catechism, "desires to
know better the One in whom he has put his faith and to understand
better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in
turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love."
(CCC 158) Shouldn't we desire such a Christ-centered perspective
for ourselves and those whom we love?
3) It is necessary if we are to work successfully
for God's Kingdom. Because intentional disciples desire to
know God's will for their own lives and seek to implement it in the
different environments in which they live, fostering a culture of
intentional discipleship is essential if our culture is to be
transformed. The conversion that intentional disciples undergo
changes the way they participate in the life of their parishes and
in the liturgy. Relationships with the members of their family
change, as do their friendships. Charisms begin to emerge in the
lives of disciples and they find themselves drawn and empowered to
be a channel of God's love, mercy, and provision for others in very
particular ways. We can also anticipate that intentional disciples
who begin to discern God's call will also be instrumental in making
changes in the institutions and structures of our society. Or,
better put, God's transforming grace will work through His willing
instruments to bring about elements of His Kingdom in the realm of
politics, economics, health care, business, the arts; in short,
every area in which Catholic laity work and play.
4) It is essential to the Church's primary mission
of evangelization. In his book, The Catholic Church at the
End of an Age, Ralph Martin writes, "Among Hispanic Catholics
in the United States, who now constitute nearly a third of American
Catholics, five million have left the Catholic Church in the last
ten years to join evangelical or Pentecostal churches or other
religious movements. And this trend is not just true in this country.
Bishop Bonaventura Kloppenburg of Brazil has recently noted that
Latin American is turning Protestant faster at the present time than
Central Europe did in the sixteenth century." (pp. 38, 45) The
de-Christianization of Europe, the rapid spread of evangelical
Protestantism in Latin America and the millions of non-practicing
Catholics in the U.S. all point to the tremendous need for the "New
Evangelization" championed by Pope John Paul II.
While many Catholics consider
evangelization to be a Protestant activity, or solely the purview of
clergy and religious, throughout my lifetime the popes have insisted
that evangelization is the duty of all Catholics. In the apostolic
exhortation Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope Paul
VI wrote beautifully of the importance of the witness of the
Christian life to which we are all called. Many Catholics I know will say they are only comfortable with trying to evangelize
through their actions. But Paul VI added that silent witness alone
"always remains insufficient, because even the finest witness will
prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified
- what Peter called always having 'your answer ready for people who
ask you the reason for the hope that you all have' (1Pt. 3:15) - and
made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord
Jesus." Evangelii Nuntiandi, 22.
John Paul II wrote, "The new evangelization is not a
matter of merely passing on doctrine but rather of a personal and
profound meeting with the Savior."Commissioning Families,
Neo-Catechumenal Way. 1991. Effective evangelization is
centered on the person of Jesus that flows from the intentional
disciple's lived relationship with Him.
A friend of mine who experienced a powerful conversion
nearly two years ago is adamant that a relationship with Jesus
involves "talking to him all day long," and indeed, this fellow
prays throughout his workday. He also comfortably and naturally
talks about Jesus with others, the way I might talk about a friend
whom I treasure. In fact, through my friend I have come to an
appreciation and deeper connection with St. Dominic, who was said to
be always either speaking to God or about God. What at one time had
sounded like a pious exaggeration now makes perfect sense. We
naturally talk to others about the people we love.
It is estimated that thirty percent of Evangelical and
Pentecostal Protestants are former Catholics. How many of them
found the baptismal grace they received as infants awakened by the
fervent, outspoken love for Christ and the expectation that faith
transforms one's life found among some of our separated brethren?
The re-evangelization of the people in our parishes and the
invitation to become conscious, intentional disciples of Jesus need
to be the focus of our parochial and personal lives as Catholics.
This is the heart of the Gospel, and the heart of ministry.
Faith of a
ChildFor my niece, Kiedra Marie
by Darcy Hall
A sterling cross hangs
around her neck, a Christmas
unwrapped early, displayed
on bare flesh points to her
She insists it be on first
after her bath and
She double-checks for proper
placement after Grandpa
her hands to play Skin the Cat,
flew her around the
and wrapped her like a burrito
with blankets for a
of tickles, and begs Sissy
for a Karaoke machine
I rescue her new puppy
shaking with fear
couch where she
placed him, too high
for his little legs to
as she sings, I'm a little teapot
short and sprout,
my ovation. I lift her over my head
to shake the
twerp out and say, I missed you so much.
I let her down
she squeezes her hands
hard on my cheeks,
turns my lips
leans to me and says, I know