‘How can we transmit a living, personal Catholic faith to future generations? By coming to know Jesus Christ, and following him as his disciples.
These are times of immense challenge and immense opportunity for the Catholic Church. Consider these statistics for the United States. Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing. Fully 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics. The number of marriages celebrated in the Church decreased dramatically, by nearly 60 percent, between 1972 and 2010. Only 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God. If the Church is to reverse these trends, the evangelizers must first be evangelized-in other words, Catholics-in-the-pew must make a conscious choice to know and follow Jesus before they can draw others to him. This work of discipleship lies at the heart of Forming Intentional Disciples, a book designed to help Church leaders, parish staff and all Catholics transform parish life from within. Drawing upon her fifteen years of experience with the Catherine of Siena Institute, Sherry Weddell leads readers through steps that will help Catholics enter more deeply into a relationship with God and the river of apostolic creativity, charisms, and vocation that flow from that relationship for the sake of the Church and the world. Learn about the five thresholds of postmodern conversion, how to open a conversation about faith and belief, how to ask thought-provoking questions and establish an atmosphere of trust, when to tell the Great Story of Jesus, how to help someone respond to God’s call to intentional discipleship, and much more. And be prepared for conversion because when life at the parish level changes, the life of the whole Church will change.’ (Amazon review)
Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus by Sherry Weddell is a startlingly honest book about the state of most Catholic parishes today. I recognized many truths and heard the reasons for them explained. However, it wasn’t the problems which intrigued me so much as the hopeful signs, the solutions, and the positive maxim, “Never accept a label in place of a story.”
Her five thresholds of conversion were even more compelling as they’re readily identifiable points along the spiritual journey where the Holy Spirit is actively at work and by careful listening pastors and other church workers can facilitate smooth transitions to full discipleship.
1.) Initial trust—a positive association with Jesus Christ, the Church, a Christian believer, or something identifiably Christian; not the same as active personal faith.
2.) Spiritual curiosity—intrigued by or desiring to know more about Jesus, his life, and his teachings or some aspect of the Christian faith.
3.) Spiritual openness—personal acknowledgement of openness to the possibility of personal and spiritual change. This is not a commitment to change.
4.) Spiritual seeking—moving from being essentially passive to actively seeking to know God.
5.) Intentional discipleship—the decision to follow Jesus in the midst of his Church as an obedient disciple and to reorder one’s life accordingly.
When I finished Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus I had to walk away from it awhile. It contains a lot of statistics as well as a fair number of new concepts. The numbers were rather dismal but the ideas were hopeful and helpful, both on an individual and a group level. Ms. Weddell doesn’t offer enough solutions to the problems. If you are looking for some big fancy program which is going to ‘fix’ our broken parishes, then her book will be a disappointment. I believe in Jesus and the Holy Spirit and in the power of Love, prayer, communication and personal testimony to change hearts and lives.
So for me, this book is about how do I become a fully functional disciple? Some of this will involve my own relationship with Jesus, some will concern my other primary relationships, and the rest will involve what I do with, for and in my parish. If you want to change the world, or just your country, parish or home, best to begin with yourself.