— < December 16 – 17 >—
— < BRING YOUR DEVICE TO MASS > —
I’ve been writing about discernment from various perspectives for several weeks now. How about discernment specifically about St. Monica? Last week I began providing background material that a group of parishioners and I examined over the past year-and-a-half. We did this in order to read the “signs of the times,” take an honest look at where St. Monica is now and – most importantly – discern where the Lord wishes to take the parish in the future.
On the weekend of December 16-17, at all of the masses, I shall go over what we plan to actually do based on this discernment. I shall have a presentation prepared but I shall also post the presentation on line. Thus you can follow along “live” on your device as I speak.
There are two critical items that each believer has to consider concerning their faith. 1. “Where am I in my relationship to Christ?” (your “journey”) and 2. regardless where that relationship is, “What is the Lord calling me to do at this point in my life?” (your “vocation”).
The first step in one’s relationship with Christ is a decision to go on an interior (the spiritual) journey. This includes prayer and spiritual reading, examining one’s life and discerning what God’s will for you is. Next, one joins this with an “Ecclesial (the church) Journey” which is regular participation in the sacraments, especially weekly Mass and regular Confession. Finally, the believer moves towards the “Active (the pastoral) Journey” which is the actual performing of personal spiritual, religious and pastoral practices. [Some considerations from the Discernment Group were: How do we measure where people are on their journey? How can we help move people from one phase to another?] The Disciple Maker Index indicated that a majority of Mass-going St. Monica parishioners might attend Mass but have done little to feed their faith. This was reflected in infrequent spiritual behaviors (prayer, Scripture study, Adoration, Confession) and actions (reaching out to help others). [Some considerations from the Discernment Group were: “How do we measure where people are on their journey? How can we make it easier to help people move from one phase to another?”].
Next, we looked at the three types of vocations: The first is the Universal Vocation of all Church Members (The “Call to Holiness,” excellence and being the “best version of yourself”). The second is your “State of Life” Vocation (married, priesthood, deaconate, consecrated virginity, religious life). The third is your “Personal Vocation” or determining what are your particular gifts, talents and “charisms” and how God is calling you to share these to make the world better now. [From the Discernment Group: “Over the past four years, we engaged the Catherine of Siena’s “Called & Gifted” program, their “Spiritual Gifts Inventory” and the charisms interviews. Some parishioners have identified and fruitfully deployed their “charisms” to benefit others. How can we grow and further this?]
Next, the group chose a number of discernment “themes” and planned to discuss one theme each month for six months. We were convinced that – at some point – the Holy Spirit was going to reveal Himself, derail our “plan” and begin to guide us in the direction God wanted us to go. Topic #1 involved the “American Catholic Landscape which included the statistics that I outlined last week and the importance of using concrete data to drive decisions for St. Monica. Topic #2 was “I Am the Vine, You Are the Branches” (i.e., You’re Not a Trellis!).” Here we discussed the need to stop “supporting programs and structures” instead of “growing disciples.” We asked candidly, “What programs are bearing fruit? Which are not? Where do we need to put resources to grow more fruit and where do we need to prune?” Topic #3 was “Spiritual Stages and Movement Through the Faith Thresholds.” Different parishioners are at different places in their relationship with Christ and at different stages in their faith. How can we build “on-ramps” for people to come in and begin that journey? How do we accommodate transitions from one stage to the next? Is it different for adults versus youth? How do we further encourage identification of people’s gifts, “charism development” and matching people with charisms to the right ministries? Which ministries should be on-campus? Which should be away from the parish?”
Topic #4 was “What Could St. Monica Look Like If We Took this “Priest – Disciple – Charisms” thing seriously?” We asked, “How important is the Kerygma or telling “The Great Story” of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection? (Actually, it’s critical!). What do “Encounters With Christ” look like? What are “Threshold Conversations” and how do they work in terms of these “encounters?” How do we foster “encounters with Christ” and encourage “Threshold Conversations?”
This is where the Holy Spirit broke in. What happened that night in the Hagenbach Room changed the conversation and changed the people in the room as well. It’s too involved, too long and too important to try and write about it here. I’ll tell that story live on December 16-17.
We originally intended on discussing Topic #5: (“Do Tell” – Breaking the Silence, Telling the Great Story and Sharing Your Faith. Establishing a “Culture” of Discipleship) and Topic #6: (“Like Alice in Wonderland, ‘This Is All Curious-er and Curious-er.’ Why the two critical spiritual threshold stages of “Curious” and “Seeking” are important at St. Monica.”). These ended up being discussed and integrated in conversations about the other topics.
So – next week – bring your Droid or iPhone, bring your tablet or iPad. Follow along the presentation to see and hear what we believe the Holy Spirit might be telling St. Monica Parish.