An Introduction to Discipleship – A Spiritual Reflection
Sherry Weddell is the President and Co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute. She once said that “Nobody ever yawns in the presence of Christ.” In 2012, Sherry published the book “Forming Intentional Disciples.” I’ve spoken, and preached, about it on many occasions – so much so that one parishioner was once overheard saying. “He talks about that all the time…”
Ok, guilty as charged. But how many “disciples” do we have in St. Monica? Are you one of them? How do you know?
I’ve been reading two new books on discipleship. One is Into His Likeness – Be Transformed as a Disciple of Christ written by Edward Sri. Sri is a theologian, a nationally-known Catholic speaker and an author of several Catholic best-selling books. Becoming A Fervent Disciple is written by a “local boy” – Deacon John Lozano. John is a parishioner at St. Norbert Parish. He worked for 24 years in campus ministry. He also worked as an instructor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University.
The books look at the subject of contemporary discipleship from two different perspectives. In discussing the two books with some friends, we feel that one is a kind of “Discipleship 101” course. The other is more challenging and more for people who are a bitfurther along in their spiritual life. Which is which? Well, buy them both, read them and let me know what you think. In the meantime,… let’s dive in.
A disciple is characterized by a faith that is fervent. But what is fervency?
Well, let’s look at what it is not. Fervency is not an emotion. It is not about excitement or enthusiasm. It is not about discovering your “passion” or uncovering your talents, charisms or gifts. Fervency has nothing to do with your personality type.
Fervency is also not about people who have acquired a particular level of theological education. Fervent disciples have failed in their discipleship – even in their lives. I give you Saint Peter (traitor), St. Paul (murderer), St. Augustine (letch). Fervent disciples are not people who never have doubts or questions about their faith. Look at Matthew 28:17. “when they saw him they worshipped…. But they doubted.”
So what is a fervent disciple? St. John Paul II once wrote that “Fervent disciples will be people who are completely integrated in their own times. They are will be deeply engaged in the apostolic movement that is best suited to their own particular social and professional status.” When you meet fervent disciples, they are alive and engaging. They do not want to approach and experience life in a passive way. They want to affect it and improve it. They constantly seem to be actively waiting. They are awake and alert to the way Jesus is working in their life. They expect something to happen.
They are intentional. On the spiritual/ pastoral side, they can actually name the reason why they pray daily, go to Church and Confession, serve the poor, actively study the faith and read the Bible. Within the context of the human dimension, they make thoughtful and intentional choices about what activities in life they will engage in. They consciously decide about the people they meet with, friends they keep and relationships they jettison. They ask thoughtful and uncomfortable questions like, “How will this person or this commitment affect my life? How will it help, or hinder, my goal to be a disciple?”
Next week we will delve a little deeper into the topic of what a disciple is – and is not. We will also look into the question why one needs to be a disciple.