So now what? That’s the question Sarah R. poses for us as we wrap up the summer-long study of Forming Intentional Disciples. You read this book. Is it going to change anything?
In answer, here’s my timeline:
2012 – People keep telling me I need to read this book. But wait. Book budget blown.
Fall 2012 – Acquire book via Catholic Company review program. Yay.
Jan 2012 – Write book review. Yep. It was that good.
Meanwhile . . . Fall 2012: Friend across town has been steadfastly organizing Little Flowers Lite one Sunday a month. Handful of Catholic moms hanging out in the living room while girls learn a virtue and do a craft in the dining room. Yay faithful friend.
More Fall 2012: Neophyte Dads Who Don’t Know Better do the Good Married Man thing and turn out with ladies for LFL. Bored. Feeling like third wheel.
More Fall 2012: It’s our turn to host LFL. SuperHusband is making his escape, when Neophyte Dads show up, observe Mr. Boy preparing for AirSoft battle with neighborhood
hooligans friends. Mr. Boy gamely provides training and opportunities to suffer. Neophyte Dads get grass stains all over good church clothes. –> “Stinging Nettles”, the testosterone wing of Little Flowers Lite is born. Boys and Dads suddenly very gung ho about spiritual development of little girls.
Spring 2013: Monthly Sunday afternoon get-together of Catholic families => tiny stable Catholic community. Dads start doing crazy stuff like leading everyone in a Rosary before pot-luck supper.
More Spring 2013: Celebrity Internet Priest gives inspiring talk about What’s Killing American Catholicism. SuperHusband listens to wife talk about talk. Nods vigorously. Says, “E-mail Internet Priest. Our friends need to hear this.” Internet priest replies*, “Your friends need to read this book. You may have heard of it. Forming Intentional Disciples.”
May 2013: Jen mentions in e-mail to Sarah R. that forming book club is on now on to-do list. Sarah R. decides the whole internet should join in. Persuades Lisa H. at CatholicMom.com to be the host site. OSV happy, very accomodating.
June 2013: Real life book club forms. Invite a combination of LFL / Stinging Nettles Families and a few other likely candidates from parish and around town.
Meanwhile . . . May 2013, Homeschooling Moms get together to look at favorite text books, get ideas for coming school year. Friend from LFL/SN shows Jen program Jen wants to try. Jen knows she is too undisciplined to succeed on own. Says, “Could we maybe form a teeny-tiny co-op to meet every other week as we start the new chapter? Just enough to keep me honest?” Friend hesitates. She’s really quite busy. Jen makes puppy eyes. Friend says she’ll think about it.**
Early June: Handful of Homeschool moms meet at home of hesitant friend to get ideas for a co-op. Massive list of desired classes emerges. Pray for host parish to appear out of nowhere. Because there’s no Mass at the public library.
Middle of June: Jen phones Fr. Excellent, asks if maybe he’d consider perhaps possibly one day if it’s okay letting parish form homeschooling support group at parish. Fr. Excellent replies, “Don’t need to think about it. Yes. Go ahead.”
End of June: First real-life book club meeting for FID. One or two have read book or started to read book. Some have vaguely skimmed study guide. All get into lively discussion about WKAC.*** Decide to meet again, maybe even read book.
Beginning of July: Second real-life book club meeting for FID. A few more have read more pages. All agree need for evangelization is pressing. Conclusion: Wait a minute. Can’t really help others develop personal relationship with Jesus until my own is in half-decent shape. Determine that next meeting we should ditch book — goal accomplished — and go straight to becoming a discipleship group for ourselves.
Middle of July: Homeschool Moms meet to finalize proposed plans for co-op / support group.
More Middle of July: Pray Fr. Excellent will approve proposal.
More Middle of July: Fr. Excellent approves proposal in world’s shortest meeting, goes straight to helping us book rooms.
End of July: First discipleship meeting. Launch theme of loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength, and neighbor as self. Because: Easy. Haha. SuperHusband displays his superness by preparing massive study for testosterone wing: Men and teen boys meet on screen porch, spend two hours studying theme of “love” in Scripture and in Deus Caritas Est. Ladies teach kids first few lines of the Latin Gloria, just ’cause, then do coloring sheet, chat and have snacks. Jen pleased with split format, allows SuperHusband to do research, Jen to borrow notes for ladies’ meeting following session.
August: The Month of Crazy. And yes, thank your prayers, the kick-off lunch for co-op went well. Catholic School folks turned out, and I really really like what I learned. What they are doing totally complements what we are doing. Thrilled to have established a means to channel young families towards the school.
Meanwhile, completely separately: Youth Ministry volunteer couple, now parents of several young children, realize parish needs ministry to young families. Starts hosting monthly event.
So where are we at the start of September?
It’s beginning to look a lot like those multiple overlapping opportunities for finding a small group within the parish. We’ve got:
- A parish ministry to young families meeting once a month, thank you leaders for seeing that need and running with it. Which gives us an easy invite for new faces on the playground after Mass on Sunday.
- The home-based family discipleship group, involving a mix of families from around town, with plans to meet twice a month. Format put together for adults, teens, boys & girls so that everyone gets some study and some fun.
- Homeschooling co-op on Fridays doing a combination of academics and spiritual extras (Benediction, Mass, apologetics for kids, Latin/English chorus, Catholic memory work stuff) that fills some needs parents were asking for.
- Preschool co-op every other week, using the curriculum from Catholic Icing, actively inviting parents of young children from the parish to get involved.
- Local Catholic school at neighboring parish offering flexible half-day and 3x/week preschool options for parents who need more than the co-op, less than a full-day five days a week program. And more-n-more scholarships for Catholic families who want K-8 Catholic education. If we hadn’t asked, we wouldn’t have known.
Do you understand how magnificent it is, to be able to say to someone you meet on the playground, “You might be interested in . . . ” and have a place to send them? Our parish was already doing good stuff. The usual complement of ministries – RCIA, religious ed, Legion of Mary, St. Vincent de Paul — you name it, doing things that need to be done, and giving folks an outlet for this or that part of the Christian life. But what has arisen over the summer fills some gaps. We had a big hole in the “parent of young children” department, and no way for our existing ministries to meet that need.
All these things are small. We’re talking a handful of families here or there. That’s how it should be. You can’t know 15,000 people well. You can’t listen to 15,000 people talk about what’s going in their life, or ask a burning question, or vent about this or that frustration in the Christian life. Lord help our priests, you can’t in 10 minutes on a Sunday say the one thing that all 15,000 people need to hear and know about in order to take their next step in building their relationship with the Lord. You can’t hear 15,000 confessions, or dispense sufficient pastoral ministry in the handshake line after Mass. It’s too much.
Sherry Weddell shares stern words about the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of the Christian life.
How does lay-run discipleship — the multiple overlapping opportunties — fit into this?
(A) Eucharist is the wellspring from which we ordinary lay Catholics draw our everything. That gives us the ability to create our little bits of lay discipleship about the parish.
(B) The Eucharist draws in people thirsty to God, like the sound of running water. A lot of times, people don’t even know why they’ve walked in the doors of the local parish. But they have. And you show them: Drink. They taste and they want more.
(C) Multiple overlapping opportunities for getting involved in small communities = chance to drink deeply of the Christian life. And make that climb towards the summit of Christian life . . .
(D) Which is the Eucharist. Foretaste of Heaven.
–> Where does Fr. Excellent and all those other sacraments fit in? If the Eucharist is the source and summit of the spiritual hike towards Heaven, the other sacraments are the outfitters, trail head, ranger station, and EMS. Or whatever you like. Fill out your analogy.
Fr. Excellent brings the Jesus. The rest of us layfolk have the mission of getting ourselves to the Jesus.
So that’s my change report. Get the souls to the Jesus. Doesn’t happen in a big giant talk. It happens soul by soul, in these small initiatives that meet the particular needs of the particular souls who’ve walked through the parish doors. Favorite part:
No matter what our particular charism, doing our individual parts to bring the Lord to others is the one thing that’s going to get our own souls ready for Heaven.
Sheesh that’s a marvelous system.
*Not exact words.
**Not strictly sure whether Jen made puppy eyes. But something similarly desperate.
*** WKAC = What’s Killing American Catholicism.