Negotiating the Gap Print
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 13 August 2009 10:26
I get some very interesting questions, such as this one last night from parish staff member and alum of our Making Disciples seminar:

A little history: A woman who is our women's bible study leader, who is very dynamic and is an intentional disciple with a charism of pastoring or teaching, came and had a discussion with me. She was Catholic left the Church went to several evangelical churches had a profound experience of Christ there. She came back to the Catholic Church only because her daughter was reaching first communion age. Got involved with our parish. Felt called by the Holy Spirit to start a woman's bible study so she met with me, I introduced her to the Called &Gifted, and several converts' materials and work, people who made the journey from the evangelical church to the Catholic Church. She got very enthralled with the Early Church Fathers, etc.

Her questions to me today: "What can I tell my evangelical friends as to why they should be Catholic?

I am not talking about theologically but practically. They have a strong sense of community rooted in discipleship. I can tell them to come to this parish, but what can I tell them about the parishes they are close by, or in other states? One of my friends who is an evangelical said she believes everything that the Church teaches about the Eucharist, etc. but she can't see sending her children to Mass or religious education where they will be bored out of their minds, not experience real community, and not ever encounter another disciple? What can I tell them?"

I have to admit that I was at a loss for words...I did speak to her about why I am Catholic and how being Catholic is the fullest way for me to follow Jesus and be in greatest intimacy with Him...etc.

She asked me about how the church got into this state that it is in, in the first place. So I begun explaining the raise of Christendom and how the use of charisms, proclamation, and conversion tied with initiation became less and less in the forefront of the Church's pastoral practice, the rise of monasticism and its impact on charisms, proclamation, and catechetics and the laity. She was very intrigued but had to run to pick up her daughter. She left with, "I would love to continue this conversation..."

The question she is really asking is: How does one deal with the journey of discipleship when theologically one can accept the teachings of the Church, but can't embrace the pastoral practices of a Church that lacks discipleship?

I'm hearing variations on this question all over the country. Another diocesan staff person told me a story of recently getting to know a very savvy evangelical church planter who is immersing himself in the Fathers and magisterial teaching But as he told his new Catholic friend "you are the first Catholic I've ever met that actually believes all that the Church teaches. "

So I'll turn to our readers:

How would you advise disciples from other Christian traditions who considering entering the Church to negotiate the vast gap between the teaching of the Church and the great saints and mystics and the actual lived practice of the faith at the local parish level? How can they survive and even thrive in a parish culture where discipleship is not the norm?

What have you found helpful?