Written by Sherry
Monday, 15 September 2008 08:53
Back from San Francisco.
The workshop (which was a greatly shortened version of Making Disciples and is somewhat experimental) went very well and the hand-picked participants seemed to grasp the significance and power of attending to lived relationship with God and how understanding pre-discipleship thresholds could help.
Fascinatingly, several participants came up to Fr. Mike and I and said the same thing: " I don't think I'm an intentional disciple yet.". I didn't pick up any sense that they felt judged (for which I was glad) - it was just an spontaneous and honest recognition. As one woman said to me: "No one's ever talked to me about this before".
I know. Don't ask, don't tell" is alive and well even in our most vibrant parishes.
I'm talking about culture, of course, not the Church's formal teaching. That bone-deep sense of what it means to be Catholic that we have picked up from our family and friends and our experience in our local congregations. That culture says you don't ask where someone is in their lived relationship with God and you don't talk about your own lived relationship with God.
It's alive and well in our vocational discernment programs. Let me share a single conversation that I had last spring, while at breakfast with a diocesan vocation director (not here – from another diocese in the east)
This vocation director is one of the “new” priests. Only ordained a few years, in his clerics, orthodox in his theology and traditional-leaning in his liturgical convictions. A classic new-orthodox-JPII-generation-Benedict-is my-German-Shepherd priest.
In the course of our conversation, I asked him this question:
Would you say that your candidates for priesthood are disciples?
His instant response: “No!”
My obvious next question: “Why not?”
His response (and I quote) “They don’t know how. No one has ever talked to them about it. They have knowledge about Christ. They don’t have a personal relationship with Christ.”
He was talking about men considering priesthood – discerning a call to become a *alter Christus* – but they don’t yet have a relationship with the great High Priest himself.
It's alive and well even in our evangelization efforts.
Last week, before I left for San Francisco, I listened to a webinar on evangelization recommended by a reader. It was well done, full of interesting stats and insights but by the time it was half way done, I realized that the presenter never talked about Christ. Or Jesus. Or God. Or the Church in relationship to God. The Body in relation to her Head, The Bride in relationship to her Groom.
The presenter could have been talking about any number of large institutions or organizations to a group of heavily invested and concerned shareholders. How to reinvigorate the base, get them to commit once again, to be involved once again.
Business leaders are now using the term "evangelization" to mean aggressively promoting their products. There wasn't much distance between the way "evangelization" is used in business settings and how it was used in this seminar.
I realized after this weekend that we will almost certainly never give a version of Making Disciples during which at least one participant will not come to the conclusion that he or she is not an intentional disciple. (Which is a good thing) And will also say with an air of new discovery, "no one has ever talked to me about this before" - which is not.
"Don't ask, don't tell so permeates the air we breathe that the majority of Catholic actually believe that not asking where we are in our lived relationship with God and never talking about it is one of the essences of true Catholicism, one of those most profoundly Catholic things that sets us apart from Protestants.
As one Catholic theologian at a major Catholic university wrote me earlier this year:
"I particularly liked your observation in another post that evangelization--the church's deepest identity--is also entirely foreign to its sensibility or culture. That is very true, and we both know how such talk repeatedly gets classed as "not Catholic." I grew up in the remnants of a Catholic ghetto in NYC and such talk would have been inconceivable even a decade ago; in many ways, it still is. But, something is afoot, and we have to move forward as a church. Your labors are one such effort . .