Discipleship. You hear the word. What does it mean?

File:Paolo Veronese - Christ Washing the Feet of the Disciples - WGA24846.jpg

Up at New Evangelizers, I answer the question, “What exactly is this discipleship thing we keep hearing about?”  It’s a tricky question because it’s both far simpler than we make it out to be, and far more demanding than a simple answer would suggest.

Our Catholic reflexes are hopelessly bureaucratic anymore, so I begin by explaining a few things discipleship is not:

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything Christians do needs to happen under the auspices of a formal program.  Want to feed the hungry?  Join St. Vincent de Paul.  Want to teach the faith?  Sign up to be a catechist at the parish.  Want to play sports?  Join the church league team.

We forget that we can feed the hungry just by picking up a bag of groceries for the neighbor who is out of work.  We can teach the faith by answering a friend’s question after Mass on the playground.  We can play sports by grabbing a ball and finding out who’s up for a quick game.

So it is with discipleship.  While we can indeed help others become better followers of Jesus by creating programs designed specifically for that purpose, we should never think that this is the only way discipleship occurs.  On the contrary: If we are carrying out our mission as baptized believers correctly, the bulk of Christian discipleship should happen as a natural part of our everyday lives.

How natural?  Get too natural about it, and the dreaded Fake St. Francis Quote gets bandied about.  Read the whole post to find out what discipleship involves above and beyond the necessary-but-not-sufficient Step 1: Setting a Good Example. Hint: Step 2 is the bit everyone avoids, and Step 3 is the one we hate most.


Meanwhile, if you’re looking for real-live discipleship in action, Judy Klein shows you how it’s done, Dreaded Diagnosis edition.


Artwork: Paolo Veronese [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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