Without Catholic Discipleship, Nothing Else Matters

The Irenist writes True Truth in my comboxes:

Very few Christians of any denomination in the contemporary West take their faith very seriously, or know very much about it.  This leads Catholics, e.g., to vote, contracept, divorce, etc., in much the way that any other Americans would:  there is *nothing* “countercultural” about most contemporary Catholicism because the days of the thick cultural web of the ethnic Catholic ghetto when Catholicism could be learned in part by osmosis are long gone, and no way to effectively catechize or enliven the faith of atomized assimilated American individuals has yet been found.  I am beginning to fear that until we address this, all our inside-St. Blog’s squabbling about whether to vote for, e.g., Mitt Romney or Joe Schriner is a pernicious distraction, akin to the “Christianity AND vegetarianism” in the Screwtape Letters.   Consider this, fellow Catholic political obsessives:  Successful third parties and movements within established parties do not start by running for the Presidency.  The non-flash in the pan ones start by running for local school board, or whatever.  The Catholic application of this insight is that we need better Christians in better parishes before we have the sort of disciplined disciples of Christ countercultural enough to even  *form the idea* of taking a battle to the culture, much less winning it.  In brief, my advice is to skip the election news today and go read Sherry’s Weddell’s far more important than the election news “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” or something like it ASAP.  I will most likely now return to my regularly scheduled paying too much attention to politics. But I do think all us Shea regulars need to at lest consider that we’re overdoing it.

He’s right.  Listen to him. That book is one of the most important things written this year, if not this decade.  Tolle, lege!

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  • Rod Bennett

    I say it over and over: Fix the Church first–and America will take care of herself.

    • Faramir

      I agree. This seems to be yet another instance of “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you as well.”

      By the way, Rod, thanks for your book “Four Witnesses.” A few years ago when I was starting to think seriously about converting, I had a gut feeling that if I looked at the early Church, I wouldn’t find Southern Baptists. Your book confirmed for me the truth that, as Bl. John Henry Newman said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

  • Reminds me of something said by Frank Sheed:
    “Physical or moral law, to know what it is, to know the reality of things, to act in accordance with it, is to act by the reality of things. And that is sanity.”
    From the book Theology & Sanity.

  • Yep…I’m about 60% done with the book and it could potentially transform the Church in America if devout Catholics would read and implement it…the priests would need to get on-board as well.

    Also, pray the Rosary!

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    My chapter of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic has begun to study Forming Intentional Disciples, and I have begun to read the book. Doing so has begun to change my life. I thought I was a reasonably observant Catholic before, but the approach to knowing and serving Jesus that Sherry writes about can open a new series of dimensions to a person’s relationship with God. It’s like looking at a briefly sketched pen-and-ink-on paper drawing of a country village . . . and then looking at that same country village via a really high-def big screen Google Earth view. In color. In 3-D. Where you can zoom in and out and all around. You know you’re looking at the same village – everything is right and familiar, but there’s a huge difference between viewing a pen and paper drawing and a Google Earth.

    Just got back from a week-long visit with relatives who live in another part of the country. The relationships have generally been good, but in recent years had become strained due to what seemed to me to be a lack of sympathy and loyalty on their part over a very difficult situation involving my late mother. I felt abandoned. Having begun to read Forming Intentional Disciples, I was much better able to keep foremost in my mind what I already knew was right: that this visit must be about Jesus and about serving Him in my relatives, and must not be about me, or about them, or my feelings, or about any past troubles. Hard to express the genuine affection and peace that was renewed among us during this visit – Our Lord’s presence among us was palpable.

    I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

    • Sherry Weddell

      Marion – what a beautiful testimony about how God honored your faithfulness with your family!

      • Marion (Mael Muire)

        My love and thanks to you, Sherry!

  • ivan_the_mad

    Fine. I bought it. That’s a devastating one-two combo of endorsement you have there.

  • Ted Seeber

    I’m thinking about purchasing a copy for my Lectorer in my council (he’s the guy in charge of saying something inspirational at the end of every meeting).

  • Irenist

    Question to Mr. Shea and his minions: Now that Sherry Weddell’s magnificent book has me on fire to deepen my personal relationship with Christ, are there any good how-to books on the next steps in the process? (I’m working on the rosary, lectio divina, and reception of the Sacraments already, and know I should go to Adoration more. But I’m looking for more of a structured guide. I’m on the road a lot, so there isn’t a single parish/city where I could find a spiritual director, which is why I think a book might be a helpful start). Many thanks!

    • I have found Marian consecration to be a big help. In summation, we give her our hearts, and she gives us hers. My spiritual life jumped up a couple of gears after making a consecration last year. An especially good way to make the Consecration is by getting Fr. Gaitley’s amazing book, “33 Days to Morning Glory” The book distills the Marian teachings of St. Louis De Montfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa, and Blessed John Paul II.

      Of course, you can never go wrong with Adoration. I have heard that Ralph Martin’s book “The Fulfillment of All Desire” is really good, but I haven’t read it yet myself.

      • Irenist

        Thanks, Dave! I really appreciate your help.

      • I just read “The Fulfillment of All Desire.” It is awesome. It is the sort of book you get done and want to read again because you feel like you were drinking out of a fire hose and missing so much. It is especially good for people like me who have found the mystics hard to read directly. You still read them in many short bits but Ralph Martin does a great job of clarifying what is being said.

    • Cinlef

      Speaking only for myself I found the The Rosary of Our Lady by Fr. Romano Guardini which is basically a bunch of essays and meditations on the prayers and mysteries of the rosary pretty helpful in deepening and improving my understanding of the rosary.

      • Irenist

        Thanks very much, Cinlef!

    • Dan C

      Try praying the Liturgy of the Hours. One can then move from the two prime hours (Lauds and Vespers), to all more of the “hours” and the Office of the Reaadings.

      The psalms are said (three of them) at each time period. It has been wonderful for me. I have a new appreciation for the psalms, which are prayers of praise to God. “The way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him” says Augustine.

      This has enriched me.

      • Bob

        The Liturgy of the hours/divine office has been one of the best bedrock prayers in my own life. I couldn’t recommend it enough. More than anything else, it gives structure to the day. And you have wonderful sites such as the following, which make it easier:


    • Carole

      To the man who was wondering how to grow in his personal relationship with Christ…… the most important thin I noticed in your list was lectio divina—especially meditation on and dialogue with the word of God. Our whole religion is based on the reality that God has initiated a conversation with us that demands a response. His word reveals the One who spoke, and is speaking to you, and knows you, your questions, your issues. His word is “alive and active”–it certainly is!

      Pick a system for reading scripture–maybe the daily readings from the lectionary. Or pick a scriptural devotional guide/magazine–some way so that the readings are set for you and you aren’t just flipping around in the bible looking for something interesting. When you read your passage……try to notice contemplatively……what words jump out at you? Why? Incorporate those words into your prayers and questions. I write a letter to God in a journal.

      You mentioned adoration……..what better way to pray than to read the Word in the presence of the Word made Flesh!

    • michigancatholic

      Start talking directly to God. That’s it. Start telling him what you want, what you think you hear him saying. Read the Gospels if you get stuck and pray to him about those. But don’t turn it into a program. Rather turn it into a friendship. That’s what God wants from each of us.

  • From a non-Roman Catholic guy, you have agreement.
    Until we grasp what it is to trust and walk with God, forming our movements with sincere liturgical movement (not just rote), with a desire and joy to participate in the sacraments recognizing the life the Holy Spirit quickens in us through them and knowing the word, we shall fail, even as Israel failed when it compromised and bowed to Ba’al.
    What comes from that communion with God is the ability to trust Him, to diligently love our opponents, to live a life of mercy – which seasons our communities and preserves them, and gives them the time to grow. His peace overwhelms our anxiety, His wisdom shows the foolishness of the plans of all who strive against Him, and we find ourselves even more desiring to be embraced by the Son (see Psalm 2 – a great Psalm for this season)

  • Julie

    Great book. I finished it in August and am now lending it out to as many people as I can. Sherry is so right: so often we hear people bemoaning a “failure of catechesis” when what we really have is a failure of discipleship.

  • “Very few Christians of any denomination in the contemporary West take their faith very seriously, or know very much about it.”

    As long as we all include ourselves in that statement, it’s OK.

  • I’ve just finished reading Weddell’s book. It made me realize my blog doesn’t mention Jesus much nor do I talk about my own relationship with God so I’m just working on 2 new pages “The Good News” and “My Testimony”. If you search a lot of Catholic blogs for the word “Jesus” they’re the same.

    • Sherry Weddell

      Tonia: great news about your blog. It is true – as one Catholic friend put it, so often “Jesus is He who must not be named”.

    • There’s nothing like reading (in the first chapter) that 40% of self-identified Catholics in the United States don’t believe in a personal God to make one question the burning need for the series of posts on the moral nature of jocose lies that one has just blogged.

  • Max Perk

    No offense, but I am not going to $15.95 for the article suggested. This sounds like this is more of peddling an article, rather than sound moral discourse…

    • Mark Shea

      It’s not an article. It’s a book. People buy them. They are the product of hard work. It is customary to pay people for their work.

  • You don’t have to read Sherry’s book, of course.

    What you have to do is go forth and make disciples of all nations. And a lot of us, on reading Sherry’s book, have found that we weren’t doing as good of a job of that as we’d told ourselves — starting, often enough, with the job we’ve done with ourselves.

    (Full disclosure: I consider Sherry a friend, and I snagged a free review copy of the book.)(Also, you can read the Catherine of Siena Institute’s blog (http://www.siena.org/Blog/) archives for free, where Sherry has blogged on many of the same themes in the book, and googling “Forming Intentional Disciples” will turn up lots of reviews of and discussions on the book, including (if one may peddle a free article) my own five part review.)

  • mike schriner

    Joe Schriner is a con-artist. Prior to his run for president he was a down and out Satanic Cult specialist. He is an opportunist looking for a platform.