I recently facilitated a book study at my parish using Sherry A. Weddell’s insightful and inspiring book entitled Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus. Not only did members of my parish attend, but members from many parishes in the surrounding communities as well. To me, that speaks volumes in terms of the number of Catholics who genuinely long to know and follow Jesus. But how is that accomplished? According to Sherry Weddell, it is by becoming an intentional disciple and then helping to form other intentional disciples by our example.
Sherry began her book by presenting some startling statistics about the number of Catholics leaving the faith, why they are leaving and where they are going …or not going … “ Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still “practicing” – meaning they attend Mass at least once a month…. Another 38 percent hold on to their Catholic identity but seldom or never attend Mass. The final 32 percent- almost a third of all adults who were raised Catholic in the United States- no longer consider themselves to be Catholic at all: 3 percent are now part of a non-Christian faith; 14 percent consider themselves unaffiliated; 15 percent are now part of some Protestant faith tradition.”
“It’s All About Relationship” Sherry explains… “I had always blithely assumed that when people said that they believed in God, they meant a personal God. What other kind of God is there? Not so. Only 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God. Twenty-nine percent said that God is an “impersonal force.” Eight percent responded that God was “other,” or “both” personal and impersonal, and 1 percent didn’t believe in God at all.”But don’t lose hope! If you are reading this, you are most likely what Sherry Weddell calls an intentional disciple. “In calling Catholics to a deliberate discipleship and intentional faith, our goal is not to create a community of spiritual elites. Rather it is to create a spiritual culture that recognizes, openly talks about, and honors both the inward and outward dimensions of the sacraments and the liturgy. The Lord who said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8), urges us to build a community that fosters disciples, encourages all the baptized to become open to and receive God’s grace in all its fullness. Our goal must be to help anyone who is open to develop a positive inward disposition that runs to do God’s will and results in abundant and amazing fruit for the sake of the Church and the world.”
She rounds out her book by spelling out what is involved in the Catholic spiritual journey to intentional discipleship – knowing Jesus more deeply and following Him more closely, as well as understanding where we are on our journey. Then she shows us how to “… create multiple, overlapping opportunities for people to personally encounter Jesus in the midst of his Church….” so that we may bear fruit- spread the good news that we are living to others, as Christ intends!