Lawn Chair Catechism, Session 13 (and Last!)

LawnChairCatechismSquare This summer, CatholicMom.com is hosting an on-line book discussion group for Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples. Each session will focus on one chapter of the book, and yours truly is participating. Hit the link above to see all of the participants, and to find the discussion questions.

The final chapter of Forming Intentional Disciples, Chapter 12, is titled “Expect Conversion.” If you go out of your way to pray and teach and support and otherwise encourage discipleship in your parish, if you sincerely and persistently ask Jesus for his help in the matter, you’re going to get conversion.

A digression, for the benefit of my non-Catholic readers: we often call it conversion when a person joins the Catholic Church, and we call such a person a convert. That’s what most people mean by “conversion” in the religious context; but it’s not quite what Weddell is after, here. Conversion of life occurs when we follow Jesus and submit to His will. We find ourselves repenting, and reaching out, and trying things, and in general doing stuff in ways and for reasons that will surprise us. Sometimes the word “repentance” is used; when Jesus says, “Repent and be saved,” he’s talking about conversion of life. The trouble is, we usually understand “repentance” to mean, “I’m going try really hard to stop sinning.” Conversion of life is a much more positive thing. It involves trying not to sin, but it’s much more about actively following Christ and accepting the grace that he offers.

Of course, conversion in the normal colloquial sense often involves conversion in this sense.

There are number of issues about expecting conversion that affect a parish that is trying to make disciples, but one of the biggest is loneliness. A new disciple can feel isolated and alone, with no one to talk to who understands; and according to Weddell’s research, many people in this position leave the Catholic Church to find a place where the companionship of other disciples is to be found. It’s especially difficult in Catholic parishes because (as was discussed in an earlier chapter) we don’t talk about our interior lives. The woman who sits behind me at mass, or the fellow across the aisle that I say hello to every week might very well be a disciple, but as things stand I’ll never know.

Have you ever felt isolated in your quest to follow Jesus? What are the ways you have built a community of spiritual companions? My return to the Catholic Church in 2007 definitely involved conversion of life and a growth in discipleship, and yes, I did feel isolated. I was where I wanted to be, where I needed to be, there in the pew, in the Church, with the Eucharist before me…but outside of my immediate family, I didn’t really know anybody local. My conversion was done by reading books and blogs and thinking and praying about what I read, and by attending mass with my father, who could no longer drive. I was experiencing extraordinary things, and had no one to talk with who understood.

What I did was find the local chapter of the Dominican Laity and start attending meetings. And there I found people who took their faith seriously, who prayed and tried to grow in faith and discipleship. I won’t say it was a life-saver, but it has certainly given me companions for the journey.

You’ve put a lot of energy over the course of this study into learning about the need for evangelization and discipleship, and how to fulfill that need. Do you plan to take action? In what way? I do, and in whatever way comes to hand. As a blogger I can write about discipleship, and the interior life, and about Christ, and I do. I plan to continue that. I’m also trying to become part of the RCIA team at our parish, and my hope is that RCIA can have a discipleship focus. But mostly, I have to keep following Christ where he leads.

  • By Christian, August 21, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

    I mos def encourage you to participate in RCIA. If you do so, I want you write about it here.

  • By Will Duquette, August 21, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

    We shall see how it goes. If I do, as I plan to, then I’ll most likely write about it—insofar as I can, considering the privacy of the inquirers/catechumens.

  • By Hal Brey, August 24, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

    Will, we’re praying for you and your new leadership position in the RCIA process at your parish here in our Small Faith Community in Oregon. I personally think that it is very cool and possibly as a result of your participation in this summer’s review our book?

    I understand your explanation about conversion for our non-catholic fiends, but there is perhaps for some folks the understanding that an aspect of conversion is an on going process – a die and rising to self and to the will of the Lord as we deepen our relationship with Him.

    I think that maybe one of the differences in “being saved” and conversion.

  • By Will Duquette, August 24, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

    Hal, thank you! The problem with a blog, of course, is that you can’t say everything all at once. And then, once you’ve said it sticks there, even if it wasn’t quite right.

    Maybe joining the RCIA team (which is still my intent, though it hasn’t happened yet) has something to do with this study; I’m not sure. I’d read the book through before (and given a bunch of copies away); and the real kicker was thinking how I could best support our pastor. The book is definitely an inspiration, though; it always gets me fired up.

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