Friday, November 30, 2012

Forming Intentional Disciples

by Sherry A. Weddell

Grade: 4 1/2 stars

Thoughts: Fascinating book about the state of the Catholic Church today, and how one as a Catholic should evangelize. There are ton of statistics (Yay, reading about statistics! Bleh, actually doing statists!) in the first chapter or two, followed by discussion about charisms, different states of discipleship, and how to engage with the many people inside the Church who are lonely and distrustful of Her.

What I found interesting is that I definitely had a negative emotional reaction to some of the things she was saying. NOT because they were wrong or bad, but rather the reverse. I was evidence of the fact that Catholics are not used to speaking very openly about their faith in that manner.

Otherwise...well, like most books that actually have depth or try to argue a specific position, I feel somewhat inadequate trying to explain my thoughts on the internet. So I'm going to leave it at this, and if I ever meet someone in person who has read this book, I will gladly become involved in a highly absorbing discussion/debate/argument/whatever.

EDIT: Ok, upon request, here are a couple random thoughts.

--The percentage of people who label themselves as atheist or agnostic but BELIEVE IN GOD is astounding. So is the percentage of people who label themselves as Catholic but DON'T believe in God. Just as an example, according to Weddell, 55% of people who label themselves agnostic believe in God (14% in a personal God) and 29% don't believe in God. So only 16% actually follow the technical meaning of "agnostic" and say they don't know whether there is a God or not. That's so weird... But it does actually make some sense to me. People nowadays seem to use labels less for the actual technical meaning of the label, and more for some of the connotations that go along with it. Thus, people call themselves agnostic if they are not part of any organized religion but still believe in God; or they don't believe in God, but also don't care what anybody believes (as opposed to many atheists who do).

--Here's an observation by a professor Weddell quoted that I actually found weirdly accurate:
"Contemporary culture does not provide the average iGen with a profound grasp of what is right and wrong apart from the conviction that assaulting the self is clearly wrong... Because of trends like the self-esteem movement and the impact of relativism, he concludes that iGens are pre-moral. Mann suggests that they do not feel guilt as much as they feel shame for not achieving what they are designed to accomplish." [pg. 176]
That last sentence, unfortunately, really does apply to me.

--Weddell mentions several things which somehow, to Catholics, just seem too Protestant. Such as actually mentioning Jesus's name:
"I have been part of many conversations about the Catholic discomfort at using the naked name of Jesus. We talk endlessly about the Church but so seldom about Christ as a person with whom we are in a relationship. Few things trigger the fear of being 'Protestant' more quickly than naming the Name. A witty friend summed up this dynamic in a memorable way: Jesus is 'He who must not be named.'" [pg. 141-2]
And again, I find this weirdly accurate. Certain things just smack of Protestantism somehow, even if they are actually really good things we should be doing/thinking ourselves.

--She also talks a lot about discerning charisms. Which I don't really have any idea what I think of, because I've...well, never thought about it. It's a really interesting topic, though, I just don't seem to hear/read anyone talk about it much.


Petra said...

I'd actually be interested in more comments from you on this book if you ever feel inclined. I think a lot of Catholics (myself included) like to follow St. Francis of Assisi's advice "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." But this can become an excuse not to speak up.

I think it's especially important for lay Catholics to educate themselves in the faith as many parishes don't even have their own priest. As more work falls on the shoulders of the lay people, we have to be prepared to take it up.

I'll have to put this book on my to-read list. Thanks for sharing it!

RED said...

Ok, I added a few thoughts. They are still not detailed and profound or anything, but I guess it's something. I do find topics like this a lot easier to talk about in person.

And I agree with what you said on lay Catholics. One of Weddell's main emphases was on our need to live, act, and talk about a living relationship with Christ. She wasn't really talking about education quite as much. Though personally, I think that CAN be almost as important. It certainly allows me a much greater ability to talk to people if I feel like I have a firm understanding of the subject matter. Though maybe that's because I'm not trusting enough in my personal relationship with Christ... Anyway, interesting to think about.

If you read the book and have any particular thoughts, feel free to come back over here and comment again. :)

Petra said...

Thanks so much! I agree completely that it's much easier to talk about this sort of thing in person when you can have a dialogue going and immediately clear up any misunderstandings or proceed to the points that both parties find most interesting or relevant. So I really appreciate that you took out the time to elaborate on your thoughts just at my request. :D

I can identify with a lot of the points you raised. The last one really struck me as I have seen evangelical attempts go very wrong, and I hesitate now to use any words or approaches that reflect those unfortunate attempts. In fact, I often hesitate to identify myself immediately as Catholic at all because I'm afraid of the assumptions people will make once they know. There's a real fear (I've heard it from others) that once you single yourself out as Catholic, others will not respect your intellectual viewpoints or arguments anymore since you're seen as blindly following the pope.

That's where education really has been key for me. In my current situation, I need to be able to defend the faith from a secular viewpoint, using philosophy, science, logic--anything except "Well, the Bible says so." Also, the people who do know I'm Catholic ask me some really random and some really deep questions sometimes. If I don't know my own faith as well as the best way to transmit my knowledge clearly and concisely, I've potentially just led someone to the conclusion that my faith isn't worth exploring. (After all, I apparently didn't bother exploring it if I can't answer the question. Or that's how the thinking seems to go.)

People approach the faith in different ways, though. I take a more intellectual approach whereas others I know are more comfortable with the emotional aspects. And the emotional aspect is key. The one thing people seem not to get about Catholicism is that it truly is a relationship, not a set of rules. But the great thing about having different strengths is that we can all help build each other up!

I'll definitely come back if I get a chance to read the book!