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January 25, 2007


Marion (Mael Muire)

The great saints were intentional disciples, every one of them.

And the saints did not look upon their neighbors in the pew, and say, "Lord, thank you for not making me a sinner like that one." Rather, they barely dared raise their eyes to Heaven, and said, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner."

When I look at the prodigies of charity and holy undertakings that the great saints achieved, and compare those to my own woefully meager efforts, how can I look down upon my neighbor, who may one day awaken to a greater love of God, and whose prayers may help me to attain Heaven?

nicole schiavolin

amy, would you mind revealing the name of the book on the liturgical movement?

Brian John Schuettler

Thank you, Amy, for a very thoughtful and provocative post. You remind us that it is Jesus, always Jesus, who must be the center of our existence and that we are all called by Him in different ways. Let us focus upon being truly the Body of Christ and help each other to see Our Lord in each other. Thanks.

Jim McCullough

"the questions being asked and answered there, are, I think, the right ones."

Yes, Amy, they are. Is is a struggle to embody this in a given, specific parish's life? Very much so. As it is in any single individual's life.

We all, and all of us together, need all the help we can get in the effort. What we don't need is more people willing to shoot their allies or near-allies.


Thank you, Amy, for posting your wonderful words. I often feel a bit "left out" in the comments on the blog because of my Protestant background.

Returning to my Catholic roots, I've brought some of the wonderful aspects of Protestantism with it. Intermingling a personal faith with a deeply reverent faith: falling on my knees at the name of Christ while still calling him "brother" (after all... isn't that what the Incarnation was all about?!?)

I respect that others don't understand or share the way I act out my faith. No worries. But it's when they attack it based on the actions without looking at the feelings, emotion and thought going on behind them that hurts the most. And that happens oh-so-often in the comments on this blog. Don't trivialize my faith because I feel moved to dance and clap and sing for the Lord. It's not different from David. And don't take it as a lack of reverence - we'll celebrate while the Bridegroom is with us and mourn when he's not.

And one could argue that with the belief in Transubstantiation - Catholics should be rejoicing more often! :)

Jeff Vehige

I haven't been to a Called and Gifted Workshop, but I did order the tapes and work my way through the material. I thought it was great.

Though I do understand the criticism the Siena Institute is getting over the phrase "intentional disciple," I think it's time for us Catholics to wake up to the fact that we live in a post-Christian world. Vatican II has given the Church a new direction because the world is going in a new direction. I for one would love to return to the pre-Vatican II Church: the old Latin Mass, the Baltimore Catechism, Friday abstinence, etc. But that's living in a dream world.

We live in the world we live in, and the sad fact is that our post-Christian world, hallmarked by a materialism, consumerism, and a practical-atheism, has seeped into the Church. And the phrase "intentional discipleship" is the kind of phrase that asks the only real question: Are you follower of Jesus Christ?

It's a hard question. And that's why people don't like it.

Aimee Milburn

What seems to be irking the critics is a sense that there is some implied judgmentalism in the phrase and in the practical application. It invites us, they say, to look at our neighbors in the pew and attempt to judge their spiritual growth.

That may be a temptation, but I don’t think that is the case here. St. Augustine wrote beautifully about what it means to love God and love neighbor, and I think his view is consistent with that of the Catherine of Siena Institute:

Now God, our master, teaches two chief precepts, love of God and love of neighbour; and in them man finds three objects for his love: God, himself, and his neighbour; and a man who loves God is not wrong in loving himself. It follows, therefore, that he will be concerned also that his neighbour should love God, since he is told to love his neighbour as himself. (City of God, XIX. 14)

The purpose of loving others is so that they too can love God. To be an “intentional disciple” is to love, follow and serve God; to love our neighbor is to help our neighbor do the same, for the sake of God who made them for Himself.

We are called on to be concerned about our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and there is, indeed, a desperate failure to follow up on things like RCIA…but at the same time you could argue that speaks a respect for individuals, a humility on our part.

Yes, it could be argued that way – and it could be a sincere act of humility and respect to act so. But is it actually a good never to show concern for another’s relationship with God?

I struggle with these same issues myself, as a convert having come from a thriving Evangelical environment where people showed constant love and concern for each other, and shared openly with each other and prayed with each other about their faith lives. This to me is a very healthy way to go about being a member of the Body – and lack of such sharing I think can lead to isolation and unhealthiness in the Body.

I don’t think it’s simply of question of “Protestant” vs. “Catholic;” I think it’s a question of how well do we really live out the gospel in our lives, in our relationships with others in the Body and in the world. What are we really being asked to do, in scripture, in the examples of the saints, in the documents of the Church? And are we really doing it? That, I think, is what CSI is grappling with. And I think it’s a very good thing to grapple with – not just for those in special institutes, but for all Catholics in parishes everywhere.

I think Jeff sums it up the best: The phrase "intentional discipleship" is the kind of phrase that asks the only real question: Are you follower of Jesus Christ?

It's a hard question. And that's why people don't like it.

I agree.


"And the locus of that – and this is what differentiates Siena from some other 20th and 21st century movements – is that it’s parish-based. It is dedicated to helping the parish become the locus for lay spirituality… The liturgical movement…as it was lived out … was intent on this very goal and almost completely parish-oriented, but with the explicit emphasis on the Mass… as the locus of lay spirituality in an informed, participatory way."

Indeed, it’s a plague of locus!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I thought this was a great post, and I didn’t know anything about the Siena Institute before reading it. This area of getting people more engaged with their Catholic faith has been very important to me. The Church has such a great treasury of spiritual riches, it saddens me that it is SO unused.


One of the problems I have with the "called and gifted" and other programs for the laity in my diocese is that they overlook the poor catechesis so many of us suffer from. It's fine to want the faithful to be intentional in their expression of the faith, but... having spent my formative years in the 1970s, I had to work hard on my own to understand the faith. By the grace of God, I found some wonderful books and terrific teachers, but the diocesan programs did nothing to help me in my search for understanding and knowledge. You can't give what you don't have. Enough with the programs, teach the people the faith and they will pass it on.


I'll tell these people about my relationship with Jesus, if they'll tell me how they're qualified to evaluate it. What makes them the experts? Are they going to tell me about their relationship with Jesus and what mountainpeak they're standing on in order to look down on me?


There's nothing intrinsically evil about naming your telephone book "The Golden Snot Pages". And your book may be a very good and helpful resource. But if the marketing survey tells you that most people don't really want to touch anything named "Golden Snot" because of previous bad experiences with things marketed as "golden" and "snot", you probably want to pick another name. Even if you've already fallen in love with said name and chosen the letterhead, and even if it fully expresses your ideal of the telephone book.

My advice? Pick another name with the same initials that calls up friendlier associations than creepy perky people blocking your way to class with free Bibles. Something like "Siena Institute", which just oozes 'respectable, serious, saintly, and not scary cultish stuff'. "Intentional Disciples" can be the nickname, and you can still use it for marketing to people who don't reflexively have bad reactions to it.

I'd also like some assurance that the program won't be designed to throw all and sundry into horrible fits of scruples, as a mere three prayer meetings in my dorm once managed to do to me. There's a fine line between "you could do better" and "you can never do good enough, you miserable worm, so just go and kill yourself" in a lot of people's minds, and I'm one of 'em.

c matt

What really is raising hackles seems to be the very concept of “intentional disciple.” What Sherry and others are working from is the concern that Catholicism seems to have evolved, in many places, into more of a culture and an identity badge than a living faith with the living God.

Interesting observation. The issue as some alluded to above is the different styles, so to speak, of how one demonstrates or achieves intentional discipleship. The challenge is to allow Catholics to show their discipleship in the way best for them - some in more open ways, others in less. As you say, CSI's approach may not be for everyone, but it certainly can be for many. I guess my own discomfort with the term "intentional disciple" has more to do with my own personality and preferences. I almost prefer to become an "unintentional disciple" in the sense that I am also an "unintentional breather" - it comes so naturally and completely that I wouldn't even think about not acting that way. So when you say there is a concern that Catholicism has become a culture or identity badge, I assume by that you mean where the label of Catholicism has been retained, but its practice has not (except in the sense of "going through the motions"). I assume you do not mean where Catholicism has become such a part of one's life or culture that it permeates everything one does, to the point where every action you do is done in a Catholic way without consciously deliberating every single action. (Of course, getting to that point does take a lot of intentional effort).

Sherry Weddell


We have spent most of our time over the past 10 years, traveling constantly to present really solid catechesis and formation designed specifically for adult lay Catholics. And how we are forming others to teach as well.

Teaching is our middle name.

Sherry Weddell

"I assume by that you mean where the label of Catholicism has been retained, but its practice has not (except in the sense of "going through the motions").


"I almost prefer to become an "unintentional disciple" in the sense that I am also an "unintentional breather" - it comes so naturally and completely that I wouldn't even think about not acting that way. . .(Of course, getting to that point does take a lot of intentional effort)."

It's called sanctity. Intentional discipleship is not sanctity but it is a necessary step along the way to sanctity.

As St. Augustine pointed out many centuries ago:

God will not save us without us.

Keith Strohm

Maureen wrote:

I'd also like some assurance that the program won't be designed to throw all and sundry into horrible fits of scruples, as a mere three prayer meetings in my dorm once managed to do to me. There's a fine line between "you could do better" and "you can never do good enough, you miserable worm, so just go and kill yourself" in a lot of people's minds, and I'm one of 'em.


The simplest thing to do would be to ask for the experience of anyone who has gone through the Called & Gifted program. That should give you a good idea of the merits of the material.

Father Elijah

Thank you Amy for the wonderful, thought-provoking blog on intentional discipleship. I have found your comments and those who have responded-excellent! This is 'stuff' for prayer and reflection.

Both Pope John Paul the Great and our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict are calling us to a deeper faith. At the begining of the decade/century/millenium Pope John Paul wrote-I am paraphrasing here:

We are not speaking of a new program here. Instead it is an experience, a meeting with Jesus Christ calling us to KNOW, LOVE and IMITATE-FOLLOW Him so that we might be with Him forever in paradise and transform history by our witness

This is not "Protestant" It is deeply and profoundly Catholic-something that our 'evangelical' brothers and sisters received from and shared with us-even if many Catholics, clergy included, have forgotten this.

The one 'concern' I have-which has been a pastoral concern from the time of the Apostles, is precisely the issue of 'judgement' of others. There is a reason the Pharisees received so much attention in the Gospels. Theologians often speak of the controversies coming from the time of separation of the Church from the synagogues. That could be a reason for the emphasis, but I firmly believe that the Evangelists were not 'putting down' the Pharisees as a Jewish sect [not anti-semitic at all] but instead being vigilant that Christians following "the Way" do not fall into the same temptations!

"Catholic" means universal. James Joyce, the Irish author, and a troubled Catholic himself, gave a wonderful definition of "Catholic". He stated that Catholic means "Here comes everybody". "Many are called........" the Lord Himself stated.

I am thus always ill at ease about those calling some Catholics-both here in St blogs or in the wider Church as 'no longer Catholic', 'ex-Catholics' or 'apostates'. That's not up for us--to judge. We can say-their action is dead wrong. Their position is dead wrong and the like but we can't speak as if we were on the inside track and they are OUT.

The Church will always be a community of saints and sinners until Christ comes in Glory and takes His Bride to Himself. Until then, the Church as a mother, embraces sinners [calling to conversion of course] but as Jesus taught in His parable the Kingdom-of which the Church is a sign, "seed and the beginning"-is a Field in which wheat and tares grow up together until the time of the Harvest. Now is not the time of uprooting, lest in uprooting the tares we uproot the wheat as well (see Matthew 13)

Bottom line [I really did not intend this to go long] we need to keep both visions of the Church-'here comes everybody' AND 'called to radical discipleship'

Tom K.


I don't think "going through the motions" quite opposes intentionality in the way CSI means.

As I understand it, the intention is precisely "the encounter with ... a person" the Pope wrote of in Deus Caritas Est.

It is possible (and perhaps not all that uncommon) for a Catholic to do far more than go through the motions without ever really making a personal commitment to Jesus. You can attend Mass religiously, serve on the parish council, raise money for the new pipe organ, give sacrificially, all without giving thought to Jesus' call to you as an individual.

One of the things that makes this possible, as Sherry points out, is that Catholics generally aren't asked whether they've given thought to Jesus' call to them as individuals, in part because merely constructing the question is seen by some as looking down on others from a mountaintop.

Ave Maria!

My cousin had been to a Siena Workshop in Colorado Springs and loved it. She gave all her information to me and I, in turn took it to my pastor. When I came to my new parish, I also have given them the materials and just this week forwarded the newest Siena Scribe newsletter.

We are TERRIBLY uncatechised. Just last weekend the pastor explained what the Mass was--yep, it is a gathering of the community! And from the songs chosen, we celebrate and worship each other. I actually bought earplugs because I can no longer listen to what is said and sung at Mass.

But if this workshop helps someone to give of themselves and put Christ more in their lives, I am all for it. I hope that it will lead souls to a more sacramental and prayerful life but, in all reality, that may be a long shot in our parishes here that do not teach the need for a sacramental and prayer life.

Since it is not my reponsibility to preach, then if I can find some other ways to being souls closer to Christ, I would like to. I think the Siena workshop would provide such a means.

Now if you would like a good Catholicism 101, invite a Father of Mercy to your parish! Folks who have been away from confession for decades will be returning to the Sacrament and so forth! But if your parish is like mine and a Father of Mercy will not be invited or welcome, seek other methods such as this.


Well, the CSI is going to do what it is going to do. I just wish it didn't present itself as so indebted to Protestantism. I think Catholicism has enough in its spiritual and missionary treasury that it doesn't need to be hyphenated (Evangelical-Catholic, or whatever).


Yeah, but just as there's no way to _be_ sincere when you're worried about _whether_ you're being sincere, or sincere enough, I don't see that you can _actually_ intend to be a disciple while you're trying to intend to have such intentions. It's an obvious endless loop in the making.

(It's the sincerity thing that gave me scruples, and I really don't want to go there again. But intentions seems to be a similar mindtrap I would wish to avoid.)

I'm not pointing out the tendency of any kind of self-evaluation to give me depressive fits, because, really, just about anything including happy fluffy kittens can give me depressive fits. But thinking about myself and my actions (except in the comparatively objective sin/not sin way) is very likely to produce paralyzing depression and doubt.

It's better to just _do_ things that need doing and learn what needs learning, while sedulously avoiding any thought of my personal actions being out of the normal or important to anybody else. And not to talk about it too much or get praised too much. Otherwise, you end up hiding the knives instead of getting work done, which is no fun at all.

I suspect a lot of Catholic people feel similarly, though hopefully without the depressive fits.


Father Elijah,

I understand the concern about the "us" versus "them". I think the analogy I would use is of the road. Christ and His Church is the Road and we are all following Him. The action is not to look at others and see where they are in relative position to the front or to have any sense of pride for being on the path if you encounter those who are not. The action is to joyfully invite all to come and follow Him.

I've seen what intentionality can do. I have a good friend who when I first met her, I would have thought that she was a liberation theologian and a dissenter. But I took the time to recognize that one thing was certainly true: she was trying to respond to Christ's "come and see" with a "yes". And in the company of the Church, it is downright amazing at how she has changed as a result. I am bowled over by her witness many times. She engaged Christ and His Church with her life and her life has been made anew. It's quite possible that an Xs and Os class on Church doctrine might have had some of the same affect, but I doubt it. Learning the facts of the faith are important, but it's that heavy lifting that all of us must do in looking at the claims of the Church and examining them in our own lives that makes them ours, that makes them part of us. For her (and I think many) it is the invitation of Christ, "Come and See", that sparks this movement, more than "the church teaches x". They can't be separated, to be sure.

Don't know if that sheds any more light on some of the nuance of the Christian experience we are trying to help people see and invite them to. Which, as Amy said, is nothing new and has been the invitation of the Church since the beginning.



I better understand now what you are worried about. (Although, I am not sure how to articulate the response!) Absolutely, I would agree with you -- and let me affirm -- this isn't about moralism. This isn't about doing things to "be a better person" and becoming scrupulous about that or thinking that's the measure of growth in the Christian faith. I've seen others who in their comments emphasized their sinfulness. "intentional disciple?" But I am fallen. I stumble. I'm a mess. That can't be me.

Let me say clearly that this is not a denial but a recognition of our fallenness. St. Peter's the best example. He denied Christ three times, yet that did not prevent our Lord from going to Him and asking him "Do you love me? Then feed my sheep." That's the beauty -- even Sin does not prevent our Lord from drawing near to us. If I were to sum it up, it is about following Him. Warts and all. Stumbles and all.

c matt

I just wish it didn't present itself as so indebted to Protestantism.

Well, in many ways, Catholicism is indebted to Protestantism. One aspect of some forms Protestantism is the tendency to focus on a particular
truth, which then forces Catholics to address that aspect, or in some cases, re-emphasize what it may not have emphasized for a while. It is correct that every Truth contained in a Protestant profession is also in the Catholic. But sometimes we may need a reminder, a refresher, or a re-emphasis.


"going to Him" should be "going to him"


C Matt,

That's disingenous. Of course, there is some truth in Protestant confessions (Cf. Dominus Iesus). But I object to the importation of the Evangelical Church into the Catholic Church. Dominus Iesus pointed out that there are chasms between our various understandings of ecclesiology, sacramentality, etc. So some distance is required.

Sherry Weddell

"I think Catholicism has enough in its spiritual and missionary treasury that it doesn't need to be hyphenated (Evangelical-Catholic, or whatever)."

We absolutely agree. Which is why we have never used the term or thought of ourselves as "Evangelical-Catholics". Evangelicals did not invent evangelism or discipleship. As Fr. Elijah pointed out, Catholicism is 15 centuries older and they got it from us in the first place.

(Although when saying that, I want to make it clear that I am not criticizing those who do use this language. There are several very fine apostolates who use "Evangelical Catholic" language and we welcome them as collaborators in a common mission. They are inevitably very serious about thinking and teaching with the Church.)

We have found it especially fruitful to let evangelical questions *challenge* us but we always turn to the fullness of apostolic faith when looking for answers.


Re. the question of "the personal encounter with Christ" vs. "our generations abysmal catechesis"-- I think this is one of those both/and situations, not either/or.

Speaking personally (no experience whatsoever with CSI) I was a horribly-catechized Catholic in name only when I got to college. Went to Mass every weekend, just because that's what I was taught to do, but rejected nearly everything else as it had never really been taught in the first place. The Faith had no impact on how I lived my day to day life.

A friend got me on an Opus Dei retreat. Wham! God whacked me over the head-- personal encounter with Christ. Suddenly, knowing Christ and doing his will was the most important thing in the world. I also realized, simultaneously, that I was starving for the teachings of the Church. Thankfully, through the Work, I had access to both the spiritual and doctrinal nourishment I needed.

I think, given our generation's history, any program/movement/initiative/whatever that seeks to make people deliberate Christians needs to address both the doctrinal and spiritual aspects.

Reading the CSI website leaves me a little confused-- the distinction between formation and catechesis particularly. I'm used to a "whole person" approach to formation-- spiritual, doctrinal, ascetical, etc. Does CSI have some kind of mechanism for providing adults with, say, a truly deep, mature love for the Mass on both a spiritual and doctrinal level? Because one feeds into the other and back again...

I'm not trying to be argumentative here at all. I've always been very impressed with Sherry's commentary around St. Blogs. Just trying to get a handle on it.

Marion (Mael Muire)

I hear you, Maureen!

Everything you describe - been there; done that.

Here's what you may pick up along the way while living throught that kind of exquisite torture: boundless trust in God's mercy, and also compassion and patience for others you wouldn't otherwise have had.

People who suffer this way may be better off doing as Saint Therese did - choosing Jesus Himself as their director, together with a wise and holy priest. And then, just follow that path in complete trust. The time may one day be right for other undertakings beyond that.


However horrifying the idea may be to those who've known me, I teach CCD to 11th and 12th graders.

I always emphasize intentionality. I tell them their faith should be active - pick up and read their bibles, make time for prayer, be sure to attend Mass and at all times be aware of where they are in relation to everything else.

"It's better to just _do_ things that need doing and learn what needs learning, while sedulously avoiding any thought of my personal actions being out of the normal or important to anybody else." -Maureen

I like that



I think a lot of this results from an incorrect reading of de Lubac, among others, i.e., recovering in other traditions that which is rightfully ours. You can say that about EVERY religious tradition, non-Christian included. What results in a syncretistic mess, not the Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church. I think it is an artful way to excuse anything one wants to do in a given movement and call it "Catholic." And I have noticed that, from unambiguously supporting this kind of language very early on, the present Pope, especially when it comes to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, is now carefully calling for frank discussion and bright-line parameters. There are nearly non-negotiable differences between Evangelical Churches and the Roman Catholic Church (which is not just a generic Christianity, by the way) and those must be maintained. They make a difference. And one only needs to read Dominus Iesus to understand it.

c matt


I never denied that there are differences, much less did I mean to imply Catholics were on the wrong side of said differences. But the fact of the matter is we would not have had a Council of Trent if not for Luther (and others). In fact, we would not have the depth of faith we do if not for the challenges presented against it. In my own personal experience, if not for challenges from Protestant friends I would have probably remained a sleep-walking Catholic for a lot longer.

No one is importing the Evangelical Church wholesale. But there is something they certainly can contribute should they join, something picked up in their Evangelical background that they may not have grasped otherwise. I don't know what your experience is, but as a cradle Catholic from western NY state and in Texas, my fellow Catholics seemed to lack a certain zeal for the faith that Evangelicals seem to have in greater numbers. Not that there weren't Catholics here and there that had it, but by and large the zeal just didn't seem as pervasive as it is among Evangelicals. My point isn't that they somehow discovered something we didn't; my point is they have often reminded us of what we have in many cases let slide. Yes, we could reach back in our treasury of medieval saints and other times and see the same zeal; but you cannot deny that many Evangelicals display that same zeal for Christ today, even though they may have an incorrect understanding of ecclesiology, sacramentality, etc.


That's fine, C Matt, but what happens when this zeal, etc., is accompanied by other aspects of the Evangelical experience?


One commentator above wants to bring in his dancing for the Lord, which is part of his Protestant heritage. Well, Cardinal Ratzinger doesn't want liturgical dancing in the Church because it is not part of our liturgical heritage. So, where does it end? Are there any parameters at all?


What's the big deal? As Amy said, these movements and communities have been around for years. Here PBXVI addressed them last summer:


We are a big Church, folks!

[Thanks be to God... it's what keeps me Catholic!]


In addition, we belong to the ROMAN Catholic Church, not to a generic Christianity which happens to go back to Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church has its own heritage, tradition, devotions, prayers, and Mass, and these should be preserved, without an admixture from the Protestant traditions. The Roman Catholic Church can trace its lineage back to Jerusalem, but it does so with its own identity, which is distinct from the Orthodox Church, which can also trace itself back to Jerusalem. There is no reason to incorporate alien elements on the pretext that the RCC is identical with everything in the world.


Yes, Brigid, and Benedict also said these movements should be in communion with the Church and should be responsive to episcopal authority. He doesn't mean they should be given a free-for-all to do anything they want.


Word up:

When one commenter dominates that discourages others from throwing in their two cents for fear of being immediately attacked.

c matt

The zeal, as anything other aspect, has to be harnessed (hence, the many references in scripture to the yoke of Christ). That requires obtaining a proper understanding of the faith - hence, back to catechesis. In particular, I personally believe more emphasis on the why (or why not, as the case may be) as opposed to merely the what. For example, a proper understanding of the Mass may help others understand why Liturgical Dancing is not part of our heritage, and therefore make adjustment less difficult.


Yet, another program or reform crowds against the piles of other programs and reforms -all inteneded to make our faith stronger. Here's a program that is rarely tried anymore: we live our vocations in silence, prayer, and obscurity.
It worked for St Joseph and Our Lady; it worked for my German and Polish grand parents, and thier parents...etc...

Keith Strohm


You wrote:

There is no reason to incorporate alien elements on the pretext that the RCC is identical with everything in the world.

As has been mentioned many times in the various conversations around St. Blogs, none of what the Catherine of Siena Institute is about includes incorporating alien elements into the Church.

Everything that the Institute's materials focus on is about restoring things that are authentically Catholic (and which our Bishops, in union with Rome, are asking us to do) back into Catholic praxis.

You are absolutely correct that the Latin Rite Catholic Church has its own heritage. But you can't focus in on one aspect of that heritage and ignore the rest of the rich tapestry. What the Institute is about is, in many ways, precisely the type of ressourcement that you value.

I know you don't agree with the assessment that the things the Institute talks about are authentically Catholic, and I'm not going to convince you. Nothing short of an infallible declaration will, I imagine.

But the fruit of the Institute is positive, and Bishops (like Cardinal Stafford) are in agreement.



Why do you assume that the dancing would be a part of the Mass? I agree that it shouldn't be part of the Mass. But there are private devotions and prayer meetings that dancing is appropriate. It is not for everyone, but no single devotion is.

You also seem very afraid of Protestantism. What do you consider signs that the Catholic faith has been mixed with it?

John Henry

One commentator above wants to bring in his dancing for the Lord, which is part of his Protestant heritage. Well, Cardinal Ratzinger doesn't want liturgical dancing in the Church because it is not part of our liturgical heritage.

Dancing for the Lord clearly was not intended to mean liturgical dancing. You seem like you're trying to pick a fight, Gina. Why so glum?

Kathleen Lundquist

Reading through all these comments on CSI is getting me revved up a bit, so I will "intend" in my next few words to be both clear and charitable to everyone here.

I am a huge fan and supporter of the Institute because my life has been greatly enriched by their seminars and in reading their materials. Through them, God has opened great channels of grace to me and enabled me to be more effective and confident in the personal apostolate/ministry He has called me to in this world...

Which is not an ecclesial ministry, not leadership in a lay movement, not a calling to the priesthood or religious life. I am a singer/songwriter (and prose writer/essayist), and because I first encountered the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in a Called & Gifted seminar (the works of JPII including Redemptoris Hominis and Christifideles Laici, the actual text of the documents of Vatican II, St. Irenaeus et al.), I have really grown in my personal relationship with Jesus (please don't flip out at that phrase - just think about what those words mean) and in my effectiveness, confidence, and skill as an artist.

All the content of the seminars and the goal of the Institute's work is to teach Catholics the truths of the Catholic faith as they pertain to discovering and using the spiritual gifts God bestowed on us in our baptism and confirmed in our confirmation. What the Institute teaches is that our gifts, like our personalities, are profoundly unique and different from one another in their expression - therefore (and I heard this right out of the mouth of a C&G seminar teacher) it's unwise and counterproductive to compare your own gifts to anyone else's or try to measure yourself by any other standard than Christ's holiness and the extent of your own obedience to His Spirit.

This is not about elitism. This is about every member of Christ's mystical Body being, discovering, and functioning as He designed them to. Those ways of being, those functions, like those in the human body, can be as different as the function of the spleen from that of the eye. CSI is not about conforming to some made-up standard of practices; it's about becoming and being with confidence the father/mother/plumber/teacher/lawyer/administrator/cook/artist/daycare worker/counselor/city planner/doctor/intercessor in your prayer closet/whatever God designed you to be to help accomplish His goal of establishing His Kingdom.

I hope that those who are reactive to certain terms that they've only heard connected with Protestant ideas can realize that because the Holy Spirit gives these gifts through baptism, and the great majority of Protestants have received a valid baptism, Protestants are simply experiencing and reporting to us things that happen in their personal spiritual lives as a result of a real Christian, i.e. a Catholic, baptism. No one, especially not CSI, is talking about importing Protestant ecclesiology or biblical interpretation into the Catholic Church.

Sure, the CSI seminars are parish-based; that's where you find groups of Catholics, after all. But the point is for us all to get a handle on our apostolate, the priesthood that belongs to each of us as a baptized believer, whose jurisdiction is outside the four walls of the Church and takes the form of all those things I mentioned above.

I hope this helps in our discussion.


The Catholic Church owes "a lot" to protestantism???? Isn't that in reverse order?

From my brief exposure to "Called and Gifted," I must confess a certain unease. Sincere and well-meaning, without doubt; but what seemed absent was that sacramental understanding of grace that is essential to a true understanding of Catholicism.

As a convert, I left protestantism for the fullness of the faith because, through God's grace, I was made aware that the Truth of Christ is not simply found IN the Church, but in a profound sense, IS the Church.

To paraphrase the great Karl Adam, Christ comes to us through and in His Church; where the Church is, there is Christ - in His sacraments, in His liturgy, through His priests. The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Church (and only the Church) gives us that holy body, in the most intimate way, through the sacrifice of the Mass. This is what it means to be Catholic, to receive the great and priceless gift of God's love; to receive even God Himself through the mediation of the Church.

A deeper relationship with Christ certainly, but a relationship that is lead by and validated within Holy Mother Church.


While I I must admit I paused when I first saw the word "intentional." It is a word I hear used alot in the self-help arena (cant' get away from it when you're in sales). Also, I have had many colleagues at my last 2 jobs that are Landmark Forum graduates and they talk constantly about "being intentional" etc. Hearing it primarily in those contexts, it seems strange hearing it put into a Catholic context. That's not to say it's wrong, it's just a perception issue.

BTW, I applaud Sherry and her colleagues and wish them great success!

Tim Cronin

The more intentional an act is the more it is a truly human act. We must have self control and intention in order to make that gift-of-self that Jesus Christ calls us to. That gift of self to the Father in Jesus for those in the world. If someone is going to Church unintentionally or under someone else's coercion then they need to come to the point where they freely and intentionally make that gift of self to the Lord.



I'm still a practicing Protestant on the road to Catholicism.

One of the key elements to me being on that road is that my eyes were opened to the huge, colossal depth of spirituality in the Catholic church's history.

I've spent the past 2 1/2 years immersing myself in Christian history, most of it through a Catholic lens. I've read Augustine, Bonaventure, Francis and lots of the Early Fathers. But I still read some Evangelical materials, although I belong to a confessional Lutheran church (whose materials I also read).

I hope my next comment doesn't damn the CSI with its praise but: I don't see anything on that website that looks heretical or damaging or judgmental, and most of it looks pretty tame -- actually -- compared with some of what I've read of Catholic practice and beliefs in some eras.

And, frankly, although there are some HUGE, stark differences in belief between Evangelicalism and Catholic doctrine, especially regarding worship & liturgy, there are many areas of daily practice of faith in Jesus Christ, savior and redeemer, where Catholics and Catholic Parishes could learn a useful thing or two from Evangelical bretheren. That "intentionality" aspect strikes me as one of them.

I don't know anything about the CSI other than this blog post and visits to the linked blog and Web sites, so I don't have a dog in any fight; I'm not favoring one organization over any other.

But I do find the criticisms of the CSI's efforts off-base. And I find the idea that the Catholic Church's existing method of expressing and living the faith is good enough just as it is just because it's the current Catholic way to be a little ignorant of history and quite discouraging.

Actual Catholics in my life have been a major stumbling block of late. At my workplace, there are four self-identified Catholics within conversational space (I work in an "open" office with no cubicles. Two of them openly disparage their faith often. The person to my immediate left wouldn't talk with me about his faith when I gently asked him to tell me about it, saying "I have some problems with my parish." (It's fairly open knowledge that I'm on the path to Rome). And the one who sits immediately across from me said, "I wouldn't talk to me about my church. I don't agree with most of what I hear there." In my own family, among lifelong Catholics, some of whom attended Catholic k-12 or college, discussions about the faith end up refuting miracles ("The Red sea didn't part; it was just a low-tide time when Moses got there" and "the feeding of the 5,000 was really a miracle because the people had the food but *shared* it with each other -- are two common ones) or discussing whether Reincarnation might be true and that the church got it wrong.

Something MUST be broken, right?

While what I read of the Church's truth from apologists and hear from folks like Scott Hahn and EWTN and Catholic Radio (I'm blessed to live in the Ann Arbor area and get WDEO) is WONDERFUL, I get very little of that sense from some of the parishes I've visited too -- and I have honest FEAR that my young sons, who are part of vigorous religious life and training and God-centered activities in Protestant circles, will be dragged out of that into a morass of bad or even heretical teaching in watered down CCD classes. I hear so much about how bad catechesis is in most Catholic parishes and schools -- on this blog site and others and Catholic Answers -- and I don't want my boys, who love and respect Jesus as their personal friend and Lord, to lose that.

I know that the real eucharist is in the Catholic Church. And that it is Christ's church, established by Him directly. So I'll end up there eventually ... but it may be after my sons are grown up, sad to say. (I am trying to teach them of the Catholic history and spirituality, gently, in our home.)

So, reading criticisms of a group of Catholic people who are trying to improve Parish religious training and spiritual life using methods that are similar to effective methods employed by Protestants just blows me backward. It seems remarkably short-sighted. Maybe you have to come from a non-Catholic tradition into a Catholic one to really realize how doggone off-the-tracks so much of Catholicism seems by comparison.

Sorry this sounds so negative. I mean no offense to anyone here, truly I don't. Maybe this struck a nerve because of where I am in my faith walk, waters of the Tiber washing over my right toes, so to speak.


Sherry Weddell


Can I ask what the nature of your "brief" exposure to the Called & Gifted was?

I ask because among the first things we cover are:
1) the baptismal source of our mission as lay apostles; 2) the sanctifying gifts we receive in Baptism and Confirmation, 3) the charisms we receive in Baptism & Confirmation. The sacramental source of the charisms is emphasized over and over.

We also have researched and and available at all workshops a 3 page list of all the magisterial sources (starting with Scripture, the Fathers, St. Thomas, V2, and all magisterial sources since including the catechism) re: the sacraments and charisms and another list of sources re: the lay apostolate.

Of course, the workshop isn't primarily about the sacraments. I mean its only 6 hours long and is absolutely packed with content as it is, so no one, least of all us, is pretending this is comprehensive.

It's a workshop about a very specific and narrow, if commonly neglected area of Church teaching. But it would be very misleading to say that the sacraments are not emphasized.

In training our interviewers and teachers, we go over the Church's understanding of the difference and relationship between sacramental grace, sanctifying grace, and the charisms in great detail so they are ready to answer the questions of inquirers.

Almost always, we find this is the very first time anyone has explained the difference to them.

Keith Strohm

Tony wrote:

From my brief exposure to "Called and Gifted," I must confess a certain unease. Sincere and well-meaning, without doubt; but what seemed absent was that sacramental understanding of grace that is essential to a true understanding of Catholicism.

Rest assured that the materials from the Institute employ fully the sacremental understanding of grace. It's not a case of removing Catholic essentials in favor of protestant distinctives.

The sanctifying graces we receive in the sacraments dispose us for the use of the gratuitious graces offered by the Holy Spirit. Our growth in holiness--prticularly through our cooperation with graces offered in the sacraments offer us a greater freedom to utilize the charisms we have been given for the sake of others.

Intentional Discipleship is about living a life that is focused on the integration of mind, heart, will, body soul and spirit in a deliberate "yes" to Christ's invitation to ‘follow me.’ It is the joining of personal interior faith with assent to Church teaching and communion; the union of personal disposition and the sacraments as the Church has explicitly taught in great detail since the Council of Trent.

The goal is to help parishes build cultures and structures that can help create, form, and sustain men and woman who are committed to encountering Christ more deeply as he is revealed through the Church and the individual so that they can participate more fully in His work of salvation to the world!

Kathleen Lundquist

Ah, Mark! Thanks so much for your comment in this conversation.

Thank you for sharing where you're at; I can totally relate to what you're struggling with. I will pray for you and your family. May God bless you richly and give you your heart's desire - to be and live holy in His sight, in true communion of heart and mind with Christ and all His holy people.

God bless you for your generous spirit and for speaking the truth of the situation.

Sherry Weddell

I hope this is ok, Amy?

I suppose I should add for anyone who is interested after all this discussion of the Called & Gifted workshop, that there are 5 workshops starting this evening at 7pm in 5 different cities.

If you live in or near San Francisco, Spokane, St. Paul, Colorado Springs, or Boise and would like to see for yourself what all the fuss is about, you would be most welcome.

Check out our website calendar here.http://www.siena.org/CalendarList.asp for details.

You don't have to belong to the parish and you don't even have to be Catholic (to our surprise, Protestants regularly show up and benefit from it although the content is solidly Catholic and marketed to Catholics).

I'll be teaching in Colorado Springs myself this evening so if you do drop by, be sure and come up and say hello.


As a Catholic convert, I have some experience with both sides.

Evangelicals is the term we use to describe those Christians who intentionally integrate their Christian faith in their lives in a particular public way. These are the Christians who not only know the stories in their Bibles, they know where to find them in their Bibles. These are the Christians who thank Father God publicly for the blessings in their lives. These are the Christians who engage in extemporaneous public prayer, the kind of prayer that is studded with numerous instances of "we just," which is the extemporaneous prayer equivalent to "uh." These are the Christians who pray for each other out loud in groups. There is nothing about this type of Christian life that must be Protestant or cannot be Catholic, but the cultural norms of the two groups makes us all assume that a "We just praise your awesomeness, Father God." prayer is an evangelical Protestant while a silent sign of the cross is a Catholic.

Richard John Neuhaus in his recent book noted the difference between Protestants and Catholics in describing themselves. He said Protestants generally describe themselves as "good Christians" while Catholics tend to favor "poor Catholics" or "bad Catholics." The triumphant air of evangelical Protestantism is bracing and occasionally off-putting. The Catholic air sometimes comes across as insubstantial.

A properly catechised Catholic knows the strife is o'er and the battle won, but he notices that few others in his parish seem to know what he knows. If his pastor knows it, the good priest tends to keep it to himself. A properly catechised Catholic knows how Biblical his faith is, how beautiful and substantial his sacramental life is, how fundamentally ordered and natural his philosophical foundation is, and how free he is to love his neighbor as himself.

We need the bishops and the priests to encourage learning among the faithful. Catechesis is a lifetime effort requiring regular reminders of its importance by our shepherds.



One reason I'm so "afraid" of Protestantism is that we got quite enough of it in our theology, catechesis, liturgy, etc., after Vatican II. And, by the way, I'm not a traditionalist Catholic, but I am a theologian and I can read. So, don't diss me for being wary about something that explicitly say it's adapting Evangelical Christian methods (and what else?). I have every right to be anxious about it. I'd like to have a Roman Catholic Church when it's all over.



I'm not dissing, I am just asking for information. I've read that some people think that having Bible Studies in the Catholic church smacks of Protestantism and I hope that you are not one of them.


Jim Cork

I wonder if Scott Hahn got this much flak the first time he invited someone to a Catholic Bible study.

Father Elijah

Dear Mark AA,

You are on target. And I am glad you made your comments-they are well articulated. As you yourself know, faith is not a commodity which one has or doesn't have [there is a human faith that all of us practice, even atheists-for example getting into an elevator or automobile-trusting-assuming it will go without crashing; or assenting to 'truths not seen' such as the existence of the planet Pluto] but certainly in supernatural faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit faith is a 'living growing reality'. Some have come to faith in one God, others maintaining this come to a deeper faith in Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God and Savior of the world. Finally, as you are becoming more and more aware, there are those who have come to the fullness of Faith which is ecclesial-in the gift of obedient faith to God in Jesus Christ revealing Himself in and through the Catholic Church.

However, there are those whose faith is fragile, or perhaps still new enough or young enough that 'it' hasn't worked through the ups and downs and challenges of being faith-filled and faith-full in this age. Some perhaps do not have the Catholic Tradition [and its related historically] oriented perspective. Some perhaps are still using older categories such as "Catholic and non-Catholic" [which if you reflect upon it gives little differentiation between other Christians and the non-baptized believers or non-believers.

More to the point, as the Second Vatican Council taught and you related Protestants are "Catholics who do not agree with/share all the richness of the Catholic Faith and experience" As the Councils and Popes have continually reiterated we share a great deal in common.

To be Catholic IS to be ecumenical! We need not fear this. It certainly is not syncretism, nor is it syncretistic to be involved with dialogue with other world religions-such as the Catholic Church is at this time. God has revealed Himself in His Logos-Reason not 'fear'

Should Catholics consider faith in one God as foreign to us because we share this Jews and Moslems? Should Catholics hold the Old Testament foreign to us because it is also held Scripture by the Jews? We received those Scriptures from them through Jesus Christ and the Apostles! Should Catholics throw out Jesus Christ and the New Testament because we share Him with Protestant Christians? They received their faith from the Catholic Church [whether or not they want to admit it or not]

Of course there are doctrinal and sadly even moral doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants. If there were not, you, among many others, would not be in the Tiber right now. But NO ONE is helped by not seeing what we together clearly hold as true.


Is it really true that Catholics have a harder time with having a personal relationship with Jesus than Protestants?

If it is true, and I'm not sure that it is of at least those who self-identify as practicing Catholics, then why is it so?

I've heard the claim often enough but is there any empirical research behind it or any open minded attempt to identify the reasons if indeed Catholics have a lesser sense of having a personal relationship with Jesus?

I can think of a lot of behaviors that would get in the way of having a personal relationship with Jesus and I can also think of a lot of ideas about Jesus which would get into the way of having a personal relationship with him. The behaviors are usually called sins. The ideas might be the greater obstacle. When we make invidious comparisons among ourselves, which I understand is the objection to the term "intentional disciple", we know we are in danger, but do we not take it for granted that Jesus makes invidious distinctions among us even into the hereafter which we recognize when we speak of the "greatest" saints? Someone who is always measuring us against his better friends is a difficult person with whom to have a loving personal relationship.

So I wonder if there is something about at least the popular Catholic idea of Jesus that makes it difficult to have a personal relationship with him. St. Margaret Mary and Saint Faustina seemed to have a sense in their own times that there was a genuine difficulty for Catholics here.

M.Z. Forrest

I'm to the point where my feet are firmly planted against "having a personal relationship with Jesus." It is not a Catholic piety. If you want a relationship with Jesus, meet the hungry, the naked, and the homeless.

Marion (Mael Muire)

Oh, M.Z., have you read Saint Therese of Lisiuex The Story of a Soul? If you haven't, please do so. It is quite brief, not long or dense at all, since she died at the age of only 24.

Her autobiography is all about her personal relationship with Jesus, as it unfolded first in her father's home in Lisieux, and then in her Father's home in the Carmelite monastery.

She is the "Saint of the Little Way", and was designated a Doctor of the Church by JPII.


it was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you. . .

Sherry Weddell

Hi Margaret:

You had a good question earlier that I'd like to try and answer.

"the distinction between formation and catechesis particularly. I'm used to a "whole person" approach to formation-- spiritual, doctrinal, ascetical, etc. Does CSI have some kind of mechanism for providing adults with, say, a truly deep, mature love for the Mass on both a spiritual and doctrinal level? Because one feeds into the other and back again..."

Ok, first the formation and catechism question.

One of our difficulties here is that recent Church teaching has used the term "catechesis" in a some different ways because there is some real development going in the understanding of what it includes. The ultimate question is what is the relationship of proclamation and catechesis.

According to Catechesis in Our Time, catechesis is the step of the larger evangelization process that comes *after* intentional discipleship. Catechesis is not about awakening initial faith but about nurturing and maturing a personal faith that already exists.

. . .within the whole process of evangelization, the aim of catechesis is to be the teaching and maturation stage . . .the period in which the Christian, having accepted by faith the person of Jesus Christ as the one Lord and having given Him complete adherence by sincere conversion of heart, endeavors to know better this Jesus to whom he has entrusted himself: to know His "mystery," the kingdom of God proclaimed by Him, the requirements and promises contained in His Gospel message, and the paths that He has laid down for anyone who wishes to follow Him.
- Catechesis in Our Time, 19

The National Directory for Catechesis talked about two levels of spiritual "development" or openness before "initiatory catechesis":

1) Pre-evangelization: Preparation for first proclamation of the Gospel. for “non-believers, the indifferent”

2) Initial announcement of the Gospel
to “Non-believers, those who have chosen not to believe, those who follow other religions, children of Christians. those who may have been baptized but have little or no awareness of their Baptism and . . . live on the margins of Christian life.”

3) then Initiatory Catechesis: introduce the life of faith, the Liturgy, and the charity
“Catechumens, those who are coming to the Catholic faith from another Christian tradition, Catholics who needs to complete their initiation, children and the young.”

- National Directory for Catechesis, -p. 49

So Initial proclamation of Christ and the awakening of personal faith comes first (which we have been referring to as Intentional Discipleship) and then catechesis follows that.

In practice, of course, we tend to skip over steps 1 & 2 (pre-evangelization and proclamation resulting in personal faith) and go directly to 3 (content-centered, classroom catechesis which is designed for those who are *already* disciples. But what do you get if you catechize those who are not yet disciples? Well, pretty much what we have now.

We also are hard-wired to focus catechesis on children despite the very clear statement of the US Bishops in Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us" that adult formation is the 'preferential option".

One of the aspects of catechesis for mature Christians, which we almost never see in real life is "formation for mission" according to the National Directory for Catechesis. That's what we were talking about on our website.

In real life, formation for mission is hardly ever made available to ordinary lay Catholics although the Church uses the same language about the formation of the laity as it does about the formation of the clergy: it is a 'right and a duty".

It is formation for mission that we are referring to on our website and is absolutely "whole person".

CSI doesn't have anything on the liturgy right now. Fr. Michael and I talked for years of creating a workshop on the Mass where we would focus especially on lay participation as adults and secular apostles, and the different roles of the clergy and the lay faithful in the celebration of the liturgy. But we never had the time to do it.


Sherry gave one of the best lectures I have ever heard at Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic Eastern Province Congress. She started her talk with a photo of a young pretty teenage girl. She then spoke about making a conscious decision to follow Christ. She asked what our decision was. She asked what we thought the decision of the young girl was?

On the next slide we find out what that particular girl's way of deciding to follow Jesus was. We see a photo of the girl in her old age. Is is the photo of Mother Teresa.

I think that is the essence of what Sherry's organization is trying to do. To get each of us to make a conscious decision to follow Jesus. To get us to think about whether we are really and truly following him with our whole, mind, heart and soul or if maybe we are half-way following Him or following on a sort of parallel road where as long as we can still see him in our sights we think we are ok.

I have not yet been able to go to a Called and Gifted workshop but from all that I have heard and read, I really think it is basically another way of taking time to discern God's will for my life and then to commit to following his Son footsteps to execute that will.

Taken another way it strikes me as a moment to examen my conscious and think if maybe I have a few or 10 or more talents buried that need to get used. It's time to make a conscious decision to run the race not dilly-dally.

The discussion has been very interersting here. A lot of good points on all sides. I am amazed though at how quick we are to criticize everything in the Church. I think one of the blessings and challenges of the Church is that we are universal. We got all types. We got all kinds. We got lots of sinners becoming saints. Sherry is just challenging us to ask ourselves are we really trying to become saints or are we putting it off for purgatory? :-)

Mary Jane

I've looked briefly at the materials on the Siena Institute's website when I've seen references to them earlier. Everything seemed quite on the up-and-up orthdoxy-wise (excuse surfeit of hyphens). And I've been on the fringes or exposed to a variety of the "new movements." I have two concerns. First, I've found that everyone in the group gets very focused on their own spiritual state. Secondly, they often want to "share" with me. I can listen patiently until the point where they explain that I need to join up/enroll/whatever because then I'll know what the Church is "really all about."

The nadir of this was a conversation in which I was told that Communion & Liberation was better than Opus Dei because CL had a "charism" and Opus Dei did not. Even though I knew the speaker was dreadully sincere, I also knew she was flat-out wrong. Well, she would brook no opposition and after a couple of attempts to counter her enthusiastic error, I just finished my pizza.

That's what I worry about with any lay subgroup or movement. The happiness with finding an expression or practice that moves the individual can easily lead to a disdain for anyone not following the same path.


"the nadir of this was a conversation in which I was told that Communion & Liberation was better than Opus Dei because CL had a "charism" and Opus Dei did not. Even though I knew the speaker was dreadully sincere, I also knew she was flat-out wrong. Well, she would brook no opposition and after a couple of attempts to counter her enthusiastic error, I just finished my pizza."

Well, Mary Jane, I know you know that what she said was silly, but if it helps hearing it from someone involved with CL, you now have.

I recognize that a lot of people share this concern. But isn't this the challenge of life? I mean, I know plenty of individuals involved in countless things, who make mistakes along these lines. But unless this has been an overwhelming pattern with interactions with one group, why do we let it amount to worry? I mean that in a sincere way. Our faith isn't so fragile that it cannot withstand the mistakes of such individuals. And often, at least these individuals are open to correction about their mistakes.

Jim Cork

Mary Jane, I'm also in CL and will second what Jack said. The great thing about the Catholic Church is that there are so many different charisms and so many different forms of spirituality. There's only one reason to join a movement, a third order, or any other group within the Church: that on meeting it, you find that it helps you get closer to Christ. The key is that it be something that you want to do, not something you feel pressured to do.

Keith Strohm

Mary Jane,

I agree with some of your concerns regarding movements. However, I know that if these negative things were to happen, they aren't the fault of the Movements themselves, but rather individuals in the movement.

Secondly, the Institute isn't about starting a movement or lay sub-group. It's goal is to help pastors and pastoral leaders build cultures and structures that grow, support, and nourish a whole community of intentional disciples. It also provides help for individuals to discern their charisms and their personal call of service within Christ's mission to the world!


Tony articulated what I could not: the source of Catholic spirituality being "the
sacramental understanding of grace". I would go further: Catholics not only have a doctrinal understanding of the sacraments being sources of grace; we live in a total physical reality of grace through the sacraments: we see, hear, touch, feed on Jesus Christ. Partaking of the sacraments, we physically live in the Risen Christ, whether we "understand" it or not. As a Catholic poet once said, referring to the awesomeness of what was given him through his faith: "humankind cannot bear much reality". Thinking back to the years when I had left the Church and turned to other kinds of Christian and non-Christian worship, I realize now that it was this reality of having lived in communion with Christ that marked me forever with a hunger and eventually called me home.

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