Roadmap to Dis­ci­ple­ship (Eucharis­tic Con­gress and Beyond!)

You can’t get there from here.” This com­i­cal line has been used in more TV shows and com­e­dy sketch­es than you can count. But the phrase derives some of its humor from the real­i­ty that we all feel some­times, that of being help­less­ly inca­pable of get­ting where we want to be or unable to achieve our goals. Many peo­ple give up on their quest for holi­ness and saint­hood because it becomes obvi­ous that we are unable to accom­plish it on our own. Yet, some peo­ple (like the saints) have made it. The ques­tion is, if the saints were suc­cess­ful at this seem­ing­ly unat­tain­able goal, what did they have or know?

Back in the day, before cell phones and GPS’s, there was this thing called a map. Nowa­days, most people’s expe­ri­ence with maps is when you do a search online for your house, and check the satel­lite image to see if your car was parked in the dri­ve­way when the image was tak­en. But back then, you used a paper map to plan your own route to your des­ti­na­tion. There were many pos­si­ble ways to go, and you had to use your best judge­ment to pick the route you thought to be best. The saints all had maps, too; but they had maps for life.

The Fel­low­ship of Catholic Uni­ver­si­ty Stu­dents (FOCUS) has a very nice frame­work for this, which is being used on a num­ber of col­lege cam­pus­es right here in Alaba­ma. It isn’t a test and no one is keep­ing score. It’s just a help­ful guide for self-reflec­tion. Here’s a sum­ma­ry:

  1. Am I a dis­ci­ple yet? Have I heard about the sto­ry of my sal­va­tion won by Jesus, and have I made a per­son­al deci­sion in some fash­ion or anoth­er to fol­low Him?” For most bap­tized and con­firmed Catholics the answer is yes. How­ev­er, it might not be; and that would be under­stand­able. Some Catholics have sim­ply been pushed through a sys­tem and have nev­er real­ly tak­en on a per­son­al deci­sion, often because the ques­tion was nev­er asked.
  2. I am a Begin­ning Dis­ci­ple. I have made a delib­er­ate attempt to change my atti­tudes towards God and the Church. I have received the sacra­ments, and I gen­uine­ly desire to make God a big­ger part of my life.” Many peo­ple are at this stage. If you are here, you’re in good com­pa­ny!
  3. I am a Grow­ing Dis­ci­ple. I have act­ed on my desires to get to know God bet­ter. I pray dai­ly, par­tic­i­pate in the sacra­ments reg­u­lar­ly, I work hard to grow in virtue.” This is about the time where we need a reminder that the point here is not to feel judged or judge-y, nor to feel bad­ly about our­selves. It’s just a sim­ple, per­son­al assess­ment of where each of us is; for our own pri­vate use. If you are in this phase, this author would like to meet you so he can get some tips… It is quite pos­si­ble that many reg­u­lar­ly prac­tic­ing Catholics have already been doing this with­out real­iz­ing it.
  4. I would call myself a Com­mis­sioned Dis­ci­ple. I have tak­en an active role in my Church. I have real­ized the won­der­ful gift that my faith is to me, and there­fore I have decid­ed to take respon­si­bil­i­ty to bring oth­ers into a deep­er faith. I invite oth­ers into the life of my parish and a rela­tion­ship with God.” It is inter­est­ing to note that no degree from a sem­i­nary or sacra­men­tal ordi­na­tion is need­ed to be here. Nor does it mean that one has it all togeth­er. Sim­ply, it just means that one has decid­ed to accept the mis­sion of telling oth­ers about Jesus and the life of the Church.
  5. I am a Dis­ci­ple mak­er. I have made deci­sions about my career, lifestyle, voca­tion or loca­tion based on my desire to help oth­ers in their work of dis­ci­ple­ship. I deeply study scrip­ture and the teach­ings of the Church.” The num­ber of peo­ple here would def­i­nite­ly be small­er. But you can find them in every parish and school in our dio­cese! Most peo­ple wouldn’t even think that this could be some­where they could go. But since Jesus call to dis­ci­ple­ship is for every­one, it means each of us could aspire to this!
  6. Spir­i­tu­al Mul­ti­pli­er – Very few of us will like­ly be on this stage of the map. Hav­ing sought out spe­cial for­ma­tion and train­ing in min­istry or evan­ge­liza­tion, this per­son has been pur­su­ing dis­ci­ple­ship and help­ing oth­ers on the road to their own dis­ci­ple­ship for a while, and has a large sphere of influ­ence.

Please do not think of these stages as a report card or grad­ing sys­tem. They are not. But every good map for a jour­ney has two very impor­tant parts: a start­ing point and a des­ti­na­tion. These stages help us to deter­mine where we are at right now, and where we would like to get to in the future. Then, we use the dis­ci­plines of dis­ci­ple­ship to map out a way to get from “A” to “B.” These dis­ci­plines, men­tioned a few weeks ago when we exam­ined dis­ci­ple­ship, are Prayer, Sacra­ments, Study, Fel­low­ship, Stew­ard­ship, Ser­vice, and Evan­ge­liza­tion. These dis­ci­plines are like the street names we can use to draw a map. 

 Here are some guid­ing ques­tions for reflec­tion:

  • Which stage of the roadmap do I think I fit in best? Am I between phas­es? Have I gone for­wards or back­wards at any point in my life?
  • Which stage do I want to be in next? What are some ele­ments that I can grow in to put me in the next lev­el of my dis­ci­ple­ship.
  • No one can do it alone. Who do I know who could help me, teach me, hold me account­able, or be a good exam­ple to me on my way to help me reach this goal?
  • What are some con­crete steps I can take to ensure my suc­cess? What are some rea­son­able check-up dates that I can use to help keep me on track?

Con­sid­er mak­ing your own roadmap to dis­ci­ple­ship. As the last words of Jesus on Earth, the call to make dis­ci­ples is impor­tant for every­one. And know­ing where you are, as well as where you are going, is always a good thing! In our next and final piece, we’ll look at prac­ti­cal ways this plays out in parish life.

FOCUS arti­cle

Coordinator of Discipleship & Mission at the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama.

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