Forming Intentional Disciples Chapter Summary Points - Chapter 7

Just as trust is needed to order to move to curiosity, curiosity is needed in order to move beyond openness. Sherry tells us, “But moving into that threshold is one of the most difficult journeys for 21st century people to make because it demands that we declare ourselves open to the possibility of personal and spiritual change” (p.156) 

Moving into this threshold is not the same for everyone. For some it might only take a weekend experience of attending a truly evangelizing retreat, but for others it might be months, even years of “testing the waters.” This transition occurs without much struggle for only a few people; the majority of people struggle with truly being open to change. 

Those accompanying someone through this stage need to be very patient. Unfortunately, when we are eager to share the Good News, we fail to exercise as much patience as we should. Many times, an initial openness to change is confused by the evangelizer with  intentional discipleship-- this can create a greater struggle in the transition toward openness.

How is the most challenging aspect of this move into “openness” as Sherry discusses it, and what special challenges does that bring? What types of things that people “carry around” might inhibit openness? How can we encourage this “openness”? How is this all a personal challenge for those who may be working with and encouraging someone in this move from trust to openness?

Comments

  • Dcn Michael WardPosted on 5/20/20

    For me the most challenging aspect of openness is the notion that I may have to change. This is not just an issue for people who are just "coming to the faith" or "discipleship" but many of us that have been cradle Catholic or close to it. We think that since we've been around it so long that the faith is by virtue of this longevity a part of who we are as if by a kind of osmosis. Now this can be true in a certain sense. The question for us "old timers" is whether or not we have "made the faith a part of me" when the "me" we are talking about is still pretty unconverted and unintentional. Have we conformed the faith to us like a comfortable old shoe? Have we avoided the parts of discipleship that force us to reevaluate and change? Have we conformed the image of Jesus to fit us and avoided conforming ourselves to His image? This question haunts me a lot.

  • Bob MurrayPosted on 5/19/20

    It makes sense to me that Sherry describes the threshold into openness as so difficult. I mean, realizing and choosing to be open to the idea that a personal, individual, one-on-one relationship is possible with Jesus--the God-man who walked the earth two thousand years ago and is still alive today is a pretty heady idea even for believers. For someone new to the ideas of Christian faith, I imagine it borders on the crazy, certainly it would at a minimum have the flavor of myth.

    Yet, our natural curiosity, and longing for something more than ourselves, draws us in this direction, so it happens. And I see that at this threshold of openness we are talking about the active decision to drop one's guard. We are talking about consciously leaving oneself vulnerable.

    And vulnerability creates the perception of imminent personal risk, of losing something of ourselves, in some way or another. And we humans are, as Pope Benedict XVI puts it, "...afraid to give up something significant." With the risk that committing to openness will result in us somehow "...ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom." That is fearfully challenging!

    So, openness can be blocked by anything that we are concerned about losing, tangible or intangible. Perhaps the "respect" of someone in our life. Perhaps a special lifestyle item.

    I am particularly challenged by Sherry's observation that "We need to recognize the presence of a hidden hemorrhage [that is surprisingly] fueled by spiritual growth in our parishes. Numerous Catholics are experiencing spiritual longings but may have little or no language for what they seek...Their spiritual antennae are up, and they are quietly looking for people who might know, for clues, for guidance. But they are often invisible to the rest of us."

    For these people in our parish, perhaps we can take deliberate steps to refocus on how we speak about Jesus, in terms of having relationship with him, rather than by focusing on his many titles and his story, as important as the theology is. In this way--however we do it, we give each other the encouragement, the language, and the opportunity to explore how deep and wide such a relationship might go.

  • Lorraine LevesquePosted on 5/14/20

    The most challenging aspect of moving from the threshold of curiosity to openness is keeping in mind that the decision to build a personal relationship is really between the person and God and my role is simply to re-enforce the "bridge of trust" with continued friendship, patience and prayer on the person's behalf. This brings a variety of "special" challenges into the picture. For example, remembering that "curiosity" is a God given grace, whereas, "openness" is a conscious choice of the human being to lower any self-defense mechanisms allowing a personal relationship to develop providing they can first of all acknowledge to themselves as well as to God that they are ready to change both personally and spiritually; however, neither is solely of my doing...I am only an assistant. It also means remaining patient as the person may waiver back and forth between the two thresholds many times, unsure of what they really want to do, before they can make the vital acknowledgement and are ready to move on. Listening to them carefully, asking thought-provoking questions that are not prying or judgmental in any way, as well as praying for (and even with) them and discerning where they truly are in their own journey are also some of the challenges involved.

    Other challenges involved are more of a personal nature for the person. Often we have no idea what the person has been through in their life unless they are willing to share what impact certain events have had on them emotionally, psychologically, physically or even "spiritually"; perhaps they are not even aware of the impact these events have had on them. The list can be quite long including events such as: the death of a loved one either suddenly or after prolonged illness; the loss of employment; facing a life-threatening illness or surgery; betrayals leading to mistrust of others or broken relationships either with "friends" or through divorce; enduring cruel comments regarding physical appearance or level of intelligence; even the birth of a child, graduations, or retirements or other "milestones" in life can have an impact on how we experience life in general and might inhibit the person from "openness".

    I believe we can encourage the sense of openness in another person by fostering true friendship with them in non-judgmental ways and with gentle patience. In other words, simply treating them as we want to be treated...with genuine respect and dignity. We might also encourage it by inviting them to various parish activities that are fun (or spiritual in nature) and introducing them to other parishioners as your friend (not necessarily or needlessly drawing attention to the fact they are seeking to find out more about God) especially with people you feel they would be comfortable with and might foster a true friendship.

    For those who may be working with and encouraging someone in moving from the threshold of curiosity to openness, the greatest personal challenge is probably having the necessary patience to wait for all this to work out the way it is meant to be and not trying to be the "professor" by teaching the dogmas of the Church at this stage. (It is not unlike the patience we are being asked to have at this time of the Pandemic...being conscious more of the other person (their needs and safety) than of my own wants...listening and not "jumping the gun" and confusing everything!)