All posts tagged: discipleship

Discipleship Isn’t as Exciting as Youth Ministry Makes It Seem

At first glance, ministry to young people in the United States is flourishing. In high school youth ministry, American Catholics attend national programs including the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), the Steubenville and Lifeteen conferences, and mission trips. Young adult ministry, although underfunded, is active in many American dioceses. Over the course of a year, young adults can attend frequent theologies on tap, go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or walk the Camino, attend weekly Mass with one’s peers, and go to World Youth Day. To a disinterested observer, the path toward renewing youth and young adult ministry is nothing more radical than investing even more in such programming. The success of such ministry, at the same time, carries the seeds of its own destruction. Ministry to young people in the United States relies almost entirely on the transformative power of events. The individual is personally moved through an encounter with a colossal number of young people actively practicing faith such as at NCYC; a walk on the Camino, which produces a religious …

Accompanying Fellow Disciples

In my years of studying piano, nothing was more fear and nausea inducing than the prospect of performing a solo recital. Being out there on a stage, alone, no sheet music to fall back on, everyone watching, listening for mistakes. On the whole, of course, the experience of performing solo recitals was valuable and formative, but I’m still thankful that those days seem to be behind me. These days, my time at the piano is almost entirely spent in accompanying, and most of this accompanying takes place within a liturgical context. It’s no less of a performance, but it’s a different kind of performance. It’s an interesting verb, accompany, particularly when considered in a musical context. Often in the classical music world, accompanists are (wrongly) perceived as second-class citizens, or at the very least, they are perceived as subordinates to the solo singer or instrumentalist. Accompanists are to be heard and not seen (think about a hidden pit orchestra for a musical or opera); they are not to draw attention to themselves; they are to follow the …

Moral Virtue, The Grace of God, and Discipleship

Moral theology has traditionally explored how people act in the world (“moral”) in the context of their faith in God (“theology”). This volume purposely examines morality in the context of Christian belief. What difference does faith make in how a person lives his or her life? Surely a person of faith engages in certain distinctive activities, such as going to church, praying, and reading the Bible. But what about the myriad of activities that all people partake in every day, such as eating, facing difficulties, exchanging goods, and making decisions? Does the person of faith engage in these activities with the same “morality” as everyone else? As is already clear, a life of discipleship is not simply about performing certain types of actions. It is a vocation, a transformation of one’s very self. Such a transformation of course impacts how we act. The primary question for this chapter is, how does discipleship, a life of following Jesus, transform not only who we are but also how we act in this world? The ancient notion of …

Come and See

A city isn’t just a group of people living closely together. It’s a place with pride, with a vision of what it means to belong together. New York City is the city that never sleeps. Los Angeles is the city of possibilities (and of constant outdoor recreation). They have different visions of human happiness, of what it means to live together. Jerusalem is a city with a vision. A vision of all humanity redeemed in her midst, worshipping the living God. A city with the ultimate vision. The Book of Isaiah describes this redeemed city, restored to its glory after the Babylonian captivity. In Jerusalem, all will receive the grace of comfort (cf. Is 66:13). They will delight in the prosperity brought about through the glory of God. For in Jerusalem, all the nations of the earth will offer praise to God for his wondrous works (cf. Ps 66:4–5). In the Gospel of Luke, the seventy-two disciples (or seventy depending upon manuscript tradition) go out two by two to invite everyone to move to this …

The Cost of Discipleship

The cost of being one of Jesus’ disciples in the Gospel of Luke is steep. As we learn on the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, to follow Jesus may require us to leave behind everything. Last Sunday, we heard that Jesus’ messianic mission is directing him toward a sacrificial death for the sake of the nations. Today, Jesus is moving toward the city of Jerusalem. His ministry in the rest of the Gospel will be defined by his mission of self-giving love upon the Cross. Jesus’ mission is not always successful. He walks through Samaria, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, “but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem” (Lk 9:53). The peace of the Gospel meets the resistance of an old dispute between the Judeans and the Samaritans. They cannot welcome the Lord because his mission does not align with their own. Out of the hostile crowd emerges a voice, “‘I will follow you wherever you go’” (Lk 9:57). Jesus is normally the one who calls disciples, and yet …

The Way of the Pilgrim

When I teach Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in my literature survey course each semester, I need to take a certain extra amount of time to explain to my students just what these characters are doing by going on a pilgrimage: it is not something that younger people are often familiar with or find attractive, and yet I think that for Christians the idea of living the pilgrim life can be a very rich way of looking at the way we move through our days. In medieval times people undertook religious pilgrimages for a reason, ordinarily supplication or thanksgiving, although some people went out of simple piety. Whatever the reason, people wanted to show God or one of the saints how serious they were about their prayer for this or that. Depending on whom they were praying to or honoring, the pilgrims would choose a particular shrine from among dozens of possible sites, from Santiago de Compostela to the shrine of St. Ursula in Cologne, or even the Holy Land. They would ordinarily travel on foot, without …