Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples (2012) talks a lot about the importance of a personal relationship with God. This is definitely rooted in the language of recent popes, and is in no way foreign to Catholic tradition. But is it too much “me and Jesus” spirituality?
I think a clue to how we might productively understand intentional discipleship, the liturgical life of the Church, social justice, and more lies on p. 54 of Forming Intentional Disciples. Without a doubt, I think this is the most underrated passage from this best-selling book 🙂 It’s a lynchpin for properly understanding intentional discipleship in the context of the Church.
The idea is that for every Catholic Christian there are three spiritual journeys, all equally essential. Ideally, they’d occur concurrently or with some overlap. But, our lives as human beings and our responses to God’s grace can get a little messy (to say the least!) and so our job isn’t to “enforce” a certain order, but simply to recognize that all three do need to occur. None of these journeys are optional…
Now, these three spiritual journeys are going to look different for just about every person. And it’s not just coming to a “yes/no” on a spiritual journey–there are stages, phases, different levels of enthusiasm, etc. The point is, there’s an incompleteness without all three in place.
Forming Intentional Disciples as a book is about digging into the details and function of Spiritual Journey #1, since this is the journey Weddell believes we’re most silent about in our current setting. Spiritual Journey #1 is critically important in our society of seekers, “nones,” and the like. Phrases from Forming Intentional Disciples such as “Spiral of Silence” and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are other ways of saying that Spiritual Journey #1 is the elephant in the room in many parishes and ministries. Overlooked. Not talked about. Not resourced. Not even consciously considered by many.
The sacramental theology presented in Chapter 4 of Forming Intentional Disciples is in one sense, an apologetic towards those who might think that emphasizing Spiritual Journey #1 has nothing to do with Spiritual Journey #2 or #3. The Five Thresholds (the how-to and focus of the second half of the book) are a practical framework for entering into Spiritual Journey #1.