Forming Intentional Disciples Chapter 1

I’m participating in Catholic Mom’s summer-long discussion of one of my favorite books, Forming Intentional Disciples. What follows are my selective comments based on questions relevant to Chapter 1.

Have you always been Catholic? How did the instruction and mentoring you received help you – or prevent you – from having a personal relationship with God?

I was born in 1957, and during my first eight years I steeped in the Catholic universe of South Louisiana.

Before I was old enough to go to confession I would accompany my father when he went to confession. This was before I was in first grade, and had not yet received any formal catechesis. I was, however, already very well catechized my extended family, such that I understood that in confession, Jesus forgave a person’s sins. In church I was optimistically expected to behave while Daddy was in the confessional. But I was curious why no-one entered or exited from the middle part of the confessional, just the ends. So on one occasion I stuck my hand under the middle curtain to find out just what was in there. Maybe you can imagine the shock of Jesus grabbing my hand! If that was not shocking enough, I actually saw Jesus’ hand as it gently and firmly put my little mitt back outside the booth. I never said a word about this to another soul until I was an adult.

In a strictly physical sense, that was not Jesus in the confessional; but close enough for a kid who was raised with a sacramental worldview. The world has always seemed to be soaking wet with God. I never didn’t believe what the Church taught. There were many years when I didn’t want to hear it, but I always accepted that the Church was right. Priests, Nuns, Saints, Angels, Satan, Mass, Purgatory, Trinity, Keys, Relics, Miracles, Bible stories; all were part of the visible and invisible reality that I swam in.

Truly, I can’t remember a time that Jesus wasn’t Right There. I used to think I could grab Him right out of the nothing that lay within my reach; and who knows, maybe I did. I owe that natural, vivid faith to my parents, my extended family, the Marianite sisters, and the Louisiana culture. Unlike later ethnic Catholic immigrant  enclaves in America, Louisiana (1702) predated the United States, and was not part of the US until 1803. So there was no impetus to ‘become American’ by diluting our Catholic distinctives.

Then my family moved to Greenville, South Carolina when I was 8. Culturally it was a bigger leap than spending a graduate-school semester in Italy. Catholics were worse than mere outsiders: to some, we weren’t even Christian. But gentle (and not so gentle) prodding by concerned Evangelical and Fundamentalist friends and neighbors gives Catholics an incentive to know the Biblical reasons (versus catechetical ones) for being Catholic; and accustoms us to talking about Jesus and religion in a very direct, even blunt, way. It has been a real blessing to live here. On the other hand, the Church is not where it needs to be regarding Scripture and evangelism; and poorly-catechized Catholics remain easy marks for the Biblically literate.

In your parish, how’s your retention rate? What percentage of 8th graders in your parish are still practicing the faith at age 18?At age 24? Do young adults in your parish stay in touch with their childhood faith community, or do they drift away to an unknown fate?

Oh man, I dunno. Just considering the kids I’ve catechized over the last 9 years, many families moved away; the kids that turn 18 here often leave to go to college; and of those, many won’t return to Greenville; and of those who ultimately stay, many will attend another parish, as my eldest son does. At Mass I do see a few young adults I taught years ago; then again, we have 5 Masses each weekend. But our parish is healthy. We have a school with full enrollments, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. Youthgroup content is substantial and orthodox. We receive a constant stream of Fundiegelical converts. And our pastor steadily nudges the parish toward an explicitly Scriptural-evangelistic worldview.


Other stuff I’ve written about FID:

About Christian LeBlanc

Christian is a New Evangelizin' Bible-Belt revert who catechizes 6th graders straight from Scripture. ( He belongs to St. Mary's Parish in Greenville, SC.
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9 Responses to Forming Intentional Disciples Chapter 1

  1. Wonderful to know that there are wonderful teaching Catholics like you!

  2. I love that part where you talk about Jesus always being Right Here. You really make it real.

    And knowing the Biblical reasons is a blessing, in part because you do such a great job sharing them with all of us! :)

  3. N F Bailey says:

    Thank you for this.
    I enjoyed your previous post inviting participation. I have to admit that I’ve always thought of other “Catholic moms” as those ladies who are always telling me what I’m doing wrong. (I can’t afford to home-school our kids and there’s no Catholic school within 50 miles, so I never fit what I was always hearing what the “proper” way.) I’ve always felt left out because I always felt, like you communicate, that Jesus was there with me always but others were telling me “I was doing it wrong.”
    May the Lord always help us to welcome each other as we would welcome him to keep each other in His arms (especially and intentionally our young people).

  4. Cristina says:

    As a new convert, I wonder what it would have been like to grow up with a “sacramental worldview” or a world that was “soaking wet with God”. I feel like it should have been as a Hispanic girl growing up in Brooklyn, NY. If my grandmother were alive today I would love to ask her what happened? Why the breakdown in the faith of the family? I don’t know if my mother even knows. As a young girl I went from church to church with friends from different denominations seeking the Truth. Even then, I knew He was calling me but felt there wasn’t a hand to hold to take me. I just didn’t know how. I am SO blessed to have come back home bringing my children with me.

  5. As a convert I appreciate your comments. I felt a little out of place for years but got into the rhythm of the liturgy with my children. My desire to pass on the faith to them was stronger than my self-consciousness. It seemed everyone we knew was a cradle Catholic. Then I volunteered as an RCIA sponsor and found that my conversion experience helped those having one themselves. Now I freely share my faith unconcerned with whether I share it with a cradle Catholic, non-Catholic or convert.

  6. Jan says:

    I love your comment. My father’s family was originally from Virginia, and my family surname is English in origin. Mine is the first generation containing Catholics since the Reformation.

    It’s not the “thunder and lightning” that makes a person a disciple of Jesus. It’s that change in their will and heart from one side of the spiritual chasm to the other, and that can happen loudly or more serenely. But it’s not silent either.

    Also, as you are probably aware living in Protestant country, not all protestant congregations are flush with disciples. Some are; some aren’t. It ranges from maybe 10% to 50% in some very active congregations. But our percentage is considerably lower as Sherry points out.

  7. Christian LeBlanc says:

    Jan has written some very substantial stuff about FID here: