Oz Moments of Discipleship

CatholicMom.com’s Lawn Chair Catechism lesson for this week from Sherry Weddell’s “Forming Intentional Disciples,” is Chapter 4: The Fruit of Discipleship.
Does this description of disciples make you yearn to be one? To know and follow Jesus as close as his best friends?

“Disciples pray with passion. Disciples worship. Disciples love the Church and serve her with energy and joy. Disciples give lavishly. Disciples hunger to learn more about their faith. Disciples fill every formation class in the parish or diocese. Disciples manifest charisms and discern vocations. They clamor to discern God’s call because they long to live it. Disciples evangelize because they have really good news to share. Disciples share their faith with their children. Disciples care about the poor and about issues of justice. Disciples take risks for the Kingdom of God.”

File:Wizard of oz movie poster.jpgWhether we are leaders in the parish, avoiding ministry, burned out, or somewhere in between, these attributes can be ours. No one can be cajoled or persuaded to take these on like another project to be organized, implemented and fulfilled. The call to discipleship comes from God, who first calls us to repentance and the freedom we need to evangelize effectively. He knows that we cannot sustain even one of these discipleship traits without an intimate relationship with him.

We begin building that relationship with repentance, as we pray with passion, from the heart. This leads to true worship, a new love for the Church, a desire to serve with energy and joy. That energy and joy comes from the life of Jesus expanding in our hearts, which he desires more than he desires our serving in a ministry. He develops in us every quality we need in partnership with him in this love relationship.

The “before” and “after” discipleship time in my life came when our family was in a parish that didn’t even seem alive. The religious education ministers struggled under the alcoholic pastor. To fulfill our duty to our children, my husband and I dragged our children and ourselves to mass every Sunday.

It took one of the renewal movements outside the parish to snap us all out of it. After a few weeks our faith became vibrant again, our prayer life exciting. We felt loved by the Lord and by our new friends. To me, it was like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wakes up after the tornado. As she opens the door to Oz, the scene slowly changes from black and white to Technicolor. Everything is brilliant. She experiences a new life she never imagined. That’s what happened to me. My new life comes from my personal relationship with Jesus. Without it I cannot evangelize and wouldn’t want to try.

I have seen similar Oz moments in dozens of others. One woman was overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord as she stood at her kitchen sink washing dishes. This was her Oz experience. Many persistent worshippers encounter Jesus personally when receiving the Eucharist or during Adoration. For some their Oz moment happens in Bible study, a retreat, a healing service or a prayer meeting. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts in whatever setting he can get our attention. Conversion always brings repentance, frees us and changes us forever.

Others in our parish shared their Oz moment stories with us. They had a hunger to learn more about their faith and to “manifest charisms and discern vocations.” Years ago I filled out a charisms questionnaire where I scored high in the charism of discernment and low in mercy! I’m still working on that. Developing our natural gifts to serve God’s people in a supernatural way is just as exciting as discovering new gifts of the Spirit. Mothers already have a head start on the gifts of teaching, intercessory prayer, administration and hospitality. When God provides a challenge grander than our human efforts we’ll have what we need. As Sherry says, “ Charisms tend to show up at the mysterious intersection where the Church and the world cry out to God in need and a disciple takes up his or her call to follow Jesus.”

Growing spiritually with those who “clamor to discern God’s call because they long to live it” naturally leads to evangelization. We have really good news to share about our Catholic Faith and about our personal faith relationship with God. Joining with other disciples, we saw Bible studies, a couples share group, Adoration and Pro-life ministries spring up like flowers in the desert. With more and more Spirit-filled parishioners, we experienced Sherry’s assertion that, “The presence of a significant number of disciples changes everything” in the parish.

Using our gifts to make normal intentional disciples the true norm in our parishes is an exciting challenge we all share. It’s so worth taking the risk to foster Oz moments of discipleship in others.

(© 2013 Nancy H C Ward)

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14 Responses to Oz Moments of Discipleship

  1. Don Mulcare says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for sharing.

    You mentioned “retreats” as Oz moments. Is there a type of retreat or movement that you find particularly effective in parish renewal?

    God Bless,

    Don

    • NancyWard says:

      Any retreat can bring us closer to God just by getting alone with him. Several approaches for parishes. Gather your leaders together and go off together to a monastery for a directed retreat of your own making. Schedule retreats for specific groups in your parish such as couples, men, women, families at a retreat center and give them the opportunity for personal renewal and bonding. Existing programs I suggest are Cursillo (especially with Hispanics) ACTS which has separate retreats for men and women, as does Chirst Renews His People. Life in the Spirit is popular as an in-parish day of renewal. I’m sure these are only a few of many available in different areas of the country. Most important is get them away from the distractions of the world. Second, have some kind of follow-up groups to sustain the Spirit of the retreat and continue builging the relationships.

  2. Jan says:

    This is a very good post.

    There is a Catholic program by Christlife that’s excellent for parishes starting to think about the New Evangelization. It’s called “Discovering Christ.” The URL is http://www.christlife.org/discover/whatIsDC.php

  3. Don Mulcare says:

    Thanks Nancy, Jan and Melanie,

    Does ACTS have another name? I’ve not seen it listed locally, but others in CWG have mentioned it.

    Nancy, concluded your original post with : (© 2013 Nancy H C Ward).

    Would you suggest that all substantial blog postings contain similar protection?

    Thanks again,

    Don

  4. I’ll check at Bible study tonight and see about ACTS info. As a journalist, I always add my copyright. I am always surprised to see where my posts turn up next!

  5. Phil says:

    Nancy,
    I loved your analogy of the “Oz Moment” that can take place when the Holy Spirit enters our lives. You make it easy to visualize the possibility of “before” and “after” discipleship by comparison to Dorothy’s real world that began in black and white colors but turned into technicolor when she entered her dream world. You describe that transition most clearly in your two sentences: “The Holy Spirit works in our hearts in whatever setting he can get our attention. Conversion always brings repentance, frees us and changes us forever.” Elaborating on your retreat suggestion but without dependence on an existing program, I suggest that your readers take those two sentences literally by providing a simple retreat setting for the Holy Spirit to find open hearts. For example, invite fellow parishioners to participate in a weekend retreat away from worldly distractions that includes not only well prepared and inspired talks (by a few willing parishioners that have already experienced the “Oz Moment’) who are specifically asked to give their witnesses of how the “Holy Spirit works in our hearts.” That retreat should also include the sacrament of Reconciliation and a Mass with a homily from the Priest with emphasis on that subject along with identifying areas in the parish that would benefit from any “Oz Moment” disciples. Eventually there might be an “Oz Moment Club” formed in the parish whose purpose is to create that moment for others. It is easy to spot a Catholic parish that is living in technicolor!

    Phil

  6. Don Mulcare says:

    Thanks again Nancy,

    A friend I met on Cursillo in 1964 has a renewal program for priests. Hope you don’t mind if I send him a copy of your posting. Looked up ACTS on Google. Like your reference, Texas is the hub. My diocese has other programs, but not ACTS.

    The need for the Oz experience has never been greater.

    God Bless,

    Don

  7. Hal Brey says:

    Thanks for leaving me a comment – it was my first one!

    I read your post last night and was too worn out to respond to it with anything meaningful. I could relate very much to what you wrote regarding retreats. I didn’t want to jump in on where the comments were going as it seemed like you had it pretty well covered.

    Regardless of the success of one’s ministry, you have to recharge your spiritual batteries at some point. Most of the retreats you mentioned I have been blessed to do at one point or another – it seem that the Holy Spirit presents those opportunities at just the right time too.

    I left a comment on Will Duquette’s blog yesterday that I would be interested in hearing your response to; “Can you give me an idea of what kind of things you did after your workshop” (Called and Gifted)?

    • NancyWard says:

      It was so many years ago, I don’t remember all the details. It was before Called&Gifted was developed. I know that we did a lot of praying. We came back together after some time and discerned with ministry leaders about which ministry we were called to. It was very fruitful for me and many others I know. The spiritual gifts inventory confirmed what I knew and had some surprises, some charisms the Holy Spirit and unexpected situations have since developed in me.

  8. Hal Brey says:

    I enjoyed the inventory survey – it was more confirming for me. It was the followup that I was disappointing. And thinking back on it now, maybe my expectations weren’t realistic.

  9. Whether we are leaders in the parish, avoiding ministry, burned out or somewhere in between, these attributes can be ours. No one can be cajoled or persuaded to take these on like another project to be organized, implemented and fulfilled. The call to discipleship comes from God who first calls us to repentance and the freedom we need to evangelize effectively. He knows that we cannot sustain even one of these discipleship traits without an intimate relationship with him.

  10. You like this? I’m glad, for it is the Truth. Much to ponder.