“You can’t get there from here.” This comical line has been used in more TV shows and comedy sketches than you can count. But the phrase derives some of its humor from the reality that we all feel sometimes, that of being helplessly incapable of getting where we want to be or unable to achieve our goals. Many people give up on their quest for holiness and sainthood because it becomes obvious that we are unable to accomplish it on our own. Yet, some people (like the saints) have made it. The question is, if the saints were successful at this seemingly unattainable goal, what did they have or know?
Back in the day, before cell phones and GPS’s, there was this thing called a map. Nowadays, most people’s experience with maps is when you do a search online for your house, and check the satellite image to see if your car was parked in the driveway when the image was taken. But back then, you used a paper map to plan your own route to your destination. There were many possible ways to go, and you had to use your best judgement to pick the route you thought to be best. The saints all had maps, too; but they had maps for life.
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has a very nice framework for this, which is being used on a number of college campuses right here in Alabama. It isn’t a test and no one is keeping score. It’s just a helpful guide for self-reflection. Here’s a summary:
- “Am I a disciple yet? Have I heard about the story of my salvation won by Jesus, and have I made a personal decision in some fashion or another to follow Him?” For most baptized and confirmed Catholics the answer is yes. However, it might not be; and that would be understandable. Some Catholics have simply been pushed through a system and have never really taken on a personal decision, often because the question was never asked.
- “I am a Beginning Disciple. I have made a deliberate attempt to change my attitudes towards God and the Church. I have received the sacraments, and I genuinely desire to make God a bigger part of my life.” Many people are at this stage. If you are here, you’re in good company!
- “I am a Growing Disciple. I have acted on my desires to get to know God better. I pray daily, participate in the sacraments regularly, I work hard to grow in virtue.” This is about the time where we need a reminder that the point here is not to feel judged or judge‑y, nor to feel badly about ourselves. It’s just a simple, personal assessment of where each of us is; for our own private use. If you are in this phase, this author would like to meet you so he can get some tips… It is quite possible that many regularly practicing Catholics have already been doing this without realizing it.
- “I would call myself a Commissioned Disciple. I have taken an active role in my Church. I have realized the wonderful gift that my faith is to me, and therefore I have decided to take responsibility to bring others into a deeper faith. I invite others into the life of my parish and a relationship with God.” It is interesting to note that no degree from a seminary or sacramental ordination is needed to be here. Nor does it mean that one has it all together. Simply, it just means that one has decided to accept the mission of telling others about Jesus and the life of the Church.
- “I am a Disciple maker. I have made decisions about my career, lifestyle, vocation or location based on my desire to help others in their work of discipleship. I deeply study scripture and the teachings of the Church.” The number of people here would definitely be smaller. But you can find them in every parish and school in our diocese! Most people wouldn’t even think that this could be somewhere they could go. But since Jesus call to discipleship is for everyone, it means each of us could aspire to this!
- Spiritual Multiplier – Very few of us will likely be on this stage of the map. Having sought out special formation and training in ministry or evangelization, this person has been pursuing discipleship and helping others on the road to their own discipleship for a while, and has a large sphere of influence.
Please do not think of these stages as a report card or grading system. They are not. But every good map for a journey has two very important parts: a starting point and a destination. These stages help us to determine where we are at right now, and where we would like to get to in the future. Then, we use the disciplines of discipleship to map out a way to get from “A” to “B.” These disciplines, mentioned a few weeks ago when we examined discipleship, are Prayer, Sacraments, Study, Fellowship, Stewardship, Service, and Evangelization. These disciplines are like the street names we can use to draw a map.
Here are some guiding questions for reflection:
- Which stage of the roadmap do I think I fit in best? Am I between phases? Have I gone forwards or backwards at any point in my life?
- Which stage do I want to be in next? What are some elements that I can grow in to put me in the next level of my discipleship.
- No one can do it alone. Who do I know who could help me, teach me, hold me accountable, or be a good example to me on my way to help me reach this goal?
- What are some concrete steps I can take to ensure my success? What are some reasonable check-up dates that I can use to help keep me on track?
Consider making your own roadmap to discipleship. As the last words of Jesus on Earth, the call to make disciples is important for everyone. And knowing where you are, as well as where you are going, is always a good thing! In our next and final piece, we’ll look at practical ways this plays out in parish life.