My parish’s pastoral council made this book a project this past year for reading and discussion. This tradition was passed to the Liturgy Commission for the coming year. It was an interesting and quick read and I recommend it.
This volume follows up on Sherry Weddell’s earlier book on intentional discipleship. (Reviewed here three years ago.) In it you read essays by her and six of her colleagues from the Catherine of Siena Institute. This is vitally important stuff. For the post-conciliar Church it is literally a matter of community life or death.
If the first book lowered the boom on the reader with the bad news in the US (and believe, it’s a lot worse in other places) this one leads off with an incredible post-conciliar (Trent, not Vatican II) renewal in France. If a reader isn’t inspired by this Weddell-penned beginning, there is no spiritual pulse in the body.
Subsequent chapters address these topics, more or less:
- intercessory prayer
- clergy and lay co-responsibility for mission (including pastoral councils)
- maintenance vs mission in parishes
- one parish’s experience
- lay formation, especially in and for evangelization
- youth ministry
So it’s not a comprehensive list. Liturgy is a huge miss, but prayer is covered, and at least mentioned in a lot of places. Keith Strohm‘s witness to the importance of intercessory prayer is excellent. Hospitality. discernment, and vocations are three important topics touched on in these chapters.
As I mentioned, nothing substantive on liturgy is a significant disappointment to me. I don’t think good liturgy happens like following a cookbook or the personal feeling of inspiration. Good parish liturgy offers the platform to present and actually show many of the ideas about discipleship. Youth meetings, committees, small groups: none of these come anywhere near the numbers of people who come to Sunday Mass. Focusing homilies on telling the story of Jesus rather than jokes, Biblical exegesis, and such would be marvelously helpful to the laity. Music that focuses on telling that same story, likewise.
I do think that a parish renewed with a sense of discipleship will experience better liturgy despite bad music and weak preaching. But it would be nice for liturgists and musicians to have the confidence of the people pushing discipleship. And some guidance.
That said, this is another good read. Essential if you are treading water on a parish council, a committee, or in a parish that seems to be going nowhere. Maybe nothing ministerial for liturgy geeks, but the first two chapters are outstanding. Good ideas in the rest.