At some point a progressing Christian takes action in her or his life as a result of that encounter with Jesus and knowing the grace of conversion. Most Catholic communities and their leaders are woefully equipped to work with people who find themselves on fire after the conversion experience. Sadly, the fire dies out for many. But for those fortunate to find and get guidance, the next steps place the Christian on the path of discipleship.
c) Discipleship: The person constantly matures in knowledge, love, and following of Jesus the master, and delves deeper into the mystery of His person, his example, and his teaching. Ongoing catechesis and sacramental life are of fundamental importance for this stage; they strengthen initial conversion, and enable missionary disciples to persevere in Christian life and mission in the midst of the world that challenges them.
The hallmarks of a disciple are here:
- constant maturation, what some term continuing conversion
- fostering that relationship with Jesus–not just learning about Jesus and the Church, but attending to his example and applying it in life, and cultivating a personal connection with the Lord in prayer and action.
- for Catholics, catechesis and sacramental life
Some people in professional ministry have not yet reached the stage of discipleship. If their ministry deals with maintaining the status quo, is disengaged from evangelization and disciple-making, lacks a prayer life or a commitment to continuing formation: these are potential warning signs that the initial fire has cooled.
Among disciples, a warning sign to consider: have we lost perseverance in the face of challenges in the Church and the world? That may indicate a time to retreat, to get back to school, to reassess and discern.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.