BOLGER: In the life of a disciple, healing must be part of the mission

May 22, 2018

For more than two decades the Church has been awakening to the New Evangelization ­– the true purpose for which the Church exists.

As the Church continues to renew its life and mission, a deeper sense of the role of that each Catholic is supposed to play has become clearer; “Missionary Disciple” has become the catch phrase used to describe this emerging identity. In college campus ministry the task of making missionary disciples can be seen as both an urgent need and an overwhelming challenge.

Just one of the ways that campus ministry assists students in this vocation is through prayerful accompaniment. However, the greatest challenge over the last three years in trying to form missionary disciples has been to refashion the identity of young people that has been marred by the culture in which they have been raised.

What do I mean exactly? Growing up we are wounded in many ways; we are neglected, we are taken advantage of, we learn unhealthy and sinful habits and we are exposed to many lies that corrupt the image we have of ourselves and of God. All of these take a toll on our identity as adopted children of a loving Father. Very often we are not even aware of how these wounds have affected us.

So, we strive to teach prayer and quiet listening in a noisy world. As our student leaders learn to pray, God reveals to them through their thoughts, feelings and desires the extent of their woundedness. They are challenged to overcome the lies that they have believed and that culture has reinforced most of their life. They are challenged to allow the Father to show them who they really are.

For some, healing of these wounds can take place on a retreat, for others healing is a longer process that takes place in personal prayer and under the careful guidance of a spiritual director. It is a big commitment on the part of both director and the one being guided. Without this commitment, though, there can be no transformation.

At the end of the day, a missionary disciple cannot give what he or she does not have or hasn’t experienced for themselves. Before we can know the work of a disciple, we must know ourselves as beloved children following a merciful Father.

For college students desiring to be disciples, healing and personal formation in their relationship with God the Father must be the centerpiece of discipleship formation. 

Father John Paul Bolger, C.C., is the chaplain and director of the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Houston.