Brave new world: Forming disciples to courageously face the adventure of life

You don’t have to be a doom and gloomer to see that things are unravelling very quickly in our country. Two metrics are enough to prove the point: a drastic decline in the marriage and birth rates and the recent news that church-going Christians are now a minority within the U.S. Although William Butler Yeats wrote with the First World War and the 1918 flu pandemic in the background, his poem, “The Second Coming,” speaks as truly as ever: 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.
What can we do? How should the Church respond as things fall apart and the center gives way?

The Church does not have to come up with a new or innovative mission statement. Jesus gave it to us before his ascension: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19-20). Although it may seem that talk of discipleship in the Church is just the latest ecclesial fad, forming committed followers of Jesus Christ is the great task that God has given us. It can be hard for Catholics to comprehend the need for discipleship since we focus so heavily on the external. Our sacramental life and doctrine are a great gift, yet they have to be internalized to take root within us. We might be tempted to say that we are Catholic simply because we have received the sacraments or attended a Catholic school, even if we never came to know God in a personal way. Discipleship puts forth the call to make a commitment to follow Jesus and to share in the mission to proclaim the good news to others. 

The Church’s mission could be taken for granted more readily when the surrounding culture supported Christian morality. As we all know, those days are long gone. To form disciples now, we have to paddle against a raging current. Even if more difficult, the mission to form disciples is more necessary than ever — as a rescue mission to save our children from a deeply inhuman way of life. We can say with confidence that only friendship with Christ can help us through the minefield of our culture. This friendship blossoms most naturally in the family, with the support of the parish and the school. 

“Ours is not an age of change, but a change of the ages,” as the Pope likes to remind us. How can we help our kids to thrive in this brave new world where everything seemingly is up for grabs? They need to think and live like Christians, committing to follow Jesus before all else, even when it’s countercultural. To support them, first, we have to help them to recognize the joy of life, appreciating it as great gift that we have received from God. Second, we have to help them face the challenges of life head on with courage, seeing life as an adventure; true, one that’s full of danger and risk, but also one that invites us to do great things for God. Third, we have to teach them not only to be Christians, but also how to be human — to think and love rightly, rooted in healthy relationships and a commitment to what is greater than themselves as the only true path to happiness.

Photo by Carol Nesbitt

Our goal, therefore, has to be to teach our kids how to live as faithful Christians in the modern world. To do so, we have to become catechists of the Christian life, showing them how to make faith the center of our lives. If we don’t teach our kids how to live their faith in an integrated way every day, they will naturally follow the way of the world, floating with the stream. They need an apprenticeship in how to be a Christian today. Classes about the faith provide a foundation but are not enough to draw our kids into a Christian way of life, because following Jesus requires mentorship, with the role of parents by far the most influential. Living the faith together in daily life makes it come alive to our kids, shaping everything that they do in tangible ways.

This art of the Christian life includes prayer, work, character formation, and learning how to be strong in the face of difficulties. In addition, one of the key challenges we face in the family is technology. How can we be moderate in the use of technology, not allowing it to dominate us, but rather treating it as a useful tool? Emphasizing prayer and family time over technology makes an important statement about priorities. There must be a limit to technology’s saturation and a close monitoring of its content; technology is a good thing, but alternatives are just as important, forming the minds and imaginations of our kids by reading out loud together, singing, playing games, and spending time outdoors. 

The world’s problems may be complicated and are certainly more than any one person can handle. Yet, the solution may be simple. Christ really is the answer, the true missing center that holds everything together and that can reintegrate the many things that have fallen apart. The rebuilding begins one person at a time. Jesus calls everyone to follow him — to become his disciple by imitating him and sharing in his mission. If we haven’t had the opportunity to say “yes” to Jesus’ invitation of becoming his disciple and growing in a personal relationship with him, now is the time! In the face of a brave new world, each one should be able to say, “I am a Christian and I will follow Christ, come what may.” 

For more on how to form disciples concretely, see School of the Lord’s Service, a framework for forming disciples from the Office of Catholic Schools:

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit:  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.