Making Disciples

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Front Cover for Making Disciples

Making Disciples

A Handbook of Christian Moral Formation

An experienced teacher of moral theology applies the latest findings of psychology and theology to age-old questions: How do we follow Jesus? How can we help others to follow him, and build initiatives that encourage the faith to spread spontaneously through society?

O’Connell’s ambitious book tries to synthesize a number of seemingly disparate elements, which often seem to be in tension: A lively appreciation for the methods and insights of traditional Catholic moral theology; the fruits of psychological and other social science research on how people learn and develop morally; the narrative or “story” school of contemporary theology; and the demands of postmodern society.

The result is a theoretically grounded but eminently practical book of use to pastors, teachers, campus ministers, and anyone else involved in trying to advance the faith of Jesus today.

Reviews and endorsements

How do people acquire the values out of which they live? How are these values modified? How might pastoral ministers be more effective in leading people to embrace the values of the gospel? These questions focus this book. O’Connell shows his skill as a moralist, pastoral theologian, and teacher in the way he weds moral theology and the insights of behavioral sciences on how values are transmitted to the “so what” questions of pastoral practice and the “how shall we” questions of religious education. No one has done it better.

Part 1 is fundamental moral “lite”, an overview of core insights of the Catholic moral tradition highlights the meaning and role of values in moral judgments and the importance of virtue and character in cultivating a life of discipleship. Part 2 draws from developmental psychology, social psychology, and sociology to bring clarity to how people acquire their values. O. shows that value preferences, or moral judgments, are made out of feelings rooted in convictions shaped by experience taking place in groups through a process of modeling. One of the key insights for pastoral ministry is that if we want to modify someone’s values, then we must assess closely the quality of the communities with which one associates rather than focusing on the individual along. Part 3 turns to another dimension of experience, the imagination. By drawing upon narrative theory, O. shows how story and ritual engage the imagination of others, providing them with vicarious experience, which can modify their moral sensibilities so that they can respond to the challenges of life in an empathetic manner. Part 4 moves from theory to practice. It aims to enrich pastoral practice by applying insight already gained to the three areas of pastoral ministry — religious education, liturgy, and parish life.

This would be an excellent supplementary text in a course in moral theology, pastoral ministry, or religious education. It resembles a road map for the process of becoming a disciple. My students appreciated O.’s respect for our moral tradition, his treatment of becoming a disciple as a process, his account of feelings in moral judgments and of groups as the locus of values, and his use of the social sciences to inform pastoral practice and it illumine moral dimensions of experience. O.’s commitment to pastoral theology is evident. He uses many examples to make clear connections to the pastoral goal of passing on to the next general gospel ways of valuing life. This is a “must read” for everyone committed to the pastoral goal of “making disciples”.
Richard M. Gula, S.S., Franciscan School of Theology Berkeley

“An up-to-date, practical pastoral guide. It is Timothy O’Connell’s best work since his acclaimed Principles for a Catholic Morality.”
William J. Bausch, author of The Parish of the Next Millennium


“Timothy O’Connell, a compelling teacher, weds traditional moral principles to the findings of contemporary behavioral social sciences with clarity and elegance. His book should be read, studied and discussed by parish leaders as well as academicians for he has made complex research eminently accessible and has offered us immediate applications of that research to where everyday people live, gather and worship.”
William J. Bausch, author of The Parish of the Next Millennium


“Timothy O’Connell has gifted us with a wonderful book that integrates the essentials of moral theology with relevant social-psychological findings. No better map exists of the actual processes of conversion to Christian discipleship.”
Sidney Callahan, author of In Good Conscience


“One of the leading pastoral theologians of our day, Timothy O’Connell has had two great passions throughout his life: moral theology and pastoral ministry. In Making Disciples he brings the two together. No one has written more insightfully about this central purpose of all religious education and ministry.”
Thomas H. Groome, author of Sharing Faith

Paperback / 202 pages
Dimensions: 6 x 9