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Following, by Annie Turner

It is a sad fact that my mood on a gray day can be improved by noting that someone new is following me on Pinterest. How lame is that? When I get the little notifications on my iPhone saying that, “Grace so-and-so is now following you,” I check to see: Is it my foodie stuff she is interested in, the gardens I want, or the art I like?

This made me think about what it means to follow someone. It is so easy to click following for Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and I do it often. It’s not a bad thing, and in fact, is a way of keeping in touch with people, cultural trends, people I admire, and developments in our church.

But is it truly following? I think it is more like the way one of my kids used to clutch my purse or jeans as I walked through the grocery store aisles, or like the way my Jack Russell terrier hangs close to my heels, hoping for a treat.

When Jesus asks his disciples to “follow me,” and when we are also called to join that ragtag group of men (and women, please let us not forget Mary Magdalene and many more), we are not asked to grab onto Jesus’ robe so we don’t get lost. We are asked to put His teachings into our lives, to incorporate what He said and did into the very
marrow of our daily lives.

How do I become a true follower, a modern disciple? First, I begin by looking at my favorite saints, whether official or
not: St. Oscar de Romero; Dorothy Day; St. Martin de Porres; St. Francis; and St. Joan of Arc. What did they have in common?

Courage. They stood up to their detractors, to opposition, and to persecution. The call of the Gospel was so immediate, so personal and compelling that we can understand what discipleship means by these actions: Dorothy Day’s care for the homeless and the hungry; St. Martin de Porres’s outreach to the marginalized Indians and slaves in Peru; St. Francis kissing a leper; and Oscar de Romero entreating soldiers to stop the violence. He was shot for that very stance. I, however, am intermittently courageous, more like Bert Lahr in “The Wizard of Oz”, the cowardly lion.

Persistence. Read Dorothy Day’s journals and see how tired she was at the end of the day, how discouraging it could be to conjure food and shelter out of thin air, and how not-fun it was cleaning the Catholic Worker’s car after someone had been sick in it. She simply did not give up. Nor did St. Joan, no matter what happened on the battlefield, she kept going. I need to put more persistence into my days, in making sure the abundance of my life is shared with others whether that is a phone call to someone in distress or buying diapers and food for our local Survival Center.

Staying close to God. All of these saints—and many more besides—put prayer and contemplation at the center of their lives. Dorothy Day attended Daily Mass and partook of the Eucharist; St. Francis slept out on Mother Earth,
wrote Canticles to the Sun, and praised God often. Clearly, I need to integrate contemplation more fully in my life,
even though I find that Centering Prayer makes me jumpier rather than calmer.

Humility. I believe all of the saints share this central characteristic—a refusal to put themselves at the center of their world. Other people always came first. The holy men and women’s thoughts focused on those in need and how
they could be helped. Sometimes I am humble, but that can be hard to distinguish from lack of self-confidence.
Only one is given by God.

Maybe I can use my impulse to tag someone else’s posting, picture, or recipe, and incorporate this into a more Godcentered
way. I could witness more to my faith and invite others to join me in that witness. I can use my Twitter account to alert followers to issues of social justice and voting policy. I could use my FB page to remind people of the beauty in our world, for, as our pope has famously said, “Beauty leads to God.”

– Annie Turner


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