At this stage in the year, most of us are thinking about the way our current journey changes as our RCIA groups reach an ending and start to think about beginning again. Reviewing the journey and planning ahead are important tasks. How do we undertake our review? There are the usual reflections on what worked well and what worked not so well, but maybe our review needs to take place at a deeper level.

This year, the Diocese of Nottingham has chosen Handing On Our Faith as a theme for the year. It struck me that the Handing On Our Faith prayer offers some key points for reflection at this stage of our journey in RCIA.

Father,

Our faith is a gift from you.

Help us by the power of your Spirit

to grow in love, so that we may be

Faithful to our baptism

Alert to the needs of our world

Inspired to proclaim your Word

Tireless in upholding justice

Hopeful in forming the future.

By handing on our faith as a gift,

may we share the hope given us by Jesus your Son.

Amen.

How do we offer ‘Faith as a Gift’?

Most gifts are gift-wrapped and part of the excitement and anticipation is untying the bows and peeling back the paper to explore what is inside. So perhaps the first question for reviewing and planning is: do we concentrate on the outer wrapping (what we do) or exploring what’s inside (why we do it)?

Tom Groome talks about our faith as offering ‘eight gifts for life’ which offer some insights into what we’re about. Recognising that

* that all are good people made in God’s image and likeness

* that we live in a gracious world and are called to see God in all things

* that we are a community for life, made for each other – as Timothy Radcliffe says “I am because we are”

* that we offer a tradition to inherit, a living tradition expressed in all times and all places, not a dusty traditionalism

* our faith is built on a reasonable wisdom which isn’t about suspending reason to believe but integrating faith and wisdom

* we have a spirituality for everyone which is expressed and lived in a variety of ways

* our faith is faith that does justice beyond the scales

* to be Catholic demands an openness to welcoming everybody even if there are aspects of their situation which seem at odds with Church teaching

That’s quite a checklist! Maybe a question for our parish RCIA teams in planning and reviewing is to reflect on these ‘eight gifts for life’ and to consider also how faith is a gift in our own lives first and then where they are found in our parish practice and how they underpin what we do in RCIA.

The central part of the prayer offers a ‘mini Catholic manifesto’ and again might offer guidance for our planning and review:

* How do we talk about Baptism with our catechumens and candidates? In her recent book Living Baptism Clare Watkins reminds us that Baptism isn ‘t primarily for ourselves, it should make a difference to the world:

“…baptism is not simply about religious piety, about which group you belong to, or worship with. Baptism is not a private, devotional affair, but carries with it a demand for the transformation of life, and an empowerment to live in a changed way…baptism makes a difference to the world, a difference oriented to God.”

Clare Watkins

* Is our catechesis connected to the needs of our world, locally and globally? Does it take account of what takes place outside the Church doors? Does it offer people the means to see God’s presence in all things?

* How do we proclaim the word of God? Is it a fundamental part of our process or an add on? Does it make the connection between the stories people bring with them and the word we proclaim in scripture?

* Is our catechesis connected with justice? Does it form us as people who are concerned and active in upholding and promoting justice?

* What future does our catechesis seek to form? Is our catechesis hope-ful? Is it about forming the future or the here and now?

There are a lot of questions there, but if we are serious about reviewing the journey, reviewing our work as catechists and planning for the future, we need to have some framework which we can check with and reflect on. Hopefully this offers some useful suggestions!