September comes with the scent of new books, new supplies, new uniforms and new or familiar routines. The roads fill up with extra cars on the school run and the sound of more children’s voices can be heard.
This is also the time when our parish pews fill up again with those who have been away, choirs and liturgical ministers are back on schedule and RCIA groups begin, once again, to offer the invitation to those who might be enquiring about what it means to be a Catholic.
The Gospel heard this weekend, reminding us of the resolute and determined cost of discipleship, also gives us Jesus reflecting on ‘being ready’; ‘having a plan; and ‘thinking things through’. Jesus is reminding us to have our plan of action in place.
If we are following an academic model of September to June then it raises all the very important questions about how we respond to an enquiry in the other months and what provision we have in place to respond to this situation. Do we have members of the RCIA group ready to meet with our summer enquirers; are we thinking our welcome through?
Along with all those children and young people returning to their studies and activities, RCIA groups could also use this period in early September to re-gather, to share their own summer stories, to reflect on where the group is at the moment. This could be a time of formation by having a Team Development Day, a Retreat Day or a Day of Reflection. It could be open to those who have been involved in the RCIA process in the past, as well as a time to welcome new members to the group. This is an opportunity to refresh the understanding of the 4 stages within the process and to reflect on the individual elements of welcome, space, prayer, liturgies, content, community and group dynamics.
A time like this could also include reflection on passages directly from the Rite, for example to review the period of the Precatechumenate we could use RCIA 37 which reads:
‘From evangelisation, completed with the help of God, come the faith and initial conversion that cause a person to feel called away from sin and drawn into the mystery of God’s love. The whole period of the precatechumenate is set aside for this evangelisation, so that the genuine will to follow Christ and seek baptism may mature.’
Or RCIA 38 which identifies who and why by suggesting: ‘During this period, priests and deacons, catechists and other laypersons are to give the candidates a suitable explanation of the Gospel. The candidates are to receive help and attention so that with a purified and clearer intention they may cooperate with God’s grace. Opportunities should be provided for them to meet families and other groups of Christians.
If these two points were the focus of a team/group reflection and discussion then the value of God’s action in peoples’ lives, patience on our part as people move toward this clearer intention, the importance of relationships developed in the group and in the community and a discerning approach to the Gospel could be explored.
As we prepare for Benedict XVI’s visit ‘Heart Speaks Unto Heart’ we may have more and more people drawn by God to seek out their local Catholic church and ask the questions which may arise from this event. Have we a plan, have we thought things through, have we laid the foundations upon which to witness to and build a lasting relationship with our Lord and with others.