Having had a formation session on RCIA, the historical threads, vision and practice, a trainee catechist said this week that she couldnt see it working as a model for catechesis – her concern was the ability of the catechumen or candidate to ‘know enough doctrine, and to fully understand the discipline of the sacraments’ in order to take that step and become a Catholic’, and very much seeing the main task of the catechist as providing a ‘systematic programme’ covering all there is to know…
Let’s look at formation offered in the parish –
Children for first sacraments, baptism preparation with new parents, confirmation candidates, marriage preparation, welcome of returners and so on. How are these informed by the vision of RCIA? Where sacramental preparation is concerned, what are we saying through what we offer? Are Sacraments divine gifts, celebrating the human and divine relationship, to be prepared for, received and opened to, gradually over a life time, or are they the end-of-programme certificates of knowledge, passports to a Catholic school or a wedding in a pretty church?
RCIA gives the parish an incarnational model that involves the whole person, body, mind, heart and spirit –
with invitation and welcome (Come and See where we live), gradual pathway into community life (see how they love one another) , encounter with God (I am with you always) through the Word and the experience of Liturgy, prayer, and reflection on scripture and tradition, outward-looking concern for others, and steps marked by liturgical rites, and blessings to strengthen the whole community on the journey of deepening conversion.
I was invited by a priest colleague recently to give a day for engaged couples, as part of their preparation for the sacrament of marriage. In this one parish, 12 couples have applied to get married this year. So far the marriage preparation has involved: (1) individual meetings of the couples with the priest to discern where they are and what they are asking for (2) invitation to weekly Family Mass on Sundays to celebrate with and meet the community (2) a rite of welcome that took place during
a Sunday Mass, asking the community to pray for all the couples (3) marriage preparation sessions given by a married couple covering all aspects of ‘Catholics and marriage’ – opening with ‘beginner’s guide to lectio on the Word, and finishing with special prayers of blessing for them (4) members of the community involved in preparing for the wedding itself (5) follow-up sessions to share wedding stories, and offer ongoing support. Not a bad RCIA model!