Last week saw people coming together from all round the country to reflect together on the period of evangelisation. We took the model of the account of the Road to Emmaus and the various challenges and responses along the way and tied it in with our own practice… or what we might like to be our own practice!
It was a good way in to looking at period which is by its nature a bit vague and difficult – actually impossible – to pace as so much depends on the enquirer themselves. It was helpful to realise that this “period” was not for people who were baptised and practising Christians but for people who were uncatechised – whether baptised or not. It’s interesting too that a model that was based on the experience of people working in “mission countries” has become so appropriate in our own countries where many people have very little knowledge of Christianity.
On the Thursday afternoon there were several workshops on offer. I offered one on prayer during this time of pre-catechumenate. It was based on the premise that this was a time when enquirers would be dipping their toes into faith and that a chance to sample some of the amazing spiritual richness of Catholic Christianity in particular would probably be welcome. At this point, it might be useful to think of a banquet or perhaps a buffet rather than a set menu. On this table, there will be lots of things that more experienced Christians would recognise – like lectio divina and liturgical prayer, perhaps using the psalms. The trick suggested is to encourage enquirers to have a taste of a wide variety of prayer to help them to realise just what riches are in store – but without giving them spiritual indigestion!
We are making the PowerPoint and hand-out available – but they come with that health-warning – they are not a programme of teaching on prayer but a reminder of some of the things you might try to ensure that enquirers find things that will be helpful to their spiritual growth.
So, for example, you may have an enquirer who has had some tough times (and that is often what brings them to enquire). You might offer them a lectio divina using something like Isaiah 43: 1-7 (When you pass through fire… I have called you by your name – you are mine). This could also be useful for those later in the process who are choosing a Christian name – to become used to this name that will form part of their new identity. Or, you might use something like Matthew 11: 25-30 (Come to me all you who labour…) or one of the many passages speaking of God’s love and mercy. Many bibles have an index offering suggestions for passages that speak to various conditions. Simply type or write it out – or, if the person has a bible, mark it up for them and invite them to spend some time just reading it slowly and allowing the words to seep into their souls.
Other prayer might be less obviously “church-y” . Your parish might be going for a prayer walk which an enquirer could be invited to join – not only might they get some spiritual insights, they will also get to know people along the way. Or you may want to offer a simple symbol that they can keep with them as a reminder of your – and the parish’s – concern for them.. a holding cross – medal – special candle.
One of our great blessings is a wealth of ways in which to pray – many of which we don’t always use ourselves. They don’t need to be complicated or long-winded – a simple prayer-idea at just the right moment may do more in this time of evangelisation than several sessions of teaching about prayer! Just be open to the Spirit and take a chance – you may just be right!