I recently did a workshop on RCIA at the Nottingham diocese Proclaim day. At its heart was the question which does not always seem to be considered.What do we do with people once they cross the threshold? While acknowledging that those who come will be from a variety of backgrounds of faith I took the place of the unbaptised as the model and focussed on the first period of Evangelisation and Precatechumenate.

While preparing for the session I was struck by the description in the General Directory for Catechesis on the process of Evangelisation:

The Church, while ever containing in herself the fullness of the means of salvation, always operates “by slow stages”. The conciliar decree Ad Gentes clarifies well the dynamic of the process of evangelisation:

Christian witness, dialogue and presence in charity, the proclamation of the Gospel and the call to conversion, the catechumenate and Christian Initiation, the formation of the Christian communities through and by means of the sacraments and their ministers. This is is the dynamic for establishing and building up the Church.

I found it helpful to be reminded that the Church sees the whole process as Evangelisation – we tend to limit it to the first part. I believe that the proclamation of the good news of Jesus and our response to it is ongoing — that is why we are having a Year of Mercy. Finally the process is cyclical – we are formed as communities so that we can offer witness.

I was struck that the idea of conversion is present in this first period (RCIA expands on the idea in paragraph 37 – that they feel called away from sin and drawn into the mystery of God’s love).

In the workshop we explored this idea by looking at the forthcoming Sunday Gospels. There were two questions:

  • Who is Jesus? What qualities does he display in the text? – Look at him with the eyes of enquirer.
  • What in this passage calls us to live differently, change our lives.

IN the time we had I invited people to share their responses to the second question. So with this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10:46-53 – the healing of Bartimaeus) these included: not pass by those in need; to have the courage to ask; to see the world anew. In some ways simple challenges but what if we took as ways to live differently in the coming week. And then when we gather again to invite people (catechists and enquirers) to say, if they wish, what they did and how it affected them.

In this reflection the Gospel is proclaimed, there is an encounter with Jesus, the call to conversion and witness. Again we tend to think of conversion as the falling of a horse and lightning scenario but it is also in the small things. I had a better understanding through this of the Precatechumenate as a preparation for the Catechumenate. The growing confidence in witness is one of the dynamics of the following period. Here witness is not only offered by the catechists but also by the enquirers.