We have just had Sheila O’Dea (formerly of North American Forum on the Catechumenate) with us in the Diocese for three days reflection on our practice of RCIA. At the centre was the Word of God for last Sunday – and the whole thing of ‘what were you arguing about on the road,.. being afraid… not saying anything.’ This particularly struck me because it amazed me that the ‘arguments’ about initiation of adults come about because people dont even have copies of the Rite and are simply doing their own thing – many clergy hadnt opened the Rite since they were given it, let alone have studied and reflected on it together, with people from their parish. So that was the first point of encouragement: everyone who is involved at ‘leadership’ level in the process should have their own copy of the rite, read, mark up and inwardly digest! The Rite is the skeleton and our task is to put flesh on it, and not to replace it with a programme!! Flowing from this essential of knowing the rite inside out, the second point of encouragement: to get to know the community inside out too! If initiation of adults is the responsibility of the baptised and takes place in the heart of the community, a gradual process accommodated to the liturgical year, then we must know the community, and then we can ‘link up’ our enquirers with people who can accompany them – a single mum with another mum for example, a 20-yr old university student with a student, a family with a family and so on..
The third point of encouragement: the whole mystery of Christ really does unfold over the course of the liturgical cycle, and if we are reflecting on the Word of God Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, then we can be sure that our catechesis will be suitable and complete. These ‘feasting on the Word’ for at least one year is what the Church calls ‘appropriate’ preparation – together with the catechumens we feast and grow into the Body of Christ.
RCIA is about who we are as Church – and the focus is not about ‘getting sacraments’ but on becoming a member of the Body of Christ and doing the mission of Christ! RCIA is about how we celebrate Liturgy and how this forms us as ‘Church’. RCIA is about how we do catechesis – and the goal is communion with Christ. And finally, RCIA is about living and sharing the life we have with others – to be a place, a heart, that offers hope and listening, peace and reconciliation – the mission!
What now? Well if we really believe that RCIA is not about ‘them’ but about ‘us’, then can we do a few simple things for ourselves?
Encourage ‘feasting on the Word’ for all the community – many many Catholics still havent heard that God is really present in the Word… there is a ‘famine of hearing the Word’ (Amos). Can we celebrate the Liturgy of the Word really well every Sunday, and teach people how to open to the power of God’s presence through the Word?
Q: To start with, have all the Ministers of the Word in your parish been offered and taken up formation? Including praying with the Word? And then, what about other opportunities to reflect – in families, neighbours, parish groups of any kind?