Starting RCIA again after the summer is something of an adventure. How many people will come? Will they want to continue to come each week? Will they already be practising members of a non-Catholic Christian tradition, will they be baptised but uncatechised, or will they be potential catechumens?
One year we knew of no potential enquirers but just as we were about to go home, one by one, people came in and sat down. It was rather like the arrival of the dwarves in the first chapter of the Hobbit. All those who came in stayed with us. Very quickly they ceased to be strangers and became our friends. They were all different. They all started their faith journeys from slightly different starting points. They all differed in how much they already knew about the Christian faith. They weren’t sure what they thought about Catholicism but they were interested to find out.
One person decided he wasn’t ready to be received in the Church but he enjoyed coming every week nevertheless. He came to the Easter Vigil to support what were now his friends as they were received. One member of the group was a minister in a non-Catholic church. She brought her friend who had been baptised a Catholic but had never been confirmed. She considered that this was the best way to help her friend grow in faith. We enjoyed her contributions to the group and she too came to the Easter Vigil to offer her support. Yet another person came to argue, not realising that the group was for people interested in deepening their faith journey. He was a bit difficult initially but by Ash Wednesday he realised that the Hound of Heaven had been after him for years, held a party to celebrate and went to the Rite of Election.
Once a group has been together for a few weeks it is a privilege to see the Holy Spirit at work and a privilege to see seeds of faith growing.
Of course the intriguing question is what made them come, one by one, through the door in the first place? In each case the Holy Spirit was at work here through chains of apparent coincidences. But why did they come through our door? It is important to have a culture in your church community where people delight in seeing new people growing in faith. The kind of community where the church members tend to notice that one of their neighbours is interested in why they go to church and they not only tell them about RCIA but offer to bring them along.
In a typical UK town there are many churches with dwindling congregations whose average age is rising. But often there is one church in the town which attracts young people and young families, is lively and growing, and where most people interested in the Christian faith wants to be. It is always good to see the Kingdom of Heaven grow, whatever kind of church it is. But the Catholic Church, in the depth of its teaching and its spirituality, has a great deal to offer. The Holy Spirit is waiting for us to turn to him to provide the opportunity to deepen our own spirituality, and to provide us with a bigger vision.
And then we shall turn the World upside down.