Celebration, Reflection, and Discipleship
A Blog by Mary Birmingham
Articles, conversations, and answers to burning questions regarding the implementation of the RCIA.
People who have questions about the implementation of the RCIA often do not know where to turn for answers. This forum attempts to address many of the common concerns about pastoral adaptation of the RCIA. Send your questions to me on the WLP web page or on Facebook: RCIA Mary Birmingham, and I will address them on this site.
Should every person who wants to become a Catholic begin the RCIA process in the period of the precatechumenate? In other words, how do we discern where a person belongs in the process?
This question can be especially challenging when one considers that every individual comes with varying degrees of Christian formation and conversion. Some people have only recently been touched by a divine spark that led them into this new adventure of grace, while others have been living that life of grace for many years and now want to live it as a Catholic. Are their paths the same? The destination may be the same, but the path to get there is another matter.
One need only look to the rite itself for clues to where a person belongs in the process. The key discerning question becomes: Is this person evangelized? RCIA ##36–42 provide the blueprint for this evangelization.
- Conversion to Jesus and the Christian message,
- Suitable, basic explanation of sacred scripture, which would include the primary stories from the Bible such as Abraham, our father in faith and our call to faith; Moses and the Israelites’ freedom from slavery and our own need for deliverance from the slavery of sin; and stories of Jesus such as the Incarnation, Jesus our Savior, Jesus the Good Shepherd, Jesus our Teacher, and his death and resurrection,
- Fundamentals of Christian teaching, such as the Blessed Trinity, reconciliation, our need for forgiveness, the beginning of calling on God in prayer, and a sense of and need for the Church,
- And most importantly, conversion, conversion, conversion!
This is what it means to be evangelized. Many people come to us already evangelized; if they are unbaptized they can celebrate a rite of acceptance and enter the second period the process, the catechumenate, whenever they knock on our door—winter, summer, spring, or fall. (The next posting will address how and why a continuous catechumenate is envisioned by the RCIA.) The purpose of this posting is simply to help in the discerning process. The following interview questions will assist in that discernment. They are also criteria for readiness to move to the next period of the catechumenate (catechesis in liturgy, scripture and doctrine, service, community) as set forth in paragraph #42 in the RCIA.
STORY OF GOD
What is drawing you to God at this time in your life? Looking back, can you describe ways God has been present throughout your life? Have you ever been aware of God leading you, calling you, or desiring a relationship with you?
STORY OF JESUS
What do you know about Jesus Christ? What is the most important truth about Jesus? (The inquirer will probably respond that he died and rose again; that he is the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the second person of Trinity, born of a virgin, etc.) Many people know about Jesus, but Christians seek to enter into a personal relationship with him. Have you ever experienced the love of Jesus, an intimate, personal relationship with him? Please explain.
CALLING ON GOD IN PRAYER
What is your understanding of prayer? Do you pray? How do you pray? Why do you pray? Do you read the Bible?
STORIES FROM THE BIBLE
If you read the Bible, can you name any Old Testament heroes? Two such heroes are Abraham and Moses. Abraham was our first father in faith. God called Abraham, and in response to Abraham’s faith, God formed the people of Israel—a whole nation of God-loving, God-fearing folk. God also called Moses to lead those people out of slavery in Egypt. Just as God called Abraham, we too are called to believe as Abraham did. Jesus, the Son of God, delivers us out of slavery, too. In what way has God called you to believe? When were you first aware that God was trying to get your attention? Please explain. Just as the people of Israel were delivered, so are we. Are there any patterns or habits in your life from which you would like God to deliver you? Please explain.
FUNDAMENTALS OF CHRISTIAN TEACHING
If someone were to ask you what Christians believe, how would you respond? What do you know about Christianity, about the Blessed Trinity?
STORY OF CHURCH
Do you have a faith background? What is calling you to the Catholic Church at this time in your life?
TURNING AWAY FROM SIN
Do you believe that we are all sinners and that God is inviting us to change our lives? How do you feel about forgiveness in general? About God’s forgiveness? Do you believe there is a need to repent for our sinfulness? Why?
A SENSE OF THE CHURCH
If someone were to ask you why you want to join a church, how would you answer? Why do you think you need a church?
These focused discernment questions are a window into how much or how little evangelization is needed for each inquirer. If this discussion sparks further questions, please submit them and we can keep the dialogue going on the next posting.