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A Ramble through My "New Catholic" Wish List {RCIA referenced]
CatholicExchange.com ^ | April 17, 2005 | Mark Shea

Posted on 04/18/2007 10:58:18 AM PDT by Salvation

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A Ramble through My "New Catholic" Wish List

April 17, 2007

I am a "double-jump" convert to the Catholic Faith. I was raised Nothing-in-Particular (with a cloudy pagan regard for "the spiritual" and a deep disdain of "organized religion"). Then, at the age of 20, I had a sort of classic "born again" experience after an encounter with the living God revealed in Jesus Christ. Looking around me, I found that the people who had introduced me to Jesus were the non-denominational Evangelicals and charismatics on my dorm floor at the University of Washington. Therefore, putting two and two together, I concluded that this was the Christian community God had given me and that it was my task to learn from them, love them, and receive the love of God through them.

So learn from them I did. I became a member of this community (which eventually coalesced into a small church in North Seattle) and I learned the basics of the Christian faith-trust, prayer, love, good works, fellowship, discipleship, Scripture study-in this place. I regard this time with them as my personal "Old Testament": that period of preparation for the full reception of Christ which was to come when I became a Catholic.

I think the "Old Testament" metaphor for my time as an Evangelical is apt because I don't believe for a moment that it was an accident God introduced me to his Son through Evangelicalism any more than I believe it an accident that the whole history of Israel was the preparation for the Advent of Christ. Again and again, I found that things in my own Evangelical background anticipated the teaching of the Catholic Church and the Christ who is fully revealed there just as the teaching of the Old Testament anticipated the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Christ. So I am deeply grateful for my time as an Evangelical and regard the good things God gave me through that Tradition as very properly Catholic.

At the same time, there is a peculiar ambiguity about my Evangelical background, for just as the first Christians (Jews all) had to undergo a certain "paradigm shift" in order to see that the Old Testament was really pointing to Christ, so as an Evangelical, I found that there were often things I had to either unlearn or, more accurately, learn to see in a new way in order to comprehend Catholic life, teaching and worship.

 As an example, Catholic theology is, for Evangelicals, positively bestrewn with great ideas that are couched in frightening language. To pick one such idea at random, take the notion of "merit." Here is a term which, to the Evangelical ear, sounds disturbingly like it confirms all the fears of a Protestant heart: "Catholics get their salvation the old-fashioned way, they earrrrrrrrn it!" Yet, upon doing research about this troubling term I discovered (courtesy of Hans Urs von Balthasar) that "merit" is simply a term which expresses what Evangelicals today mean by "fruitfulness under the influence of grace". This sort of confusion is a constant factor for Evangelicals approaching the Church, and I began to make a little list of "cognates" that could make Catholic theology intelligible to me in my "native tongue" of Evangelicalism. Such ideas range from minor to major cognates like:

Apostolate = Ministry
Temporal punishment = the discipline of the Lord
Venial sin = stumbling
Mortal sin = backsliding
Formation = discipleship
Indulgence = gift of mercy

I mention this because such subtle differences in language show that conversion involves much more than a change of theology. It involves a change of culture and a change of community as well. Mastering such subtleties is as necessary to survival as a Catholic as making a good first confession.

Which brings me to the main subject: namely "If I were entering the Church this Easter, what kind of parish support would really help?"

My entry into the Church was, to be frank, hindered by two really bad experiences of catechesis. The first was simply the experience of catechists who were afraid to catechize. In my first RCIA, the priest and deacon were soooooo solicitous of my "feelings" and so hesitant to tell me what the Church believed, lest they offend whatever Protestant, secular, up-to-date sense of Baby Boomer entitlement I might imperiously assert, that it was like pulling teeth to get them to tell me what the Church taught. Much time was spent assuring me that the Old Testament was (and I quote) "like a Paul Bunyan story" and that pretty much anything I felt like doing was subject to my conscience (and apparently to nothing else). Meanwhile, I was trying to squeeze from them some hints about what the Church's doctrine was so that I might be able to decide whether or not I could believe it. It was intensely frustrating.

Shortly after this, a friend told me of another RCIA she thought was very good. I enrolled in this and found the other extreme: an instructor who read from a catechism. Period. That's all he did: read from a catechism. If you asked him a question when the text puzzled you, his upper lip became sweaty, his eyes darted around the room like a trapped animal's and he... re-read the passage he'd just read and said (in a pleading voice) "There. Now do you understand?"

Somewhere in between these two extremes (I wished) was an RCIA that could present the living Tradition of the Church in a way that was faithful to what the Church teaches and yet was capable of expressing that teaching in a way that is "translatable" to contemporary jargon when necessary. As it happened, (and this was the reason I found myself inventing things like the list above), I was compelled to form a "study group" along with several other convert wannabes in order to find out what the Church taught and get my questions and objections answered so I could make an intelligent decision. I then approached a priest and asked if he could consider receiving me into the Church, or putting me back into RCIA or whatever he thought best. In the end, I was received in Advent of 1987, which I did not know was unusual.

What this all adds up to is a heartfelt desire to see the Church at the parish level get its act together catechetically. With the advent of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the content of catechesis is well covered and I think every RCIA would be well served to model its teaching on it. At the same time, I would also like to see

  1. RCIA split into a two-track system (one for Christians from other traditions and one for the unbaptized) since the two groups have substantially different approaches to the Church and the former group is, in fact, already in a form of union with the Church.
  2. RCIA incorporate something like a survey of the gifts and talents of the candidates with an eye to plugging them into some form of service in the community. It's not enough to just get information about the Faith. You have to become part of the community and use your gifts in a way that matters.
  3. Further, I'd love to see Mystagogia-the period of education in the faith after Easter-be much more heavily emphasized. Too often, new Catholics are just left flopping like gaffed salmon on the shore of the great Catholic ocean after Easter, as though baptism was the end, rather than the beginning, of the Christian story.
  4. Finally, I'd love to see the office (yes, it's actually an office in the Church) of godparent be taken seriously by giving godparents training in what the Church teaches and in what their office actually entails. At present, godparenting is sort of like being a best man or maid of honor: you stand up, you mime some sort of ceremony, you give the guest of honor a tie clip or a toast, and that's it. I would like godparents (and in fact the whole community) to take seriously the task of helping the newly baptized not only learn the Faith but find their place in the community. That has the potential to be a deeply thrilling cooperative effort!

I offer all these ramblings, not in a critical spirit, nor in ingratitude for the enormous gift of the Church, but out of a desire to see us Catholics take full possession of the "riches of his inheritance in the saints". The Catholic Church is sitting on top of the richest vein of spiritual treasure in the universe. I want to see us mine it for all its worth and a good place to start is at the beginning, with those who are entering the Church!



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Evangelical Christian; Ministry/Outreach; Theology
KEYWORDS: catechetics; catholiclist; rcia
For your discussion.

Please, if you are connected with RCIA or RE, please offer your wisdom for us!

1 posted on 04/18/2007 10:58:25 AM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; sandyeggo; Lady In Blue; NYer; american colleen; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ...
Catholic Discussion Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Discussion Ping List.

2 posted on 04/18/2007 11:12:36 AM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: All
A Ramble through My "New Catholic" Wish List {RCIA referenced]

Help with RCIA (Vanity)

Catholic Liturgy - Funeral Masses for a Suicide And More on Confession for RCIA Candidates

Confession for RCIA Candidates And More on the Prayer of the Faithful

RCIA and Holy Saturday

3 posted on 04/18/2007 11:13:58 AM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: Salvation
I think the Church does not do enough to go out and seek new members like the Evangelicals do. When I was in college I was invited to go to a Bible study with an evangelical youth minister on my dorm floor. I brought my own Bible and that surprised him.
During the discussion I brought up some of the fundamental parts of the Catholic faith as referenced in the Bible such as the sacraments and the primacy of Peter. They told me not to come back.
I wonder how many others were led in that direction instead of to the Church. It is a shame.
4 posted on 04/18/2007 11:17:02 AM PDT by IrishCatholic (No local communist or socialist party chapter? Join the Democrats, it's the same thing.)
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Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

To: IrishCatholic
"I think the Church does not do enough to go out and seek new members like the Evangelicals do."

I agree. But, it's not "THE CHURCH" that's at fault. Blame local administration. One of the reasons is that most laypeople don't feel comptent to teach Protestants. Most times, our lives should be such that they provide an opportunity for us to witness in love on a one-on-one basis. Evangelization doesn't have to be a formal program of "Search, Seek, Teach." Get a good foundation in what the Church teaches, and look for opportunities to share what you know with friends.

6 posted on 04/18/2007 11:27:54 AM PDT by redhead (Fishing in Alaska is like fishing in Heaven...)
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To: Salvation

I wonder what the level of catechesis RCIA/ RE instructors must display before being placed before a room of students.

Quoting from the CCC verbatim is a sign of lack of confidence (IMHO). Veering from the Magesterium is a sign of lack of conviction (IMHO). Abuse is a sign of lack of disposition (IMHO). None of these is acceptable for an instructor.

(Note: I am not an instructor for the third reason...self identified...i.e., I do not believe myself disposed with a charism for teaching)

We need to keep our instructors in our prayers. We also need to work with our parish DRE’s to make sure the quality of formation these lay people are given before being thrust into the lion’s den is the best it possibly can be.


7 posted on 04/18/2007 11:29:36 AM PDT by markomalley (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus CINO-RINO GRAZIE NO)
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To: IrishCatholic

Someone in our church anonymously invited my husband to join the church this past year. That was all it took. He decided it was time and just needed that push. He joined this Easter! I finally got myself a good Catholic boy! :o)


8 posted on 04/18/2007 11:30:31 AM PDT by samiam1972 (http://imrunningforpresident.blogspot.com/)
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To: IrishCatholic

**They told me not to come back.**

But you never know how many seeds you planted by talking about those issues!

God bless you!

Must agree with you on the point of Catholics and evangelizing.

We all need to look at evangelization in three steps:
First, get comfortable with the Bible and discussing Catholic points of view. This involves study on my part.

Second, get comfortable discussing these Catholic concepts with your family and close friends. Encourage family members (providing they are practicing Catholics) to voice the other side of the issue and pursue the mock discussion.

Third, reach out to those in your community. I am always talking to people in the grocery line, etc. Hi, my name is ____, do you live here or somewhere else? (Really dumb question, I know, but it opens the door.) Or you can use some other mundane question — weather, traffic, whatever.

Then once the conversation is open, mention that you are on your way to your local church. This will prompt the question — What church?

Then I mention the name of my Catholic Church and bring up the next event, Sunday of the year, etc.

Very often I get a response, “Oh, I used to be Catholic.”
I non-chalanatly say, well, maybe you still are......why don’t you stop in next Sunday and listen to one of Father ______’s great homilies?? (If that works for you — or use some other kind of invitation. With a neighbor recently — I said after finding out that she was a lapsed Catholic, Well, we will have to go to one of the Easter services over at St. _____________. It didn’t happen, but I opened the door.)

Then shut up. Better to leave them hanging. Recently one of the courtesy clerks followed me out to my car and asked me a question about my church. I answered only that question and issued another invitation.

It gets easier as you practice it.


9 posted on 04/18/2007 11:35:10 AM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: IrishCatholic
I think the Church does not do enough to go out and seek new members like the Evangelicals do.

I absolutely DO NOT agree with that statement.

Having said that, I believe that the Catholic Church should be far more involved with evangelisation. I believe that the Catholic Church should be a witness and a token of God's Divine Mercy to man. I believe that more forceful and positive images of the Church and her members needs to be placed in the public square.

As an example, how many parishes do you know of that invited local television stations to their Easter Vigil Masses...or local newspapers? What better example is there than showing large groups of adults being baptized and/ or being confirmed? Imagine interviews with some of the newly received members...("You're not marrying a Catholic, so why are you converting TO Catholicism?")

But evangelizing like the Evangelicals do? No...I think we need to work to increase our numbers by showing the life in Christ, not by providing a sales pitch. (Not that all Evangelicals do that...not hardly...but there are enough where that's the image that comes to mind)

10 posted on 04/18/2007 11:36:17 AM PDT by markomalley (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus CINO-RINO GRAZIE NO)
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To: rrc

**but im in the right direction....**

All it will take is a visit with the priest (providing he is one that you can relate to.) Then you can go from there.

Do it!


11 posted on 04/18/2007 11:36:43 AM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: redhead

** Get a good foundation in what the Church teaches, and look for opportunities to share what you know with friends.**

Right on!


12 posted on 04/18/2007 11:38:17 AM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: markomalley

Any of the Catholics who hang out on the Religion Forum and post on Catholic threads would make excellent RCIA instructors. There are several here already. I can think of three off the top of my head.

I am more involved in supporting our priest in his educational series for adults; Faith Formation 101. A week from today he will be discussing the upcoming changes in the Mass.

Not is that fabulous or not?


13 posted on 04/18/2007 11:40:48 AM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: samiam1972

**Someone in our church anonymously invited my husband to join the church this past year. **

We can all issue these invitations.

God bless you and congratulations to your husband. Does he post of FR and have a screename?


14 posted on 04/18/2007 11:42:04 AM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: Salvation

Interesting article, and I sympathize with him. A family member went to about 2 meetings of an RCIA program in NY, where they spent their time staring at a candle flame and holding hands while the sister in charge told them that they weren’t there to discuss doctrine, because the Church didn’t have any anymore...and she thought this was a good thing!

My would-be convert fled and later was lucky enough to find a priest who gave her private instruction (yes, about that “non-existent” doctrine!) and received her. But it’s really, really hard for converts to find good religious instruction.


15 posted on 04/18/2007 11:42:43 AM PDT by livius
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To: Salvation
Thank you for the post, Salvation. I am bookmarking for a later read. (Cradle Catholic here married to a RCIA convert so this is of great interest to me).

PaMom

16 posted on 04/18/2007 11:55:04 AM PDT by PennsylvaniaMom (Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean THEY aren't out to get you...)
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To: Salvation
I have taught RCIA for 4 years now. It's a six-month course that starts just after Labor day and continues till the Easter vigil.

1. RCIA split into a two-track system

This is a perfect-world suggestion, but hard to implement. It's more than most parishes can do to locate one talented, orthodox catechist. Try finding another, or telling the one you have you've just doubled his work load.

2. RCIA incorporate something like a survey of the gifts and talents of the candidates with an eye to plugging them into some form of service in the community.

Excellent idea; I have started doing this (inviting my class to parish social functions, holiday decorating of church & rectory, etc.) and plan to emphasise it more in the future.

3. Further, I'd love to see Mystagogia

Me too, and I feel rather guilty about this, but to be blunt, after Easter I'm burnt out. I'm a volunteer, with other commitments (including in the parish) and a full life. And frankly, I have my own needs for spiritual refreshment and education. My hope is that if I'm doing my job right and leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit, my alumni will start looking for ways to help out. Converts are generally more energetic than cradle Catholics.

4. Finally, I'd love to see the office (yes, it's actually an office in the Church) of godparent be taken seriously by giving godparents training in what the Church teaches and in what their office actually entails.

Worth considering. Haven't done this up till now, but if it only helps drive home to the catechumen the importance of what's about to happen, it'll have some value.

17 posted on 04/18/2007 12:07:07 PM PDT by Romulus (Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo.)
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To: Salvation

For the record, the CCC (NOT the American Catechism just published) is the text for my RCIA program. We start at the beginning and work through it all the way to the end. I quote from it a lot, but more often use it as a springboard for commentary. I certainly don’t just read from it, though it’s usually open while I teach, and I use its outline and marginal annotations by me as I cover the evening’s material.

I also distribute copies of the Compendium of the Catechism (the auxiliary bishop to whom I described all this in last Fall’s visitation to our parish seemed unaware of the existence of this Ratzinger-inspired book), but haven’t used it in class. We also discuss sacred art and scripture, literature, liturgy, Church history, and pious customs. I try to avoid current controversies and disputes, and try very hard to keep my personal opinion (including politics) out of it. I ask for questions and welcome discussion (but not dissent or speculative theology). My bride, who happens to be not only a convert but a graduate of last year’s class, helps keep me grounded and attuned to the background and concerns of my students. Finally, I make a point of praying for them all — past, present, and future — and solicit your prayers for them as well.


18 posted on 04/18/2007 12:42:04 PM PDT by Romulus (Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo.)
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To: Salvation

He’s addicted to FR but has never signed up or posted. If he ever feels the need to point something out he makes me do it! :o) I’ll get him on here someday!


19 posted on 04/18/2007 1:11:59 PM PDT by samiam1972 (http://imrunningforpresident.blogspot.com/)
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To: samiam1972

You really do need to get him on here posting!


20 posted on 04/18/2007 1:34:12 PM PDT by wagglebee ("A political party cannot be all things to all people." -- Ronald Reagan, 3/1/75)
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To: wagglebee

I know. It took 12 years to get him to become Catholic. It might take me a little longer to get him to join FR. I’m not sure if he’s ready. LOL!


21 posted on 04/18/2007 1:54:53 PM PDT by samiam1972 (http://imrunningforpresident.blogspot.com/)
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Comment #24 Removed by Moderator

To: Romulus

**This is a perfect-world suggestion, but hard to implement.**

At our church we had a neophyte follow-up class that met every other month, but our Adult Ed person let it slip. Keeping something like this up almost requires another staff member or another volunteer in my opinion.

**survey of the gifts **

We have a new Catholic who is very enthused about books helping with the reorganization of our library — she is thrilled to be filling this small niche need.

**Mystagogia**

We have a yearly book study — I am hoping for something in this category this year.


25 posted on 04/18/2007 3:53:43 PM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: sandyeggo

Shea does have a funny way of putting the point across sometimes, doesn’t he?


26 posted on 04/18/2007 3:56:02 PM PDT by Salvation (" With God all things are possible. ")
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To: samiam1972

I feel like I’m making some progress with a guy I work with. He’s a Catholic convert who jumped to episcopaganism. He went to a Catholic funeral last weekend and felt pain that he couldn’t take communion — but he respected it. I told him he’s one confession away — heck, I told him I’m not even sure it’s a sin to have been in the Episcopal church. I invited him to my parish, which is Anglican Use. I think he’d love it. Funny thing is, I don’t even really like the guy — I do in some ways but he’s not a good coworker.


27 posted on 04/18/2007 4:26:29 PM PDT by ichabod1 ("Liberals read Karl Marx. Conservatives UNDERSTAND Karl Marx." Ronald Reagan)
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