The primary aim of catechesis is huge—communion and intimacy with Christ. Fortunately, there are six doable actions that will guarantee folks in our RCIA groups achieve that intimacy.
For each of these actions, it is important to remember the three levels of catechesis (initial proclamation, initiatory catechesis, ongoing catechesis). We’re going to offer these six actions with everyone we catechize, but the level at which we do so will need to be adjusted according to the needs of each person.
1. Teach the plan of faith
God has a plan. We know that because Christ is the plan. Once we have met Christ, we have the first understanding that God has designed an entire process for our salvation, which is summarized in the Creed. Our job as catechists is to use the liturgical year to gradually unfold the whole truth of God’s plan for our salvation as professed in the Creed.
- Initial proclamation: Because we believe, be an example of gratitude and joy in response to God’s plan of salvation
- Initiatory catechesis: Using the Creed as a guide, focus on the fundamental elements of the faith as they arise in the Sunday celebrations throughout the liturgical year
- Ongoing catechesis: Use the liturgical year to explore more deeply the mysteries of Christ (e.g. Christmas/Incarnation, Easter/Paschal Mystery, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday/Three persons in one God)
2. Learn the liturgy
If we are going to get to grow in intimacy with Christ, the best place to do that is in the liturgy, particularly in the Sunday assembly. We find the full presence of Christ in the liturgy in a way that surpasses all our other experiences of Christ.
- Initial proclamation: Be present at liturgies you are likely to find seekers. For example, weddings, funerals, Christmas and Easter Masses. Be aware that seekers may be present at any Sunday Mass
- Initiatory catechesis: Root the catechumens in a regular practice of Sunday worship; provide weekly mystagogical reflection on the liturgy
- Ongoing catechesis: Delve more deeply into how Eucharist commits us to action and reconciliation with all people; provide resources for liturgical history and structure
3. Walk the talk
If we are going to say we know Jesus, we have to live as though knowing him makes a difference. To know him is to do what Jesus would do.
- Initial proclamation: Be present to people and places that are on the margins. Offer support, hope, and material comfort. Work for political and social change
- Initiatory catechesis: Help catechumens turn away from a former lifestyle—a life absent of Christ—and begin to live in a transformed way
- Ongoing catechesis: Encourage and demonstrate a continual recommitment to our new life in baptism. Jesus summed up what this new life looks like in the beatitudes, which, in turn, are an amplification of the Ten Commandments
4. Practice prayer
As the first disciples were coming to know Jesus, they asked him how they should pray. Jesus’ answer, of course, was to teach them the Lord’s Prayer, which is the model of all Christian prayer.
- Initial proclamation: Pray every day that the Holy Spirit will lead you to offer “daily bread” to someone who has never heard the good news
- Initiatory catechesis: Each week, ask the catechumens to name how they have seen the Holy Spirit acting in their lives; teach them the traditional Catholic prayers; check in regularly to see how their prayer life is developing
- Ongoing catechesis: Explore deeper forms of prayer such as meditation, Liturgy of the Hours, and lectio divina; share your own struggles with prayer and how you’ve grown over the years in your prayer life
5. Catechize for community
In the United States, we put such great importance on our individual resourcefulness that seeing ourselves first of all as members of an interdependent community of love is a challenge. The General Directory for Catechesis acknowledges as much and says that the kind of radical community life Jesus calls us to doesn’t just happen automatically. It needs to be taught through a process of apprenticeship.
- Initial proclamation: Be aware that many people who need our help are not going to ask for it. We have to seek them out and not wait for them to come to us
- Initiatory catechesis: Shift most of your catechetical sessions from lectures or group discussions to hands-on practice in the community
- Ongoing catechesis: Discern with the participants where in the community God is calling them to live out their baptismal commitment. (Be aware it may be outside the parish.) Create an individualized learning plan to help them master the skills for that ministry
6. Become good citizens
The ultimate goal of the initiation process and of the catechist is to apprentice folks to live in civil society in such a Christian way that others want to become Christians also. It is ultimately what our baptismal vocation is all about. We do this by doing all the things our fellow citizens do, but always in the name of Jesus.
- Initial proclamation: Everywhere you go—school, work, the grocery store, the baseball game—believe and act like you are the most joyful person on earth; this is the most appropriate response to God’s plan of salvation, and it will cause others to ask questions of you
- Initiatory catechesis: Teach the catechumens how to “count their blessings.” Draw out stories from them of the many ways God has blessed them; share your own stories as well
- Ongoing catechesis: Teach folks how to talk about their faith in everyday conversations; encourage them to invite friends, colleagues, and family members to church; teach by example