We often hear from RCIA coordinators that they encounter seekers who are too busy to participate in very much of the formation process the parish has designed for them. In a previous post, I suggested that often the seeker is not necessarily too busy but is instead not making formation a priority.
However, exceptions prove the rule. Sometimes a person really is extraordinarily busy. When that is the case, we often get stuck trying to figure out what to do.
If we can change our question a bit, it might help us through our dilemma. Instead of asking what we should do, let’s first ask why we are doing it.
How is the RCIA designed?
Many of our RCIA process are designed to teach doctrine. Some are also designed to provide seekers with a deeper understanding of scripture. So a typical formation process might include a weekly meeting to break open of the Sunday readings followed by a presentation on a teaching of the church. This format is so common, we seldom question why we are doing it. And then when we encounter a seeker who cannot fit into that plan, we’re flummoxed.
So why do we hold these weekly meetings? We might say it is so seeker can learn what they need to know to become Catholic. But that is not what the RCIA tells us about our “why.” The RCIA says we do what we do so that seekers will “seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion” (RCIA 1).
If that is our “why” — our purpose — how do we accomplish the purpose? Weekly breaking open the word sessions followed by a presentation is one way of helping seekers enter the way of faith, but it is not the only (or even the best) way. If our purpose is to help seekers live as disciples (the way of faith), what are some other ways we could accomplish that?
It seems to me that participation in the Sunday liturgy is essential. Pope John Paul II said, “The definitive aim of catechesis [our why] is to put people not only in touch, but also in communion and intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (On Catechesis in Our Time, 5). We only achieve true intimacy with Jesus Christ in the liturgy, celebrated over the course of the liturgical year.
When we have that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ in the liturgy, we are changed. We become more like Christ. So the next essential thing is we have to help seekers understand and live out that conversion.
11 ways to explore and live out conversion
That can happen in lots of ways, and we need to think creatively when it comes to helping super-busy people explore and live out their conversion. Here are just a few ways:
- Involve the sponsors more; teach sponsors how to ask mystagogical reflection questions of their seekers
- Make a list of six movies seekers are to watch with their sponsors and discuss afterward; schedule them roughly every other month
- Get parishioners to invite seekers over for dinner
- Discover a hobby or skill the seeker is passionate about; find a way to incorporate that hobby or skill into a faith formation process
- Introduce seekers to someone new in the parish every Sunday
- Help the seekers institute prayer routines in their homes
- Teach seekers how to be Christian witnesses in their workplaces
- Ask seekers to post something on Facebook or Instagram once a week that is, to them, a manifestation of holiness in the world
- Ask seekers to post on Facebook or send you an e-mail about one new thing they learned about Jesus or the church or themselves through their celebration of the Mass on Sunday
- Create a monthly schedule for formal catechesis, instead of a weekly schedule
- Create a quarterly, all-day or long-day Saturday or Sunday retreat-formation event instead of a weekly schedule
See if you can add to this list. First, ask yourself why this is important. And then come up with five more creative ways you can accomplish your “why” with your seekers. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
1 thought on “Why do we do RCIA?”
Great article with some great ideas! Thanks Nick! Our parish has a lot of working parents and college students, so sometimes “real life” gets in the way of their being able to attend a weekly session. So I like to remind all our seekers that if they have a problem making it to weekly sessions, they should’t worry… we’ll find a way to work around that. Just as there’s no single path for all those going through the RCIA, there’s no single path to delivering the RCIA. The examples you list are great ideas on how we can be flexible while not necessarily having to find additional resources to manage the process. The last thing we want to do is turn seekers away just because they’re not free on the night we hold our regular sessions.