More than twenty years ago I took a portion of the Christian initiation rites as my Master’s thesis, and working in parishes and with the North American Forum, made the rites a locus of personal study over the years.
With this post, we’re finally ready to read through the RCIA proper. Sections one through thirty-five are the introduction, and these posts will give the necessary background information behind the rite: not only the words and rituals, but the intentions. The first paragraph tells you what’s ahead in broad terms:
1. The rite of Christian initiation presented here is designed for adults who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts. By God’s help they will be strengthened spiritually during their preparation and at the proper time will receive the sacraments fruitfully.
What does this tell us? Three very important things:
Christ must be proclaimed for non-believers to first encounter Him and this make a choice, a conscious and free choice, to seek God.
From the very beginning of faith, the Trinity self-reveals: Christ is heard, the living God is sought, and the Holy Spirit opens.
The preparation period is a time of spiritual strengthening. That does not mean that catechesis and service and other aspects of Catholicism are neglected, but they must be lensed through the individuals and the community opening more deeply to the Holy Spirit and deriving strength from the initiation experiences.
What is the practical significance? I would say that new believers should find the time of the catechumenate to be generally a time of strengthening. Certainly, sin and other poor life choices should be confronted, but overall, a newcomer to Christianity should find herself or himself growing stronger as the preparation progresses.
Any more thoughts as we begin the discussion of RCIA?