≡ Menu

Refactoring the RCIA process

HokiePundit (now TribalPundit) has decided to swim the Tiber. But in his process he ran headlong into a classic case of pigeon-holing that has troubled me from the first time I heard of it. They unwisely put him into an RCIA session that is designed around the full catechesis usually necessary for those on track for the Catechumenate, meaning that they have not even received valid Baptism. As a Baptised and well-read Christian under tremendous time pressures this caused HP a lot of unnecessary heartburn. Thankfully he cast into the ‘Net and has gotten a good amount of help in trying to untie some of the bureaucratic knots he was bound in.

What bothers me is that it seems all too often (okay, in my mind even once is probably too often, but I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to this kind of thing) people who wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church are simply treated as if there is a one-size-fits-all approach to bringing them to the Sacraments. As great a gift as the RCIA process can be for the Church and her members and soon-to-be members, it seems we often fall prey to the trap of finding only nails when all we have is a hammer. At least prior to the renewed RCIA process the catechetical process was done one-on-one by a priest who could (granted, not that they always did) customize the process for each individual. There needs to be a better synthesis of the two – we really need to do a better job of customizing our RCIA experiences for the widely varying experience bases of those going through.

A good ferinstance is the RCIA team of which I’m a part. We’re following the same basic catechetical structure as we did last year. The big difference is last year all of our members were un-Baptised and this year they are all Baptised and we have one member who is going through RCIA only needing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. While the “consistent end product” achieved by consistent catechetical structure is laudable, the old statement that “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds” rings in my ears. Certainly we must maintain an appropriate minimum of catechetics. The opportunities to form even more deeply the faith of those going through the process, however, is just too great to leave on the table for the sake of simplicity.

When I went through RCIA it was a breeze (yes, I’m going to post the whole thing – soon, honest). I’d read the entirety of the books we were given within about three weeks of starting the process and spent a measurable portion of the time actually holding forth on the Catholic position on issues. Fortunately our Vicar at the time saw that I could absorb more faster and kept me well-stocked with books and pamphlets. If it weren’t for him, I hate to think it but my RCIA process may well have been downright boring with the exception of the great moments (e.g. the Rite of Acceptance, the Easter Vigil, etc.).

I think we need to find a way to front-end some of this discovery in a one-on-one fashion so the structure of the program can be properly formed for the needs of the particular class. The greatly increased difficulty caused by putting everyone from the barely-interested “unchurched” to the highly motivated and well-informed together without differentiation seems unworthy in some way. Our job is to help those desiring to enter the Church become the best Catholics they can be with the help of God’s grace, not move them through a production line of lectures to produce a (if I may coin a term) sacramentable product. I realize that time and budgets only allow for so much, but this certainly does not seem to be a good place to scrimp.

If anyone out there has had measurable success with customizing catechetical content and structure for these processes I’d love to hear from you. Being an engineer has taught me one thing very well – there’s always someone out there who has done some part of it better than you. We owe it to our candidates and catechumen – indeed we owe it to the Church herself – to provide the best catechesis possible. It’s the least we can do.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment