If you’re a cradle Catholic (like me), I want to say that you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen a grown man get doused with the waters of baptism at the Easter Vigil.
By which I mean: You probably don’t have a deep, bone-rattling, knee-knocking sense of the work that the Holy Spirit wants to do in you…and in every baptized Christian.
I thought about that last evening, as I met with our pastor and a half-dozen or so fellow parishioners…to begin a discussion around ways to revitalize the RCIA process at our parish.
RCIA: Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It’s been a big part of my life over the past 15 years—serving first as a Godparent and / or sponsor for catechumens and candidates, and later as a member of the RCIA team, leading catechesis activities through the fall and winter…culminating with the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) on Holy Saturday.
And here’s one of the things that occurred to me during our discussion last night: RCIA has not been a terribly important part of parish life during that span.
There are lots of reasons for that simple truth – most of which aren’t important to recount here.
What is important, I think, is that fully-initiated Catholics – and perhaps especially cradle Catholics – begin to develop a deeper appreciation for adult baptism: That we learn to see the power in conversion of heart, when our peers step into the pool on Holy Saturday…and begin their lives anew, in Christ.
RCIA is meant to take our parish communities on just such a journey. The commission is right there, in the opening paragraphs of the Rite itself:
The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful. By joining the catechumens in reflecting on the value of the Paschal Mystery and by renewing their own conversion, the faithful provide an example that will help the catechumens to obey the Holy Spirit more generously.
How often, though, do we skip right past that opportunity?
How often do we look impatiently at our watches or cellphones, when we realize that there’s a Scrutiny to be ‘endured’ at this Sunday Mass during Lent? How do our hearts react, when we realize that the liturgy – our parish ‘welcome mat’ for the newbies standing before us – is now going to take a little more than 55 minutes to complete?
We have an opportunity in RCIA, we cradle Catholics.
We have an invitation – a chance to feel in our hearts what the catechumens are feeling in theirs.
Perhaps this Lenten season, we would do well to meditate on the gift their witness can be – and is meant to be – in our lives.
Let us pause now…to remember that we are in the presence of the Holy One.