At various times in our lives we feel a deep sense of needing to belong, to become part of something bigger than ourselves – it may take the form of some sports team or community service group, an interest or hobby group and yes, even a church.
Last month, throughout the world, many people, after much prayer, guidance and reflection, decided to enter the Catholic community. This really continues the tradition that we hear so much about in our Easter readings from the Acts of the Apostles. The early church, and in the millennia ever since, has responded to the deep longing of people wanting to discover the beauty and the challenge of following this man we call Jesus.
‘…and many were added to the number’ is a saying that could capture the spirit of the growing church. What is it that leads people to this decision? Where has their inspiration come from? No doubt there are as many answers to this as there are people at this threshold in their lives.
The Nelson experience
Of the many events that I recall vividly in the first parish I was assigned to, one would have to be the RCIA. It was a journey the parish readily embarked on and one that was celebrated in many ways, not least being the liturgical rites that accompanied the catechumens, the candidates and the parish community itself. I think it would be fair to say that we as a parish family were likewise inspired and changed by this.
Rove and the RCIA
In the previous season of Rove Live (TV3 Friday nights), there was a segment called ‘What The…’ In many ways this could be applied to the RCIA. What on earth are we talking about? Like any group or hobby or profession, the RCIA has its own language. Enquiry, catechumenate, scrutinies, elect, neophytes, mystagogia – words which we might say ‘What the?’ Yes, it is a language that can seem unintelligible, but maybe the reality behind the words is worth exploring – in fact, I know it is worth getting to know!
Pope Benedict talks about ‘letting love alone speak’. Maybe it is this which draws a curiosity or inspiration. As members of the Catholic community, maybe some of us take a lot for granted and get used to ‘being Catholic’ but to my mind what the RCIA does is remind me to take nothing for granted and also to continue searching and discovering Jesus and what following him in fact means for my life. The Woman at the Well in John’s gospel is a favourite of mine and the words ‘if only you knew what you were asking’ is a source of constant reflection.
Growing into Church
There is a national gathering for the Rite of Christian Initiation to be held in Wellington on 15-17 June. It is for those already involved, for those in parishes and schools who might wish to find out more, and for those who, in the future, may become involved in the RCIA. Salesian priest, Fr Elio Capra, who teaches at the Catholic Theological College in Melbourne, will be the keynote speaker. A book he edited on The Christian Initiation of the Young is an invaluable resource for those working with young people wishing to be baptised.
Fr Capra has a particular interest in the upsurge in the number of children attending Catholic schools who wish to become Catholics and the implications this has for our parish and school communities.
Many have said ‘yes’! Let us ensure that our parishes and pastoral areas provide the best environment for a true encounter with the Risen Christ. The benefits for all are immense.
Have a look at the website www.rcia.org.nz.