SACRAMENT MATTERS: Facilitating Conversion

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Email to friend
Share to Facebook
Share to Twitter
SACRAMENT MATTERS: Facilitating Conversion

Dr Christine E Wood, Director of the Office of Evangelisation & Catechesis

This year the Verbum Domini Biblical & Catechetical Institute has been teaching catechists how to run the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in parishes. We have discussed the liturgical, catechetical, and pastoral dimensions of the RCIA process which the Church sets forth as the model for bringing adults into full communion with Christ in his Church.

Recognising the signs of the times, the Second Vatican Council called for a restoration of the ancient catechumenate. In the early Church, with vast numbers of adults converting from paganism to Christianity, bishops established the catechumenate, in which adult converts were immersed in Scripture, were accompanied in their faith journey with members of the local church (including sponsors), and were strengthened with various liturgical rites along the way. The catechumenate involved an extended period of catechetical instruction, sometimes lasting three years, before the person was ready for baptism.

The climax of the catechumenate was at the Easter vigil when catechumens received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, as their initiation into the full life of the Church. The following year was a very special time of immersion into the sacramental life, with catechetical instruction called “mystagogy”, charitable works, prayer, and missionary activity.

The RCIA process embodies the restoration of this ancient catechumenate. Some of our parishes have RCIA teams, while others are still on their way to establishing them. In a broader way, RCIA involves the whole parish – from prayer teams to offering hospitality to newcomers, to missionary disciples (all parishioners!) who invite people to enquire about Christ and the Catholic faith. Some parishioners offer their personal testimony on how God has worked in their lives. This can be a source of great encouragement to enquirers who have many questions and often struggle with issues that only God can address.

Not only does the RCIA involve an initial proclamation of the Gospel to newcomers, with an invitation to encounter Christ, it also involves a systematic catechesis on the whole Catholic faith. Catechumens learn about the doctrines of the Church, how they are all connected together, and their links to the foundational truths of Revelation: the Trinity, Incarnation, Paschal Mystery (Redemption), Dignity of the Human Person, and the Church. Systematic catechesis provides the necessary “lights” along the path of faith, illuminating it and making it secure.

Without systematic catechesis the Catholic faith will seem like a bundle of disconnected beliefs without its proper unity. The recipient of such a deficient catechesis will be vulnerable to a secular culture quick to demand compromise on Catholicism’s challenging teachings, and will be unable to think with the mind of Christ.

For more information on evangelisation and catechesis contact the Office of Evangelisation & Catechesis on 6208 6236, and read Pope Francis’ letter, Evangelii Gaudium, on the joy of the Gospel.