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March 21, 2007

Comments

Monica

Congratulations! I'm so pleased you were able to find another option. Welcome!

Shane

Does the RCIA program actually say that candidates must be given abbrieviated periods of formation? I was in this situation as well, but stuck through it for lack of a particular reference to make. The RCIA isn't online, that I am aware of... am I unaware?

Ed

I was very fortunate when I converted 16 years ago. Even though I had not been baptized I was able to bypass the entire RCIA ordeal. The priest I approached in college satisfied himself that I was prepared and had me registered "covertly" in a parish where he had a sympathetic priest friend. He then performed the baptism and confirmation himeself. I guess the local RCIA program was horrible and he thought it best to do the whole thing discreetly.

Shellie

Thank you for this reply! It is the most painful thing to be NEW to the Church but be put in the position to say "These NSC and the Canons ... shouldn't we be following them?" I had to go to my RCIA director and my priest because Canon 852.2 wasn't being followed. Thank the Lord for Ed Peters! I did not want to do it, rather sit in the background, but... I wrote about my experience here:

RCIA, Confirmation and Canon Law

My RCIA director was quite upset. She wondered why I wasn't blindly obedient. So I had to blog about that too. :)

We've been going through the Scrutinies too without being handed anything i.e. Apostles' Creed. But I chose my hill to die on: my 7yo is now a Catechumen, signed the Book of the Elect, and
our entire family is NOW being Confirmed at Easter vigil. I had to beg for that. Sigh.

God bless the ministry of Jimmy Akin and Ed Peters and CA.

Shellie

Shane:

The NSC is applicable to what you are asking, and no it's not online in its entirety. The Camden RCIA program has a good portion cross-referenced to its materials.

I bought the RCIA book in which the NSC is an appendix from Amazon.

NSC 31 reads, in part, re: Candidates: "should not be asked to undergo a full program parallel to the catechumenate."

NSC 32: "The reception of candidates ... should ordinarily take place at the Sunday Eucharist of the parish community..."

but you probably knew that from CA's "How to Be a Catholic" article. The NSC's are interesting reading if you get a hold of that book.

SDG

Welcome home from another fellow convert!

I also was raised in Protestantism and found my way home in part through reading the early fathers. And I also, along with my wife Suzanne, endured a lame RCIA program with inadequate catechesis and excessive touchy-feeliness.

Since then, we've lived in three different states and at least four dioceses, and had a wide range of parish experiences. We are very grateful to be where we are now, a beautiful church with well-done liturgy, good music and a healthy community including serious-minded Catholic families with lots of children.

Good luck with RCIA. Keep the Faith.

Pseudomodo

I think we should all try understand where many converts are coming from. As an RCIA director I have to sometimes evaluate the catechumens/candidates knowledge situation and not just the technicality of whether they were baptized or not.

I have people doing my full RCIA who are already baptized - some are actually lapsed catholics! Sometimes so lapsed that they don't even know how to make the sign of the cross.

How can I cut these so-called candidates some slack when I have catechums that are more christian than the candidates.

I have on occasion fast-tracked a few who were obviously ready to be recieved, but the vast majority appreciate the refresher course they recieve. I am of course careful to not strictly treat the candidates as catechumens and then do not sign the book of the elect (they are told specifically that their baptism puts them in a different category).

deacon john m. bresnahan

After years of experience and seeing the varying ways RCIA programs are run, my biggest complaint is that we are too often turning programs for entry into the Catholic Church into "head trips" whether it is programs for catechumens preparing for baptism or for candidates seeking full membership. Reading the lives of saints from before the Reformation it seems many entered the Church without someone expecting them to be mini-scholars or semi-theologians (although AFTER entry into the Church plenty of them did further learning on their own.) In fact, the New Testament seems replete with people being baptized after what could only be considered rudimentary instruction. I sometimes wonder if we are setting up an unofficial intellectual barrier barring some potential future saints. Fortunately, the two parishes I have been a deacon in over the past 27 years have had compassionate and evangelically oriented pastors determined to look at and treat each person seeking to become Catholic as individuals. Thus programs in their parishes were molded to fit individual situations not the individuals hammered into rigid, pre-existing molds.

Shellie

Deacon Bresnahan,

Individual consideration -- I love that. And I liked your entire comment. I'm curious what you think of the ancient Church's practice (I am told) of catechizing the unbaptized for 2-3 years before reception compared to short, rudimentary, catechesis? Is it the individual tailoring?

Aside: Our "catechesis" on one evening was 45 minutes discussing why we should be anti-death penalty or we're not trusting God.

JoAnna

Wow. I didn't realize just how lucky I was to be in a wonderful RCIA program. Given that my husband and I were both fairly committed Lutherans before we decided to convert, we were treated as candidates and only attended RCIA from January-June. (We were actually confirmed on May 28 instead of Pentecost, as originally planned, because we moved out of state on May 31, and the priest graciously allowed us to be confirmed at a daily mass so we could be confirmed in our home parish.)

A Simple Sinner

The issue of RCIA is one that leaves me thoroughly confused at times. I have known converts who were so thorough in their examination of the faith that they read a library's worth of texts on the the Faith and upon presenting themselves to the local parish were recieved in rather short order.

Others took 6-18 months and some parishes only seem to recieve at Easter.

Is this just a matter of dispensations or are there canons that lay down a specific track? Perhaps more a set of guidelines that leave parishes, priests, bishops to decide?

Diana

I, too, was given individual consideration that let me be received into the Catholic Church outside of the RCIA program. I had been studying the faith for about two years, reading everything I could get my hands on - starting with "Surprised by Truth" - more or less in secret because my then-husband was very, very upset that I was considering converting. By the time I screwed up my courage to approach the parish priest, it was early April and Easter was only a few weeks away. Rather than making me wait a whole further year, this good priest made time in his schedule to meet with me about 8 or 10 times, I think, to discuss the teachings of the Church. Once he was satisfied that I knew what I was getting into, he received me into the Church and confirmed me. 7 years this July, thank the Lord!

To the original writer, God bless you and welcome home!

John Thayer Jensen

When my wife and I and our children were set to enter the Church, at the beginning of 1995, we were offered the RCIA programme, which was, frankly, pathetic - apathetic might even be a better word :-) Catholic friends advised us to avoid RCIA. I said at the time, and think it was the right thing to say, that I did not want to start out my new life as a Catholic just being another form of Protestant. We would go through the local parish's RCIA programme.

In our case, we were lucky. There were five of us, and two others. We knew pretty well what the faith is, and we kind of dominated the discussions :-)

The Church is ... well ... catholic! I may say that as Catholics, we have found Opus Dei to be helpful in our formation. But I think that it helped us, coming from a very self-defining Protestantism, to become Catholics this way.

Just passing it on, for what it's worth. I have the greatest sympathy with those who have to suffer bad RCIA. And of course we were baptised persons so not catechumens. Never mind! We are home. It is so wonderful!!

jj

J.R. Stoodley

Welcome home reader! I'm also a convert from Protestantism and went through RCIA in 2003-2004, received into the Church on the Easter Vigil 2004.

I hadn't realized you are supposed to be able to bypass the full RCIA program and be recieved earlier if you are knowledgeable. I learned almost nothing from my 8 odd months of RCIA (that's how it's done on college campuses for practical reasons) and knew some things we were taught were heresy. I was very frustrated with the program and how long it took for them to recieve me when I knew and believed more than most cradle Catholics here and had for a couple years (I wasn't allowed to convert while in high school).

Then again it was sort of nice to be received at the Easter Vigil (my favorate liturgy at this place) and with a couple other people.

Kasia

J.R.,

My sister had a similar RCIA experience on her college campus. She said the priest practically apologized for everything he told them, and that if she hadn't been absolutely sure going in that she wanted to convert, she probably wouldn't have.

I, on the other hand, am finishing a *great* RCIA program and will be received at the Easter Vigil. I didn't know I might be eligible for any sort of abbreviated formation, but then, I got a lot out of the class anyway (taught by our senior pastor, who is very orthodox and an incredible teacher), so I wasn't too concerned.

God bless!

John Lilburne

I disagree with Jimmy's statement: "I had an awful RCIA program, and the parish I was attending refused to comply with Church law, which requires that candidates for reception into the Church who have already lived lives as catechized Christians are to be sorted out from the uncatechized and be given abbreviated periods of formation and then received into the Church apart from Easter Vigil."

Having the Rite of Reception into Full Communion of the Catholic Church is clearly an option permitted, at least in the USA and Australia. From the USA edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, n. 562: "Pastoral considerations may suggest that along with the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation the Easter Vigil should include should include the rite of reception of already baptized Christians into the full communion of the Catholic Church." In the Australian edition it has the same at n. 418. Both have the whole ceremony laid out for the Easter Vigil.

So it is not reasonable to say this is "refusing to comply with Church law". Perhaps it was a poor pastoral decision. Perhaps it would be better if the Vatican had not approved these editions of the liturgical books which allow these options. But they are approved, and following the options in them is not breaking Church law.

On the formation for the baptized Christian, from the USA edition:

"477. The baptized Christian is to receive both doctrinal and spiritual preparation, adapted to individual pastoral requirements, for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church. The candidate should learn to deepen an inner adherence to the Church, where he or she will find the fulness of his or her baptism. During the period of preparation the candidate may share in worship in conformity witli the provisions of the Ecumenical Directory.
Anything that would equate candidates for reception with those who are catechumens is to be absolutely avoided."

So "adapted to individual pastoral requirements". Yes, in a sense everyone's formation with will be adapted to the individual. Jimmy wrote "abbreviated periods of formation". Not necessarily, it depends on the individual.

In the editions for Australia, England and Wales USA n. 477 is n. 391. These editions do not have what is added to the USA edition:

"478. During the period of their doctrinal and spiritual preparation individual candidates for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church may benefit from the celebration of liturgical rites marking their progress in formation. Thus, for pastoral reasons and in light of teh catechesis in the faith which these baptized Christians have received previously, one or several of the rites included in Part II, 4 -- "Preparation of Uncatechized Adults for Confirmation and Eucharist" -- may be celebrated as they are presented or in similar words. In all cases, however, discernment should be made regarding the length of catechetical formation required for each individual candidate for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church."
(The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, page 276).

The introductions to the RCIA for England and Wales can be downloaded as a PDF file from http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/liturgy/Resources/Rites/RiteRitual.html#RCIA .

deacon john m. bresnahan

Shellie--What is expected of catechumens and candidates INTELLECTUALLY seems to have expanded and contracted over the centuries. In the Bible baptism seems predicated on a little learning and a lot of desire or love (or both) being expressed or present. We live in an era where "head" knowledge seems the end and be-all of evaluating whether someone can come into the Catholic Church. Probably because my mother was Protestant and my father a non-practicing Catholic--yet I was baptized, received First Holy Communion, and was confirmed (but still had little "head" knowledge of doctrine.) If I had not been confirmed I probably would have become nothing or Protestant. However, at one point I decided that since I was "Catholic" I should investigate and study the Faith (the Holy Spirit at work in my soul??). Thus I fall very much on the side of making few intellectual requirements for receiving the sacraments of initiation--desire and love with some basic minimums (not 400 page catechisms) should be enough--and that doesn't take 2-3 years for any adult as some programs stretch it.

Esau

Thus I fall very much on the side of making few intellectual requirements for receiving the sacraments of initiation--desire and love with some basic minimums (not 400 page catechisms) should be enough--


Which is the very reason why many Catholics end up leaving the Church due to their substantial lack of knowledge regarding their Catholic Faith.

Shellie

deacon john m. bresnahan -- thanks for that. I absolutely agree. When I asked my RCIA director on what grounds she would set aside Canon 852 for my child, one of the reasons was that "she must be able to defend the faith (i.e. apologetics) which would be around 10th grade."

We need to stress that study is not just for the young ones. I hope to look into the Catholic Scripture Study for parishes by Hahn, Ray & Shea. I could spend hours each day and love every minute of it in catechesis. However, I also need to spend much time in prayer and devotion -- it's not all about the intellect.

Esau

"she must be able to defend the faith (i.e. apologetics) which would be around 10th grade."


It's not so much to be able to defend the Faith than it is to actually know about it.

deacon john m. bresnahan

Esau-My point isn't that we shouldn't learn more and more about our Faith and our Church. My point is how much "head" knowledge should be demanded of people before we allow them to be baptized and confirmed into the Faith. If it is so important to turn potential converts into mini-theologians BEFORE they are baptized and confirmed, then shouldn't we Latins do away with infant baptism and insist that Eastern Catholic Churches do away with infant baptism AND infant confirmation? Why should converts be expected to earn a virtual Phd. in doctrine (as some parishes virtually do) before being allowed in the Church when our kids get a "free ride?" After infants are baptized it is expected their parents will bring them up in the Faith. However, an adult giving a promise to further deepen his doctrinal knowledge after baptism and confirmation (following being taught basic rudiments of the Faith) is more likely to produce better results than what follows from our current baptizing of infants.I think some parishes have very little trust in the sacraments and the power of the Holy Spirit and have turned initiation into the Faith into just another academic pursuit. And that's not to even get into the issue of how unorthodox the teachings are that are given in some RCIA programs.

Esau

If it is so important to turn potential converts into mini-theologians BEFORE they are baptized and confirmed


Not that they turn into 'mini-theologians' but into actual Catholics who are actually knowledgeable about what the Catholic Faith is all about.

Are we supposed to perform conversions such as handing out Campus Crusade for Christ-type pamphlets where all you need is to read 2 or 3 pages of it, 'accept the Jesus as your personal Lord & Saviour' and, then, 'Wham! Bam! Thank you, Mam, you're a Catholic!'

If you want to become Catholic, you need to actually know what being Catholic is all about; that is, what the Catholic Faith is all about!

Esau

Besides, think about this way:

When one applies for U.S. Citizenship, they need to LEARN about the United States first; its history, its government, its constitution, etc.

Same with those wanting to become Catholics!


I like this thought of yours here though:

However, an adult giving a promise to further deepen his doctrinal knowledge after baptism and confirmation is more likely to produce better results


It's like:

Can I get my diploma first if I simply made a promise to the Dean of College that I'll deepen my knowledge of biochemistry, organic chemistry, Medical Microbiology, etc. later?

Elijah

Is becoming a Christian like 'applying' for citizenship or earning a diploma?

Esau

Is becoming a Christian like 'applying' for citizenship or earning a diploma?

No, it's most likely like telling folks 'accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour' and 'wham! bam! you're Christian!' and nothing else matters!

Too bad St. Paul says the contrary though in his Epistles.

1 Tm 4:16
16 Take heed to thyself and to doctrine: be earnest in them. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.

1 Tm 4:13
13 Till I come, attend unto reading, to exhortation and to doctrine.

1 Tm 6:1-3
1 ΒΆ Whosoever are servants under the yoke, let them count their masters worthy of all honour; lest the name of the Lord and his doctrine be blasphemed.
2 But they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but serve them the rather, because they are faithful and beloved, who are partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.
3 If any man teach otherwise and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and to that doctrine which is according to godliness

Elijah

Esau,

I don't think anyone is saying that doctrine is unimportant. The question concerned the level of expertise that one would need in order to *begin* one's walk with the Lord. Would reception of the sacraments be beneficial to one's spiritual growth, or are they to be seen as a reward for passing the 'entrance exams'?

Esau

That's why -- if you should feel that all we need in converting others to the Catholic Faith is the same as when a Protestant, then let's just go out there and produce some of them Campus Crusade for Christ-type pamphlets and hand them out and tell folks that all they needs to do is profess Jesus as their Lord & Saviour and BAM! they're CATHOLIC!

Never mind that they might not even know what the Catholic Faith is really all about, what the Sacraments are actually about, etc.

I mean, we're already seeing all the fall-out from the bad catechesis that cradle Catholics had experienced and, thus, lead to their exit from the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church.

By the way, I LOVE that 'walk with the Lord' metaphor!

It's one that all of us (including me) need to really take seriously -- especially when it comes to our Catechesis (our very foundation), to Catholic Doctrine.

God Bless You in Your Walk, brutha!

As for me, I'm hitch-hikin'!

John

Esau posted:

"Besides, think about this way:

When one applies for U.S. Citizenship, they need to LEARN about the United States first; its history, its government, its constitution, etc.

Same with those wanting to become Catholics!"

Ok Esau, what do you know about the Council of Trent and how it defines a sacrament where it states "the form is so definite that any, even a casual deviation from it, renders the sacrament null". With that being said and with clown masses and innovations taking place daily, one wonders as in the teachings of Pius V in "De Defectibus", how many masses that have been held over these 40 years have not been valid and the graces bestowed upon the participants for naught?

Esau-I think you may need to prove to us you received a passing grade in your RCIA before you are allowed to post anymore!

Carson Weber

Shellie,

As the RCIA director and master catechist of our parish - BrenhamCatholic.org - I interview each inquirer individually, and then we form groups. For those who have not yet been baptized, I require 1 year of catechumenate (from the Rite of Acceptance to the Rite of Initiation). For the baptized, I deal with each individually. The vast majority require approx. 9 months of catechesis (2 hours once a week) at the bare minimum, but every now and then, I'll find an exception such as yourself - people like you need even less time in the period of the catechumenate. Everyone is different. The Holy Spirit works 365 days a year. We are all on different journeys with different catechetical needs. As well, I know some that have had a very good head knowledge of the faith, yet were not converted at heart, and I could not in good conscience recommend their entry into the Church to our pastor. R.C.I.A. is a three-pronged approach: (A) Pastoral, (B) Liturgical, and (C) Catechetical. My job is to balance all three. Welcome home!!!!!!

Elijah

"...I could not in good conscience recommend their entry into the Church to our pastor."

Ugh. I don't what to think right now. I'm not for people remaining uninformed or unconverted, but this sort of talk scares me. Do people need a recommendation to become Christians now? Is anyone really fit to enter the Church? I'm not.

deacon john m. bresnahan

Elijah--I like that phrase you used "entrance exams."
That is my concern, that SOME RCIA programs have become so academically rigid that entrance into the Catholic Church in some parishes has become the equivalent of passing the state Regents exam, or the Graduate Record Exam.
I taught History in a Vocational High school for almost 40 years and discovered there that many brilliant, holy, wonderful young people are just not book oriented. Insisting that such potential saintly Catholics become "bookish" to become Catholic is to make becoming Catholic an elitist intellectual proposition. Years ago I saw what was called a "Penny Catechism." It was very short, had all the basics briefly explained, was used by many parishes for converts and produced many great converts. And it was not intimidating or daunting for any who were not academic or book oriented. Some convert catechisms I have seen remind me of the textbooks some publishers wanted us to use in History--mostly padded to make the cost and the profits to go up.
And Esau, I understand your worry about Catholics losing their faith because they have so little knowledge of it. But to extrapolate so that we wind up keeping away or scaring away nonacademic oriented good Christians and potentially excellent Catholics is self-defeating. The Catholic Church is the People of God not Notred Dame University at prayer.
My Bible example is from Acts where the Deacon Phillip instructed the servant of the Ethiopian Queen Candace in apparently a few hours--then immediately baptized him after he had learned some very basic basics.

Geoff

I went to 3 parishes before settling on one that used very good materials. They were featured on Catholic Anserws Live right around the time I was having trouble deciding what to do. The coordinator who instructs the class is a recent grad from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and is good...

Keep on Praying for where God wants you to go to be most spiritually nourished.

http://www.acmrcia.org/index2.html

Shellie

Carson Weber, thanks for the response! I love your comment, "The Holy Spirit works 365 days a year..." Amen. I also appreciate the individual consideration. Blessings!

Esau

And Esau, I understand your worry about Catholics losing their faith because they have so little knowledge of it. But to extrapolate so that we wind up keeping away or scaring away nonacademic oriented good Christians and potentially excellent Catholics is self-defeating. The Catholic Church is the People of God not Notred Dame University at prayer.
My Bible example is from Acts where the Deacon Phillip instructed the servant of the Ethiopian Queen Candace in apparently a few hours--then immediately baptized him after he had learned some very basic basics.


I know what you mean.

I remember when alls I had to do way back when was have people profess Jesus as their Lord & Saviour and that was it. It was much easier converting folks in that simple manner.

However, when it comes to Catholicism, there is much more to it than just a mere profession.

We're dealing with the Ancient Church and a Faith that goes back right to Christ Himself.

I would appreciate a more basic approach so long as it did not sacrifice substance for mere convenience.

Emily

This article was interesting given that my husband is currently in RCIA. Our parish apparently has a strong commitment to individual instruction. My husband during his initial consultation expressed an desire to 'start from the beginning' due to a concern that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. Given that the books being used so far are the Bible and the CCC, we are fairly confident in the program.

Talking about the Penny Catechism reminded me that I have a little booklet called What Catholics Believe:Sketch-Talks by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik (published by Tan Press). It's based on the Baltimore Catechism and does a very good job covering the essentials in 102pgs using simple language and useful sketches. While I can think of a few areas which would need to be expanded (Catholic teaching on the body for example) it is a very good beginning point for learning about the faith.

There must be a point between expecting every convert to take the equivalent of postsecondary courses or baptizing them after the equivalent of a emotional appeal plus reading a short pamphlet. I personally think teaching basics (such as from the booklet above) plus discussing the requirement of living as a faithful Catholic would be good. Knowledge is good, living our faith is essential.

Emily

Carson Weber

Elijah,

To answer your question, "Do people need a recommendation to become Christians now? Is anyone really fit to enter the Church?"

Yes and Yes.

The R.C.I.A. specifies that those working with the candidates are to assess their progress and decide upon whether they are ready.

To be fit to enter the Church you must (1) Believe and profess all that the Catholic Church believes and professes to be revealed by God and (2) Repent of your sin and have a willingness to place your life in God's hands.

Some who come seeking entrance into the Church do so for the wrong reasons, and they do not believe or are not repentant. These are the situations I refer to above.

tiapat

Hello:

I believe that RCIA has many purposes. For me, the purpose has been to help me bond with the women in my class and to make friendships. I knew--from personal exploration--most of the doctrine that was taught, but I needed to work in a team and enjoy the process of learning together. I have no complaints, though I know that, from a knowledge perspective, perhaps I could have come in earlier. This was not a journey of knowledge, but of faith. My faith grew as I fellowshipped.

lorelei

I just happened upon this site and found the comments interesting. I'm currently going through RCIA. God had been calling me to convert since I was a child. I was raised in the Baptist church. Baptists hate Catholics and just about everyone else for that matter. I finally had enough courage to start RCIA at age 34. I have been studying the RCC for decades. I've been so blessed because my parish RCIA program is a "fast track" program, so to speak. I started in December and and will be confirmed on April 11th. At times I get a bit frustrated because it's disorganized and the seminarian teaching the class has a very heavy accent. I cannot find my certificate of baptism which is worrying me. I was hoping to not have to mention my conversion to my parents until after it's completed, but my mom probably has my certificate and I need to get it. Can anyone give me advice or tell me a personal journey of obtaining an annulment? I am divorced and want to apply for an annulment. I'm not getting married, but I hope to remarry eventually. My ex had been married in the church previously.

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