October 16, 2015

Catholic Evangelization Outreach / Ken Ogorek

‘Becoming Catholic?’ or ‘entering full communion?’

This is the time of year when many parish RCIA processes are up and running. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is how quite a few adults will tell you they “became Catholic.”

Is becoming Catholic the best way of articulating the goal of participating in the RCIA process? Might there be an alternate way of putting it (the goal of RCIA) that focuses on long-term effects more so than a change as one self-identifies (“I’m Catholic.”)?

Communion with God

You can know a lot about God and still tend to think of God as an idea more than a personal Being with whom you can and should have a real relationship—including genuine, two-way communication. Each person entering the RCIA process has some degree of communion with God.

Deepening each RCIA participant’s relationship with God is a fundamental goal of all effective parish catechetical leaders. Long before being able to say “I’m Catholic,” catechumens and candidates—the formal names of those seeking full initiation in to the Church via this rite—should have a growing sense that God is a personal Being who loves them and wants to give them the gift of his life. As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in relationship with each other, so too our triune God desires to enfold you in that eternal embrace of love that is the life of the Holy Trinity.

“Am I Catholic yet?” Not quite.

This is the Faith of the Church

Several RCIA efforts (not in our archdiocese, of course!) err to one of two extremes. Either the coordinator runs it like a three-credit graduate school theology class, or prepares folks for initiation into a Church that doesn’t exist: a Church with no clear teaching on much of anything, especially the comprehensive moral dimension of our faith.

In order to live in full communion with the Body of Christ—his holy, Catholic Church—a person needs a good sense of the basic doctrinal and moral teaching that Jesus shares with us in the Spirit-guided words of Scripture and tradition. As my relationship with God grows, my hunger for all truth intensifies. Communion with God generally leads to desire for communion with those he makes his adopted daughters and sons (alongside his only begotten Son, Jesus) united by a common faith. I want to learn the teaching of the Church—not necessarily to pass a test—but certainly to grow in knowledge of God, neighbor and myself.

In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis we have doctrinal guidelines for RCIA catechesis, contained in a document called “The Fullness of Truth.” Ask your RCIA coordinator to see them or find them online at www.archindy.org.

Why the Eucharist is called holy Communion

The Most Holy Eucharist is both a sign of unity and a cause of unity. When we receive Jesus in holy Communion, we assent to each basic doctrinal and moral teaching of his holy, Catholic Church, as articulated, for example, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

But conforming our minds and hearts to the teaching of Christ in his Church can be easier said than done. A special grace of the Blessed Sacrament, then, is strengthening the unity of faith and life enjoyed among members of Christ’s Body, the Church.

So we seek communion with God. We strive to listen to his Word in sacred Scripture and Sacred tradition. And we invite the grace that flows from the Holy Eucharist into our life, watching it build unity and communion even as we struggle to avoid sin as well as any doubt that the evil one might try sowing in our life.

Communion with God. Knowledge of the Beloved. Grace permeating our life. These are essential ingredients for a life of full communion with the Church. May they also be clearly-identifiable traits of all who proudly bear the name of Catholic.

(Ken Ogorek is director of catechesis for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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