The Dignity of the Human Person and the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Authored by Eric Dietel in Issue #34.3 of The Sower

Eric Deitel looks at how we can ensure that the RCIA process is fully respectful of the dignity of each person.

Non-baptized persons and baptized non-Catholics seek to enter into full communion with Christ and His Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Many RCIA programs can fall into the trap of making a cookie-cutter program that all people go through for a certain amount of time to become Catholic. These programs fail to assess each person’s background and history and can tend to treat the person more as an object moving through an assembly line. St. Augustine’s work, De Catechizandis Rudibus can help give great advice to help these RCIA programs get out of this trap. In the eighth chapter of his work, St. Augustine identified a type of people who seek to enter into the catechumenate but do not fit the average person. St. Augustine identified this person as someone who has some basic knowledge of the Christian faith and willingness to live it. Augustine then gives practical advice on how to individualize the RCIA process.

St. Augustine viewed that instruction for people seeking the sacraments should be personalized as much as possible. Augustine used two key characteristics to look for when assessing the individual: pure motives and a Christian education. He expressed that the individual’s motives are “to be made a partaker in the sacrament.”[i] This makes evident the purity of his or her motives. The individual was seeking ‘only’ the spiritual benefits of the Church in the sacraments and not the temporal benefit of being a Christian which St. Augustine described early in his work.[ii] The second key characteristic of this person was his or her education. The person’s education was described as “a considerable knowledge of our Scriptures and literature.”[iii] The word ‘considerable’ showed that Augustine was not speaking of someone who had heard a few stories from the Bible but an individual who has carefully investigated the meaning of the these stories. The individual had a basic knowledge of the Christian faith.

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