When I entered the Catholic Church, I lost my “job” of 13 years as a Pentecostal pastor and had to look for other employment. The only available interview was at a Nissan dealership. In the interview, the General Sales Manager (GSM) said they were short staffed and I could have the job if I was willing to train myself by making use of their training videos. I was desperate for a job and said yes! I had no idea what I was in for.
I eagerly arrived for my first day at work and was given a shared desk with a phone and shown all the brochures for the different models of cars. After reviewing the brochures, I went to the assistant manager and asked to see the training videos. He looked at me with indifference. He said the GSM was off for the day and the videos were locked in his office.
I asked, “Well, if I can’t watch the videos, what should I do?” At that question, he became agitated. He looked at me and said, “Why do you need them? Sell me a car!” I stared back sheepishly, in silence. He continued, “Come on. How hard can it be? Sell me a car. Right now.” I uttered a few “ums” and he gave a few more commands on how I should be able to just “know” how to sell him a car. I meandered back to my desk and read brochures for the rest of the day.
Two days later, I realized I had no price sheet and didn’t know the cost of the cars. I tentatively approached the assistant manager again and asked him how to find the cost of the cars. Once again, he became agitated, looked at me and said, “Do I need to do everything for you? You gotta get out on the lot and look at the prices on each car. You gotta get to know the cars and their features.” I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me. There is no price sheet? There is no book that contains all the features with pricing options and my only way to knowledge is to wander the lot and look at sticker prices?”
As it turns out, there was a book with all the information that I needed, but they didn’t give me one. Eventually the other salesmen had mercy on me and began to show me the ropes—management never did.
I was thrown into an environment and expected to have a particular outcome without the requisite training. Instead of an opportunity for apprenticeship, I landed in a dealership of dysfunction. Many times, those who prepare to become Catholic experience the same thing. RCIA is often good at telling people what they need to do, when it should be showing people how to do it. The Church says that RCIA should be an “apprenticeship in the whole Christian life” (General Directory for Catechesis, 63; Ad Gentes, 14). So, what does an apprenticeship look like?