“For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” Acts 2:39
Challenging times require innovative solutions. These are indeed challenging times, both in our world and in the Church. It is important for lay catechists to shine as beacons of light in the darkness to draw entire families to the one, true Light—that of Christ himself in the Catholic Church. Most importantly, it is the time for the wise process of the RCIA to move to the forefront of our endeavors for the evangelization and catechesis of entire families.
Whether we realize it or not, we have providentially been training many years for the time in which we are now living. Holy Mother Church takes good care of her children and she has been preparing us for decades. From the restoration of the baptismal catechumenate at Vatican II to the General Directory for Catechesis, the National Directory for Catechesis, and most recently to the newly published Directory for Catechesis, the Church has held up the baptismal catechumenate as the essential model upon which all catechesis should be based.
The new Directory for Catechesis states that it “is becoming ever more urgent, that catechesis should be inspired by the catechumenal model” (DC 62). What is it about the RCIA that makes it such an inspiring model? The new Directory enlightens us: “This formative experience is progressive and dynamic; rich in signs and expressions and beneficial for the integration of every dimension of the person” (DC 2).
Unpacking this magisterial statement, we begin to see the benefit of using the catechumenal model to form disciples of all ages. The RCIA is a shaping or forming experience that advocates a change from who the person is at present toward the person God created him to be. This change, or metanoia, is meant to be very powerful and energizing for the participant. It involves much more than passively attending sessions to jump through hoops and receive a certificate of completion at the end. A program has a beginning and an end, whereas a process is fluid and ongoing. The RCIA process is designed to renew and bring into union every aspect of the person with Christ and his Church for all eternity. This change is going to cost each participant something. The way he or she has lived life in the past will now change in many ways, which can be more than a bit unnerving. The signs and expressions cannot be perceived as “rich” until the person begins to change and seeks to learn and understand how God moves in his or her soul. Each individual needs to be given the necessary time coupled with accompaniment by formed disciples to “to feel called away from sin and drawn into the mystery of God’s love” as they begin to desire to follow Christ.
Deep in the trenches of parish life, our RCIA team has recently begun what may best be described as a missionary outreach to parents approaching Mother Church with their unbaptized children who have reached the age of reason through age seventeen. In the past, we would have focused primarily on preparing these young people via the RCIA process adapted for children and teens. Albeit a worthy endeavor in itself, we have found through experience that it often ends up being both a catechetical and spiritual dead end.
Most often, the parents have never been evangelized themselves, and if they have been catechized, it has been many years since they have received any formation in the faith. This, coupled with the fact they rarely attend Mass (if at all), are not an active part of the parish community, and often have irregular marriage situations, makes it all the more essential to focus on the parents as well as their children and teens. In other words, if we do not minister to the adult parents in whatever situation they happen to be, the children will be unable to practice their faith in the community to which they have been welcomed because we will never see them again. They receive their sacraments, and they are “done”—often for life, due to the lack of spiritual support in the home.