We’ve had a good conversation here about sacramental readiness over the last few days thanks to a plea for help from “Monica.” Thank you to all who have so generously shared their wisdom.
Our discussion got me thinking about the notion of readiness and the fact that all of our catechesis takes its cue from the process of Initiation which is an apprenticeship into a way of life. Assessment of knowledge of the faith is just one part of ascertaining readiness. What we really need to learn how to assess (and, more importantly, how to imbue) are habits: habits of prayer, Sunday worship, stewardship, and Works of Mercy just to name a few.
It’s important to keep in mind that habits – especially good habits – take time to develop. Forget the myth that it takes 21 days to change a habit. Research now reveals that the length of time varies depending on the complexity of the habit (as few as 18 days for simple habits and as long as 254 days for complex habits) but that the average is 66 days.
Suffice it to say that we need time to develop the habits mentioned above that come with a life of discipleship. That, of course, has ramifications.
- The first is the realization that a process of initiation – in particular, initiation into the Sacraments of the Church – cannot and should not be locked into an academic calendar. The RCIA, whether for adults or children, needs to be fluid and open-ended with opportunities along the way to assess the develop of habits. The various stages of the RCIA are provided precisely for that reason…to signify readiness to move on to another stage. Thus, when someone is not yet ready to move on, they are not “held back” but simply extend the period they are in until they are ready to move on.
- The 2nd ramification is the fact that we need to utilize interviewing techniques when assessing sacramental readiness in order to focus on the development of habits (thanks to those folks who suggested interview questions in our discussion on sacramental readiness).
- The third ramification is that we need to better utilize sponsors – mentors – to help those preparing for the Sacraments to incorporate the habits of discipleship into their lives.
- Finally, the fourth ramification that I can think of is that we need to address these habits upfront and ask inquirers – in an initial interview – not only if they desire to receive a sacrament, but also how interested they are in developing the habits of discipleship: prayer, Sunday worship, stewardship, Works of Mercy, and so on. This can be used to establish expectations for the initiation process as well as criteria for ongoing assessment of readiness. It’s not enough to ask them if they desire to receive a sacrament because they may “desire” it because to do otherwise will upset someone in the family. We need to ask if they desire to develop new habits and are willing to invest the time to do so.
Your thoughts about all this?