Several years ago, a campaign began to invite former Catholics to return to the Church: Catholics Come Home. But did you ever ask, “What are folks coming home to? And why? What am I doing to help welcome them to my parish faith community?” People stop coming to church for a variety of reasons. The question is, are we inviting them back to the very same experience that caused them to leave in the first place?
The New Evangelization charges us with inviting people to a community that has a living, vibrant faith. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey identified one of the seven habits as “begin with the end in mind.” In his own words, Covey said, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”
So what is our “destination” in faith formation? Growing in discipleship!
One of the problems we have in faith formation is that we do not always have a clear understanding of that destination. Are we clear about what we are initiating/apprenticing people into? For help in developing a clearer sense of our destination, we need look no further than Paragraph 75 of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults—what could possibly be the most important “paragraph” ever written in a Church document. “Paragraph” 75 (actually five paragraphs) tells us that the formation that takes place in the RCIA is aimed at training catechumens in the Christian way of life, emphasizing four key areas:
- Participation in suitable catechesis accommodated to the liturgical year—Such formation is focused not simply on doctrine and dogmas but is to be an immersion into the “mystery of salvation.”
- Introduction into the Christian “way of life”—This apprenticeship is designed to introduce people to a life of prayer, bearing witness to the faith, centering their hopes on Christ, seeking “supernatural inspiration” in their deeds (i.e. “finding God in all things”), and practicing love of neighbor.
- Immersion into meaningful Catholic worship—This formation focuses on leading people into the Paschal Mystery of Christ.
- Participation in the Church’s mission—This formation focuses on the outward thrust of Catholic faith.
Before you dismiss the above as directed only at the RCIA, keep in mind that the General Directory for Catechesis tells us that the catechumenate (RCIA) is to be “the model for all catechesis” and that formation in the RCIA “should inspire the other forms of catechesis in both their objectives and in their dynamism.” With that in mind, in order for all of our parish faith formation and evangelization efforts to be effective, parishes must look to RCIA #75 and pause to ask: How are folks in our parish…
- experiencing opportunities to grow in their understanding and experience of the mystery of faith?
- participating in a life of prayer and good works? (practicing a Christian lifestyle, a Catholic “way of proceeding?”)
- experiencing quality liturgy and worship opportunities?
- bringing the Good News of Jesus to others in word and deed?
With a clear focus on what discipleship is supposed to look like, we can more effectively apprentice and initiate others into a living, vibrant faith that is supported by a living, vibrant faith community.
With Confirmed in the Spirit, catechists are equipped to personally make an impact on young people as living witnesses of discipleship in Jesus Christ and are assisted in engaging young people in authentic interaction and mature faith sharing.