"Regardless of how God reaches out to us, we must personally respond."
-- Flora L. Giacci, Co-Director, St. Mary's RCIA Program
In the 1970s Roberta Flack sang a tune called “Killing Me Softly with His Song.” In it, she sold the notion that this marvelous young man, the subject of the song, was able to “sing her life with his words, and He sings as if he knew me….” It is rare to encounter someone who seems to know us better than we know ourselves, but this is precisely how God reaches out to us and takes us by the hand. It may be Jesus who takes our hand. It may be Mary who beckons to us. Or maybe it’s a member of our own family or a friend. Maybe you feel some response to a bulletin notice or an insert or a homily. Regardless of how God reaches out to us, we must personally respond. This is what happened to me.
When I was a child I found a Marian medal on the ground in an old carriage shed. I still have it. I didn’t have any idea what it was, but it became one of my childhood treasures. As a child I attended a Baptist Church. There I learned a lot about the Bible. At age 18 I was baptized in the Presbyterian Church. There I learned about fellowship and song. Blessed Assurance stills rings in my head. Next, I began attending Roman Catholic Mass. It felt like the warmth of home. However, I didn’t feel complete. One time in a homily, the pastor explained why non-Catholics may not participate fully in the Mass—receive Holy Communion. This hurt my feelings but also awakened in me a desire to belong, to know and receive this sacrament that the Catholic Church holds sacredly onto. This is how God took my hand again to lead me into a new journey of faith.
One of the first things I learned is that one of the traits of Jesus is that he accepts people where they are. St. Pope John XXIII said that the key to revealing God’s love to others is first to accept people where they are rather than where we want them to be. I never felt that I had to give up my faith in God and embrace a new one. But my faith is new every day and my song keeps going. God is always present in our lives, throughout our lives, whether we are aware of this presence or not.
A study of conversion reveals three most common elements that influence people to become Catholic: a worldview of Christianity; a felt need for spiritual life; and, perhaps most important, a bond with someone within the Church. Sometimes people searching for more meaning in life do not need arguments for the existence of God or reasons why it is good to be a churchgoer. Sometimes they just need an invitation to come and see.
Our approach must be similar to that used by Jesus— always personal and direct. He accepts people as they are. He never overburdens them, but he invites them to take the next step in their spiritual journey. For some people the next step might be the one that Jesus offered Andrew, "Come and see" (John 1:35-39). There are no one way streets when it comes to human interaction. At first glance, adult Christian initiation seems to focus solely on those seeking admission to the Church, as if they had everything to learn from us and we had little to gain from them. But their initiation challenges all of us to look again at our own faith and commitment. We must be willing to undergo continuous transformation ourselves, for each new member changes the existing relationship of a group. The initiation process asks us to consider seriously who we are, what we value, who we could become as the people of God.
If you or someone you know is interested in joining the Catholic Church or would just like to find out more about the Catholic Faith in general, then Come and See. RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is the process by which adults are received into full communion with the Catholic Church. It is a process of instruction and formation for those who have not been baptized, or who have been baptized in a Protestant church, or who have been baptized Catholic but have not received the sacraments of Confirmation and/or Eucharist. The process begins with a period of inquiry about the Catholic faith, and after a period of preparation and formation, the sacraments of initiation, (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) are celebrated at the Easter Vigil Mass. Register Now for RCIA...