Very soon, several thousand people throughout the United States will enter into the next stage of the RCIA program, which is the first scrutinies, marking the fact that they are ever more closer to entering the Catholic Church.
While this time is especially exciting for most, it can sometimes also be scary, lonely, or confusing.
As a fellow convert (Tiber Class of ’06) I would simply like to offer a few thoughts for you, if you’re in the RCIA boat; thoughts, suggestions, and helps that I wish somebody would have shared with me in the weeks leading up to confirmation.
Before I start though, let me just say one thing: becoming Catholic, even with the trials and tribulations it sometimes brought, was by far the best decision I ever made in my life. I was 19 and in college at the time, and haven’t regretted a day since.
So here we go!
First, don’t freak out.
For some of you, Holy Saturday cannot come quick enough! You’ve been on this track for awhile and cannot wait for the moment.
But for others, Holy Saturday really might be the day the marks the end of some relationships: maybe with family, friends, or past church community members.
Make sure to communicate. If you’re having doubts, fears, or anxities, talk to your RCIA director or priest about it. Nobody wants you to make a decision you’re uncomfortable making. A lot of times our fears and anxieties get built up 100 fold because they go in circles in our heads. Get it out there and seek advice. “Be not afraid.”
Second, despite your fear, invite your friends and family to confirmation
Even though Holy Saturday is only a few weeks away, many of you still haven’t ‘come out Catholic’ yet to your friends and family. And I get it. I didn’t tell my grandparents and most of my family until after the fact either, for fear of what they might think or say.
In fact, I told my parents and invited them to my confirmation, but they respectfully declined. And yes, it was quite hurtful at the time.
Seven years after the fact, though, I wish I would have been more vulnerable and courageous in regards to trusting the rest of my friends and family enough to invite them. The reality of the situation is that most people these days desire to support their friends and family members with their choices. Out of obedience and faith to the Church’s teaching on human dignity, prayerfully consider at least giving them the chance to come celebrate with you. Who knows – maybe the experience will make them curious enough to inquire about the faith.
Oh yeah, remember how my parents didn’t come to confirmation? Everything turned out just fine. Because for Easter Vigil of 2010, they invited me to theirs. ;)
Third, take full advantage of the Life of the Church
The Church has so much to offer in the school of life! Did you know that there are seven rites- or seven expressions – of Catholicism? The Latin rite is just one of them. Of course you did, you learned that in RCIA. Each of them provides a beautiful way to experience the liturgy of the Church. Here are some other great treasures that people often don’t realize exist:
- Daily Mass: Find one and go!
- Confession: go frequently. My parish made a fantastic video about confession, including an example of how to go. Fast forward to 8:46 to see it on this video.
- Find a priest and ask him to teach you how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
- Learn about the growing religious communities (a term for sisters, nuns, priests and brothers), and find out when you can go and watch/listen to them pray, or watch this segment on Oprah of the DSMME’s.
- Learn about the Charismatic Renewal
- Find a parish that offers the Mass in the Extraordinary Form
- Go to Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction (again, use MassTimes.org)
- Learn and experience the Eastern Rites: just like I mentioned above, try to find a Catholic parish of a different rite.
Fourth, remember that the ‘real’ journey home is just beginning
Two years after I had become Catholic, I remember thinking, “Wow, living an intentional Catholic life is way harder than I thought.”
What I mean by that is this: Catholic life is way more than just going to Mass on Sunday. It’s even way more difficult than going to Mass every day, reading scripture for 30 minutes, saying a rosary, and going to confession once every other week.
It’s harder than all of those things combined, because holy Catholic living is way more than just doing rituals. At it’s core, at the center of it all, is a relationship -a real friendship – with Jesus Christ.
And if your friendships are anything like mine, they can be tough to build, maintain, and build up. They take time, desire, and real connection. All of these things – especially finding and acting on desire – are required for a solid, healthy relationship with God.
Fifth, don’t shy away from the hard stuff.
Even though I had come to intellectually accept everything the Church teaches, I still had to grow to actually love those same teachings. I’m talking about teachings that just irked me as a former Protestant, like praying to Mary, holy days of obligation, confession, the teachings about contraception, and others.
The root of my uneasiness with these teachings, though, was simply due to the fact that I really knew nothing about them. Time and study fixed that problem, where now I’m writing about how awesome and entirely beautiful each of these teachings are to the life of faith.
Sixth, the learning is just beginning
By now you’re probably getting comfortable with the Mass. So you know that right after the consecration of the Holy Eucharist, the priest genuflects, rises, and says, “The mystery of faith.”
That expression probably has a million meanings to it. Books have been written about. But when I hear that said at Mass, I always think in my head, “Whatever I just witnessed on that altar is so deep and profound, I’ll never learn it all.”
And instead of falling into despair about it, it gets my heart pounding – big time. His love is so infinite, so deep, and so perplexing! I mean, why on earth would God even care or desire to save somebody like me? Why does he do what he does? Why does he love to save?
All of these questions are part of the “Mystery of Faith”, and we have the opportunity and the ability to dwell in it, where “we move and have our being.”
Great resources for learning that you have to know about:
- Bible studies at your parish
- Pick up the Catechism (<- this is obligatory)
- …or any of these 100 Catholic books
- Read Church documents, like encyclicals from the Holy Father (sermons written for you and me)
- Sign up for theology courses at a local or online Catholic university
- Listen to Catholic podcasts like CatholicAnswers, NewEvangelizers, or anything on SQPN.com
- Find a Catholic radio station in your area
Seventh, you have a responsibility to engage in the New Evangelization.
The New Evangelization. If you haven’t heard the term yet, you will. At the turn of the century, Blessed John Paul the Great wrote an encyclical letter called “Novo Millennio Ineunte“, or in English, “At the Beginning of the Third Millennium” (and a fun Catholic fact: Church documents are often named by the first few words of the document in Latin).
In the letter, he calls normal people like you and me to have a renewed spirit of Pentecost, for the purpose of evangelizing the world:
Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardor of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost. We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). [Paragraph 40]
Entire blog posts have been written on the New Evangelization, many right here on IgnitumToday. But know this fact, my dear almost-Catholic brother or sister: evangelization is not a choice once you’re Catholic. It’s a requirement born out of love and out of thanksgiving.
So God be with you on your journey, whether it’s before or after the fact, and know of our prayers for you. It’s an exciting time in your life. You’re about to make a decision which literally changes everything for here on out, from now until your death, and beyond.
And most of all remember that you’re not the first convert, and your’e not alone. Reach out if you have questions, need clarification, or simply want to chat or pray together.