RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and it’s the program through we the Church uses to bring converts into the Church. The RCIA is a formation program, not just an education program. There are three periods leading up to baptism and acceptance into the Church at Easter; they are the Period of Inquiry, the Catechumenate, and the Period of Purification and Enlightenment.
It begins with the period of inquiry, where the potential convert is getting information about the faith and the Church, asking questions, and deciding whether they want to continue with the formation process. This ends with the Rite of Acceptance where those who have decided to continue state their intention and the Church accepts them as a Catechumen. A catechumen is a student, so this period includes more instruction in the faith, going deeper into the Holy Bible and Holy Tradition, developing habits of prayer, and beginning to practice the faith.
The Catechumenate ends with the Rite of Election at the beginning of Lent, where the catechumens are chosen by the Church to become Catholics at Easter. During Lent, the Catechumens begin their final preparations to receive the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation at Easter and to receive the Holy Eucharist for the first time.
This whole process is based on the way that ancient Christians welcomed new members into the Church and prepared them to receive their sacraments. When we are baptized and confirmed, as in all of the Sacraments, we accept the responsibility of living as a child of God and practicing the faith in our lives. We don’t want to just throw people into the deep end; we want to prepare them to thrive in their new lives as followers of Christ and to continue to grow closer to Him for the rest of their lives, so they can join Him forever in heaven.
We are getting ready to begin a new group in the RCIA in September. If you are interested in converting to Catholicism or if you are a Catholic who still needs to make their Confirmation contact the office for more information. If you know someone who fits these categories, please give them this article and let them know that they are welcome to join us.
Next Week: Participation at Mass
I’m posting links for two different files this week. During all of the Masses this week, after my homily, I addressed the clerical sex abuse scandal and the recent news stories about it. Since some people might want to listen only to one or the other, I’ll post my homily first, titled “August_19_2018,” and the message second, titled “Message_on_Clerical_Abuse.”
We’re getting ready to start another school year and another year of religion classes. Those who go to Catholic schools have their religion classes at school, but those who go to public or non-Catholic private schools take their religion classes here at the parish. On Tuesday, August 28, we’ll have a meeting for those parents at 6:30 pm, after the 6:00 pm daily Mass.
We used to call this the CCD, which means Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, the name of the organization which started the idea of having religion classes for children at parishes. Since almost no one knows what CCD means, we, like many other parishes, normally call it PSR, or Parish School of Religion, but even this can be misleading. It is a school, and we do want to teach these children about God, about the Bible, and about the Catholic tradition. We also want to do more than that. We want to help them form a real relationship with God.
Imagine that you’re sitting next to someone on a plane. For an hour on that plane, they have a captive audience to tell you all about their children and grandchildren and show you all their pictures. If that person is a total stranger and you don’t know their children, then that would be pretty boring, but if you do know them, then suddenly that same conversation is interesting to you. In the same way, it’s not enough to tell people about Jesus; we need to introduce them to Jesus and help them form a personal relationship with Him.
We can’t do that by ourselves. All the hours that these children spend in Church and in religion classes will be useless if they’re not also living it at home. Bring your children to Mass and explain what’s happening to them. If you think you don’t know enough to explain it, send me an email and I’ll help you; that’s my job. For younger children, read them stories about the lives of the saints. For older children and teenagers, get them involved in things at Church, like being an altar server or joining a youth group. Most importantly, live the faith yourself, strive to grow in holiness, and be a witness of what it means to be a Christian and a Catholic. When you try to love God better, you’ll find that you love the people around you more as well. That’s the single best thing you can do for your children.
Next Week: Fr. Bryan Recommends
Next Wednesday is the Assumption of Mary, when we celebrate the fact that God brought Mary into heaven body and soul, meaning that there are only two people in heaven in their bodies, Mary and Jesus. Normally, death means that our soul leaves our bodies. At the moment of death, we are personally judged by God and go to our final reward, heaven, hell, or purgatory. At the end of time, when Jesus comes again, we will all be reunited with our bodies and then there will be the general judgement which is spoken of in Matthew 25 with the separation of the sheep from the goats.
It’s hard for a lot of people to believe that the Blessed Virgin was actually, in fact, brought into heaven body and soul. Most people think of it as simple religious piety or as a myth made up by the Church. However, the apparitions of Mary and the miracles that accompany them throughout the centuries have shown that the Church’s teachings on Mary are true. For example the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego in 1531 and the miraculous image left on the tilma (St. Juan Diego’s cloak), which no science can explain. Also, the apparition of Mary to St. Bernadette in Lourdes in 1858 and the miraculous healings at the spring there. Then, the apparition of Mary in Fatima in 1917 to Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta and the miracle of the sun that happened there and was seen by tens of thousands of people.
The assumption of Mary is a sign of hope to us that we, too, can go where she’s gone. It’s easy to believe that Jesus ascended bodily to heaven, because He’s God, but think about what that means. It means that there’s a human being sitting at the right hand of God on the throne of glory. In Christ, humanity is fully united to God, and the Blessed Mother shows us what that means for us. If Mary was brought into heaven, then we can also be brought into heaven, body and soul, if we follow her advice. She tells us the same thing she told the waiters at the wedding feast at Cana, “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you” (John 2:5).
Next Week: Parish School of Religion
Today the Lord invites us to realize the importance of the virtue of gratitude and to ask ourselves if we are truly grateful for the gifts that we have received. Gratitude is so important in life. It comes from humility, because we have to realize that we didn’t earn any of the best things in our lives, our existence, our families, and our rights and freedom. But today God is calling on us to recognize an even greater gift, our salvation, the gift of the Son of God Himself and the grace He won for us on the Cross.
Our first reading happens just after the Exodus. The Israelites have spent hundreds of years in slavery in Egypt, forced to work at hard labor, whipped or killed if they won’t work, and their children killed. God hears their prayers and sends Moses to free them. Just days after they’re freed and escape Pharaoh, they begin to complain that they don’t have enough food and water, saying, “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!” Instead of going to Moses to ask what the plan is, or praying to God to send them enough food, they immediately start to complain and say that they were better off in Egypt, where they were slaves! So, God gives them the manna, bread that came down from heaven.
The gospel today follows last week’s Gospel, which recounted the multiplication of the loaves and fish, when Jesus fed over 5000 people with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. This happened on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and during the night Jesus and the disciples crossed over to the other side, but the crowd see that Jesus has left and many of them get into boats and cross over to the other side as well. Jesus says to them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Jesus is trying to explain to them that He has better things to give them. He’s trying to teach them about the ways of God, to share God’s love with them, and, ultimately, to give them His own life. He’s talking about spiritual realities, but they’re not quite ready to believe yet. They ask Jesus to perform a sign for them, saying, “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from to eat,” and Jesus responds, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” This is the Eucharist.
Do you know what the word Eucharist means? It’s actually a Greek word, Eukharistia, meaning thanksgiving or gratitude. As the priest takes the bread and wine that were brought up for the Mass, he lifts them up slightly and prays, in a whisper, showing that this prayer is for God, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.” Then, the priest are deacon prepares the chalice by pouring a little water into the wine, and prays, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Then the priest lifts the chalice and prays over it, “Blessed are you, God of all creation, for though your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”
The Eucharist is thanksgiving because in it we thank God for the gift of His Son, who nourishes us with His flesh. We thank God also for the gift of our relationship with God and all of the graces He’s given us, and we thank God for teaching us how to worship Him, which we do, more than any other time, in the Mass.
So what is our response, in gratitude, to this great gift of the Eucharist that God has given us. It’s only ourselves. God doesn’t ask the impossible, and He doesn’t ask us to give anything that we don’t have. Just like Jesus gave Himself to us in love and compassion, we God wants us to give ourselves to Him in love and gratitude. We give ourselves to Him by following His commands, by showing Him respect, and by putting Him first. We give ourselves to God in our prayers and in the Mass. We also give ourselves to God in the love we show our neighbors, especially those who are most in need.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.