Now is a good time to review paragraph 75 of the RCIA, which outlines the four practices of faith into which we are to apprentice the catechumens. The first section of paragraph 75 calls for a “suitable catechesis” that is “solidly supported by celebrations of the word.” In The Coming of God, Maria Boulding reminds us that our experience of God in the Word is primarily a community experience. Even when we read scripture privately, we are never completely by ourselves:
The Bible was born of the Spirit’s action passing through the shared faith of a community, God’s people. The whole life of this people was a word of God. When we read in faith those articulated words, born from experience of God amid a praying, believing community, we read or listen to them as members of a praying, believing community, even if we are physically alone.
We are the holy assembly gathered by the same Spirit who spoke through the prophets; the Word is alive and powerful for us as for them, and we travel by it to an experience of God.
The experience is both individual and communal, necessarily both. Your personal listening in your prayer and your life deepens and fertilizes the listening that is done by the Body, but the faith of that Body supports and illumines and enriches your own. The scriptural word finds its proper intelligibility in a community of faith. (79)
It is precisely the hearing of God’s word in the midst of the worshipping assembly that is the “suitable catechesis” called for in paragraph 75. While other forms of catechesis are important, they are secondary to the revelation of God as experienced by the gathered Body:
The shared listening of a community of faith is an educative factor of immense significance, particularly when its members are gathered for prayer. Reverence, humility and a sense of God’s holiness can be communicated to us by the very bearing of those who read or listen to the word of God with us. The gospel is mediated to us as they read it: the Good News comes to me through the mind and voice of the one who proclaims it, and that means through the prayer and experience and understanding and grace of the one who proclaims it.
I need other people to proclaim the Good News to me by the way they pray and read and live. There is a communication of faith as we listen together to God; we are aware of the call to pray me deeply, and we feel the contemplative pull. (80)
Boulding points out that it is the liturgical experience of the Word that forms the catechumens in the way of faith. They do not need to be scholars or mystics. They only need to be hearers of the Word.
Between the simplest believer and the highest mystic the same communion in faith holds. The great Christian mystics are not some in-group with access to special mysteries; they are men and women who have fed on the same vital word and allowed the Easter Christ to take them the whole way. (80)
Finally, she makes clear that revelation through God’s Word is not an experience we share solely with those physically present in our worship. It is the entire, historical experience of the church that forms our faith:
The minds and the lives of Christians all down the ages, the minds of the saints and mystics and of the humble, heroic, unknown believers of every age and place, have been formed and fertilized by the same seed of the word. (80)
I’d be interested in hearing about your insights about how to form the catechumens in a practice of God’s Word. What have you done in the past? What do you hope to do in the future?