An old African proverb says:
Every morning, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle — when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.
A baby gazelle doesn’t spend months studying survival theory before it begins to run; a lion cub does not enroll in a nutrition course before starting to hunt. They just start running.
The RCIA is race-training
Training for Christian life (cf. RCIA 75) is like that. The way to train Christians is to get them running. We do not run for survival or hunting, of course. We run “the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). We run to proclaim the good news.
As we said in a previous post, there are levels of training for the race. The General Directory for Catechesis identifies these levels as:
- Primary or first proclamation and catechesis (evangelization)
- Catechesis at the service of Christian initiation (initiatory catechesis)
- Catechesis at the service of ongoing formation in the faith (lifelong catechesis)
We already took a brief look at the first level, evangelization. The second level of training can be the most challenging. Someone who is new to running may start of with lots of energy and excitement. But without discipline (“discipleship”), the newbie runner will get discouraged quickly. We all want to run fast when we start, but we have to begin slowly. We have to build endurance and strength. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the perfect training program for building that endurance.
A program for learning to run consists of four core training components: strength, nutrition, flexibility, and mindset. Likewise, a formation process for becoming Christian has four core training components: word, community, worship, and service (cf. RCIA 75).
Here are a few suggestions for implementing the second level of RCIA training—initiatory catechesis.
Practical steps for the second period of the RCIA
- Start each of your catechumens on a training regimen that is suited to their individual needs. A runner who already has healthy eating habits and a good mindset does not need as much attention in those areas as she might in strength building and stretching. Likewise, a catechumen who is already involved in service to family and community might need more focus on word and worship. Don’t subject everyone to a one-size-fits-all training process.
- As a team, read together RCIA paragraph 75. To spark your discussion, click here to see some introductory videos.
- As a team, brainstorm as many ways as you can to immerse the catechumens in parish life. Don’t settle for bringing representatives of the ministries into your formation sessions. Instead, take the catechumens out into the parish and neighborhood where ministry is happening.
- If you are currently using a lecture or classroom format for your formation sessions, make the switch to conversion-based formation. Lead mystagogical reflections on the significant encounters with Christ that the catechumens have had in the past week. See Faith, Life, & Creed: A Complete Catechesis for Christian Life as a resource. Also, see this article on mystagogical catechesis.
- As a team, begin to learn more about adult learning theory and apply those principles to your formation process. To get you started, click here to read: “What research says about teaching adults in the RCIA.”
What can you do right now?
Add a comment below to share your impressions of the RCIA as a training process. How do you train catechumens to run “the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1)?