In RCIA ministry, there are 1,000 things to do. There are things you want to do, things you should do, things you could do, and things you have to do.
Start with what you have to do. Start at the heart.
For example, if you are planning a dinner party, you might focus on cleaning the house, buying a new tablecloth, getting the perfect wording for the invitations, and arranging the place settings. But the first thing you should worry about is the roast—or whatever will be the dinner. The dinner is the heart of the matter. Everything else is secondary.
In the catechumenate, conversion of hearts to Jesus is the main thing. The first paragraph of the introduction to the RCIA says:
The rite of Christian initiation…is designed for adults who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts.
How to know you are at the heart of the RCIA
The way to know you are at the heart of the matter is to ask yourself this question: if the seeker’s heart has not truly been converted to Jesus Christ, would there be any reason for him or her to do any of the other steps in the RCIA process? The RCIA is not a conversion process if there is no conversion. Initiation is not primarily about making Catholics. It is about making disciples. Those might seem like the same thing, but we all know that it is possible to become Catholic without having experienced true conversion to Christ. Conversion is the first thing, and without that first step, we cannot go any further.
There are many ways to discern if conversion has taken place. The first place to start your discernment process is in your own heart. Heart recognizes heart. Do you have a deep sense of peace that the seeker before you has experienced a true conversion to Jesus? If not, that doesn’t mean he or she hasn’t had a conversion, but you certainly want to proceed slowly. You can also seek the sense of other team members and parishioners. And use the criteria in the RCIA itself as a guide. Look at RCIA 42 as a guide. Does the seeker have:
- the beginnings of the spiritual life
- a beginner-level grasp of the fundamentals of Christian teaching
- signs of first faith
- signs of an initial conversion
- the intention to change his or her life
- the first stirrings of repentance
- a practice of calling upon God in prayer
- a sense of the Church
- some experience of the company and spirit of other Christians
Focus on evangelization
If you are not seeing all of these things, then focus all your energy on evangelization. Conversion to Jesus is the heart and foundation of the entire RCIA process. You cannot do anything else until you have made sure that conversion has happened.