It may seem obvious that it is important to provide a suitable catechesis for seekers, but there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to grasp the importance of a suitable catechesis, we have to first ask who the catechesis is for and what it is for.
Who RCIA catechesis is for
In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the “who” are “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” (RCIA 1).
There is a lot in that sentence. The “who” we are dealing with here are people whose lives have been or are about to be turned upside down.
The mystery of Christ is infinite
They are people who have “heard the mystery of Christ proclaimed.” This is no small thing. The mystery of Christ encompasses creation, salvation, the Kingdom of God, death and resurrection, eternal life, radical grace, unconditional love, peace beyond understanding, and so much more.
Even though the seekers have “heard” the mystery, the mystery cannot be contained or explained in words alone.
The mystery of Revelation
At the core of the mystery is the living God, a Trinitarian dynamic, a God who—mysteriously—chooses to self-reveal. This self-revelation is personal, ongoing, and gratuitous. God chooses to say “I AM” to each of us in ways we can know and understand.
However, this knowledge is not essentially intellectual, although it includes that. It is essentially and primarily spiritual—a knowledge of the heart, a heart opened by the Holy Spirit.
The heart of the matter
The important role of the catechist then is not simply to transmit religious information that has been codified for us in textbooks. It is to provide a catechesis that will, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, open the hearts of the seekers and lead them to conversion to the way of faith.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults tells us a “suitable catechesis” for seekers who have heard the mystery of Christ proclaimed has two components. It is a catechesis that “leads the catechumens not only to an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and precepts.”
It is also a catechesis that leads catechumens “to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation in which they desire to participate” (RCIA 75.1)
A complete catechesis is required
It is tempting to stick with the dogmas and precepts. They are written down for us. They can be communicated with words. We can deliver them in a handout or via video and PowerPoint. We can number them, divide them, assign them, and schedule them. It’s very neat and tidy, and when we are done we can say we delivered the doctrine.
But did we open hearts to mystery? The mystery of Christ cannot be contained in words. We have to go beyond the words to provide a catechesis that is “complete in its coverage” — so complete that the mystery of the living God is revealed and the catechumens are converted to the way of faith.
As the seekers begin to open their hearts and truly know and understand the God who loves them, their lives will be changed. The “who” that they were when we met them will fade away and the “who” that God created them to be will emerge. Catechesis has no other purpose than this — to bring seekers into mature, adult faith. And it is important that we, as catechists, provide a catechesis that is suitable for that purpose.
How do you explore the mystery?
In your parish, how do you assist seekers in opening their hearts to the mystery of the living God? Or how will you do so in the future? Please share your thoughts below.