Share your salvation story with your RCIA group

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIA As RCIA catechists, we tend to think of ourselves as teachers. While we are pretty clear on that, we tend to be less clear on what we teach. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults says that we are to teach “an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and precepts” (75). But in the same sentence, the rite says we are also supposed to teach “a profound sense of the mystery of salvation.”

You could probably teach “dogmas and precepts” using a textbook or a series of handouts. But how do you teach a profound sense of mystery?

It’s not enough to just teach from a book

Honestly, I think it is really hard to do that. Way harder than reading from a textbook. And not everyone can do it. When we talk about the vocation of catechist being a charism or a gift from the Holy Spirit, we are saying that not everyone has that gift. For a long time, I didn’t think I had that gift. I started out teaching from a textbook, and I wasn’t very good at it. People were bored. I knew I was “teaching” the correct dogmas and precepts, but it was clear my teaching was having very little impact on the lives of those whom I was teaching.

Eventually, I went and observed some truly gifted catechists. And you know what? They weren’t using textbooks. They didn’t even appear to be using notes. And I didn’t see much “teaching” going on. They seemed to be telling a lot of stories. They’d start with a story from that Sunday’s readings or something that happened at Mass, and then they’d tell a story about themselves.

Click for a free inforgraphic: “Ten Ways to Teach Jesus”

Stories are powerful

If a catechist was teaching about reconciliation for example, she might recall the story of Jesus telling his disciples to settle their differences in private and try to win over the one you have a dispute with (Mt 18:15-20, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A). And then she’d tell a story about how she’d had a huge rift with her sister when they are both in college. That led to them not speaking to each other for a long time and trying to get other family members and friends to take sides.

And she talked about hearing that story in Mass one day and feeling ashamed. So she went to her sister and asked her forgiveness. And then she asked the RCIA group if they’d ever had an experience like that. Or if they knew of anyone who did. She ended the session by telling us that Jesus can heal any wound or rift we have if we just ask.

When the catechist asked if any of us had a similar story, I did not raise my hand. But not because I didn’t have a story. I had one, almost exactly the same. But I didn’t want to tell it. I was ashamed, and I didn’t want other people to know.

Your story is a gift

That’s what I meant earlier when I said it’s really hard to teach the profound sense of the mystery of salvation. The opposite of salvation is sin. To tell a story of my salvation would require that I tell a story of my sin — what I was saved from. And that is just not easy to do. Not everyone can. It takes a gift.

But just because it is hard to do does not mean you cannot be a gifted catechist. If you really feel compelled to teach, you probably do have the gift. And if you do, it’s almost a sin not to use your gift. So all of us who teach need to pray daily for the strength and courage to teach the whole mystery of Christ — not just the dogmas and precepts alone. To do that, we have to begin telling the stories of our own salvation.

Click for a free inforgraphic: “Ten Ways to Teach Jesus”

Share your thoughts

What do you find most difficult about teaching the mystery of Christ? How do you overcome your challenges?

See also these related articles:

  1. Tell the one story that RCIA seekers will remember for the rest of their lives
  2. Five small RCIA upgrades that will have huge impact
  3. Two kinds of time in an ongoing (year-round) initiation process
  4. Is your RCIA open all year-round? Treating adults as adults
  5. Five Things to Know About Dismissals

Photo by Diego PH | Unsplash

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