Recently, I met with about 120 RCIA leaders from the dioceses of Belleville, IL, Springfield, IL, Springfield-Cape Girardeau, MO, and the archdiocese of St. Louis. Our agenda was to discuss the vision of the restored catechumenate and how that vision unfolds all year round; it cannot be confined to a few months of the liturgical year.
The bright, sunny Sunday afternoon matched the mood of the participants who seemed happy to be gathering with each other and passionate about their ministry. We began our conversation by recalling what Pope Francis has said about our role as those who accompany seekers on the journey of faith.
In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis said, “All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which… is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart” (Joy of the Gospel, 165).
Recognizing the Hopes and Desires of Your Seekers
I’ve been thinking a lot about “the desire for the infinite” recently. The desire for the infinite is a thirst that God has put within each of us to fulfil our divine destiny. We would not have eyes to see beauty and ears to hear music and feet to dance with and tongues to speak love with if God did not intend for us to live divinely.
When someone who has never had a name to put to her desire — and has spent a lifetime drowning in false hopes and misplaced desires — first encounters Christ, it’s like the blind man in Mark’s gospel who only begins to see. There is suddenly a bigger world out there. But it’s all out of focus, still too new and too strange. Sometimes these almost-blind-but-newly-sighted ones stumble upon us, still tentative about having much hope, and say something like, “I think I want to become Catholic.”
It is then that we have to remember that Jesus has saved us. We tend to forget. We tend to keep our hope a little tamped down. As we age, many of us manage our desire. Far from being “infinite,” our desire has become small. Failures, losses, and setbacks have made us more realistic. We’ve learned to desire less so we will be disappointed less.
But the desire is still there. Covered over, hidden, and walled off — but still bubbling and surging deep in our hearts.
When our desire is small, our answer to the seeker who wants to become Catholic is small. “Come to these classes,” we tell them. “Learn these doctrines.” And, silently, we send the message, “Don’t get your hopes up.”
The Power of Rediscovering Our Own Desires
Pope Francis has called for a world-wide renewal of our parishes. He sees the world outside our parishes as a secular battlefield where billions of people, especially the poor, are suffering on an unprecedented scale. They need mercy, he said. They need hope.
If they are going to discover true hope — a true desire for the infinite — we have to rediscover our own desire for the infinite.
We had a lot to cover in the gathering I had with all those RCIA leaders. The pope’s exhortation that all of our formation is supposed to respond to the “desire for the infinite” was one point among many. Looking back, perhaps we should have spent more time on it.
I wanted to tell those dedicated, passionate coworkers that I will try to repent of my sin. I will try to rekindle my own desire for the infinite.
My desire is this. I hope that I and each of you will find a way to remind everyone in each of our parishes of God’s unbounded love for each of us. I hope that all of us who are Catholic will take down the walls we have put up around our desire for the infinite. I hope that every time someone who has lost all hope begins to get a glimpse of what life in Christ can be like, they will meet someone — maybe someone like you — who will shine with God’s boundless joy who says to them, “Just wait until you see the rest! It’s more than you can imagine.”
What helps you in your ministry with seekers as they pursue the hope that they have found? What desires are awakened in you through your ministry? Share in the comments below!