Is your RCIA open all year-round? Maintaining Focus

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAThe other day I took my car into the dealer’s service shop for some regular maintenance and they provided me with a loaner car for the day. This loaner was their top-of-the-line mid-sized sedan with all the new technology. The rearview mirror had a digital compass built into the corner, and the sideview mirrors had those lane-changing warning lights that are becoming very common on most new cars. My own car doesn’t have any of this technology, so I thought it would be cool to try it out. What I learned that day, however, is that while this tech all seemed very nice, it could also be a distraction.

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Training your far-focus vision

It all had to do with focus. I’ve been driving for 40 years and I know my rearview and sideview mirrors are my best friends for scanning the roadway around my car. It’s become second nature. Once I set the mirrors in this loaner car I didn’t give it a second thought. As was driving down the highway, however, with all these new information and warning lights, I learned something new about how mirrors actually work. It all has to do with focus.

Drivers when looking out the windows use their far focus vision. In fact, I remember in drivers training how the instructor taught us how we need to be looking far ahead so you can better anticipate what’s going to happen down the road. We had to train ourselves to look beyond what was immediately surrounding the car – not just in front of us but behind and beside as well. For most good drivers, this far-focus vision is a matter of course, both for looking out the windshield and the windows as well as looking through the mirrors.

It wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized all these cool digital displays and warning lights built into the mirrors went unnoticed while I was driving. I never saw them. I couldn’t see them because I wasn’t focused on them. That would have meant using my near focus vision, a skill I was not trained to use when looking in the car’s mirrors. For me it was a practical example of how we need to occasionally adjust our focus to make best use of what’s around us.

Identify your RCIA distractions

I started to think how this can also be an issue with our RCIA processes (as any RCIA catechist would do while driving home, right?). It made me realize that we can suffer from this same near-focus/far-focus blindness as we develop and implement our RCIA processes.

One of our biggest issues is that we’re so focused on what’s in front of us, we tend to lose focus of the bigger picture. Especially during Lent when we’re leading those catechumens and candidates who are on those final steps toward initiation or reception into full communion. We get so busy with the day-to-day and the week-to-week that we find ourselves caught in that “go fever” mode. We get so focused on just getting them in and get them out and getting things done that we can lose perspective – lose focus – of that far vision view of the RCIA. We tell ourselves that we’ll deal with that part over the summer, let’s just get these people through, and then we’ll step back and look at the bigger picture. Trouble is, all too often, that summer of review and contemplation never happens, and we lose another year of reviewing and adjusting our focus.

The other problem (though to a much lessor extent) is that we spend so much time on the far-focus vision of our RCIA process that we fail to notice what needs attention right in front of us. Not only are the catechumens and candidates unsure of what to expect or what’s going on, but our team members can also get lost. We end up missing a lot of details as we look on down the road without noticing the potholes right in front of us.

Where to go for inspiration

So how do we make sure we’re focusing on the right things? As RCIA leaders and team members, we need to take some of the advice we’re constantly handing out to our catechumens and candidates – We need to make the time. Find and attend training workshops. Make some time to go through one of the online workshops available from TeamRCIA as a team. Go on a one-day or two-day retreat, somewhere away from the parish grounds. Now is the time to start thinking about these sorts of activities for you and your team so you can get them on your calendars and commit to them.

And when you gather, make sure to make the time to focus on both the far vision and the short. Both views are needed to make the most of your RCIA process, for it is that far vision that sets the goals whereupon the short vision can develop the steps necessary for getting there. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back, but it’s still progress. But if we don’t make the time to periodically and regularly review our processes, we can easily lose our focus.

Your turn

What inspires you to stick to the essentials of the RCIA? What distractions have you had to cut out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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See also these related articles:

  1. The Rite of Election — a journey into the divine mystery
  2. What the scrutinies do to the elect in the RCIA process
  3. Will your Rite of Election be a true decision point this year?
  4. Jesus’s timing is perfect—one parish’s experience of year-round RCIA
  5. Celebrating the RCIA scrutinies outside the usual times

Photo by Samuele Errico Piccarini on Unsplash

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  1. First of all, our parish [All Saints, Bridgeport, WV] has started the year round catechistes {sp} and I love it. Here is my question:

    Do you have anything available for me for mentoring the sponsors – or training the sponsors – or sponsors can use????

    Thank you for all of your help in the past. Margie

  2. What a great analogy – short vision and far vision! I believe that the main focus of RCIA is to guide people to experience a life-changing friendship with Jesus; therefore, every gathering needs to walk with the candidate or catechumen in this direction. The far vision is to journey with them into discipleship; with this far vision in mind, RCIA needs to connect the people to the community to help them find the ministry to which God is calling them. This is our goal – relationship with Jesus which leads to discipleship.
    Thank you for the way in which you provide leadership and guidance to all of us who are privileged to serve God in the RCIA.
    Blessings and prayers!

  3. Our RCIA program is year-round and so I have plenty of time for formation as a Catholic. One thing that I do that I believe has helped with retention is I begin every class with teaching the participants Catholic prayers. I teach the history of the prayer, when and why we may pray a particular prayer and then we pray it together. I repeat the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, and Stations of the Cross several times because they are a little bit more of a challenge to be comfortable with for a beginner. When my catechumen & candidates are received into the church, I feel like they are well rounded Catholics knowing not only the teachings of the Church but also being more familiar with the Bible and knowing our prayers. So far its been successful. Also, only the unbaptized are received at the Easter Vigil and those already baptized are brought in with the Rite of Full Communion when their “approximately one year” is completed.

  4. We try to send our new team members to a TeamRCIA workshop so that they can grasp the vision of RCIA before they start on the team.
    We have an evaluation of our process for the past year at a local monastery. We start with morning prayer, a light breakfast, then review our process from precatecumenate to mystagogy. We join the nuns for Mass and finish by setting goals for the next year. We try to focus on a couple specific improvements that we hope to make.
    We also attend a workshop in OKC for a weekend for retreat and formation in the initiation process. This is a good opportunity to meet with other teams from other parishes to exchange ideas and challenges. These planned formation weekends, allow us to grow as a team, welcome new team members, and take time to pray for the seekers that the Lord will be sending our way.

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