The Initiating Community

As Christians, it is our calling and our mission to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ and God’s inexhaustible love for every one of us into the world.  When we live out this purpose, we have the extreme privilege of drawing people closer into relationship with God.  When we live it out well, we draw them ever closer to Christ in the midst of our Christian community.

Many of today’s Catholics are familiar with the term “RCIA”.   RCIA, or Rite of Christian Initiation, is the name for the rites we celebrate with those who wish to join our Church.  It is these rites through which they pass to become fully initiated members of our faith communities.  What is unknown to many, however, is that the rite insists that “the initiation of adults is the responsibility of all of the baptized” (RCIA, 9).

While it’s true that part of my role as your pastoral associate is to facilitate this process of preparation, and equally true that there is an amazing and dedicated team of volunteers who teach classes and lead discussion with our participants, it is also absolutely essential that every single member of our parish embrace their own role.

The Church teaches that faith is a communal reality.  “Faith is a personal act- the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself.  But faith is not an isolated act” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 166).  Despite our modern fascination with radical individualism, we are created with a deep need for human community.  From the very beginning of humanity’s existence, God has revealed, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

What, then, does this mean for us as baptized members of Christ’s church?  It unequivocally demands that we all work to become an initiating community.

It begins with living our lives as Christians authentically and openly, unashamed to be associated with our Savior and modeling his great love and compassion for all people.  We can choose to make our connection to our local and global church attractive to those we encounter in our daily lives.   Then, when the invitation is accepted, we must do all that we can to exhibit true hospitality.   It is not enough to make newcomers feel like we tolerate them; it must ensure that they leave knowing that we are grateful for their presence.  We are better for their having come through our doors; they must be made to know this.

We can learn a lot about our faith and our Church by admitting that we have much to learn by the faith witnessed by the people in our Christian initiation programs.  We can greet them and ask them what has drawn them to our faith.  Pray for them and with them.  If we find ourselves at a rite along the way, we can immerse ourselves in the joy of conversion.

We are all, by virtue of our own baptisms, initiation ministers.  We have the privilege of a calling to foster and nourish the gifts already present in ourselves and our community to blossom.

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