RCIA: Needlessly complicated barrier to entry … or a wonderful gift of the universal church?

by Doug Lawrence

A recent article in the Catholic Herald about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) once again has me wondering: If the Catholic Church is indeed the original and true universal Church … founded by Jesus Christ himself,while he still walked the earth (it is) … and the RCIA program is the best the Church can do … then why aren’t people lined up outside, 24/7 and 365, waiting to sign up?

I don’t recall the recently deceased modernist Cardinal Martini saying anything in particular about RCIA, but if he had, it might have been something like this (and he would have been right):

Is it rational for the Catholic Church to expect to attract large (or even reasonably acceptable) numbers of converts by means of a one size fits all, once a year, six month long program of  religious instruction … often of dubious quality … from a world full of people who have come to expect instant (or at least, very prompt) gratification in everything from their choice of food, to their ordinary communication and social interaction, oil changes for their automobiles, downloads of their music, and virtually everything else?

Perhaps the Catholic Church might be able to attract more than one or two real converts each year, per parish (as opposed to the usual cadre of badgered relatives and spouses) if they concentrated on offering a modern, responsive, technologically up to date RCIA program that addresses at least some of the particular needs and sensibilities of ordinary people … rather than making them overcome totally unnecessary obstacles and jump through various “hoops”?

Isn’t that what the original apostles did?

A case in point: Make a visit to a Catholic parish … other than your own … and see how long it takes you to find the rectory or parish office, gain entry, and obtain a face to face meeting with someone who can actually tell you about the RCIA program … and get you signed up.

If you can get that done in less than an hour and a half, send me an email with your name and address, and I’ll send you a free copy of my latest Catholic CD.

Catholicism’s “symphony of truth”

You don’t have to be an intellectual to appreciate this “symphony of truth,” however. For Catholicism is, first of all, an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And to meet that person is to meet the truth that makes all the other truths of our lives make sense. Indeed, the embrace of Catholic truth in full, as lives like Blessed John Henry Newman’s demonstrate, opens one up to the broadest possible range of intellectual encounters.

Read more from George Weigel

US Catholic Church finds astonishing variety of people joining this Easter

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2011 / 02:52 am (CNA).- A Muslim, a family of seven, a marine, a former abortion clinic administrator – these are just a few of the many faces of people from around the country who are slated to join the Catholic Church at Easter.

The U.S. bishops’ conference recently profiled a handful of unique stories from individuals in different states, each of whom will be either baptized or confirmed during the Church’s universal celebration of the Easter Vigil on April 24.

Although the numbers are still trickling in for this year, the conference reported that in 2010, there were over 43,000 adult baptisms in the U.S. and more than 75,000 people received into full communion with the Church.

Personal stories of conversion

Six of the Most Unexpected Catholic Converts

Fascinating! (And don’t forget to read the viewer comments.)


Seen on the web: Remarkable Conversions To Catholicism

Visit the site

Disclaimer for Catholics Coming Home: “Home” has changed a bit, since you left.

The Catholics Come Home TV advertising campaign is beautifully done, invoking imagery and concepts that Catholics have held near and dear, for some 2000 years.

Unfortunately, as is often the case in the advertising business, the reality is sometimes, far from the ideal.

Many/most Catholic churches look nothing like the ones in the Catholics Come Home commercials. Today’s Catholic churches often have much more in common with the architecture used in gymnasiums and/or civic meeting rooms.

Sacred art and statuary is also often similarly sparse and sterile. For example: Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral looks much more like a typical Presbyterian church, than a Catholic one.

Many/most Catholic parishes are short-staffed, lacking funds, and ill prepared to handle any increased “work” load. Little training has been done … other than perhaps, prepping one selected deacon to deal with the “massive influx” of returning Catholics (2-6 inquiries expected, per parish, per campaign.) And of course, convenient parking is already in very short supply.

Then there’s the “backlash” to be expected from already practicing Catholics … like in the story of the Prodigal Son … where the faithful one got ticked off about all the attention that was being lavished on his (now returned) wayward brother. (“I never went away and squandered my birth right. Where’s MY fatted calf?!”)

And let’s not forget the dismal spiritual “formation” of just about everyone … who in the finest, dumbed-down, post-Vatican II liberal tradition, received little or no real education in the authentic Catholic faith, other than “God is Love. Please place the money in the collection basket. Then leave quickly and quietly, after the Mass has ended.”

Truth be told … for these and various other reasons … many parishes are hoping that you might choose to “come home” someplace else!

But let’s not dwell on the negative. The upside potential of this campaign is huge!

For example:

Reverts and converts have not (yet) been conditioned to accept the status quo. 

Many actually believe what they learned about the Catholic Church way back in the 1950’s and early 60’s. They still think of the church as unique and special … not just one of many paths to God. (And of course, they would be precisely right!)

Many secretly crave the “smells and bells” of Catholic worship … even if they don’t fully realize it. At the very least, they are impressed (in some deep, essential way) by the dignity of the ministerial priesthood, the vestments, the crucifix, the centrality and practicality of the holy altar, the candles, incense, hymns and prayers. The Catholic Church (officially, at least) is still fully committed to all these things … and that’s good.

Sacraments are essential to the Catholic faith, and the Church (generally) still “does” sacraments very well. Let’s not dwell on the fact that the majority of today’s Catholics no longer understand who or precisely what they are receiving … or why. Let’s just stress the fact that sacraments … particularly Reconciliation and Holy Communion … typically accomplish exactly what God intends for us … personal sanctification and transformation, through his superabundant grace … and that is a really, really good thing … for everybody!

Newcomers and reverts are also typically more zealous for the faith than the average Catholic. This holds out a genuine hope for renewal … particularly in the area of Catholic organizations, Catholic education, and priestly vocations … as well as in general parish life … as even the most jaded cleric might be inspired by the urgent inquiries and sincere requests of souls who are truly “On Fire” for Jesus and the Catholic faith.

So … in spite of the negatives … Catholics Come Home really can’t miss. But let’s not fool ourselves … or our intended audience … because fibbing … even when attempting to promote the Catholic Church … is still a sin!

Catholics Come Home official site

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“Catholics Come Home” U.S. campaign produces .03% average (estimated) response

TV ads aimed at bringing lapsed Catholics back into the fold have enjoyed enormous success recently with an estimated 200,000 returning to churches throughout the U.S. as a result of the campaign.

Featuring high-resolution TV ads with lush colors and powerful imagery, Catholics Come Home – an initiative of business entrepreneur Tom Peterson – has teamed up with local dioceses in the U.S. to bring people back into the Church.

Peterson told EWTN News Dec. 16 that Catholics Come Home “has been blessed with amazing results” over the last two and a half years as over 200,000 individuals, whether lapsed Catholics or otherwise, have joined their local parishes.

“We’ve heard amazing stories of conversions from atheism,” as well as individuals from Protestant denominations coming into the Catholic Church, he said.

The vast majority, though, are “’reverts’ – people coming back to their faith,” Peterson noted.