The Vocation of Citizenship

It is…a bromide to observe that most people pay little attention to politics. They have, or so the conventional wisdom goes, much better things to devote their precious time and limited energy to. Besides, politics is all to often as corrupt as it is frustrating. There is a some truth to such sentiments, but the cultivation of cynicism about politics and government is also a political strategy designed to undermine democracy. That dynamic is at work in so-called populist political movements across the globe. After all, one of the reasons Trump as elected in the first place was because too many Americans failed to pay attention to who he really was and what he was clearly capable of. Yes, we have obligations to family and community, and we must toil to keep a roof over our heads. But we also have obligations as citizens, and one of our most important duties is to pay attention to what our elected officials are up to. There should be nothing “Washington-centric” about time spent participating in the various tasks of self-government, the first of which is to stay relatively well informed. Citizenship is a much neglected, but essential vocation, and it is one we all share.

Paul Baumann, writing in Commonweal, October 2019.

Why Involve the Community?

Welcoming seekers into “the way of faith and conversion” is the most important thing we do. Think about it. If a family had a great sense of community but never welcomed new people into it, slowly, one-by-one, the family would die off. If a parish did the same, we’d have the same fate. But the reason we need to get the community involved in welcoming seekers does deeper than self-preservation. It’s why parishes exist. The Trinity is the ultimate community of love, but it’s not a closed system. God is constantly drawing all creation into that community of love. It’s the reason God became one of us, and it’s the reason we exist as Christians. Integrating the catechumens and candidates into that Christian community of love is the biggest, most essential mission that the Holy Spirit has set before our parishes.

Diana Macalintal, Your Parish IS the Curriculum: RCIA in the Midst of the Community (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2018), pp. 38-39. ISBN: 978-0-8146-4465-2. Emphasis added.

The Parish IS The Curriculum

When it comes the need to ‘run the RCIA program’ one of the questions that often gets asked is what is the best resource to use. Usually the person asking that question wishes to know which book, or series of pamphlets, or videos can best be used to pass on the knowledge of the Christian faith to those who are seeking to become Catholic.

Diana Macalintal of suggests a different response to the question:

Because your parishioners have been washed, anointed, and clothed as priests, prophets, and kings, enlightened with the knowledge of Christ, endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and strengthened by the Eucharist to grow into the full stature of Christ for doing Christ’s mission, they are the best teachers for your catechumens and candidates. Therefore, your parish is the best “classroom” for forming adults for living a life of discipleship in Christ.

Diana Macalintal, Your Parish IS the Curriculum: RCIA in the Midst of the Community (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2018), p. 24. ISBN: 978-0-8146-4465-2.

The Vision of RCIA

If we approach the RCIA as yet one more program to implement and we delegate the implementation of that program to a small group of leaders, then we will have failed even before we begin. … the adult catechumenate changes everything. It is a paradigm shift that flows from the radical insight recovered from Vatican II that baptism matters. If that’s true, then your baptism matters. It matters most of all to the people who are seeking what baptism gives you: an intimate relationship with the living Christ active in the world. Where we find that living Christ and that relationship is in the community of Christians.

Unfortunately, that community is messy. It is imperfect, made up of imperfect people. It would be much easier, cleaner, and quicker to just leave RCIA to a small group of highly qualified Christians who meet once a week to transmit the teaching of the church to a receptive, albeit passive, group of seekers. Or maybe we could ensure that the catechumens meet only the best of Catholics among us or attend only the best of our liturgies.

Yet the Body of Christ doesn’t work that way. Only through intimate relationship with the members of the Christ’s Body will one touch and hear and see Christ at work in the world. So if you want your seekers to learn how to be the Body of Christ, they must be trained by those who are the Body of Christ: the entire Christian community.

Diana Macalintal, Your Parish IS the Curriculum: RCIA in the Midst of the Community (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2018), p. 10. ISBN: 978-0-8146-4465-2.

Bless and Do Not Curse

If we, the People of God, wish to enter the kingdom of God, then we will eventually have to be purified of any hatred in our hearts. We must truly love all of our brothers and sisters, including terrorists, liberals, conservatives, child molesters, Republicans, Democrats, and the host of others on this planet with whom we might disagree or even loathe, notwithstanding any evil they might have committed. If we “curse” by simply wishing them ill, we have become no better than the evil we eschew.

Stephen J. Rosetti, The Priestly Blessing: Rediscovering the Gift (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2018), pp. 32-33. ISBN: 978-1-59471-847-2.

Conviction and Dogmatism

Conviction and dogmatism are not the same. There is a difference between having seen some truth and claiming to speak in the name of all truth; between knowing what one believes and refusing to respect the beliefs and experiences of others. People of faith should speak with a humble authority combining real knowledge with an awareness of the limitations of that knowledge. Their authority, to coin a powerful image used by John Habgood a generation ago, is not that of the wise woman or man and the scholar, important though wisdom and scholarship are, but that of lovers who express their delight in what they love, even though they have scarcely begun to glimpse its full extent.

Rupert Shortt, Does Religion Do More Harm Than Good? (London, SPCK, 2019), pp. 75-76. ISBN: 978-0-281-07871-4.

Religion and the Ecology of Freedom

In describing religion, Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth and renown public intellectual, says religion is:

part of the ecology of freedom because it supports families, communities, charities, voluntary associations, active citizenship and concern for the common good. It is a key contributor to civil society, which is what holds us together without the coercive power of law. Without it we will depend entirely on the State, and when that happens we risk what J. L. Talmon called ‘totalitarian democracy’, which is what revolutionary France eventually became.

Jonathan Sacks, ‘The Pope is Right about the Threat to Freedom’, The Times, 3 February 2010, as quoted in Rupert Shortt, Does Religion Do More Harm Than Good? (London: SPCK, 2019), p. 37. ISBN: 978-0-281-07871-4.