There’s a lot of talk in our present culture about “empowerment”. Interestingly enough, a great deal of the commentary and well-intentioned advice attached to the word has precious little to do with authentic empowerment. In effect, quite the opposite.
Familiar litanies abound.
“You have to find your own truth.”
“You have to be true to yourself.”
“You only need look within to find the answers you seek.”
“You don’t have to change for anyone. You’re perfect just as you are. You need
to celebrate that!”
“No one has the right to tell you what to do.”
“Freedom is being able to do what you want when you want to do it.”
Empty yourself. Breathe. And all will be well.
An honest, serious, and objective look at a culture that is finding it increasingly hard to function speaks to something largely amiss here. Either we’re having a real challenge applying these mantras that have influenced much thought and behavior for the last several decades, or there is something largely absent from the philosophy fueling the mantras themselves.
That something is authentic empowerment.
Authentic empowerment is rooted in objective Truth (or Reality), from which we genuinely get a sense of who we are, where we’re going, and what life is all about. As well-known speaker and author, Father John Corapi, puts it, “A working definition of insanity is to be out of touch with reality!” This is where our present-day notions of empowerment disintegrate and leave us severely handicapped; actually, un-empowered.
My primary objective, from the first encounter with a prospective participant contemplating our Adult Education/Formation program is that they encounter an authentic sense of empowerment on contact. Recently, an RCIA coordinator from a nearby parish asked for my help in mapping out for him what it is we do on our Information Night that attracts participants to say “yes” to a pretty intense commitment. In previous dialogue, I had impressed upon him that “You have to ‘hit it out of the park’ from Day One.” Out of time to map out the details, I banged out the following email on the morning of his scheduled Information Night:
Some or all of these dynamics should be evident to the participants through your collective presentation. The Truth-Christ-is all of these things; and that should come through in the Team’s words, warmth and strength. Though this list is not comprehensive, it covers most of the bases.
You collectively want to be:
Compelling, dynamic, infectious, passionate, convicted, inspiring, sincere, substantive, relatable, interesting, intelligent, relevant, practical, competent, credible, sane…… and majorly irresistible!
The prospective participants need to instantly sense that their key to achieving true happiness and meaning, and the highest levels of functioning even when confronted with grave suffering, are contained in what they are about to receive!
In a nutshell, you want to take their breath away!
These dynamics may seem a very tall order to achieve over the course of your RCIA year, let alone in one Information Night. Yet they are, in the end, the automatic and natural manifestations of authentic empowerment. The more a catechist (and by extension the RCIA Team) allows Christ and His Church to overtake everything that they are, the more Christ will do the rest. He will ‘take the participant’s breath away!’ And with each passing week, a sense of authentic empowerment will begin to overtake their very being.
Authentic empowerment, then, is another secret to the effectiveness behind our RCIA Team’s efforts. In Him, with Him and through Him. In each of us, Christ.
[Book recommendation: “Half Truths: What’s Right (and What’s Wrong) With The Cliché’s You And I Live By” by Montague Brown. Sophia Institute Press Co. 2003]
2010 Peggy Clores