A critical ingredient for the optimal effectiveness of any catechetical endeavor is conviction. I can tell you that with every beat of my heart and every breath that I take, I am radically and immeasurably convinced that the Catholic Faith is the fullness of Reality; the fullness of objective Truth.
In “The Truth Works,” I spoke of my plans to utilize this column to share the secrets behind the success of our RCIA program; the secrets behind dynamically and effectively communicating the treasure that is the Catholic Faith. The first secret begins with a conviction that lives in the hearts of our Team members and ends (by God’s grace) with the eventual conviction in the hearts and minds of at least 95% of our students. [In subsequent articles, I will back that statistic.]
If your RCIA has poor ongoing attendance or your students stop going to class (and Mass!) after Easter, your solution begins here. You must begin to rectify what it is that keeps you from being convinced.
For my part, I was not always convinced. Far from it.
I “left” the Church as a young adult because I perceived Her to be irrelevant, out of touch with issues, boring (at times), absurd, intolerant and lacking in compassion. The summer before college, I recall fighting back tears as I challenged my father’s imperative that I “must go to Mass!” At risk that he might have a sound answer, I promised him that if he could give me one good reason why I had to go, I would continue to go. After a long pause, his answer was, “You just have to, that’s all. It’s the right thing to do.” It was the nail in the coffin for me. My dear father was absolutely right, but he, too, never put the pieces entirely together – yet it was enough for him. Welling up, as it killed me to hurt him, I said the words, “That’s not enough for me, Daddy.”
God, Our Father in Heaven, said, “Not so fast.”
In the years that followed, He led me to a long line of people who turned all of this on its head and inside out. The first in the line-up would eventually become my husband of thirty years. At age eighteen he had it amazingly together on this count and turned my misconceptions around one day at a time, often one long argument at a time. In the end he, and many effective Catholics to follow, helped me to recognize where my faculty of right reason was coming up short.
At the same time, God also permitted into the history all manner of challenge in other good and intelligent people who compelled me to “turn over every rock”: Atheists, Agnostics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Born-Again Christians, New Agers, etc. As I delved deeply and extensively into the Church’s wisdom on every challenge, I came to realize that, though we certainly share much common ground with other belief systems, nothing is as complete or as backed by solid history and sound evidence. I was astounded; overwhelmed by the Church’s brilliance, insight and foresight. It became apparent that my eighth-grade religious education had only scratched the surface and left me with a largely limited understanding of the Church’s teachings. I thought I knew what the Catholic Church taught and why. In the grand scheme of things, I hadn’t a clue.
Everything changed so dramatically. All of life – its purpose and direction, all of trial and challenge – found its most profound meaning and context. I was given the tools and means to elevate functioning and living to heights one would not have thought possible – especially under the worst of circumstances!
I will share more of my story in articles to come, but for now let’s get back to the “unconvinced” catechist.
So what pieces are you missing? The time has come for you to “turn over every rock” and begin anew to persevere in knowledge, in trust, and in prayer to become radically and immeasurably convinced! To launch your pursuit, I suggest the first in a line up of many excellent works: “Theology and Sanity,” by Frank Sheed.
2010 Peggy Clores