I have been attending RCIA class at my church for a year, and I feel I have made little progress through these lessons. The topics seem to be chosen at random, and I am usually referred to Google when I ask questions. Easter is approaching, and I’d like to learn how to be a good Catholic before confirmation. What do you think a convert needs to know?
It might be too much for you (I do not know you) to read the whole Catechism
So I suggest for one thing to get and read the whole **Compendium of the Catechism **issued by Pope Benedict XVI
From the document of the Pope issuing it:
"The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith, thus constituting, as my Predecessor had wished, a kind of vademecum which allows believers and non-believers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic faith.
In its structure, contents and language, the Compendium faithfully reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church and will thus assist in making the Catechism more widely known and more deeply understood.
I entrust this Compendium above all to the entire Church and, in particular, to every Christian, in order that it may awaken in the Church of the third millennium renewed zeal for evangelization and education in the faith, which ought to characterize every community in the Church and every Christian believer, regardless of age or nationality."
Only 224 pages
And if you come upon something you want more depth on - it is cross referenced to the Catechism (the little numbers before each paragraph).
Without knowing exactly what your concerns are, i would recommend you consider two things.
Allow yourself the possibility that you will have questions about various areas of the Church teachings even after joining the Church. If you can accept that the Church was the basis for all the teachings of Faith, including the Bible (remember it didn’t exist as a set of books until the leaders of the early Church agreed through their Bishops what were the real enlightened writings of the Apostles including Paul). My wife and I are both trained catechists and facilitated RCIA in two different Parishes over a period of 30 years. She was a convert and had concerns about how the Virgin Mary was regarded by the Church when she joined, but accepted in Faith that she would come to understand. And she has.
Act on your questions by attending other classes offered in your Church or other Churches in the Diocese. Listen to the discussions, ask questions, gather knowledge through the multiple channels the Holy Spirit uses in the community of the Church. Pray for discernment. Continue to ask questions and verify your thoughts with clergy including your deacons. I can tell you that the Holy Spirit will feed you only at a rate that your intellect and spirit can handle. Thank God. We’ve been at it for 45 years!: ;o)
Over the last 45 years, my wife and I have taught classes (including the time in RCIA), and we marvel each year at how the Holy Spirit introduces all of us to new thoughts, new revelations and additional insights through folks like you in the classes. Look for not only Catholic Principle classes. Look to for Scripture study, topical studies (e.g. Formed.org) and “sharing” experiences like retreats or support group opportunities.
Be careful with Google, there are both good and poor websites out there. I would even recommend you use people in the Church community you trust to bounce these websites off of to insure they reflect true Faith.
Remember in the early history of the Church how many heresies arose in their attempt to
understand more fully what Jesus taught. Think how fast these heresies would have spread with the risk of internet being fed by many well-meaning(perhaps) individuals. Well it still happens and still is a risk.
Stay faithful and be fed through the Holy Spirit, We’ll pray for your approaching decision.
I recommend the book “Catholic Christianity” by Peter Kreeft. It does an amazing job of summing up the Catechism in a short and easy to read manner.
Odds are that you’ll still have questions when RCIA is over, no matter how good it was or wasn’t. I did. I had a huge list of questions I sent our RCIA leader when it was over because we were supposed to have Mystagogia classes after but we only had one. This forum, actually, answered most of my other questions. And later on I had some women befriend me and they act as mentors to me to help me.
Thanks for your responses so far. Just to clarify, I have read the Catechism, the Compendium, and several other books that were recommended by people at my church. These books contain much that is obviously not essential. For example, I don’t think I need to know the Church’s position on arms proliferation in order to prepare for Baptism. On the other hand, I just found out that I was supposed to attend Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Nobody told me.
In fact, nobody will teach me what to do at Mass even though I have asked many times.
Since our RCIA team has made it clear that they will not teach the Catholic faith, I have come to the CA forum to see if anyone could tell me what topics to focus on. Maybe everything I need is in the Catechism, but I need guidance to see it. I cannot learn the faith on my own.
The manual for the rites of initiation says that the catechumen should memorize the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed. That’s the bare minimum. Surely we owe our Lord more than the bare minimum. What do I need to learn so I can be a good Catholic?
Are you in the US? I don’t understand your statement that the RCIA team will not teach the Catholic faith. Can you give some context with regarding that?
Repeated weekly experience. I would prefer not to derail the thread by focusing this. What do I need to learn in order to be a good Catholic?
The Catechism with **additional info, **context, info, and citations. Good read, Saint stories mixed in, explanations of various devotions, etc.
If you have a sponsor, a sponsor could help you to know what to do at Mass. I understand a bit your confusion there- in our RCIA class they had us go to the Liturgy of the Word but pulled us out of Mass for RCIA during the Liturgy of the Eucharist because we couldn’t receive anyway. So when I did start going to a full Mass, I was pretty dumb about what to do for the second half. And although I had a sponsor, she attends a different parish. I read some stuff online about what to do at Mass and picked up other stuff by watching. The Missal I found somewhat confusing also, the way it was arranged. I still prefer to use a Magnificat rather than the Missal provided by the parish I go to, just because I prefer how it is arranged.
If you have no sponsor, you might seek out an experienced Catholic as a mentor to help you on stuff like that.
As far as what you need to know for baptism- you need to have a firm understanding of the Catholic faith. That’s the point (or is supposed to be) for the RCIA process. They don’t want people just converting and not really understanding what you’re converting to. You need to know what the Church believes, and when you are baptized and confirmed, you’re stating that you believe it. ALL of it. So that’s going to be the stuff in the Nicene creed as well as the position of the Church on birth control and abortion. That’s why you need to know what the Church really believes, that’s why you need to have a strong understanding of the Catechism and Catholic social teaching. Once you become a Catholic, you can’t go back. Once you know that the Catholic faith is the Church of Christ on Earth, and you have taken the steps to be baptized/confirmed, it would be a mortal sin to go back to being whatever you were before, or to being a protestant or whatever. You need to be sure. Poorly catechized people are the ones who tend to fall away. Don’t let that be you- even if you have to catechize yourself if your RCIA instruction is lacking.
PS- if you want, I can send you a copy of the syllabus we used in our RCIA class. I thought they did a pretty good job covering things. But the book I recommended- “Catholic Christianity” was the basis of much of the syllabus.
I suggest Catholicism for Dummies by Frs. Tigilio and Brighenti. An easy, basic course on Catholicism which should answer those practical questions. Don’t let the title fool you. These priests have a program on the Catechism on EWTN–they know what they are doing.
It may be in your church library or the public library and is available at almost any large bookstore and Amazon. It runs around $23.00 new.
I am sorry your RCIA team isn’t doing a very good job.
They should have taken you on a Church tour and explained the Mass in full detail. That is part of RCIA.
I don’t know you so I must ask, do you know the bible? If you know the bible well(in particular the Gospels), then you read the Catechism it sort of brings the text to life because it quotes many scriptures.
And if you know the book of Revelation well you can see the connection between it and the Mass as well…
Here is a book on the Mass/Eucharist that is highly recommended:
This goes into full detail on what we are doing and why we are doing it. Basically, the Mass is a little slice of heaven on earth.
Continue you studying those for sure!!
Return again and again…
And yes there are many various works (over 2000 years worth…) …one can delve into…
I fully understand your frustration. I have been a sponsor/instructor/table leader in RCIA at 3 separate Catholic Churches over 10 years. Once, when I was sponsoring, my protege had so many mundane questions (to me but not to him!) about Mass that I now believe RCIA developers should cover Catholic rubrics (the red bits in the Roman Catholic missal for Mass) where many of the answers to your implied questions lie.
My wife of 40 years is a convert from Protestantism. She told me that “for a long time” she felt awkward at mass because she did not know when to kneel, stand or sit.
Some other tips:
- Good Catholics will make sure to attend confession before receiving communion if they have a heavy burden on their conscience (serious sin). To receive Holy Communion unworthily is a serious abuse of the sacred body and blood of the Lord, and therefore a sacrilege.
- Get a missal and read it at your leisure. The mass is described there.
- Attend morning mass during the week if you can. It is usually a very small group of reliable Catholics and you will come to a better understanding of what it means to be a good Catholic. It is easier to make friends in small groups. By crossing your arms over your chest as you go, you can go up in the communion line and the Priest will know you are not receiving communion and he will give you a blessing instead. When Easter comes you will be able to receive.
- Get a daily mass book like the Magnificat (fairly expensive and excellent) or go to the back of the church and there will be other daily mass booklets free or available at a nominal cost.
- Remember it is a process and going through the process is a significant prayer in itself. The Holy Spirit brought you to RCIA and so relax about it because he is guiding you all the time. Contact me if you would like to discuss this more fully.
Our parish assign a “Friend for the Journey” to attend classes with the students and be like a coffee shop buddy for them. They are available to answer questions and are selected by virtue of their knowledge of the faith. See if your Director can assign you a friend for the Journey".
Thank you for your recommendations. A couple of those books are sitting on my desk right now. They are interesting, but when I ask what I need to learn in order to be a good Catholic, “all of it” cannot be the answer. I’ve never met anyone at church who knows all of it. Next to none of it is required for the rites of initiation.
What I am looking for, which I think I have been clear about, is what specific things I need to learn so I can live as a Catholic, fulfilling all of my obligations, without neglecting anything due to ignorance.
Open threads outlining your questions.
That’s what people are here for… To help each other along the way.
I am asking the question. If I could be more specific, I would already know the answers.
Here are a few things I thought of off the top of my head.
Eventually, memorize the following prayers, in addition to those you already mentioned. I recommend memorizing them in this order:
The Act of Contrition
Oh My Jesus
Hail, Holy Queen
The St. Michael Prayer
You don’t have to do them all tomorrow. In fact, there is no requirement that you memorize any of them at all. But I wish somebody had told me to memorize these while I was in RCIA. You will find yourself in situations where they will be good to know off the top of your head.
Learn about what baptism is, what it does, and why we baptize infants.
Learn about what confirmation is and what it does. Same with confession.
Learn about the Church’s teachings on contraception, marriage, and human sexuality.
Learn how the Church views the Ten Commandments.
Learn about Purgatory.
Learn about scrupulosity.
Learn about justification.
Buy a Catholic calendar that has all of the holy days of obligation on it.
Plan on going to confession regularly. You don’t have to go to the same parish with the same priest every time.
When I say “learn about,” I don’t mean “become an expert.” I mean, “get a rudimentary understanding of this subject.”
I am assuming that you already have a grasp on the basics, such as why Christ came, who Christ is, the role of Christ’s mother, the Trinity, the Eucharist, cooperating with grace, heaven, hell, the resurrection. If not, then those things should be reviewed as well.
This is not a complete list, and I don’t know your background so I may have mentioned things you already know.
I suspect you are doing better than you imagine. Take care and keep us posted.
P.S. Remember that is is more about developing a love relationship with Jesus and his Church. Following the rules is supposed to be part of that, not separate from it.
"…The source, goal and content of human life is not spirituality or religion, liturgical ritual or ascetical regimes, but the living God Himself…
…Life is communion with God: personal, direct, immediate, real, painful, peaceful, and joyful…
…Ceaseless prayer in pursuit of God and communion with Him is not simply life’s meaning or goal, the one thing worth living for, but it is life itself…
…Jesus Christ is this life, and that constant, continual, ceaseless prayer in His name opens the door to Divine reality and puts us in immediate contact with the One who is the source, substance, and goal of our life, and our very life itself."
Excerpts from the forward by Fr. Thomas Hopko to the book, The Way of the Pilgrim
Or from the Bible:
25 And behold a certain lawyer stood up, tempting him, and saying, Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?
26 But he said to him: What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 He answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said to him: Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
I know it can be frustrating because some RCIA classes are pretty badly dumbed down but maybe I can help you a bit .
Great resource and dirt cheap.
catholichomestudy Great free courses that are full of great information and actually have tests. I recommend We Believe to start with.
Wanna give them a SUPER suggestion for their RCIA program that will change lives?
Biblical Walk Through the Mass | Study Program
Best $75.00 they’ll ever spend.
If they don’t have it available I urge you to at least get the book and read and study it. It will really bless you!