RCIA Candidate is Here for Jesus

Good evening,

As my title states, I am joining the church because I love Jesus - I love him more everyday. The first time I entered my local parish for mass on an early Fall morning, I knew that I was home. Throughout the past few months, I have been blessed, and continue to grow in faith. Adoration was, and continues to be the single most life-changing encounter with the Lord that I have.

Sadly, what is detracting from my experience as an RCIA candidate is the human element. I entered the RCIA program rather late - in October of this year. While the first couple of months were rather uneventful in terms of incidents, this past month or so has caused me to consider waiting a time, and enter an RCIA program at another parish.

When I joined with my wife, we were still several months away from the arrival of our firstborn, but did anticipate a major change in our availability once he arrived. He has recently arrived, and there is a palpable change in the disposition of the catechists and candidates/catechumens toward us. Why? I have no reasonable idea, but here are the likely reasons:

  1. We have missed a few sessions due to a complicated pregnancy (we were not told that attendance was mandatory - in fact, we were told the contrary)
  2. We did not allow ourselves to be rushed into a shotgun convalidation with less than a week’s notice before Ash Wednesday (the pastoral associate in charge of this process was incredibly condescending and short-tempered)
  3. We do not attend the so-called RCIA mass because there are multiple mass times and a different situation each Sunday - I celebrate mass, and spend time with Him each week when/where my family can attend
  4. We have had to participate in a couple of rites separately
  5. After actually attending the RCIA mass this past weekend, the lead catechist and candidates regarded us with palpable contempt - we went specifically to show our “friends” our new baby
  6. After having received numerous “missed meeting” and “we miss you” Emails (to which I responded to each individually with tact and charity), I finally asked the lead catechist if he would advise us to cease RCIA for the time-being, but he replied that anything we missed could be made up via telecommuting
  7. From the beginning, our sponsors seemed to want little to do with us - and often sat at other tables and chatted with their friends. Our sponsors rarely sat next to us at mass, and never responded to communication outside of the meetings. Our sponsors only spoke to us when specifically instructed to do so.

Prior to being physically absent from RICA, my heart and mind remained open to Him and His Holy Church. Many of who seemed to have reverted back to strangers had become family after an RCIA candidate/catechumen retreat. I had begun to cultivate friendships with the catechists, and had even been invited to share portions of my conversion experience at the RCIA meetings. After yesterday, however, I feel like I am a lad again, incurring the judgment and wrath of the cliques at the protestant church of my youth.

Additionally, I had reached out to a couple of NPOs and the KOC, as I would like to devote my free time and talents, and sacrifice for those in need in my community. I have heard nada, which contradicts the timetables I had been given to receive replies about start times/induction.

I am very disappointed with how my family is being treated. I am not here to serve man or please man as one would please the IT girl in a made-for-television Disney teen film. I am here to deny my life - to pick up my cross and follow Jesus. Nothing could keep me from Him, but as of now I am still in the RCIA program, and the experience just isn’t sitting well with me.

I sympathize with you because my wife and I also did not have a pleasant time in the (several) RCIA programs we went through. Eventually, we found a good pastor (he actually listened to our story for like an hour) who brought us into the Church through a five-class program designed for people who were baptized Catholic and made first Communion, but were not confirmed. Unsurprisingly, that pastor is now the rector of a seminary.

My advice is to talk with your pastor, as he (not the RCIA director) is responsible for bringing you into the Church. If the pastor is uncooperative/unhelpful/not wanting to get involved, then change parishes. Find a pastor who genuinely cares about you and your family’s spiritual condition. Hey, if necessary, find a traditional Latin Mass to attend (an FSSP parish would be best). Unfortunately, a very false sense of the “Spirit of Vatican II” still lingers around many Catholic parishes, and a lot of people just don’t understand what the Faith is about anymore - Latin Mass priests are less likely to have this false progressive view (don’t get me wrong though, there are many good priests who celebrate Mass in the Ordinary Form - like I said, my wife and I were brought in by one!).

God bless, and I hope all goes well. Trust me, it’s worth keeping up the fight to become Catholic - there shouldn’t be a fight, but it is what it is. Hopefully the next pope will set more things straight in the Church. Please pray for the cardinal electors, and I will pray you and your family.

EDIT: I noticed the part about you needing a convalidation of your marriage… why did the pastor say you needed one? Were you or your spouse baptized Catholic before the marriage? Were there any previous divorces? If you were both Protestant/unbaptized at the time of your marriage and had no prior divorces, your marriage would be valid in the eyes of the Church and you wouldn’t need to be “properly married” (which is what a convalidation is - a couple who needs convalidation isn’t properly married to begin with in the eyes of God).

Just my opinion: Sounds like there is a lot going in in your life right now that prevents you from fully participating in RCIA. Maybe consider postphoning for now, and try again next year when things hopefully have settled down a bit?

Also, it sounds like you may be getting “mixed messages” from the RCIA director regarding attendance; it sounds like the absences really are a bigger deal than they are letting on. They should be very clear about attendance in writing. When I converted there was no more than 3 absences allowed. At least everybody understood what the expectation was regarding showing up.

Actually, the parish records and uploads all talks - the homily, YOF talks, RCIA lectures, etc., and posts them to the parish website very quickly. I likely spend more time studying the weekly topics and spending more time with Jesus each week than when I attend RCIA. My wife and I just had our firstborn, and sometimes it takes until late afternoon even to get a shower in on my days off. I simply don’t have the specific two-hour window to attend the official meetings.

I also listen to the Catholic Channel and Ave Maria Radio 2-3 hours per day, and listen to at least one podcast of Catholic Answers each day (either as I wake up or I download it to my Kindle and listen during my daily cardio).

What I don’t have time or patience for is appeasing the human element that should practice what they preach, and understand that by grace and faith alone do I function and remain on my path in my present parish. This sort of treatment is what loses potential converts.

I appreciate your response, and will respond first to your question: I am not totally clear on why exactly we need a convalidation. Fortunately, I have a very dear friend who is a deacon at another local parish, and he filled in the blanks left by the pastoral associate. Apparently, we need the convalidation because I was not baptized catholic, but my wife was.

While our wedding did not occur within the Church, it was beautiful and is very special to my wife and I - but the pastoral associate found it necessary to slam that (in addition to my protestant background).

In terms of the parish/pastor: it is arguably a city on a hill in my area. The pastor is incredibly gifted and is a tremendous instrument of the Lord. The parish is among the largest in this area of the state, and many folks commute upwards of four hours just to attend mass here with our pastor. I know I would be in the minority among RCIA candidates/catechumens, because folks would rather endure unnecessary hardship in the shadow of this priest, than attempt to put right was is crooked.

I am sorry that RCIA at that parish is not going well. I had a great experience at RCIA at my parish when I went through it in 1985-86 (I joined the church in 1986).

I am especially concerned that your sponsors are not friendly. Did you choose them, or were they assigned to you? I chose mine, a close friend, and it was great.

Maybe it’d be better to go to another program at another parish, when your life is settled down a bit, and where the people are friendlier. I don’t recall what our program said about attendance–I think there were some requirements about that. I was a freshman in college and worked part time, but I was able to attend.

Best wishes to you.

CMG,
It is somewhat odd that you and your wife have sponsors that are distant or seemingly cold. I was a sponsor last year and I could name for you the other people in the class, small class 7 catechumens, 2 candidates. I have a special relationship with every one of these people as we all went through a process that was life changing for both them and me. I see them at Mass and greet them when I do. I’m not sure where your parish is located but here in North Carolina we are used to adding members and are happy to welcome them. This may not be the case in an area that has many Catholics though.

Could it be that the evil one is giving you these thoughts? We had several candidates that went through this as the Easter Vigil was nearing. You will be included in my family’s prayers.

I agree with Anonymous. Sometimes when there’s so much going on in life you have to make choices. Right now your baby is your priority. Perhaps in a year or two it will be easier to focus on RCIA. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Being able to listen online is great, but it isn’t a substitute for being there. RCIA is not strictly instruction though that’s one part of it. It is also formation – helping you to think, act, and be Catholic. It’s not a do-it-yourself process. If it were, we’d hand out a catechism to each person and say “come back when you know this.” RCIA helps you become part of a parish and part of the Church. We’re not just individuals walking with Jesus, we’re part of the Body of Christ with our brothers and sisters.

Did the pastoral associate really “slam” that, or simply tell you that Catholics like your wife need to follow Catholic rules on marriage? Since she didn’t do what was required, your marriage isn’t recognized as valid. That’s not slamming, it’s simply stating a fact.

Why did you pass up the opportunity to convalidate your marriage before Lent? That’s an entire area that would have been resolved rather than continuing to hang over you.

I know you’re unhappy with how things are going, but it sounds like you may be reading things in a particularly negative way. You said the pastoral associate was condescending and short-tempered, the catechist and candidates regarded you with contempt, the sponsors don’t want anything to do with you. Really? REALLY???

Going back to the initial comment, it sounds like sitting things out for a while may be the best move. Focus on your baby and take the time you need. God will be waiting for you.

First: I’m praying for you and your family in your journey. Your hunger for Christ is evident!

Secondly: I’m going to play the role of devil’s advocate, I do not know you, and I am not judging you.

None of this may apply to you, but bear with me.

a. Marital and family relations are a very sticky situation. If a convalidation is necessary then it must be done prior to your reception in the Church so that you are not living in a morally ambiguous relationship after your reception. The convalidation need only take 20 minutes and it is not a large intrusion into your life. Getting any documents in as early as possible is very important in the RCIA process.

b. The RCIA “mass” is not the whole mass, but a process through which the candidates and catechumens journey and break open the Word of God together. This is an important process, and one which draws the catechumens and candidates closer together, while at the same time allowing them to witness to the Church. Missing this process in order to attend mass on your own seems to negate much of the “journey” aspect of RCIA. I, personally, as an RCIA coordinator, would have serious doubts about someone avoiding this part of the process.

c. "Yes the rites for catechumens/the elect and candidates are separate. The catechumens/the elect are in an “order” - an ancient “group” of aspirants to the faith. They undergo very different rites from candidates. That is entirely normal and entirely in line with church tradition. It is a way that the Church recognizes the different places that people come from in their faith journey.

d. And again this may NOT be true of you, but please reflect: do your actions lead others to believe that you want to do things your way, and not to “fit in” with RCIA? If so then much of the “blame” if there is any, may lie with you.

Our faith journeys do confront us with opportunities to be humble and to submit to the will of God. Maybe you have such an opportunity right now.

Like I said, I will pray for you and your family.

I feel for you. This is my second year trying to complete RCIA and I will not be done until probably next year. (Easter 2014! Doesn’t that sound so far away?)

Maybe for some reason unknown to you right now this just isn’t the right time. I don’t know; I tell myself that! :wink:

About sponsors: Yeah. I have the same issue. The very same. Mine did not know me at all. Maybe find someone in your parish that you know personally rather than one of those folks who are kind enough to show up at RCIA and offer? That’s what I’m doing next year.

I don’t know. It can be very frustrating. Very!!

Hang in there.

SM

Odd that you mention this, as I have never really felt compelled to belong to any sort of group. Sure, I have tried, but end up moving on due to incidents similar to what I’m encountering in my RCIA program now. I have gone through a terrible ordeal in the past year, and have no patience for being treated the way I continue to be treated in RCIA.

I have also learned that half the time, when someone says they are being charitable, it’s a warning that you’re about to be condescended to or chastised.

As far as sponsors go, I appreciate the idea of a sponsor, but thus far am unimpressed. They invited us over for lunch after mass, and their former candidates were also there. I hope I am making sense, I have a newborn and am going on very little sleep. Anyway, what I thought was a pleasant meal was apparently another nail in the coffin, as my sponsors and these former candidates seemed to want even less to do with us after this little excursion. I thought Jesus was the one who will judge the living and the dead . . .

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

As a candidate who is ever-growing in faith and is blessed to receive such a bounty of grace in his life, having to appease grown adults by physically being present as an acolyte-in-spectacle does indeed seem to pose a unique challenge and contradiction.

I do tread with caution here, as you have leveled negative connotations (which was in fact the nature of your response, and not necessarily your opinion/judgement) on some of what I wrote where no negativity exists. We attend mass as a family with our very devout friends (one of which is a deacon) - we are there to glorify Lord. I’m not sure how that is avoiding what is not a mandatory practice in the first place.

We don’t and will not submit to the wills of individuals who run RCIA simply because we are taking a different path to the same destination. If our entry into the church depended upon the unending appeasement of the RCIA coordinator and volunteers, it should have been stated at the outset. We had the foresight to inform them of our future situation when we joined, and were told that we would have any accommodations we may need. Now that the time has come, they have been rigid and petty.

I believe I may need to take some time to reassess my experiences.

Then it’s not going to work for you. (I wasn’t sure before, but now you’ve convinced me - perhaps face to face I would get a completely different point of view, but in the media of pixels that’s what I’m picking up from you.)

The Church set up RCIA, the order of catechumens and the elect, and the various rites in order to support the entry of people into the Church.

In Catholicism we don’t just enter a “me and Jesus” relationship, but we also inter into the Body of Christ - the Church - which, as you know, is made up of individuals, many of whom we would not want to go an an extended holiday with;). However, as Catholics we are called to community.

The “way in” is through RCIA. I doubt you will find a priest who will accept you into the Church without RCIA.

It is not rigid and petty to follow Church teaching or to follow the process set up by the Church.

As I said before: I would have serious questions about someone in RCIA who refused to attend the “RCIA” mass and the “Breaking the Word” process.

The “RCIA” mass as you call it is a Sunday mass at a time when most people can make it. No doubt it takes some sacrifice on the part of ALL who participate in it - candidates, catechumens and sponsors. They are all on a journey - not just you.

Perhaps you need more time.

You are way off the mark here. I love the “blame the user/customer” attitude, here. I never said I refused to attend anything or was unwilling to participate anything. You are reading what you want to validate your attempted condemnation, but if you actually read my OP, you should see that I have many friends that I dearly miss in RCIA.

If it takes a new family until nearly 5pm to get out of the house on Sunday, we missed the RCIA mass, and go to a 6pm mass. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that in the eyes of a sane person, and the archdiocese officials I’ve spoken with. I would understand if I just simply ceased all communication, but I’ve been in regular contact with all parties involved.

I never realized RCIA was a “you’re not like the others, be like the others. you’re not like the others, you’re no good” situation. In reality, all Catholics are not the same. Many still retain their individuality/personality, and live honest lives.

It is a me and Jesus thing, because that’s what this is all about. We are the same in that sense. Something is seriously wrong with your understanding of your role as an RCIA coordinator if you cannot see this. What good is joining the Church if one does not know Christ/has had encounters with Christ? If you base the depth of devotion of a pair of candidates solely on how often you see them, then the process as a whole is very fickle. We’re talking about a handful of sessions/RCIA masses missed. Again, if you truly read my OP, then you would also see that my family has been very engaged in the RCIA process in earnest on our own, per the suggestion of our coordinator when we first began the process.

You’re treading where you should not tread - it is not your place to judge me or my family, period.

  1. If you don’t want responses then don’t post on a public forum.
  2. I have been careful - very careful to say I don’t know you or your family, and that I am just responding to pixels, and that face to face I may have a totally different response. True or true?
  3. I am responding in order to put forward - carefully - the RCIA point of view.
  4. Your own words say the following - and these are the only one’s I have responded too (as well as the comment on convalidation):

We do not attend the so-called RCIA mass because there are multiple mass times and a different situation each Sunday - I celebrate mass, and spend time with Him each week when/where my family can attend

We have had to participate in a couple of rites separately

We don’t and will not submit to the wills of individuals who run RCIA simply because we are taking a different path to the same destination.

I also said I would pray for you and your family on this journey.

You can choose to take all that as you want.

Hah!

It is clear you’re not used to candidates thinking for themselves.

I posted in a public forum because I wanted constructive responses, not more of the same ilk I deal with in my own program. What you represent of the RCIA and what I have dealt with is not what should be aspired to by any parish, but something that will hopefully be rectified in the coming months/years.

Oh, and you once again applied your own connotations to my reply to fit your agenda. I would itemize the other instances, and there are a few, but you know where.

I’ve been reading Triumphguy’s responses and agreeing with them.

I certainly have had RCIA candidates who think for themselves. Part of my job is to get them to think with the Church.

If the responses you’re getting here sound like the responses you’re getting from your own parish, that should tell you something. We’re all doing our best to follow the Church’s way of bringing people in. Some of us do a better job than others, some of us may have better people skills than others, but we’re all trying to follow the Church’s instructions about RCIA.

CMGLibertas,

I, like you, am a Candidate. If I can, I’d like to give you my advice.

When I began RCIA, I was kind of prideful. I thought, “I’ve read the entire Catechism already. I don’t even need these classes.” When the first Rite happened, I thought, “No one’s looking, anyway. They’re busy with their phones.” I thought, “the sponsors don’t even know anything.” I was wrong on all these points.

I think it can be difficult, coming from a Protestant background, to grasp the communal essence of Catholicism. In class a few weeks ago, our RCIA director tied a bit of string from a ball onto her finger, and threw the ball to someone in the class. It was thrown back and forth, until everyone had it tied to their finger. Before we threw it to another, we either thanked God for something, or asked Him to help us or someone we know. At the end, we stood up and saw the huge web we had created. It was to demonstrate (if I remember right) the interconnectedness of us all, and how we all joined in prayer with what the other said.

When we sin, we need to be not just reconciled to God, but to the Church as well. I think I once heard (perhaps in class), and correct me if this is not Catholic doctrine, that when we sin, we hurt everyone else in the Church. The director gave as an example if we had just walked out on our family for years, and then one evening we came back, and just sat at the dinner table without saying any thing. That would be ridiculous, and rude, and hurtful. We would have to explain and be forgiven before we could do such a thing. It’s the same with Communion.

From what you’ve written, I agree with triumphguy. Could be wrong, as he said. All we have is what you wrote. I understand RCIA may not be as pleasant for you as it is for some. Perhaps your parish is different from others. But even if that’s the case, turn it into a positive. Think of it as the cross you have to carry to join God’s Church.

The whole POINT of RCIA is the candidates thinking for themselves, and responding to the call of God in their lives.

As Catholics we respond within community. And community requires structure and discipline. That’s what discipleship means - discipline.

And I have no agenda - just responding to your post(s) honestly.

BTW it’s individual response AND within community, not individual response OR community.

I agree.

I actually got a lot out of RCIA. I was heavily involved with an atheist boyfriend and my family was Protestant. Although they all were ok with my joining the Church, they weren’t thrilled, and it meant a lot to go through RCIA with others joining the Church. I enjoyed going to Sunday Mass, being dismissed with the other candidates, and discussing the Sunday readings with them.

There were times when it was not convenient to keep going to RCIA for 6 months. It’s a long commitment, and sometimes I had exams and papers and was tired. But I knew it was the way my parish had to join the Church.

I don’t think you should attack us for offering our own opinions since you asked for them.

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