RCIA Difficulties

In the interest of clarity and conciseness, I’ll give some background and then present my question.

Me: 48 years old, very orthodox, traditional, Anglican (Episcopalian), in the process of converting to the Roman Catholic church. As I read the Fathers, studied the scriptures, read and reread the catechism, and browsed web resources like catholic.com, I realized that the truth lived in the Catholic church, and I made plans to “swim the Tiber”.

With the help of one of our parish priests, I have submitted the paperwork for an annulment of a previous marriage. (My wife is a cradle Catholic and we were married in a civil service.)

The parish I attend: Large (6,000+ families and five packed masses on Sunday), active, liberal, very “modern” in liturgy. Tonight I attended my third session of RCIA.

The dilemma: The primary reason I left the Anglican church was because of its drift to the left; its falling away from the historic, Christian doctrines. I find myself facing many of the exact, same issues in my current, Catholic parish and particularly in the RCIA program.

Examples: The RCIA leader told us tonight that, “the Pope consults with cardinals before making a decision on faith and doctrine. That’s what makes him infallible.” He also explained that the “lectern is where the priest, or whoever is giving the homily, stands.”

Since he has been teaching the class for more than a decade, I suspect the pastor is aware of these sort of statements.

Lastly, and this is subjective I suppose, I miss the reverence and majesty of the high church, Anglican mass. Here, we have no altar rail, communion is received in the hand, standing, and the general tone of the service is conversational and casual, for lack of a better term.

Why don’t I just leave? My wife and I have started to settle in and meet people and it is only about 10 minutes from our home. Plus, I’m not sure how easy that would be, since the annulment paperwork is turned in through this church.

That is a lot of run up to a simple, two questions. Is this a normal experience for a Catholic parish in the US? What should I do; grin and bear it or try to look elsewhere for a different and hopefully, more traditional setting?

Well you will have to decide for yourself. You seem to be able to pick through what is being presented. The Pope does actually consult with many Cardinals, Bishops, Theologians, on many matters. It’s not why he is infallible however. It is where “whoever” is giving the homily stands, it is however only a priest or deacon who will stand there, or Bishop. I would work through it ask questions when this is presented incorrectly. You can always change churches after you become a member of the Catholic Church. However things are changing, slowly.

While the Pope does consult with his cardinals prior to making an ex cathedra statement, I would venture to say that it is the power of the Holy Spirit that preserves him from teaching error, not the cardinals making him infallible.

‘whoever is giving the homily’ could refer to a visiting priest or the bishop or archbishop if they attend a Mass at that parish. It should not refer to a lay person. You might inquire of the RCIA director if they meant that included lay people, and if they actually do have lay people giving the homily. If they do, you might then inquire where to find a parish that does not do this.

Most churches do not have an altar rail and most receive Communion in the hand, standing. You may still receive the Eucharist on the tongue if you so prefer (once you are Catholic). Here in Australia, we have been instructed to bow (rather than genuflecting or some other gesture, with everyone doing the same in unity) to the Eucharist before receiving, in accordance with the new English translation of the GIRM approved Nov 2007.

I think you should bring these questions up in RCIA.

Don 't give it up yet.

I’m new to this forum so I will try to give you some support here.

First, part of what they said at RCIA is true. The topic of infallibility always gets people fired up, but, if you really look at it, it makes more logical sense. On the one end of the spectrum is the people that think it means the Pope CAN"T make a mistake. This is of course false. He is human and goes to confession just like we do. He only speaks (infallibly) when the matter has been given much prayer and study (and yes probably some advice or counsel.) In other words, he doesn’t wake up one morning and go, “ya know I think I’m going to change what the flock should believe today.” He doesn’t use this lightly and in fact, the last time was back oh, say, mid century I think.

The comment they made about the lecturn could be true that the Priest gives the homily from that location (he could also come out into the congregation.) I’m guessing the “whoever” that gives the homily instead of the priest could either be a Deacon or other lay person (in the case of a priest-less service…notice I didn’t say Mass because without the priest, there would not be the whole requirement for a Mass.)

And as for the atmosphere of church, well it sounds a little like your church is newer, or has been updated recently. The church went through a big change after Vatican II where the people became a more integral part of the celebration of the mass. The priest turned around and faced the people. The whole Mass was in a common language (vs Latin). People reacted differently to this change, but the change was needed to bring the Church into better focus on her duty to God. Holy Communion in the hand is still shocking to some people. You may take it on the tongue if you desire the previous way. The communion “rail” has been removed not to lower the meaning, but to raise the consciousness of what we are truly seeking: to be in communion, togetherness, not separated, to become one body, one spirit in Christ!

As for the casualness, well I admit, I get a little uncomfortable sometimes when others “forget” where they are in church. Please remember that the first Christians met in homes, they had meals, shared the Gospel, and it was probably pretty casual. While we want to keep respect for our surroundings (including most of all, the true presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus), we want to remember what is most important to Him (I believe): to believe in Him, to live a life that pleases Him, and to share His Good, No strike that, GREAT news to all the earth!

You may find a different parish that is more traditional and I think that sound like a better fit for you. But, please give the Catholic Church the chance it deserves. Don’t always judge a parish by its Pastor either.

One last note, some things, but not all things are universal. The part you are missing maybe just around the corner. If you want reverence, attend the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. If you want majesty, just wait until you are welcomed into Church at the Easter Vigil. There are so many things I think you are missing out on. I just want you to know that one of your brothers in Christ is praying for your success, your faith, your spiritual journey.

God Bless you and your wife:)

p.s. don’t give up:thumbsup:

Oh the other post made a good point about the Holy Spirit protecting the faith by guiding the Pope before he would speak infallibly. There is a real good Catholic Update on that subject.

I agree, you should bring up some of these concerns at RCIA. After all, it is a Rite of Initiation. Never be afraid to ask questions. A good leader will guide you to what you need to understand.

We bow too at receiving the Body and then too at receiving the precious Blood. It is more than a gesture, it is an affirmation of our belief in whom we are truly receiving.

You didn’t mention if the church you attended had a high altar with a tabernacle. Our church has both and everytime you pass by (literally the center of church) a person either bows or genuflects (goes down on one knee). Again, this is another sign of respect. My 4year old little girl knows why she does it. If you ask her, she’ll tell you ,“that it’s because Jesus is behind the gold door.”:bowdown2:


Funny you should mention the tabernacle. It is set off the side and in an alcove behind the altar. Perhaps one person in five or six genuflect as they pass by. Most surprising to me was that lay people are the ones who access it during the mass. I was taught that a lay person never opened the tabernacle, save in an extreme emergency (for example, to save the host from fire or desecration).

By the way, I do appreciate everyone’s answers and encouragement! I’m really not as hidebound and inflexible as I may seem in my post. Guess I’m just suffering from a bit of culture shock.


We returned to the Church about 18 months ago and my husband became Catholic. (We had Anglican backgrounds). We have had enormous difficulties in ‘the drift to the left’ as you described it. But we are still here and this is what we did…

We have a priest, who is very faithful, who is our spiritual director. So prayer is regular, a HUGE help.
Secondly we pray the Divine Office morning and night - my husband when he commutes and me at home - together in the weekend.
Thirdly, we live almost rurally so choice of parish is extrememly limited. But we travel to one or two other parishes. We have a favourite Diocese we visit and we support and communicate with a faithful group of Carmelite Sisters.

If you can find another Catholic parish that you find more peace in worship in attending go for it. If you do that may be before or after you are received into the Church, just pray and let God sort things out for you.
Stay with it…its worth it.

i don’t know if they expained also that you might be going through some spiritual warfare during this process.

i was episcopalian/anglican and did not go through RCIA, but worked one on one with the woman who heads the RCIA.

people think that anglican is catholic without the Pope, but it is more than that. i did not think i was going to go through so much mental questioning as i did comparing the two. anglican is very british and proper and there is a stiffness to the service and there usually is fellowship afterwards where as in the Catholic church, most people just leave after mass or a few remain chatting. i am just a convert of a little over 2 months to the RCC and i will admit, that throughout the one on one classes, as much as i enjoyed the reading, i just wanted to hurry and become roman catholic because i had lost my patience in the anglican church. in the roman catholic church i feel like we all stand equal before the altar. no, there is no communion rail and that was something i have had to adjust to, but i am finding so many other areas of my Catholic life that are so rich and i do believe my faith has grown deeper.
i don’t know where you live, but you might check and see if they are considering any anglican use rites in a church near you once you are confirmed. you are in kind of a honeymoon phase for awhile after you are confirmed and then you are hit with the real demands of committing to the faith and saying good-by to anglicanism. i do a lot of reading on Catholic topics. i don’t look back and feel comfortable now. being Catholic requires more of you than being anglican i believe and perhaps that takes some getting used to. i think you will find though that it is worth going through the process and your life will be enriched by a beautiful faith. even though i don’t attend a latin mass, i did buy the 1962 roman missal and it has been very helpful in learning what it is to be Catholic.

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