RCIA questions

Hi – I was baptized Lutheran but our family never went to church. When I was an adolescent, my parents got involved in the church long enough for me to go through confirmation, and I had my first communion – then we stopped going to church again. Lutheranism seemed to be more of a cultural thing for us (I’m 1/2 Scandanavian), we were never “joiners”.

As a teenager I was a “Jesus freak” for awhile, and my mom was a sort-of independent, solo, Bible scholar. We had all kinds of Bibles and concordances around the house, and we would study and discuss them sometimes. As a result I have a reasonable understanding of theology and scripture.

I’m now 51 and since that time I’ve explored other paths… but I was never “religious” in any of them (following the family habit?). And although, like many, I sense the hypocrisy of Protestant evangelicals (especially television preachers), I never actually put Christians down, although many people I know did!

That said, the Catholic Church is the LAST place I expected to find myself – and yet strangely, but joyfully, here I am, and it feels like “home”. Theologically, spiritually, and historically it feels right. So I’m here to stay, and am in RCIA (hey, that rhymes!), and I have some questions.

Our group of (4) started in September – we are (3) candidates and (1) catachumen who will be baptised at the Rite of Election on Feb 10th.

First, would someone be willing to tell me what the RCIA program is supposed to contain? Our leaders are very nice women, but they want things to be “spontaneous” so that we don’t anticipate or plan too much and instead are “present” to the experience. I get it. But I’m also wondering when we will get to the meat of the program and start learning what we need to know, functionally.

Until now we have only really talked about basic Christian things – things that most believing Protestants would also believe about faith, surrender, intimacy with God, etc. It’s been a little lightweight in my opinion. We did briefly touch on prima scriptura as opposed to sola scriptura, but I already knew about that and am in agreement. The only two things of “substance” covered in the last four months have been 1) the emphasis on the community and Body of Christ, and 2) a one session discussion about social justice.

I’m concerned that there isn’t much more time before the Easter Season, then Easter, to learn what we really need to know.

For example Lent starts in two weeks and we haven’t talked about what that celebration consists of – what obligations and practices, personally and parish-wide. I know Lent involves fasting, giving something up, or taking something on… but that’s all I know. If I’m going to fast, I would kinda like to know what the parameters are, not just have it be “spontaneous”.

On another thread, I noticed someone asking about preparing for their first confession, and I imagine that will also be coming up for me – but it has not been explained. And I really don’t think that can be “spontaneous” either because as a First Confession I need to do some advance reflection. But we haven’t gone through any material on what to confess, what constitutes mortal sins, venial sins, whatever. And I have never been to confession, although I am familiar with a corollary, the 4th Step of AA. But it often takes people months to reflect and write down their 4th Step resentments and wrongdoings before “confessing” them to another person in the 5th Step. And in AA sometimes a 5th Step “confession” takes all day! So how and when am I going to learn about this confession piece before actually having to do it at Easter?

Lastly, I hear things like that I’ll be picking a saint’s name for myself at the Rite of Acceptance. But I can’t do that “spontaneously” either because I know almost nothing about any saints! If it’s true that I’ll be doing this, I need some time in advance to read about the lives of some saints, and pick one I’d like to have as my model and guide.

Our group is small, we also have two seminarians in attendance which is great. But we only meet for slightly over an hour each week. It just doesn’t seem like enough time to “transmit” the information still needed for the process.

I’m not an anxious person, but I am thirsting for more information than what I am getting. And I so appreciate having found these forums!

Can anyone help me with my current three questions?

  1. Lenten fasts, giving stuff up, etc. Does a whole parish follow the same “plan”? Or do I do my fasts on my own? And fasting how and when?

  2. First Confession. Is there a guideline somewhere for how to prepare for this?

  3. Saint’s name. Do I need to pick one? Should I be getting ready for this?

Any other thoughts you have would also be appreciated!

Thank you for welcoming me.

  1. Lenten fasts, giving stuff up, etc. Does a whole parish follow the same “plan”? Or do I do my fasts on my own? And fasting how and when?

The Lent fast begins Ash Wednesday. Fridays are fast days. Friday is the day Christ suffer died and was burried. Sunday is a feast day, even through Lent…meaning you can eat normal. However all people, Catholics mainly, are called to sacrifice something …realy in order to give alms to the poor. If you google it you should find it. It’s in the CCC. If you don’t find it in on www.usccb.org then either I or someone else can give you a link to the subject. Fridays is fish day. The Eastern Church “really fasts” like the Western Church used to before Vatican Council II. But they do not even eat fish from what I understand. The tradition of easter eggs comes partly from the fact that they also do not eat eggs like we do.

  1. First Confession. Is there a guideline somewhere for how to prepare for this?

Same here, a “confession card” should be given. You really should ask your instructor, and if you really want to get a jump on it…say so. Or google it. My wife and I found an “examination of concience” website that kind of gets a bit on the scrupulus side, but it is a good base from which to start or get the gist of it. Typically, prepare to take a little while. You may have to confess several times as you learn.

  1. Saint’s name. Do I need to pick one? Should I be getting ready for this?

www.newadvent.org is a Catholic encyclopedia that has a very large database of Saints. www.ewtn.org also includes all of this stuff. Being Catholic requires learning. It will take time. The reall thing is to take your time learning. Don’t ruin it by rushing. This is supposed to be an experience that truly is “the beginning of the rest of your life”. It’s not a proselytizing event.

one thing at a time
your catechist will cover what you need to know when you need to know it. too much too soon is bewildering and overwhelming
also she is trying to meet the needs of very different people, such as yourself with a good grounding in scripture and basic Christian doctrine, and those with little or no background. part of this will be hideously boring for you, but please be there for the others who need your input and background

RCIA is supposed to give you enough to make an informed profession of faith and prepare you to participate in the introductory rites that punctuate the process (for you Rite of Welcoming and Call to Continuing conversersion) and for confirmation and first communion, preceded by your first confession. so the material is introductory in nature, not an exhaustive coverage of all doctrine. that should come after reception through the mystagogy period (more learning about sacraments after EAster) and lifelong adult formation. the process is designed to elicit your questions and issues and help you find answers and work through the sticking points that arise for you.

you are right, there is not much time before EAster and Lent will be a very intense, exhausting time of spiritual preparation. Please make it a priority after family and work, don’t plan travel or anything else demanding during Lent if you can help it. in fact the origin of Lent is as the period of purification and enlightenment, immediate preparation under direction of the bishops, of the candidates for baptism in the early church, especially of penance. That became extended logically as a pentitential and preparation period before Easter for all Christians

saint name, you may choose another patron saint for Confirmation if you have a particular devotion to a saint, it is not required, your baptismal name saint is ordinarily your Confirmation saint. Only if the new Catholic has a name directly contradictory to Christian values would a new name be chosen (Lucifer, Caligula etc).

Thank you both! I do realize that everyone is in a different place and I’m there for everyone, in my heart and with my honest sharings and questions.

I’m also not trying to rush – it’s that I NEED time and am concerned that large issues will come up at the last minute when I don’t have enough! I’m a slow digester, I like to be thoughtful with things. There is also some planning to do. I guess if I end up not going through the Rite of Acceptance this year because there wasn’t enough time to get a First Confession together at the last minute I can always wait until next year. It would just be sad.

I also want to bring myself fully to the Lenten season. And once again I wish I had known about the advice not to travel during that time. I have a vacation scheduled Feb 15-22, then return for our parish’s women’s retreat. I was planning to do my Lenten devotions on vacation. But if I had known more about what the season entails I could have scheduled the vacation at a different time and stayed home. As it is, arrangements are made and things are paid for; I’ve also been looking forward to it.

Anyway, I think I will continue developing my three questions in separate threads, because I’m still somewhat confused. But thank you for helping me!

Hello and its great to have you. Remember RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is an ongoing conversion process.Though I know you feel constrained to a time frame, that is due to the lack of understanding by our directors and pastors. RCIA should not start or stop at a particular time. There should be no one pressuring you into coming into the church by the Easter Vigil if you feel you are not ready. Bless them because their hearts mean well, they dont want to lose you. There is a regimented structure to the process but many directors trust entirely on the Holy Spirit for guidance. I say to ask your questions and dialogue with the directors. It should not be a classroom where they do all the talking and you listen. It is discussion. Hold them to it…charitably.

Mention your concerns to the leaders. Ask, “When are we going to pick our Patron Saints?” “When are the candidates going to be given instruction on First Confession?” “When will we be going for First Confession - is that organized by the parish, or are we expected to make our own arrangements?”, and “When are we going to be taught the disciplines of Lent? I notice Ash Wednesday is coming very soon - will we be prepared in time?”

Don’t give them any “outs” by asking “If” you are going to be doing these things. Make it clear that you are absolutely expecting these topics to be covered, and you just want to know when. :thumbsup:

Former Protestants do not have “baptismal name Saints” - for a convert from Protestantism, Confirmation is the first, last and only possible opportunity to receive a Patron Saint.

(For Catechumens, too, come to think of it, since they are both baptized and confirmed on the same day.)

Hi – Thank you for your support! I do speak up and participate charitably in class, and listen to everyone else. I’m also not shy with questions – I have asked.

But we have two directors – one is a great older woman, on staff, but who had to go into the hospital unexpectedly for a week recently. She’s the one who prefers “spontaneity”, but obviously she’s also been concerned with other things lately, and rightly so! The other one, how can I say this nicely… is kinda ditzy. Nice enough, but a bit scattered. She tells us every week that she’s going to tell us things, or get us materials, but then she forgets.

For example, we were given very nice workbooks during Advent – but we haven’t been using them. And I’ve been wondering if they were just a free giveaway? They have exercises that look like they would be good – the idea appears to be to do the homework then share in class. But when we get to class, they always have a handout that they made up on their own and we go over that.

That said, it’s not like we haven’t talked about anything. We’ve talked about faith and doctrine, but fairly generically, not different from mainstream Christianity. We HAVE talked about the Eucharist, Mary, the community/unity aspect of Catholicism, and social justice though – so it’s not like we’ve done nothing.

I’m just concerned because time is ticking away… And the thing is, I HAVE time for this, I’ve made time for this. I don’t want or intend to push the river, but I’m here. I guess I would feel better if I could at least get a map, a plan, or a calendar ahead. But when I ask, they just say “we’ll get to that”, and “we’ll let you know”, then they forget, and the time keeps ticking…

Anyway, it’s not my preferred way. But you are right. I guess it’s not important that it come together by Easter. The others in the class also don’t seem to care about depth as much as I do. They are married to cradle Catholics and have children in the church’s Catholic school. It seems like maybe it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other for them – like the choice of Catholicism is practical and fairly nominal more than deep.

But I really care. And I’m not coming to Catholicism because of a husband, or because I live in the neighborhood and send my kids to Catholic school. When a little fire for Christ started burning in my heart again, nobody was as surprised as me!! But I’ve learned to recognize and obey The Voice that has led and guided my life at crucial points. So following that call, I visited all different kinds of churches, then did some study and explored my heart before feeling drawn to Catholicism – which, given my background is also very weird!! By myself I would never have picked this road. And relative to another thread in these forums, some of the people in my life will freak when they hear.

But the odd, surprising nature of this whole thing is also why I know God’s at work. So here I am, present and accounted for.

I will ask again for some kind of a calendar or map of what’s coming up and what things we should be preparing for.

And even though I was hoping to not start Lent in an offhand, last-minute way, if that’s the way it is, then that’s just the way it is, and maybe there’s a reason for it. I’m just trying to do my part, to learn and get ready as best as I can.

Thank you!

Regarding Lent: There are two days of fasting and abstinence from meat in Lent, which are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Every Friday of Lent is also a day of abstinence from meat. (You can extend this to the entire year, since all Fridays of the year are days of penance, and you have to do some sort of penance, anyway - abstinence from meat is as good as any.)

On fasting days, we are permitted two small meals and juice to drink. No snacks (means no gum or candy, in addition to other kinds of snacks) between meals, and no meat.

Practice ahead of time on a non-fasting day, to get the “feel” of what your obstacles will be, and how to overcome them when it comes time for the real thing. (For example, if you crash at 3:00 pm, arrange to have one of your small meals at around that time of the day, or else have some fruit juice on hand to drink.)


Write all your questions down and let your teacher know that you have these questions so your teacher is aware that they need addressed soon. She may already have them in the plans but if not she needs to know. You have a right to all the answers and you should be asking any question that bother you so you can discern properly.

You might get the Catechism and do a bit of side study.

My wife got hold of father’s and the directors emails and cornered the director at breaks and after class. Ask the questions… If they say they’re going to cover it, then they’re probably going to cover it. It’s in a particular order for a reason. Have you ever turn on the hot water after walking from outside in the cold, got in and felt the knives piercing you. But had you warmed up to room temp. first and then gradually worked up the water to the same temperature you would not have felt the sting of the heat. That’s sort of what this is like.

The fasting thing is something you learn. All of this will take you years to really learn. We all learn new things if we are working at it or even listening to good homilies. It’s not really difficult. The priest will help you through confession. My wife still gets help form Father. Try not to make mountains out of mole hills. God created time so that man could come to experience Him in our human form. No one would object to you doing this again next year. There are many that continue for years and even others that join the RCIA “team” to help out. I usually go, but have been exceedingly busy with major changes in our life…like conversion and pro-life and teaching CCD and getting back into shape and change career directions. But I don’t beat myself up like I used to when I miss one of my devotions. But I feel empty when I miss it. Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours with the Divine Office, personal prayer, etc.

Be at peace.

if a baptized non-CAtholic candidate has a given name, in all likelihood his first or middle name are saint names, or derivatives from saint names, in which case, that is his patron saint, whether or not he or his parents were aware of it at the time. In any case it is not necessary to have a saint name unless the birth name is obviously anti-Christian in character. the candidate is perfectly free to choose a Confirmation saint if he wishes.

I can’t remember if I said this before, there have been a few threads close together asking about confession for candidates. You will probably be prepared for this in Lent, but if you don’t want to wait (you being a baptized person) and strongly feel the need to confess now, go ahead, either make an appointment with the priest or go at the regular time. you don’t need anyone’s permission to do this and do not have to discuss it with your catechist, unless you want to ask for a booklet or aide to help you.


I understand your concerns. I am also a candidate in RCIA (raised and baptized evangelical Protestant) and am a planner.

One thing I have noticed from discussions in forums like CAF is that every parish’s RCIA program seems to have slightly different format, order of topics, etc.; however, it sounds like yours is similar to mine in its format and the topics we’ve covered thus far.

I would reiterate what other posters have suggested. Your directors should be able to answer most, if not all, of your questions (especially when it comes to the logistics, i.e., the different rites and requirements of the RCIA journey). I have even asked to meet with mine outside of RCIA to go over these types of questions and details (just five or 10 minutes before or after class is usually sufficient).

Additionally, the priest assigned to RCIA at my parish is very approachable and I have met with him a couple of times outside of RCIA to discuss church doctrine and spiritual life issues. I plan to meet with him at least once or twice more to discuss, among other things, Lent and confession, particularly suggested preparations for each.

We too have a mix of inquirers, catechumens, and candidates from varied faith backgrounds, so to the extent I long to go deeper than is possible in class, I study the CCC and Scripture on my own, focusing on the sections pertinent to the RCIA topic for the week.

Good Lord. No - if they didn’t intend it, then it didn’t happen.

Same as if there is no intent to baptize, then no baptism took place.

Same as if the priest doesn’t intend to consecrate, then no consecration took place.

Same as if you didn’t intend to sin, then it is not a mortal sin.

Nobody can accidentally get a Patron Saint, any more than they can accidentally get baptized, or accidentally commit a mortal sin.

God does not force Himself upon us, and neither do His Saints.

if your name is Anthony, that is your given name, and since it happens to be a saint name, your patron saint should you decide to become Catholic. do you think Anthony just ignores every child who bears his name because they are not baptized, or because their parents did not consciously choose him as a patron. do you think Anthony Abbot and Anthony of Padua duke it out over who gets to claim each child? sounds like a very limited view of the saints in operation here.

to answer OPs question, for the third time, if he already has a saint name he does not have to pick a new saint for Confirmation, but he is perfectly free to do so. Choosing a name for your child is not a sacrament. will you folks just relax.

If he consciously chooses it to be so, yes.

do you think Anthony just ignores every child who bears his name because they are not baptized, or because their parents did not consciously choose him as a patron. do you think Anthony Abbot and Anthony of Padua duke it out over who gets to claim each child? sounds like a very limited view of the saints in operation here.

This I don’t know, but to think that just saying the word, even without knowing its meaning, causes him/them to appear seems like magical thinking, to me.

to answer OPs question, for the third time, if he already has a saint name he does not have to pick a new saint for Confirmation, but he is perfectly free to do so.

Of course, most people don’t have Saint names any more. We had a guy named “Hume” (named after the atheist philosopher) in our RCIA one year, and they never taught his class about Saint names (the doctrine of Communion of Saints was too hard for the poor little dears to understand, according to the catechist), and guess what; he got Confirmed with the name “Hume.”

Unless the Hume that he was named after had an unknown death-bed conversion, what happens to that guy? :shrug:

he gets the same deal as everyone else
there is no “magic” attached to a saint name
the applicable canon law which has been cited many times on this forum is that the candidate (or parents in case of an infant) are not required to choose a saint’s name for baptism or Confirmation, as long as the given name is not directly anti-Christian. Since this has been answered on the AAA forum in the last week and is off topic I think we can let it alone, don’t you?

It’s not “magic” - it’s that that person is now praying for you and helping you from behind the scenes. It’s an extra helping hand.

The applicable canon law which has been cited many times on this forum is that the candidate (or parents in case of an infant) are not required to choose a saint’s name for baptism or Confirmation, as long as the given name is not directly anti-Christian. Since this has been answered on the AAA forum in the last week and is off topic I think we can let it alone, don’t you?

Just at least please tell people about the option, so that they can make an intelligent decision about it on their own, rather than deciding ahead of time on their behalf that they “don’t need it,” since I feel sure that Hume would have liked to at least have known that he could take a Christian name, and that he could have has someone in Heaven to pray for him, if he had wanted to.

HI Vinessa

Permit me to introduce myself, my name is Lucifer Caligula Kelly… of the Boston Kelly’s :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: … forgive me, I couldn’t let that go by without a :slight_smile:

Having “taught” RCIA for years in my parish, I offer you the view from the “other side of the desk”. I found that in preparing presentations on topics such as Mary and the Saints, Catholic view of Scripture and Tradition, Social Justice and the Church, and so many other topics, the greatest difficulty is distilling the topics down to 30 minute presentations. There are probably hundred, maybe thousands of books on Mary and her role alone. We (our RCIA team) always told our classes that the subjects are so broad, and the thinking so vast, that there was no way in a three or four month RCIA programs that we were going to do anything more than just scratch the surface. As a cradle catholic, I’ve been learning for fifty some odd years now. Catholic is an ongoing process. As someone suggested, get ahold of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in it, you will find answers to most of your questions.

As to your three questions.

Lent. Much like the forty days Jesus spent in the desert before His public ministry, Lent is forty days of preparation for the great feast of Christianity. We fast, purify, and reflect on where we are in our lives, and try to better center our relationship with our Lord. It has structure as to devotional observations of fasting and abstinence but other posters have addressed that.

Confession. As I said, the Catechism is a good place to go for answers. If you read the sections on the individual commandments, you will learn much about what the Church teaches to be ‘sinful’ behavior. And don’t be too concerned, your priest in confession will walk you through any difficulties you may encounter. It is my experience that all (I really can’t think of anyone) who approached confession with trepidation, came out beaming. Of course, we’re blessed with a really good pastor. I’m sure you are too from what you’ve said.

Saints Name. All saints point, not to themselves and their accomplishments, but to Jesus himself. And the saints have all shown faith and holiness in a specific aspect of their lives. Find a list of the saints and their “specialties” and choose someone who appeals to some aspect of your life that is important to you. For instance, St. Florian is the patron saint of firemen, Peter of fisherman, Luke of doctors, etc. If your life is teaching, find the patron saint of teachers and take it. We take a confirmation name to emulate a holy person and ask that person, in the presence of God, to pray for us.

And ask questions. The frustrating thing for us as discussion leaders was knowing what to emphasize. Questions were wonderful as we had a great idea where to go.

Anyway, take it easy, don’t be so hard on yourself. If you choose to enter the church, walk to the altar on Easter, and open yourself to Jesus’ presence in His Church. Remember, those are the first steps in your journey, not the last.

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