RCIA: CHRISTIAN INITIATION FOR ADULTS
The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or R.C.I.A., is a modern attempt to echo the early Church's initiation process for the Catechumenate, or those intending to convert to the Christian Faith. Anyone discerning conversion to Catholicism or exploring their experience of faith is invited to join R.C.I.A. Whether you are unbaptized, a non-Catholic Christian, or just curious, you are welcome here.
Classes begin February 20, 2022. R.C.I.A. will continue to meet every first and third Sunday of the month from 6-8PM. For more information, feel free to reach out to Anthony Romeo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in joining R.C.I.A., please fill out the following form:
When it comes down to the “Big Picture,” there are ultimately two options: a reductionist account and a transcendent account of reality. The reductionist one says that everything is ultimately matter-based. Matter precedes mind. Chance precedes purpose. The Universe was not intended; it just “happened.” The transcendent account says that everything is ultimately mind-based. Mind precedes matter. There is ultimate meaning, ultimate purpose. On this account, the Universe was intended. There is a Creator.
Human history has always been inclined towards the second view. Humans have always tended to understand themselves in relation to a greater, mysterious “other.” There is a spiritual order that breaks into our world, uplifting and sanctifying it. But beyond this innate sense of a transcendent spiritual realm, a question remains: Does this transcendent realm have any relation to us? More specifically, does this reality want a relationship with us? The biblical religions, like Judaism and Christianity, say “yes,” and they speak of this in terms of Revelation — of God conveying his will to His creatures.
Catholicism is founded on Revelation. Transcendent reality is not a mere “it” but is a Person—a Loving Mind who not only creates but also intends the good of his creatures. Creation is a manifestation of Love, for God needs nothing else. Through God’s self-revelation, particularly in the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, God has revealed how He intends to bring his creation, especially human persons, into a communion of love with himself.
Philosophical reasoning can make still further insights about God—like the fact that he is “simple” (lacking parts or limitation), perfectly good, and all-knowing. Several demonstrations for God’s existence have proved the test of time. Consider St. Thomas Aquinas’ so-called five ways, described over 700 years ago. They are defensible as ever!
In Catholicism, there is no such thing as blind faith. God has gifted us with the gift of reason. And while faith transcends it, reason is nevertheless not opposed to faith. Through reason, we can open ourselves up to the intelligibility of the Catholic Faith. As Catholics, we accept Truth wherever it is found—the natural sciences, the arts, philosophy—knowing that ultimately all Truth proceeds from and points back to God.
So while Divine Revelation offers us more than we could ever know about God on our own, human reason also unites us to Him, for He is Truth itself. Catholicism is no mere myth or arbitrary faith: With the use of reason, we can see the reasonability of the Faith and better prepare ourselves for the act of faith.
The historical Jesus demands our attention. Unlike other religious figures who focus on the content of their teachings, Jesus focused on himself. He called himself the “way, the truth, and the life,” declaring that access to God depended on him. He boldly declared that “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). His enemies were quite aware of his claims: Charges of blasphemy were among the reasons that led to his crucifixion.
Nearly every serious historian agrees Jesus was a historical person. But was he really who he claimed to be—God with us? Yes! Jesus’ moral character, his prophetic knowledge, his limitless love, his prophetic fulfillment, and his many miracles all testify to his integrity and the consistency of his claims. As C.S. Lewis argued, if Jesus is not Lord, then he is either Liar or Lunatic—each of which is nonsensical!
Above all, the Resurrection, which Christ had predicted and was witnessed by as many as 500+people, vindicates Jesus as Lord. By considering the evidence, one can be led to the point of faith by realizing how the events of the first century only make sense in light of a real, historical Resurrection of Christ.
Above all, Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, which had been foretold and hoped for in the story of Israel in the Old Testament. Through Israel, God would ultimately reign over all nations. And through Christ, Israel’s anointed King, a new Kingdom of love, mercy, and peace has indeed commenced.
Christ began his ministry with the call to “repent” and accept the gospel, or “good news.” The original term for repentance here is not mere sorrow: It also denotes a total change in worldview. Just as Christ called forth his original disciples, forever changing the trajectory of their lives, so Christ calls each and every one of us, too. By entering into the mystery of Christ, we are transformed from the inside-out. Such transformation is required so as to enable us to live in the Way of Christ—in the path of non-violence, radical self-giving, and unconditional love.
At the pinnacle of Christ’s ministry is his sacrificial death on the cross, whereby he definitively unleashed the new Kingdom. On the cross, Christ conquered the powers of darkness and division and merited the gift of the Holy Spirit for all who would follow him. The night before he died, Christ instituted the New Covenant through the celebration of a sacred meal, the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, Christ's sacrificial presence would forever remain with his followers. Finally, through his Resurrection, Christ renews creation and promises to raise us up, too.
Jesus commissioned a select group of his disciples, the Apostles, to spread his teachings and shepherd his flock. The Apostles were the “foundation” of the Church— the primary pastors of the early Christian community (Eph. 2:20). To be under their leadership ultimately meant being under the headship of Christ. It was through them that the content of the Christian faith was first passed on.
In Catholicism, this transmission of teaching is referred to as the Apostolic Tradition. It encompasses the totality of The Apostles’ teaching entrusted to them by Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Part of this Tradition is expressed in a privileged form through the 27 writings of the New Testament. But indeed, the Tradition preceded the Bible and proceeds it as the context for its proper interpretation.
What expresses this best is the historical reality: The Catholic Church has existed for 2,000 years. Consulting early Christian sources, we see that the fundamental structures of the Catholic Church have been manifest from the beginning. Key among them is Apostolic Succession, or the succession of bishops from the Apostles, who ordained the first bishops.
The early Christians were adamant that authentic Christianity required allegiance to communities led by the Apostles or their successors. The Church of Rome had the privileged position as the focal point of church unity and orthodoxy. This is because Peter, whom Christ made head of the Church (Matt. 16:18), passed on his authority there. By giving Peter the “keys of the kingdom,” Christ appointed Peter to be the steward of his Church—just as there was a royal steward who served under the king and held the “keys” in the Davidic kingdom of the Old Testament (e.g., Is. 22:22).
Jesus established an office in Peter, then. As successor to Peter, the Pope continues Peter’s role as steward of the Church. All 266 popes, up through the current Holy Father, Pope Francis, have inherited the responsibility of acting as center of visible unity in the universal Church.
Because the Church is a family, it is a real visible society. It has discernible features, structures, and leaders. Just as a family has rules, so does the Church. Catholics follow certain disciplines because we acknowledge our leaders to share in the spiritual parenthood of God Himself. Bishops and priests have real jurisdiction over the faithful because they have been given this shepherding role from the Good Shepherd, Christ himself.
This family is not only global. It reaches beyond Earth into Heaven. Those who have died and are in the presence of God remain part of the Church, and Catholics revere some of them as Saints, an official designation that a Christian is in Heaven and ought to be seen as a model of holiness. Death does not sever one from the family. The faithful in Heaven are united to God and still have an important role to play in the prayer life of the Church (see Rev. 5:8, for example).
Think of the sacraments of the church, which are none other than material realities that make present the spiritual realities they signify. The Eucharist is the supreme example, as a simple meal of bread and wine becomes Christ’s very presence. But also think of Baptism, in which initiation into God’s family is accompanied by water, or Confession, in which God’s own forgiveness is conveyed through human ministers. From the church’s public liturgies to private devotions, Catholic spirituality is jam-packed with this spirit-matter combo. Rosaries, icons, holy water, statues, holy oils, candles, vestments, incense, chant, genuflections, prostrations, the sign of the cross: All the senses—indeed, the whole person—are employed when it comes to our relationship with God.
We should expect God to relate to us as he created us: as a unified body-soul composite. This sacramental aspect can also be seen as one of participation. God accomplishes our salvation through instruments—through other people, rituals, and events. The Church, Jesus’ visible society of followers, is his continued enfleshment in the world. He continues to lead and sanctify through his members.
It is through the Church, the Body of Christ, that Jesus continues to act and expand his Kingdom on Earth. His reign of love must take root in our very souls if this is to happen. It is not enough to get the facts right or to have the right theology. Because being a disciple of Christ means becoming Christ-like, Catholicism emphasizes the need for every person to grow in holiness. This occurs through cooperation with God’s grace, primarily through the sacraments, a fervent prayer life, works of love, and ascetical practices.
Moral teaching, then, is crucial. Right and wrong is not merely a matter of opinion but reflects the very mind of Christ. The Catholic Church sees itself as having the responsibility of maintaining and clarifying the moral teachings of Christ, especially when new issues arise. Catholic social teaching, for example, provides key principles for an authentically Christian engagement with the world: preferential care for the poor, the dignity of every human person, care for creation, the common good, and others.
There is beauty in a story, and it seems creation resembles a story. Creation was intended by God to journey towards its final perfection. We are not there yet. Moreover, human beings have been in a state of darkness ever since the first humans preferred sin to God, self over love. This pattern continues to this day, and the result is disharmony, division, and death — both spiritual and physical.
But Christ among us is God’s answer: His constant call to communion with God is the remedy every time we turn our backs on Him, love, and our own purpose. In our current lives, we are able to form our destinies by choosing God (and fulfilling human nature, in the first place) or choosing self. By choosing God and allowing ourselves to be transformed in a life of love, we are made fit for the eternal Kingdom where there will be no more sin, death, or suffering. We may or may not need further purification after death (AKA “Purgatory”), but either way our end is Heaven. Here we will experience the “Beatific Vision,” or experiencing God directly, and be in complete communion with all of creation.
Humanity — you and I — were made for communion with God, each other, and all of creation. The Catholic way is the universal — quite literally, cosmic — way. It is God’s plan for every person.