On Becoming a Catholic — The Challenge of Christian Initiation by Regis Duffy OFM (Harper & Row, £4.95)
WHEN WE study the Introduction to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and follow through the processes of the rites and become aware of the kind of Christian community that it presupposes, there appears to be an enormous discrepancy with many of our parishes with their comfortable itinaries. Frequently, in his book, Regis Duffy refers to this.
If we go up to the parish church on a Sunday and go through the routine service, hobnob a bit outside afterwards and then go home, and if we come up occasionally for the odd "social" and perhaps a bit of group activity "without obligation", we may feel we have done our share.
The RCIA, however, creates a very different picture. Regis Duffy leads us through a number of its themes emphasising that this Rite is for the "converted" as well as for the "converts". Conversion is a community process; it is together that we participate in the journey of the catechumen.
One of these themes is the Cross, to which the Rite and the author return again and again. lie quotes St. Paul, who rejected the wisdom of the Greeks and the signs of the Jews "for we preach Christ crucified". The catechumen is signed with the Cross. We may cavil at this because we may wish to believe that we have "arrived" and fix our eyes on the Resurrection and Pentecost. We need that promise, but our mission is in the "here and now". As the New Testament says, dying is necessary (like the grain of wheat) before the new life can be perceived. Through that dying to sin-orientation in baptism, our eyes are opened by the Spirit.
Regis Duffy reminds us of the various "walks" in the gospel, again a theme from the Rite. One walk in particular is the one to Emmaus. With Jesus' words in the scripture we too can join in that walk and listen and feel our hearts burn within us. It was out of a dying, a "defeat", that that began. Those words "My God, why have you forsaken me?" and "into your hands I commend my spirit" epitontise
the Divine humility which the gospel teaches,
On that walk are a new people of God, just as poor and disinherited as the old, but clear and unencumbered in a certainty of its objective; the mission to overcome the unlove in the world, not through force or wisdom but through foolishness and weakness, letting God conquer through his people.
Perhaps we might burn down .our buildings and face each other and decide why we du come together, why we build these houses of God, and whether what we have been doing is an illusion: a safe unthreatening salving of the mild need we feel to do something. What God calls us to in the gospel is everything, not just in the Abbey, or the novitiate, but in the local Church which is where the mission belongs.
That is what the RCIA implies and what Regis Duffy declares in his book. It can be used for meditation or spiritual stimulation, but not if we believe in a private faith, We "walk" together or we don't "walk" at all.