If I had had my druthers, my conversion would have been a private affair as well. I chose St. Patrick as my confirmation saint because I was inspired by both his life story and his conversion of the Irish. It'd have been awesome to be received into the Church on his feast day, and then go out for green dyed Corona later, heh.The point is that there is no fixed formula for what RCIA is supposed to look like, and the document itself states that part of the Council's vision was the "adaptation to local traditions" of the process of initiation. Therefore, we are on very solid footing when we suggest that RCIA need not look like the beast we have come to know it as, with weekly classes, RCIA "teams", lame reflections on the readings, service projects, etc. The contemporary experience we have come to know as RCIA is simply the method most parishes, following the USCCB, have adopted for implementing the directives of the RCIA document. But it need not be so, and there are viable alternatives.Such as?
First, let us look at the Traditional way.In the pre-Conciliar days, reception into the Church was a very private affair. A candidate would meet with a priest who would examine his motives and remind him of the responsibilities of becoming Catholic. if the candidate had no objections and cleared this first stage, he would begin to "take instruction" as it was called, which consisted of weekly meetings with the priest who would instruct him in the basics of the faith whilst continuing to assess and candidate's spiritual state. After an indeterminate amount of time - maybe six months, maybe two years, depending on the candidate - a small Mass would be said at which the candidate would be received into the Church. It could be at any time of year and was often on a feast day chosen by the candidate. The Mass was usually a daily Mass, small, and attended mainly by family and friends invited by the candidate.
Not to pat myself on the back, but I'm one of those types who read themselves into the Church as Boniface describes in his article. Some of my classmates were there because they wanted to convert for the sake of their spouse. Most had been raised in some kind of Evangelical background. California is pretty liberal in the big cities, but out here in the wilderness where I live you could easily pretend you were in the heart of the red state Midwest if you squinted hard.
I didn't have a strong Christian upbringing. My parents had the easy going attitude toward Christianity that I believe most Americans have: we believe in God, we believe in Jesus, going to church is optional. After I came home from the Army, I had made up my mind that I wanted to become more serious about the Christian faith. The problem was deciding which church to join. I was dissatisfied with the notion that choosing a church is simply a matter of deciding where to hang your hat on Sunday morning. There were so many different Christian denominations; which one was the right one? Did it even make sense to speak of a right one?
Like Blessed Cardinal Newman said, to immerse yourself in history is to cease to be Protestant. I didn't actually ask to enter the Church until I had been studying for several years. The parish I called happened to be the closest one to my house at the time. Even then when I didn't have any first hand experience with the Catholic Church, a lot of what went on there struck me as being wrong somehow. And that's how I learned of a little thing called "the Spirit of Vatican II."
Speaking of that, many parishes simply read from some AmChurch publication for the Prayers of the Faithful. Occasionally, those intentions really display their true colors. This morning I heard, "Let us pray that the Church may fully implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council." Like everything else about that council, those words can be interpreted in several ways. But I added under my breath, "Let us pray that the demon from hell known as the Spirit of Vatican II may be fully exorcised from the Church by young people burning with love for the faith and for tradition." Lord, hear our prayer.