Saturday, March 7, 2015

Prepare to get scrutinized

This year of our Lord 2015 will mark ten years since my reception into the Catholic Church. Today at Mass they did the readings for the RCIA scrutinies. The parish I went to had about a dozen catechumens and candidates. Father allowed the RCIA catechist to give a brief speech about the purpose of the scrutinies, a meditation upon the reading and self-examination about whatever weaknesses, shortcomings, and sins the prospective Catholics must fight to overcome. I generally dislike it when lay people are allowed to speak from the pulpit during Mass, but this time wasn't so bad. It was better than my own experience at any rate.

The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is about a six month process where people who wish to convert meet once a week for instruction in the faith, usually by lay volunteers, culminating in their reception into the Church on Easter Vigil. Those who have never been baptized receive the sacrament. Those who have already received a valid baptism make their first confession and are confirmed alongside the newly baptized. Like many aspects of Catholic life, the quality of the experience depends greatly on the character of the parish you happen to attend. In contrast, before Vatican II, anyone who wanted to become Catholic met with the priest for one-on-one instruction. When the priest judged the prospect was ready, he could baptize them any time he wanted. Usually this took place at a special Mass on a day chosen by the convert, often on the feast day of their chosen confirmation saint.

The size of contemporary parishes often prohibits the priest from dedicating that much time to one person, for any number of reasons. Personally, I think that a priest who doesn't have time to catechize someone who is thirsting for the living water which can be found inside the Catholic Church alone needs to reconsider his priorities. The one-size-fits-all nature of the modern RCIA program is much like public education: some kids need more attention and some kids need to skip a grade. I had already studied the faith for years before I made the plunge. I thought that was what we were supposed to do, but many of my classmates had never cracked a Bible or a catechism once before joining the program. I dutifully attended class every week and sat in silence for the lectures, which weren't bad. What irritated me was how much they concentrated on our feelings as we went along. The women were all eager to share. The men hemmed and hawed and mumbled about their reasons for joining.

The candidates and catechumens get kicked out of Mass after the homily to go talk about the readings. I remember one Sunday our minder said, "Beefy Levinson, what do you think about today's readings?" To which I replied, "What do I think? Why are you asking me that? I came here to learn what you people think!"

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