We are drawing close to beginning another year of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, commonly referred to as the R.C.I.A. Though originally designed for those who have never been baptized, it is also an opportunity for non-Catholic Christians to either learn more about Catholicism or become Catholic. Occasionally even Catholics take advantage of this period of preparation either to complete their sacraments of initiation (e.g. Confirmation) or simply because they desire to deepen their understanding of the faith.
People find out about the RCIA in various ways. Sometimes they hear about it through Catholic Radio or their own reading. At other times they see announcements or flyers, However, one of the most important ways is through evangelization.
People often ask how they can evangelize as Catholics. People are interested in programs or tips for effectively doing this. Those things can be helpful, but powerful evangelization has two primary aspects: witness and invitation. Regarding witness, people often simplify this concept to leading a good Christian life. One should follow the commandments, go to Church, and engage in the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. This is good, but for the purposes of evangelization, something more is necessary. A full Christian witnesses is to live the faith with joy and enthusiasm.
For example, I don’t just go to Mass, but look forward to it, prepare for it, and seek out additional opportunities throughout the week to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. I don’t just keep the commandments, but even avoid those things which might lead me down a path of sin, because, in my love for God, I am careful about paths of action which would ever lead me to offend Him. When I engage in acts of mercy, it is done with a light heart and for the love of Christ.
There are few things more attractive then when someone is manifestly enthusiastic about what he or she is doing. Have you ever had that experience? Have you known someone who began a hobby or job who was so thrilled about it that it made you want to do it too? It is the same thing with our faith. When we live it with joy and enthusiasm, others will be drawn to it.
This positive draw, though, is sometimes not enough. Many people will look on from a distance and admire the beauty of a way of life, but will not take their first steps toward it until something else occurs—an invitation. This was certainly true for me regarding my vocation. A life in ministry as a priest was attractive. I was open to the possibility, but had no concrete plans to move in that direction. However, my interest was evident and, eventually, a priest invited me to seriously consider this vocation; he asked me to enter Bishop White Seminary. Without that invitation, I may never have taken the next step.
A personal invitation and joyous living of faith are the two pillars of evangelization. Every Christian is called to both. In the midst of our Gospel lives, is their anyone whom you can invite to consider Catholicism or to complete their sacraments by participating in the RCIA this year?