I remember feeling uneasy during RCIA education because I expected to know all there is to know about being Catholic by the end of it, and that wasn’t happening. I’d read the Bible three times as a kid so I figured I was a pretty well-informed and mature catechumen. I thought I just needed to know the rules, when to bow and kneel and what words to say in Mass, and I’d be a good Catholic. Anxiety hit when I realized how little I even understood the words in Mass. Then there were sacraments, prayers, devotions – so much to learn I didn’t know how I’d ever complete it. Browsing the Catechism was downright overwhelming.
And when I asked questions, people pointed me to even more reading material. Encyclicals, decrees, apologetics, moral theology, writings of the saints, Church history, and then there was the ponderous Summa Theologica! Surprisingly though, every time I saw a little more light, I found I wanted more of it. Eventually, it settled on me that in my lifetime I can never finish, but more light is better than no more light. I don’t need to be anxious about not knowing it all, I am free to humbly appreciate the journey.
Interestingly, as varied as all the sources of information about Catholicism can be, their meaning is all united too. A devotion can illuminate your understanding of history; a hundred year old encyclical can increase your understanding of your pastor’s next homily; something you read in a chapter about moral theology will click in your mind as you recite a Hail Mary. It all fits together. We have so many resources, parish libraries, the Vatican’s website, thousands of Catholic blogs online, books about saints’ lives, guidance in the missals, and the gift of the inexhaustible Holy Scriptures.
Now when I hear a catechumen express concern about learning enough, I tell them not to worry. RCIA is like wading into an ocean of light. Don’t be overwhelmed by its enormity, be awed by its magnificence. Wade in a little deeper, swim around, explore, pray for guidance and learn to appreciate those excellent catechists who are willing to teach. They are still learning too. Really, we are all students together. As I’ve converted, I’ve realized I always will be converting in a sense, and that childhood curiosity and excitement that I lost to worldly anxieties has returned. God does make all things new, even the love of learning.
Image: That is a gift from my husband, a page from a deteriorating 1926 Altar Missal.