A Journey through RCIA – Part 1
I have been asked to write about my experiences going through the RCIA process. I hope my journey helps others with theirs and sheds light on some of the misconceptions, fears, and untruths about what the Catholic faith is all about.
- A Brother in Christ
I come from a household that held faith in Christ above all other things to be the most important and most defining part of a person’s life. We read either the King James or New International Version Bible story of Christmas every year in my childhood. The emphasis was always on the Bible, and the faith was rarely focused on any individual religion or church organization. By the time I was 16, I had attended or been a member of many churches including: Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Charismatic, Baptist, Non-Denominational, and Assemblies of God. Because of this eclectic upbringing, I’ve come to think of myself as a graduate of the “Christian Foster System”. At the age of 16, I began attending and joined a non-Denominational church. Aside from a brief stint as a Methodist while living on the west-coast in my twenties, I stayed with the non-Denominational movement nearly 20 years. I made many friends, but always felt as if there was something more that I was missing.
I never gave the Catholic church much thought, even after marrying a non-practicing Catholic. We attended my church and rarely discussed the differences in Protestantism and Catholicism. In fact, I didn’t consider myself a Protestant until my wife called it to my attention during a conversation. I had always considered myself like Switzerland, “neutral among two arguing parties”. Then one day, I was searching for a way to talk to a friend of mine who shared my love of physics and science, but considered it incompatible with Christian faith. While on my way to work, I came upon a radio show which featured a apologist arguing with an atheist about this very topic. Interested, I decided to find out more information about the apologist so I looked up his YouTube videos. As I watched, I realized I had never examined my religion’s origins with the same scientific scrutiny as the facts I knew of the physical world. For me, this was a real eye-opening revelation as I am the kind of person who doesn’t want to take a person’s word for a fact, I want to research it myself before I can believe it fully.
With a new found urgency to find out who founded the very documents I was trusting to provide me with faith and with truth about God, I sought out the 95 thesis of Luther as all Protestantism stems from this one document. I had never read them for myself; I instead was always told what they contained and what they stood for. I went looking for a scholarly translation without any religious or political bias. I found a copy from a university web-site, and began reading them. Shocked and amazed, one by one, each of the “protests” seemed less likely that any modern church could believe or act as these accusations said they did. I quickly realized that if these were the foundation of all non-Catholic churches, there was a strong possibility they might be wrong to leave.
I was conflicted and frightened. My parents had always been very anti-Catholic, to the point of taking the position that the Seventh-Day Adventists have about the Church, even going so far to say the Pope would someday be the Anti-Christ. I did not know where to start looking for answers. My parents’ distrust of Catholics (with my wife as an exception) fought against my internal need to find a authoritative source. I needed to know what Catholics believed and why so I could square it with these condemnations from Luther. I felt that I didn’t want to ask anyone who knew me about it since I thought they might unduly influence my findings. I needed to know why so many people could believe in a Church and follow a belief it was so obviously wrong.
Again, I heard my answer on the radio as the host said that asking former or fallen-away Catholics about the Church was like someone asking your ex about you. As someone who was divorced and re-married, this analogy struck an immediate chord with me. I had never looked at it that way, and now wondered how I didn’t see it before. That day, I began looking for answers to questions and with the help of the very radio host I heard and others. I found the works of Scott Hahn, along with the Coming Home Network, and EWTN’s Catholic Answers Live. I read everything I could find on Scott Hahn on-line. I read dozens of conversion stories. I went to a Catholic book store and purchased “Rome Sweet Home” by Scott Hahn, along with “Into All Truth: What Catholics Believe and Why” by Milton, and other books on church history along with a Catholic Answer Bible. I also read up on the history of the churches I had been apart of and why they split from their founding churches.
At the same time, I was checking off a list of issues that most Protestants have with Catholicism. Mary, the Pope, Apocrypha, Saints, Crucifixes, Purgatory, and more were swirling around my mind. It was so much easier living my life before, where all these questions were dismissed as “hoaxes and mind-control brought about by a greedy and corrupted church body that had diverged from Christ’s will a millennium ago”. Now, I had to confront each of them head-on and could not just accept the word of those who had a grudge with the Church or those who were informed by those with similar grievances.
Finally, I knew I had found the Church that Christ had founded. It was then, that I looked up how to join the Church with the RCIA program. My last, and largest hurdle was that I was a re-married person living with a wife who was not my first. I was terrified that after finding all this, that I would be refused entry due to a condition that I didn’t even know I had until now. Tearfully, I confided in my wife and said “I think, I am Catholic!” She was so happy but cautiously optimistic. I told her I was upset because I didn’t know what would happen to me or us. She said we should meet with her former priest to see if he could offer any solace. As it happens, he did just that. After explaining our situations with our former marriages, he said there was an excellent chance that we could be granted annulments and be able to receive full-communion. When I expressed my fears of death during the process or what if the annulments were denied, he said something that I never thought a Catholic priest would say. He said “Christ focuses on the grace and mercy and forgiveness of sins; and will always provide a way, if we are willing, to be reconciled to Him.” Instantly, I felt peace and knew that I was on the right path. In the interim, I have joined a RCIA program and am looking forward with much anticipation at joining the Church fully.