I am as guilty as the next person for wanting instant results. I hate delays. I hate it when the wi-fi connection goes down. I hate not being able to use my Oyster when I go back home and having to hunt for change instead.
I am also quick to translate this impatience into my catechetical work. It is an instinct that those of us who give catechesis need to fight against. We want instant results. We expect a person who begins RCIA in September to be fully-baked by Easter. If someone shows up in January, we slip them into the programme, hoping the formation they get between January and Easter will be “just enough”. We want quick-fix programmes that will work a treat with the First Communion parents. Confirmation catechesis is notoriously difficult, so we want to squeeze the absolute essentials into a bare-minimum six sessions – and we’ll draft in another organisation like Cafod to cover one of those.
However tempting it might be, however pressured we are, I strongly believe we need to make an enemy of this mentality in the Church. This mentality is a sure sign that we are keen to do things our way, and not God’s. This mentality is a sure sign we are secularising our Christian initiation processes.
The truth is that, however giddily our fast-paced lives speed ahead, God remains unchanging – eternally. Becoming a Christian is not as instant as updating your Facebook status. Our status changes with our mood, but the process of our conversion to Christ takes time, patience, effort, and above all, the work of grace and prayer.
Recently I met with a couple of women who wanted to become Catholics. Neither were baptised, and neither had a strong Christian background, but both thought they would be baptised quite quickly. I explained to them the nature of Christian initiation – of bringing your whole life, mind, will, heart to be configured to Christ – and they began to grasp that this was going to be a long process of deep thought, learning, praying, living and witnessing to the faith, becoming part of a community, changing one’s lifestyle… What was interesting was that neither woman was put off – they were happy to set out on this journey, to start attending weekly Precatechumenate sessions until both they and we determine they are ready to begin the year-long Catechumenate. I could see both of them truly wanted to discover more deeply this Christian life they had encountered in different ways. They were not looking for a quick-fix solution in their life and neither did I want to offer them one. The Lord offers something much deeper and infinitely more fulfilling.
Let us get out of this mentality of looking for quick fixes! God wants to change things, with our cooperation, deeply and gradually. Why feed your catechumens a McDonald’s when, with a little more preparation and care, you could serve them a rich and sumptuous feast?