This weekend saw our Catechumenate retreat at Ampleforth Abbey. The retreat comes at just over halfway through the year-long Catechumenate and is a wonderful way to deepen conversion, enter more fully into prayer and make resolutions regarding one’s spiritual life ahead. Ampleforth was a perfect setting – silence, beautiful liturgy, wonderful hospitality, and some good walks – for our Catechumenate to open their hearts to God.
For me, the RCIA process constantly throws up questions around the dynamics of conversion. Every single person in any given Catechumenate is different. Someone’s conversion to Christ may have happened very deeply, and now they need some doctrinal understanding to make their conversion firm. Some people may want the Catholic Faith – but on their terms – not ready or open to making too many changes to their lifestyle. This requires some work, and a retreat is a wonderful opportunity for such a person to come away from all the things that ordinarily consume their consciousness, and face both God and themselves. Some people may have accepted everything in their faith – authentically and wholeheartedly – but there may still be one obstacle which for whatever reason they cannot face to change. Hopefully a retreat will given such a person perspective, an ability to perceive that this change is actually possible because of the abundance of God’s grace, and that no problem, no obstacle is bigger than God. The truth is that, God has so much he wants to give to an individual in the Catechumenate – as catechists, how can we lead people to an awareness of this?
Two of the things which helped over the weekend we just ran were, firstly, an hour of Adoration with guided meditation on the Gospel. Only when a person experiences the love and grace God pours out in Adoration – only when they sit there for an hour in prayer – do they begin to realise how much God wants to give them in the Eucharist. The second example was lectio divina we did with one of the monks from the abbey. This experience awakened the candidates to the inexhaustible depths of Scripture. These two experiences were ways that God revealed to the catechumens and candidates the limitless abundance of his love and grace, in sources (Adoration and Scripture) that they can continue to return to. Only through this love and grace can seemingly difficult conversion be made possible.