Tag Archives: Moral formation

“Those who desire comforts have dialled the wrong number”

This may be one of my favourite EVER quotations from Pope Benedict XVI 🙂

It just makes me smile. He’s bang on! Anyone who tells us that Christianity is easy, that we can go on living a comfortable life, is not telling us the full truth.

No, Christianity is something far greater than a comfortable life.

This is a hard truth to grasp, which takes years of spiritual growth. On the one hand, it definitely does not mean that our life as a Christian is going to be unbearably miserable. No way! The joy of knowing Christ has the power to transform even the worst suffering. Christianity widens our hearts to a greater joy than we could ever imagine in our life before Christ. On the other hand, we must never forget the need for penance and ongoing conversion in our journey with the Lord, which, paradoxically, results in more joy in our hearts.

This is a very hard notion to introduce to enquirers, catechumens and candidates. Recently, I met with someone in the early stages of our RCIA who is eagerly seeking Christ. This person already has a strong relationship with him in many ways. And yet in this person’s life is a string of moral complexities which, let’s say, are not compatible with being a Catholic.

This is a tricky question in the period of enquiry. On the one hand, it is a period of evangelisation, of attracting a person to the beauty of Christ and the life he invites them to live.

And yet, in the early stages anyway, some of the moral teachings of the Church can present themselves as anything but beautiful to enquirers. They represent big and sometimes frightening lifestyle changes which people baulk at. In our culture today, it comes as a massive shock to some people that there are changes in their lives sooner or later they will need to make. When do we let them know this? How do we let them know?

What’s for sure is that our role as catechists and sponsors is more than simply presenting the information and ‘leaving it to their conscience’ (I’ve heard this view expressed more than once before). No, we need to pray for them, walk alongside them, mentor them, offer practical help.

Pope Benedict’s phrase could be addressed to RCIA catechists and sponsors: “If you desire an easy life, you’ve come to the wrong place!” RCIA is hard work, messy and requires much sacrifice and prayer on our part. If we don’t accept this, we will not witness many deep conversions in our brothers and sisters. Let’s have the courage to wisely and faithfully form disciples through the RCIA process. The last thing we need as a Church is more lukewarm Catholics.

With ongoing prayer, support and witness, the gradual unfolding of the teaching, and the grace of the liturgy, God has given enquirers the means to recognise life in Christ as a beauty, not a burden.


New Beginnings

20120108-193153.jpgWe’re halfway through our Confirmation programme and Catechumenate, but even so, January is a great time for us all to come back to them fresh. For both, the next few months involve catechesis on sacramental life in Christ – that is, we’re trying to tie together the teaching on the liturgy and sacraments, and moral life in Christ, as much as possible. Why is this? Because we can only live a fully moral life through the grace we receive in the sacraments. The two are very interconnected. Next weekend, the Catechumenate embark on their retreat at Ampleforth Abbey to prepare them spiritually for the final stretch of catechesis before Lent. This is the time now when they will be challenged to live truly this life set before them – deeply in prayer, and authentically in moral life.

For the Confirmation candidates too, much of their moral formation we hope will be an inspiring and challenging experience for them. We use the film, The Human Experience, to root much of the moral teaching – we draw from it themes such as the dignity of the human person, what freedom is, the Beatitudes, the two greatest commandments, and the human and theological virtues. If you haven’t seen it, The Human Experience is a beautifully made, deeply inspiring film – I want to live so much better each time I watch it! We have found that rooting moral formation in some of the people and issues of the film makes it more alive and real. And following the classes, the candidates will hopefully visit the Friars of the Renewal and the Missionaries of Charity to witness the work they do with the poor. This is our plan, and I will let you know how it works with our candidates 🙂

The biggest new beginning we have this week is the first session of Catholicism, our new adult formation programme based on Fr Robert Barron’s DVD series. We’ve been so encouraged by the response to this programme – we have between 30-40 adults signed up, many young adults, from many different backgrounds and with lots of different reasons for taking part. The absolute deadline for bookings is Wednesday and at the moment, we have capacity for a few more… Come and join us! 🙂 I am really looking forward to a wonderful few weeks of deepening understanding of our faith, new friendships, and hopefully a renewed commitment to the Lord for many people. Please keep this project in your prayers!