Many people go through the RCIA process each year. Here are two who have shared their journey with you.
A Neophyte’s Perspective (by David Matzenbach)
My name is David Matzenbach, and I am a neophyte, or a new member of the Church who has completed the RCIA process within the last year. A mere 12 months ago, I was sitting where you are today, probably mulling over some of the same questions and searching for the same answers as most of you. So when Susan asked if I would share some thoughts on my still young journey, I agreed in hopes that someone in the newest class could relate, and maybe find something helpful for their own journey.
When I began coming to RCIA, many people were surprised to find that I was not already Catholic. You see, I had been attending church at St. Paul for over 15 years.
To make a long story short, I married a good Catholic girl after college and agreed to raise our children as Catholics. Using the term “agreed” is probably giving me too much credit. I would never have considered raising my kids as Catholics, and my wife would never have considered anything but Catholic. Obviously, she won. We even sent them to school here at St. Paul’s, where my daughter Ashley is now in 7th Grade, and my son Christopher has now moved on to high school at St. Charles.
So I reluctantly made that concession, however, I was convinced that I myself could never find meaning in the strict rules and the seemingly routine rituals I observed. I knew there were a lot of good things about the Catholic Faith, so I decided I could tolerate it, but that it would never be my true spiritual home. I was raised as a United Methodist, and I was perfectly happy with my religion. I saw no need to change, especially to something so drastically different as the Catholic Church.
But the Lord works in mysterious ways and in his own time. After a little while (15 years), I began to feel a need to belong to something – even if it wasn’t my idea of spiritual perfection. Everyone I knew and could relate to spiritually had a distinct identity, a set of core beliefs backed up by a living entity (their Church) — in other words, a spiritual home. Through time and distance, I had drifted away from the spiritual home I knew, but for some reason I was not allowing myself to move into the spiritual home by which I was now completely surrounded.
That’s when I began to see notes in the bulletin about coming to RCIA – to simply learn about the faith. No pressure, no commitment – just come and listen and ask whatever questions you may have. How could I pass up such an opportunity if I was truly searching for a spiritual home?
As one session led to the next, I was surprised by the things I was learning.
I learned truths that dispelled the usual myths and misunderstandings about the Church, things like praying to saints in lei of praying to God, worshiping Mary, the unfounded anxiety about reconciliation and penance.
I learned about the scriptural and traditional foundations for the Church’s doctrines and the liturgy. This was especially meaningful to me, and I have found an abundance of additional resources outside of class to further my understanding of these roots. If you have a need to understand these things, I would highly encourage you to seek out these additional resources to help you in your journey. There is only so much Susan and her guests can cover in class, and there is so much excellent material available to help answer your toughest questions or curiosities.
I learned about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and how this gives us a chance to be continually renewed with His spirit in our lives.
All of this helped me understand the deeper meaning behind the things I previously saw as routine. I found that if I took the time to learn about the real meaning and the history behind each part of the Mass or any of the Church’s doctrines, I could not find anything to dispute. It all just made sense.
Most importantly I learned about being part of the body of Christ – the Church here on earth, and how each and every one of us are cherished and loved by God. I came to ask myself the question: If this belief is at the center of the Church, how could I not find it to be a true spiritual home?
And I could see this belief being modeled by all those involved throughout the RCIA process: Susan, the team members, our sponsors, the priests and deacons. They all took such care to extend themselves and to share their faith in an effort to help us find our own.
In time, I’ve come to realize that I did not have to abandon, or demolish my previous spiritual home to move into my new one. Instead, I’ve found it to be more of a room addition project. I’ve added several rooms in order to have space for some things that were left out.
In the short time I have, I cannot begin to express to you the impact this process has had on my faith life. I could only summarize it by saying that I have many more avenues to realize and reflect God’s presence in my life than I had ever imagined.
One of the friends I made during the class came from a situation very similar to mine, except he had been attending and involved in the Church for over 25 years. I jokingly told him after the Easter Vigil, “Greg, I guess we’re proof you CAN teach old dogs new tricks”. His answer to me was “Dave, it could be that, or maybe we’re just slow learners”.
So in closing, I’d like to say no matter your background or circumstance, you’re never too old, or too young, or too anything, to learn what God may have in mind for you.
Thank you for your time, and may God Bless you in your own journey this year.