For anyone wanting to learn about the teachings of the Catholic Church: catechumens, catechists, leaders of discussion groups or those interested in learning about their faith.
Who is Jesus Christ? How can his life help me to lead mine?
What is the Bible? Why do Catholics do the things they do?
Are you interested in Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church?
At Home with God’s People has been a helpful guide for more than 35,000 people who have had similar questions. For over thirty years At Home with God’s People has met the needs of individuals and groups. It has now been revised and adapted to best meet those needs in changing times. Like all tools it is important to use this resource in an appropriate manner for the task at hand. Please read the section below that best describes your situation.
The book explores both the life of Jesus, who lived and breathed as a person just like us, and the tradition which continues in his name. Jesus, sent by God the Father to save us, offers the world hope through his life, death and resurrection. Jesus remains a living presence among us through the Holy Spirit and empowers us for Christian discipleship.
Through the pages you will uncover how the early Christian community grew and responded to the problems and issues of the world. Today the Catholic Church provides a community of faith for its members to worship God and equips them for Christian mission in the world.
Do you want a deeper understanding of your faith?
At Home with God’s People presents a concise overview of the teachings of the Catholic Church. The material provides an excellent resource for personal reflection, reading and praying. It may be used in a variety of ways to assist you to: deepen your understanding of your faith; grow in your relationship with God; and be informed and transformed for ministry and mission.
It may also be the foundation for a small group study program. A group could plan to work through topics appropriate to their specific learning needs, e.g. a sacramental preparation team might focus on the topics relating to sacraments. Be aware of the limits and demands on the participants’ time – plan for a five session program with the option of negotiating the next ‘program’ at the last meeting.
For the group leader a book such as Facilitating for Growth by Barbara Fleischer (Liturgical Press) is an excellent guide to equip leaders for their role. Effective leadership enables a group to come together to help one another integrate the Christian story and its vision with their own stories and ideals (p22).
Are you a catechumen in the RCIA?
This resource may be of assistance to you in the Catechumenate phase of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It is important to remember however that this is only one resource for this phase of your faith journey. This resource is not the ‘program to become a Catholic’! There is much wisdom in an old adage: ‘faith is caught, not taught’. Central to your journey during this period is your active participation in the local worshiping community and reflection on the Sunday scriptures.
The Catechumenate period is sometimes seen as an ‘apprenticeship’ into the Christian life during which you will: ‘learn to turn more readily to God in prayer; to bear witness to the faith … to keep [your] hopes set on Christ … and to practise love of neighbour’ (RCIA no 75 adapted). One objective of this period is to provide you with an appropriate acquaintance … with the precepts and teachings of the Catholic Church (RCIA no 75). At Home with God’s People is one means, or tool, to do that. While the topics in the book are presented in a logical order, please do not feel restricted by this sequence. If a topic is of interest to you, or addresses a specific question or need you have, then go to that section of the book.
Are you are a catechist?
The book provides useful reference material on the teachings of the Catholic Church. This site provides useful background material in the ‘Resources’ tab for the topics in the book, (e.g. web sites and further reading). You can also download The Catechist and the Spiritual Journey for this very significant phase on the journey of faith.
However the best guide is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. In Australia the Rites have been published by St Paul’s Publications and are available in hardback and a study edition. Paragraphs 75-80 cover the Period of the Catechumenate (the period when At Home with God’s People may be a useful resource). Paragraph 78 is very pertinent to your role: ‘The instruction that the catechumens receive during this period should be of a kind that while presenting Catholic teaching in its entirety also enlightens faith, directs the heart toward God, fosters participation in the liturgy, inspires apostolic activity, and nurtures a life completely in accord with the spirit of Christ.’
At Home with God’s People provides participants with suggested questions for reflection and discussion. While these may be helpful in the early stages of the group to generate sharing, they are no substitute for the catechumens’ own questions, enquiries and concerns.
One of your key roles in the group is to be a facilitator – one who ‘makes easy’ the work of the group. As a facilitator you will always be adapting the content and process to suit the needs and requirements of the participants. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
The primary purpose of the Catechumenate phase is formation in the Christian life, not information about Christianity. Use whatever resources are appropriate and available. Check out if your parish or diocese has audio-visual resources you can borrow. Inform the catechumens about any adult faith education presentations in the parish or diocese that may be helpful for their on-going faith formation. Encourage participants to experience various aspects of the mission and social action of the parish (e.g. Care and Concern group, St Vincent de Paul Society, Social Justice group).
Are you a member of the parish RCIA team?
The analogy of a railway may be helpful. It is tempting to think of the role of the RCIA team as the ‘Controller’ – efficiently directing traffic, making sure timetables are printed, ensuring trains run on time and that platforms are tidy. However this is to deny the truth that we are in fact a pilgrim church and we take the ‘conversion journey’ together. Perhaps a better analogy is that of the ‘Conductor’. He or she makes the same trip as the passengers and shares with them the same steep climbs, deep gorges, long tunnels and glorious vistas.
With open hands and hearts the team – along with catechists, sponsors and the whole parish community – approach this period not with a ‘subject’ to be transmitted, but with a deep humility and openness to the encounter of mutual conversion.
As ‘Conductor’ we allow ourselves to be a channel for God’s grace, transforming love, peace and reconciliation. Paragraph 1 of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults outlines a vision that ‘after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, Catechumens seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their heart’.
As members of the team it is essential that you are clear about vision, purpose, intention and process. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is your ‘guidebook’. For example when you are clear about the purpose of each period of the Catechumenate it will be obvious that a catechesis resource such as At Home with God’s People will not be appropriate for Lent or Mystagogia.
Books such as The RCIA Team Book (Evangelisation Brisbane) can be beneficial resources to provide practical information about specific roles, pastoral principles, planning outlines and practical strategies for each period of the Catechumenate.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is intended for those who are unbaptised. Part II of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults provides pastoral guidelines for those people already baptised who express interest in becoming Catholic. Paragraph 391 directs that: ‘The baptised Christian is to receive both doctrinal and spiritual preparation, adapted to individual pastoral requirements, for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church’.
The key phrase here is ‘adapted to individual pastoral requirements’. For example a candidate who has been a regular church-goer may already be very familiar with the Creed and the Bible. In a situation such as this the team, with the catechist, and in dialogue with the candidate, would determine a process of formation that respects the candidate’s journey of faith and current needs. In this way, ‘The rite is arranged so that no greater burden than necessary (see Acts 15:28) is required for the establishment of communion and unity’ (387).