The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is beautiful. As a convert myself, I see the incredible work of the Holy Spirit within the lives of adults falling in love with Christ for the first time. It’s amazing to watch the Spirit work in the lives of those, as well, who are Christians from another denomination come to realization the Catholic Church is the true church. In response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, these converts leave other denominations and faiths to come into full communion with the Church. It is, however, a limited and targeted program which teaches the foundational doctrines of the Church (as it should). I have noticed, on the other hand, it holds back some elements of the faith I believe are important. Some of those components of the faith are optional and are just choices they do not mention (but are important options to consider) and others, in my belief and according to saints, are essential in growing in your faith.
So, here are 4 things you will not be told in RCIA but could make a lasting difference in your faith life:
1.) You have a choice: When I was a convert nearing my Confirmation, the priest asked me how I wanted to receive the Eucharist. I had never seen anyone receive it other than in the hand, so I was not sure. He told me I had a choice between receiving it in the hand or on the tongue. I remembered hearing briefly about receiving the Eucharist on the tongue and how the early church did it so that is how I wanted to receive it.
However, I was never told the third option. The third option of receiving the Eucharist is to receive it on your knees and on your tongue. The more I researched and studied the Church and its teachings, the more I realized this is how the early Church did it and I wanted to try it. The first time I chose to approach the priest and receive it on my knees and on my tongue, I was nervous to say the least. However, after that first time I realized it opened a whole new level of reverence for the Lord in my eyes. I saw the majesty and beauty of Christ in the humbleness of receiving him, myself such an unworthy sinner, on my knees. I have heard many individuals tell me they were never informed of this third option while they went through RCIA. Even though it has disappeared from most Catholics and Masses, it is still an option you have in terms of how you choose to receive Christ. The diminishing level of reference, however, of the Eucharist correlates with the vanishing belief in the Real Presence among Catholics.
2.) Fast before receiving the Eucharist: Code of Canon Law 919 reads: “A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.” This is a way to prepare ourselves mentally as well as physically to receive into our bodies the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. We often fall into the rut of associating fasting with Fridays or Lent. It is not spoken of often enough that we are required by Church law to fast one hour prior to each and every time we receive the Eucharist.
3.) Receiving the Eucharist unworthily has deadly consequences: This is not stressed enough from the pulpit or in any class. The warning about receiving the Eucharist in an unworthy manner is one that must not be ignored, but sadly it is dismissed. In order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner you must be free from mortal sin and have fasted for an hour. We must also believe that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Sacrament. When we approach the priest, he holds the host and says, “the body of Christ”. Our response is “amen”. In replaying “amen” we are saying that we believe it is truly the body of Christ. If we say “amen” and do not believe it is the body of Christ, then we are lying and are placing ourselves in sin at the moment we actually consume Jesus. St. Paul warns us in I Corinthians 11:27-30 that “whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” He continues by saying that unworthy reception of the Eucharist leads to not only consequences to our soul but leads to physical illness for our bodies as well, even leading to death.
4.) You need to read the Bible daily: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” (St. Jerome) This is a truth I do not believe I have ever heard preached in a homily or taught in a class. I understand many who grew up as cradle Catholics were told the very opposite, to not read Scripture because of the threat you might try to interpret it differently than the Church. However, St. Jerome tells us otherwise and he is correct. How are we to explain our faith to someone who may be interested in Christ if we are ignorant of the Bible’s teachings. The Bible is the very foundation of the truth with which we believe. The Bible tells us the life and teachings of Christ and the apostles, for which the Church stands. Read the Bible daily. If you are unfamiliar with the Bible, begin in the New Testament with the Gospels and read through the New Testament first.
I understand not every teaching of the Church is able to be packed into a year of RCIA training. I also, however, know these crucial teachings on how to honor the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and how to increase our faith daily are vital to our personal growth in our relationship with the Lord as well as the grow of the Church.