Friday, November 30, 2012

New Evangelization 1999

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Originally posted at New Evangelizers on Nov. 8 

Some might say: Yes. This.

Right now I'm about 2/3 of the way through an interesting book, Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. I'll call it a blueprint for kickstarting the New Evangelization at the parish level. Just a few minutes ago I was on page 167, and read this bit: "...Doug and I went through our old RCIA outlines, and basically threw almost everything out...We began asking ourselves, "Where do we want people to be spiritually when they are baptized or making a profession of faith?"

Which reminds me of my wife and myself in 1999.

I've been teaching 6th-grade Catechism for so long that I forget that my wife & I taught RCIA and Adult Ed back around the turn of the century.  In the late '90s we had been running a topically-driven adult class. In covering those assorted topics, time was spent on learning how to respond to all the odd questions Catholics here in the Bible Belt are regularly asked: why do y'all worship Mary, the Pope, saints, statues, and the "wafer god"; where is x, y, and z in the Bible; why can't priests get married; why can't you contracept; annulments are just Catholic divorces, etc. For a given topic our usual system was to find some useful content on the internet. We'd hand it out a week ahead, and everyone would read it before the next class. We would prepare a 30 minute lecture. The next class would combine the lecture material and the handout into an hour's worth of learning and informed discussion. It was a terrific system, and class prep had us reading all sorts of things: the Bible; the Catechism; the Catholic Encyclopedia; encyclicals; Ecumenical Council documents; Jack Chick tracts; books and articles by David Currie, Steve Ray, Scott Hahn, Karl Keating, Robert Sungenis, Jimmy Akin, Mark Shea, and the like; and the famous/infamous Roman Catholicism by Loraine Boettner.

Then after 2 years of Adult Ed, the pastor asked us to do RCIA starting in the Fall of '99. We said sure; we'd combine the RCIAers with the adult class crowd, which'd be good for both groups. We took the RCIA program materials home and started to compose a syllabus.

But we soon decided that the diocesan RCIA program wasn't well-suited to Bible-Belt catechumens and candidates. The typical adult converts here were Evangelicals or Fundamentalists. The Bible had persuaded them that the Catholic Church just might be the one true church which Christ had founded on Peter; and they were in RCIA to learn more about Catholicism from a Scriptural perspective. The RCIA materials were orthodox, but were sourcing faith more from Vatican 2 documents and the Catechism than the Bible. That's fine as far as it goes, but these folks were going to be defending and explaining their conversion to friends and family who'd reject Catholic sources out of hand. So like the people on page 167, Janet and I asked ourselves, "Where do we want people to be when they are done with RCIA?" And our answer was that they should be able to evangelize their non-Catholic friends and family, even if that evangelization were limited to the kitchen table.

Outlining our RCIA vision to the pastor, we got the go-ahead.  That Fall we ran RCIA like Adult Ed but with a bit more organization. At the first class meeting, everyone received a red 3-ring binder, empty except for the 26-class syllabus, a Table of Contents, and 10 tabbed dividers corresponding to each section, which were:

1. Faith and Reason/ Revelation: Scripture and Tradition

2. The Bible

3. Jesus and the Pope

4. History of the Church

5. The Sacraments

6. The Commandments/ Morality and Conscience

7.The Mass/ Church Calendar/ Vestments and Vocabulary

8. Mary, Prayer, and the Communion of Saints

9. Modernism

10. Catholic Evangelization/ Catechism and Apologetics

Then each class worked like Adult Ed: one or more handouts to read the week before class; and a lecture and discussion based on the handout. Class discussions often included what had been talked about around a water cooler or a kitchen table the week before. There was a lot of energy and excitement. And the cool thing was that the hole-punched handouts would go in a particular section of the red binder. We had 26 class meetings, so each tabbed section would accumulate handouts for more than one class, e.g. we had three classes on the Bible, and 8 handouts (some were only a couple of pages). By the end of the year each person had a customized sourcebook that they were familiar with.

Anyway it was only in reading that bit on page 167 of Sherry's book that it occured to me that our RCIA class was a good example of the New Evangelization. Major 1999 New Evangelization concepts included:

1. The explicit goal of evangelizing.

2. Action. That is, we didn't talk about the need for an effective RCIA program; we made one.

3. A nimbleness and responsiveness to what people wanted/ needed to know.

4. Using new media/ no textbook/ multisourcing.

5. Content offered in vernacular language spoken by a non-scholarly audience.

6. Lay initiative and responsibility. This strikes me as the most important.

Recalling those years, and turning the pages in my old red binder, I realize now more that I did then what a substantial evangelical project that first year of RCIA had been; how it didn't seem like a lot of work, but it was; what a little (well, big) family we all became, and still are when we see each other; and how the Holy Spirit moved within that class in a lovely way that I notice for the first time even as I write this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Geniuses at Work

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets 

Tonight the kids were on a tear. Sometimes they get up on the wave and ride it 'til we have to go home.

Class ran from the death of David's firstborn son and the birth of Solomon, through Elisha taking up the mantle of Elijah. As usual I established the idea of Solomon being the Son of David, which then became a Messianic term which people living centuries after Solomon applied to Jesus. I drew my usual cartoon of Solomon on his throne, with a vacant throne at his right. The kids figured who would be sitting beside him: his Momma, not his Wife Posse. I add Bathsheba, and a B and an S over the Royal Heads. We then reviewed 1Kings2 to see how Bathsheba interceded for Adonijah, and how her son honored her:

"Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon./ I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me." She said to him, "Say on." 17 And he said, "Pray ask King Solomon--he will not refuse you--to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife." 18 Bathsheba said, "Very well; I will speak for you to the king." 19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king's mother; and she sat on his right. 20 Then she said, "I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me." And the king said to her, "Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you." 21 She said, "Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife."

The kids sussed out why Adonijah got Bathsheba to intercede for him (e.g., as Moses interceded for the calf-worshiping Israelites). I mention that Queen Elizabeth's mom was also a Queen Mother, the Queen Mum. In prior years I'd jump ahead to Cana at this point, and they'd connect Jesus'n'Mary to Solomon'n'Bathsheba; and check out the last lines of the Hail Mary. But this year I did not make that jump.

Instead we moved along, getting to how Elijah fled King Ahab and Jezebel, and was Hungry in the Desert. Being Hungry in the Desert like the wandering Israelites of old, who received Miraculous Bread and Flesh in the forms of manna and quail, Elijah likewise received Miraculous Bread and Flesh (from a raven). Then we covered Elijah's bread miracle at Zarephath: "And she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of meal was not spent, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD which he spoke by Elijah."

At this point we jumped ahead to Jesus: "Y'all tell me the first time Jesus worked a miracle like this. When he did the loaves and fishes! Yes! More Miraculous Bread and Flesh! People were so impressed with Jesus' food miracles that when Jesus asked "Who do men say that the Son of Man is?" [T]hey said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Now tell me about a Jesus food miracle before the loaves. Well, at the wedding he made wine...yes, good, wine counts as food. Tell it." And the Cana story tumbles out of the fired-up children. I interrupt to ask why the stewards talked to Mary about their problem. They stop: one child looks at the Solomon/ Bathsheba cartoon, and yells "cause it's like Solomon and his mom! Genius, yes! Somebody tell me, what's like Solomon and Bathsheba? Jesus loves his mom and wants to help her! Yes again! He honors her like Solomon did; and what Commandment says to do that? The...the fourth! Yes! Y'all are too smart!

Then my Magic Finger rubs out the B and S over the cartoon royalty. "Y'all tell me what initial goes here now. J for Jesus! Yes, he's...King! Of...Heaven! Yes. And- M for Mary! Yes, ya too fast! So she's...the King's Mom! Yes. How come her chair is little? Well, Mary is God's Mother, but she ain't God, is she? No! Now remember in the Creed we say "He is seated at the right hand of the Father" so who do I still need to draw? The Father! Yes, here we Jesus his Father's right hand. Yes, and Mary...sits at Jesus' right hand. Good children! Yes? How come God isn't the King? God? Which flavor? The Father...why isn't he the King? Well, which person is called the Son of David? Jesus. Yes, and the Son of David was...Solomon. Yes, so Jesus is like Solomon; not God the Father. Jesus was mashia'd, anointed like David. Not Jesus' Daddy. So tell me about it. Jesus is the King. Yep. Is the Father jealous of his son? No, he loves him! Yes!

Just another night of Catechetical Bliss.