It is always flattering when someone takes the time not only to read one’s work, but to respond thoughtfully to it. In this case, I am especially pleased to have two graduate students in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame respond to my work on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). I began this project while an assistant professor of sociology at Notre Dame and very much had in mind the idea that the Catholic university in general, and Notre Dame in particular, is a place “where the church does her thinking.” From the outset, I wanted to bring a sociological perspective and methodology to bear on questions of central importance to the church. I targeted the work not only to professional sociologists inside the ivory tower but to Catholic intellectuals outside of sociology and practitioners in the trenches. To the extent that these two young Catholic intellectuals were able to engage my 2012 article in the Review of Religious Research, “Initiation Rites in the Contemporary Catholic Church: What Difference Do They Make?” (54:401-20), I consider my efforts a success. Continue reading
A very wise and holy priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross once told me, in a moment of challenging simplicity, that the secret to the spiritual life was “showing up.” I was at that time seeking something along the lines of Saul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus so, like so many inheritors of good advice, I immediately disowned it. But upon reading a recent study by David Yamane on the results of RCIA implementation in over 30 parishes across the diocese of Ft. Wayne/South Bend, I was forced to revisit the priest’s advice. Yamane’s study employs complex sociological research methods and models (and I would suggest anyone interested in the details should read the study and also see Laura Taylor’s excellent post about it). For the purposes of this post, I would like to highlight Yamane’s finding that “the extent of RCIA implementation is the key factor driving this model…If we consider the total effect of implementation (its direct effect plus its indirect effect through rating), we see it is over three times as large as the effect of rating” (413-414). In other words, a more fully implemented RCIA program (including regular practice of the Rite of Dismissal, a longer period of mystagogy, and a continuous precatechumenate) is more effective at facilitating involvement in parish life than the participant’s personal assessment of the RCIA program. Continue reading
Among other insights, Sarah Moran asks the question, “[Can] ideographs such as ‘new evangelization’ serve to sharply differentiate and even heighten polarization among some ideologically divergent groups ([e.g.] of ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’ Catholics) even as it unites”? This is an excellent question that deserves more sustained attention. For now, I would say we should keep in mind that we have been discussing the “new evangelization” (NE) as a “specialized” and “second-order” ideograph rather than first-order, if you will. With specialized ideographs we can expect that there will be an effect of differentiation and polarization as she has suggested. Continue reading
Cyril of Jerusalem, the fourth-century theologian, bishop, and Doctor of the Church, wrote a prolific number of lectures addressed to adult catechumens preparing for full entrance into the Church, compiled into what we refer to as the Mystagogical Catecheses. Overflowing with rich theological exegesis and detailed descriptions of the catechumenate process, Cyril’s ancient lectures provide an exceptional insight into the practice of adult initiation into the Church—one that had fallen out of use for centuries until the Second Vatican Council’s restoration of the practice in the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” Sacrosanctum Concilium. Since then, the 1988 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults has become the primary vehicle for adult initiation in the Catholic Church. Yet, its efficacy is one of arguably varied success.
David Yamane’s paper “Initiation Rites in the Contemporary Catholic Church: What Difference Do They Make?” for the Review of Religious Research sheds some much-needed light on the current state of Catholic initiation practices in the United States. Yamane addresses the type of question both liturgists and catechists constantly wrestle with regarding the effectiveness of their work. Specifically, “Do individuals who participate in the RCIA process in the Catholic Church experience an increase in ecclesial involvement and spiritual practice?” Utilizing advanced sociological research methods and supplementing them with the work of eminent theologians, Yamane endeavors to identify the extent of change in different domains of religiosity over the course of the RCIA process, based on data collected in two waves between 2000 and 2002 and encompassing 159 individuals throughout 32 different parishes in the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. His conclusion: the RCIA process can make a significant, positive difference in the ecclesial involvement and spiritual practice of initiates, but only in parishes that have more fully implemented initiation programs. As a liturgist who has studied the rites of Christian initiation with one of the theologians referenced in this study, I agree wholeheartedly with Yamane’s conclusion. Continue reading