LITURGY MATTERS: Introducing Nick Wagner - Book Review: 'Field Hospital Catechesis: The Core Content for RCIA Formation'

Last week, with a few other members of the diocesan community, I participated in the Australian Pastoral Musicians Network Conference in Melbourne. It was wonderful. I shall tell you more about it another time. There we met Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal who are facilitating our Diocesan RCIA Workshop Day on October 19. They are as excited about coming here as we are about hosting them. Today I would like to introduce you to Nick via Fr. Andrew’s review of one of his recent books. The review is also a great introduction to our Workshop Day.  October 19 is an opportunity for anyone who is Catholic to seize. It is about who we are and how we live. Read on and then ‘come and see!’!

What does the bankruptcy of US steel manufacturers have to do with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults? Everything, according to Nick Wagner.

The story that begins this insightful book and guide, outlines the need for those involved in the task of catechumenate ministry – and that is every single Christian! – to focus on getting back to basics. The image of the ‘field hospital’ is a well-known one made popular by Pope Francis. It illuminates the need for those who are called to the task of evangelisation – again, every single Christian! – to attend to the pressing and immediate needs of those who they engage with, rather than the secondary issues that we might consider important.

Drawing on the teaching of Pope Francis, particularly in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Wagner reminds us powerfully and clearly that the task of evangelisation, of preaching ‘the Good News’, is not about doctrine and dogma, nor about well developed and exhaustive programs. Rather it is about introducing the person of Jesus to those who need to know him and opening them to experience God’s love for them. The focus of the first proclamation of the kerygma, to which we should return over and over again, reminds the reader that the primary task of the Christian disciple is to make other Christian disciples through the explicit proclamation of the Christian faith, a faith that is rooted in the person and story of Jesus Christ.

This book offers suggestions and potential practices for use at a variety of points of the Christian journey – first proclamation, initiatory catechesis, and ongoing catechesis – that focus primarily on the three stages of the story of Jesus, i.e. The Beginning, The Climax, and The End. Embracing the possibilities outlined in this volume raises the potential of a new commitment to the missionary dimension of the Church above all things.

What might we gain if we were to do such a thing? Potentially, everything. What do we have to lose if we don’t? Wagner himself answers it best:

There is a real risk to this kind of teaching. If we do not control the learning environment and we do not focus on those few doctrines that Pope Francis says “are at times more philosophical than evangelical,” we run the risk of change. Our seekers might change, our RCIA process might change, our parish might change. We might change. For most of us, change is scary. It involves dying and rising – and we’re not always certain about the “rising.”

But the alternative to change – to conversion – is certain death, with no possibility of resurrection. That is a much greater risk.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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