LITURGY MATTERS: There’s nothing better than a good liturgical book!

I don’t know about you, but I love to read. It is one of the ways I nurture my faith and my spirit. Reading is also important in my ongoing formation for ministry. Today, we start a new ‘series’ in which, from time to time, we will recommend some good books in the fields of liturgy and RCIA. This week, enjoy Fr. Andrew Doohan's review of a wonderful book about RCIA. Hopefully it will encourage you to get a copy and immerse yourself in it. So grab a cup of tea or coffee, pull up a comfy chair and a copy of Paul Turner’s book… and enjoy!   

Paul Turner, When Other Christians Become Catholic (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2007).

One of the great challenges that can face a RCIA Team in a parish is the wide variety of stories that bring individuals to seek incorporation into the Catholic Church. There will be, naturally enough, as many stories as there are individuals, all of which create difficulties for those responsible for accompanying them.

It would be easy, very easy indeed, to develop a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the journeys of individuals, making them all fit into a pattern or program that works more for the RCIA Team. Yet, Paul Turner would argue that, in doing so, the stories of those who are already baptised, those who are already Christian, are diminished. And this is not only discourteous to these Christians, but also betrays a poor understanding of baptism itself.

In When Other Christians Become Catholic, Turner examines the liturgical rites which are appropriate to the circumstances that are reflected in that title, and draws the necessary distinctions between that journey and the journey of catechumens that ultimately leads to baptism. Drawing on his own liturgical scholarship and research, Turner looks at the history and theology of ‘rites of reception’ in the Catholic Church – and in other churches – in order to highlight the significant differences that must be honoured in the variety of stories that bring people to seek incorporation into the Catholic Church.

My one ‘caution’, and I hesitate to use that word in reference to contributions from Paul Turner, is to highlight that many of the references contained in When Other Christians Become Catholic are to the liturgical rites approved for use in the United States. There are subtle differences between those rites and those authorised for use in Australia. As long as the reader is aware of those subtleties, the underlying theology, history and pastoral praxis envisioned by Turner is as applicable here in Australia as it is in the United States.

This book should be considered a must-read for anyone involved in the process of preparing seekers to become Catholics. Reading this contribution from Turner will hopefully change their understanding and their approach to journeying with those who wish to become Catholic. There may be a need to change established programs to accommodate the wide variety of stories that bring people to the process, but those changes will not only honour the reality of those whose journey it is, but will also greatly enrich the communities into which they seek to be incorporated.

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Fr Andrew Doohan

Administrator Catholic parishes of Dungog and Gresford and Master of Ceremonies.