LITURGY MATTERS: Where have you experienced God this week?

Sunrises along our beautiful coast are one of my favourite things. I can stand there for ages feeling the presence of God surrounding me.

In every sunrise God reveals to me an important insight. While the photo captures and holds a moment, in reality the sun does not stay still. The sun keeps rising, the light increases, the colours change, the busyness around me ramps up, and there comes a point where I have to move on and into the day that I have watched dawn. God is always calling me forward and into life. Standing still is not an option in the Christian life, discipleship and ministry.

This image, and other moments like it, reminds me of something a wise priest once shared when I was a novice. He used to live close to Central Station in Sydney and many nights bedded down on the platforms with the homeless. He said something like … ‘To experience God in the beauty of a sunrise takes a spirituality the size of a grain of sand. But to experience God present in the pain and diminishment of life … now that is a spirituality worth living and worthy of the name Christian.’

Growing our spirituality or our spiritual capacity is the work of a lifetime. It requires the spiritual gifts of presence, attentiveness and an openness to receive what comes as part of the divine mystery. Over recent days and weeks I have experienced the presence of God in the gentle tears of a colleague, the anxious face of a friend whose husband is sick, the angry words and actions of some, the courage and hope of a friend who faced cancer surgery, and the suffering and diminishment of my Sisters who are seriously unwell. All these encounters are sacred, and in all of them God is revealing not only God’s self, but also meaning, purpose and grace.

One of my most delightful recent experiences of God was to meet Justin and Angela, and Ryan and Teaghan. Two beautiful young couples who over some years befriended our Sister Marie Craddock whose funeral we celebrated a couple of weeks ago. Having become her friends, they accompanied her to the end and came to her funeral. They met her by chance and sort of ’adopted her’, among other things picking her up and dropping her to Mass ever

y weekend. They are not members of our Church. They weren’t going to Mass. But they built care of Marie into every weekend.

God’s revelation to me in that most precious encounter was like a waving red flag reminding me that the Spirit of God does indeed fill the whole world, and flaps around bringing about God’s Kingdom beyond the church, and sometimes in spite of the church. It was just the message I needed at just the right time. What a gift the world has in Justin, Angela, Ryan and Teaghan, and all people who embody the love of God even if they are not aware of it.    

‘Where have you experienced God this week?’ is the starting place for the ministry of Christian Initiation with both adults, and children and their families. The Christian Initiation Forum is focused on tilling the ground of this critical ministry and inviting communities who are interested to join in conversation to reimagine the Christian Initiation of adults and children through the lens of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, affectionately known as RCIA. Together we have drafted a summary of the vision, principles and processes of the RCIA.     

Christian Initiation

is a journey into the mystery of God’s love within the Church’s tender care (RCIA a.95).
It begins in response to God’s presence and prompting in the life of a person.
and takes place within the parish community, understood as 100% of Catholics.

The journey takes time and varies
according to personal circumstance,
the grace of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit.

The community of faith meets people where they are
and accompanies them through opportunities to encounter the mystery of Christ
in life, prayer, scripture, liturgy and the life and mission of the parish community.

Encounters with Christ are the focus of reflection in search of what God is revealing
and to discern its meaning for discipleship lived within the Catholic Tradition.

Christian Initiation is a paschal journey marked by conversion,
discerning readiness
to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation.

Those initiated continue to hold a place of honour in the community with
accompaniment to continue in the first year after Initiation.

What grabs your attention in this reflection? What questions does it invite you to ponder? What fills you with new ideas?

Imagine for a moment if for the Christian Initiation of both adults and children, we began and sustained our accompaniment of them with the question, ‘Where have you experienced God this week?’

God is already present and active in their lives. The ministry of Christian Initiation is not about us bringing God to them, but rather us guiding them to open their eyes and ears and hearts to discern the presence of God already with them, and active within and around them. The ministry of Christian initiation is all about leading people into the mystery of God so that they live more intentionally in the company of God. This is the priority. Knowledge about churchy things is secondary, and emerges in response to their questions, and the meanings God reveals to them in their experience.

The text or curriculum (I refuse to use the word ‘program’) for Christian Initiation is the liturgy, the life and mission of the parish community, and the life of the one seeking initiation. The driver is Holy Spirit, alive and active within us and beyond us.

So understood, Christian Initiation of adults and children is a ministry that is open and operating 12 months of every year. So understood, the primary minister of Christian Initiation is the whole parish community. That’s you and me. Any team facilitates the involvement of all of us.   

Where have you experienced God this week?

What might the ministry of Christian Initiation look like in your parish if you reimagine it through the lens of the RCIA? God is calling us forward and into a new day. How are we going to respond?


Sunrise Photo: © Margaret O’Sullivan rsj All rights reserved. Used with permission 

Image by Claudio Bianchi from Pixabay 

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Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.