During RCIA enquiry, I’ve always thought it’s a good practice to meet enquirers early on, one-to-one. We use ACM materials, which provide a really excellent initial enquiry form, which helps you obtain lots of relevant information early on (especially regarding potential marriage issues) and also has a page for people to write about why they have felt called to come along, and how great is their desire to become a Catholic. In the past, I have always used these chats to begin one-to-one apostolate – personal friendship is absolutely the best way to evangelise – and also to begin to reflect on who would be a good sponsor. Normally, I take the opportunity too to explain the process and how it is individualised for each person – matching the amount of details I give to the interest they’re showing.
However, since Forming Intentional Disciples, I’ve been challenged to re-think this enquiry period, and this initial chat. Now that I’m coming to grips with the thresholds of conversion, the initial chat is a perfect place to attempt a ‘threshold conversation’, to discover where they are already in their discipleship. Why is this important? Well, in a blog post here I write about why someone should be in the threshold of ‘spiritual seeking’ – i.e. they are on the verge of dropping their nets to follow Jesus unconditionally – before they begin the Catechumenate.
So, threshold conversations in the enquiry phase seem important!
Well, I started to think how to do this. Given that we are British, and given that I didn’t know them all that well, I wondered how this would be possible. But after a friendly chat about the form they’d filled in and how they’d found the enquiry sessions so far, I went for the plunge. In the conversations so far, I said something like, “So, you’ll remember we’ve been talking about how a personal relationship with God is at the heart of being a Catholic. How does that sound to you? Is this something you’ve experienced? Do you think it’s possible?”
It seemed to do the trick! Without revealing confidences, the responses were very telling. It is at this point that a person will either pour forth with how astounding they are finding this new relationship, and how much they are longing for God. (Inside, my “spiritual seeking” alert is going off.) Or they will be a bit shifty and say they haven’t tried to pray before, but they’re interested (while I’m thinking, “curiosity”).
Of course, it’s important not to ‘over-simplify’ a person’s journey by pigeon-holing or labelling them. However, if we have some kind of awareness of where they are it helps us (1) direct the enquiry sessions to help them move forward; (2) it gives us a realistic awareness of how far away they are from the Catechumenate. Before this stage, they meet with the priest who will discern with them and make the final decision.
What would I do if I had more resources, more people, more time? Well, lots; but one thing for sure: I would want sponsors to be really well trained in understanding the thresholds and how to have threshold conversations. Then they could meet with their enquirer throughout the enquiry and, through these one-to-one conversations, help them move forward.