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RCIA — pass it on

When people begin to suspect that what they've heard about the Catholic Church might not be all there is to know, where do they go to find out the truth? They go to the source.

As in all things Catholic, the patterns of the early church are the ones we follow - and so each fall, in parishes around the world, RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is offered for those who have questions about the Catholic faith: Is it true we don't read the Bible? (We do.) Why do we worship Mary? (We don't.) Why are we not born again? (We are, but we don't use evangelical jargon.) And so on.

Beginning with informal discussions, at some point some decide to become catechumens committed to learning more about the faith and developing a spiritual life. We welcome them into the church at a deeply moving special Mass at Easter Vigil.

If you are feeling led to learn more, you will need to find your local parish. Unlike Protestants and evangelicals who can select the perfect church to match their needs, lifestyle and/or theology from hundreds nearby, Catholics attend their local parish. That means we cannot self-select to place ourselves in a group of what evangelicals call "like-minded" people, but we gather each Sunday with people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds who are called to one faith - a check on our human tendency to judgmentalism and the sin of spiritual pride

If you are curious, now's the time to begin. Find your parish at parishesonline.com, then contact them to find out when the RCIA classes begin. No need for apprehension - you will find no pressure in the Catholic Church as we respect free will and God's power to accomplish His will independent of our individual efforts. You will be under no commitment to attend even more than one class.

As an evangelical for 30 years - "born-again" March 21, 1987 - I was very prejudiced against the Catholic Church, yet four years ago found myself drawn to attend Mass, where I experienced a sudden illumination of the church universal - a second born-again experience. In the four years since, I have found in the Catholic Church complete fulfillment of all I had learned as an evangelical. And contrary to what I was taught - that the church and its sacraments and rituals were a distraction from a relationship with God - they have indeed strengthened and deepened my relationship and helped me live a more authentically Christian life.

I know that there are people who leave the Catholic Church, claiming to find the relationship with Jesus they did not find here - but that is not the fault of the church, as the teaching is true. I can't explain why for them the dots never connected. But I do know that each year many return, grateful that through their evangelical experience they were somehow able to find the relationship they missed, and now ready to enjoy the sacraments and graces available to them thought the one true church.

Among them is my friend Martha Sears (wife and coauthor of Dr. William Sears), who left the church for evangelicalism 35 years ago, who was indignant when I announced my conversion and then who - surprise - found herself called back six months later. While we hear a lot from vocal ex-Catholics, we need to understand that there are quiet, grateful people like Martha out there, too.

What can we, as grateful Catholics, do for those who are seeking? Pray each day. Tell others about RCIA - you can start by cutting or printing out this message and giving it to someone who just might be ready now - and consider volunteering to welcome those who come.

Finally, if this message resonates with you, please email me at barbarasaysso@gmail.com so I can add you to a special prayer list of people I will be praying for each day until Easter - people who are ready to begin discerning whether God is calling them to the Catholic Church.

Curtis, who blogs at mommylife.net, is a mother of 12 and author from Lovettsville.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012