Quite regularly I try to deal with RCIA participants who have some desire to be associated with the Church but who struggle with the demands of RCIA - the meetings during the week and the Sundaydismissals. I recall one lady who complained, "why can't we do this with a few meetings in secret like they did when my mother joined the Church?" Most of the time people are more subtle than that; citing family or job commitments to explain their absences. The challenge for the RCIA leader is to be authentic in presenting the challenge of belonging to the Church and at the same time to (as much as possible) welcome all who seek the Lord with a sincere heart.
So why do we initiate adults into our Church the way we do? The first answer is that conversion is a complicated process and takes time. Deciding to join the Church is not like choosing a new pair of shoes for spring. So people need to take the time to have their questions answered and to experience the worship of the Church before making a final decision to be baptized or received into the community. Certainly, it would be possible to provide a basic catechesis regarding Baptism in just a few hours and then proceed to the sacrament. The question becomes how lasting this kind of conversion is. Granted, based on statistics from the USA and personal observations, the RCIA is not wildly successful at producing regular church attenders. So, back to our question: why should the RCIA be so long and complicated?
Another answer to this question came to me in the Gospel for last Sunday (Matthew 7: 21 - 27). Here Jesus tells us to build our spiritual houses on solid foundations. How do you do that? Well, one analogy is found in sports. Years ago I spent some time coaching basketball. One of the challenges was to teach the fundamental of (for example) shooting and then to promote the practice of that correct form over and over. Doing this would establish a sound base for taking a shot in the pressure of game situations. We know that successful professional players spend many hours in practice. It seems to me that the spiritual life is like this also. We need to learn the basics and to repeat them often so that when times of trial come we will be able to stick to the basics and come through the trial.