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Sunday, February 19, 2006

RCIA as Purgatory

Paul recently did a series of posts on Purgatory that can be found here, here, here, and here. I’d like to add my $0.02 by examining the purgatorial nature of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.

We’ve all heard of places where RCIA is handled so badly that it can only be regarded as a purgatorial experience. This is not the sense that I’m thinking of when I say that RCIA is purgatorial in nature. My own experience hasn’t been nearly that dreadful. We got off to something of a rocky start, but by and large my classes have been really, really good.

I see this stretch before my confirmation as something of a picture of Purgatory. The similarity between the two is most acute when I’m at Mass. I’m unspeakably excited at the prospect of being welcomed into the Church, and there's an overwhelming joy that comes from just being in the same room as Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, but that joy only sharpens the pain I feel at not being able to receive Him. This deep yearning for Him is truly painful (sometimes even to the point of an actual physical ache), but it's a pain in the best of ways. It’s getting me ready, making me fully aware of the awesomeness of the Sacrament.

I think Purgatory, in a similar but even greater way, will be this joyful kind of pain/painful kind of joy. Knowing that you've died in God's friendship and being so close to His Presence are cause for happiness that we cannot yet even imagine, but the intense pain of being not-quite-there is what purifies us, getting us ready to enter in.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Moneybags said...

"I’m unspeakably excited at the prospect of being welcomed into the Church, and there's an overwhelming joy that comes from just being in the same room as Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, but that joy only sharpens the pain I feel at not being able to receive Him."

I know exactly what you mean! I began attending Masses in 2002 but was not able to receive Our Lord until the Easter Vigil of 2004. It was a spiritual desert for me, just like purgatory, but at last, I arrived to that day when I was welcomed into the fullness of the truth. That was the day I received Him for the first time - a day that my soul will never forget.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

Ditto what Moneybags said. I began attending Masses in 2004 but wasn't received into the Church until December of 2005. It was definitely a lot like purgatory, particularly once I was in RCIA and wholly committed to converting. But it's all worth it in the end; I am still learning just how profound the Blessed Sacrament is.

There was one pitfall that I found myself falling into back before I was received, though. I became angry at all the "cafeteria Catholics" who I knew hadn't gone to Confession in who-knows-how-long and didn't believe in all the Church's teachings like I did, walking up and receiving the Sacrament when I couldn't. It was tough to sit through Mass, not because of the obvious hunger I had for the Eucharist, but because of the disrespect I saw around me.

7:50 PM  

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