Monday, July 12, 2004

Second RCIA Class 

Tonight was my 2nd RCIA meeting. We were to study the 2nd chapter in Michael Pennock's "This is our Faith" which is a chapter titled "God: Our Loving Creator." I thought the chapter did a good job touching the major characteristics of God, relying on St. Thomas Aquinas' nine qualities that seem to comprise God's nature. The chapter talked about original sin and Adam and Eve and convenant history and the books of the Bible. Several decent summary questions ended the chapter, including a reflection on next Sunday's readings. I felt prepared.

Our class consisted of three students tonight and three sponsors. My sponsor, like me, is an ex-Methodist, very grounded in past Bible Studies. One sponsor is mid-fiftish, a lifelong Catholic who once considered becoming a priest. The last sponsor is in his late sixties, another lifelong Catholic. We never got beyond discussing the books of the Bible... just the initial few paragraphs of chapter 2. Our teacher began with discussing the difference between Bible stories (like Adam and Eve and Noah and Jonah and the splitting of the Red Sea) and historical facts. None of these things, the teacher said, actually happened, they are stories meant to communicate deeper truths. Right away the older, lifelong Christians began asking questions with puzzled looks as traditional Bible stories were relegated to myth. Whether God let life evolve until Man was ready to be chosen or whether creation took 7 days or 3 billion years, what does it matter? We looked at a map of Egypt and the Red Sea... why would they have gone down south instead of crossing up north? Couldn't the Red Sea have been the Reed Sea? Couldn't the wind have dried the marshy land? We know, today, that no fish could swallow a man, the story of Jonah is about being true to your calling. But if these are all stories, who's to say that the life of Jesus isn't a story? If crossing the Red Sea is a story, does that make the plagues against Egypt a story? Why would the Jews celebrate passover for thousands of years... well, says the instructor, that's why we have Bible scholars, to tell us which parts of the Bible are myth, stories and which are true, facts, it's not something easily done, it takes years of study and collaboration...

Being Protestant all my life, I was used to these kind of discussions, we used to have them all the time, all my life we talked like this, "Is it true, does it matter, is it real, is it myth, who can say." But I felt bad for our older, lifelong Catholic sponsors, I got the feeling they wondered what their purpose was, if not to witness their faith.

Not the best meeting. Once again, we sat in a circle on card table chairs with our books and papers on our knees... despite the familiarity of the discussions, it was both physically and emotionally draining.

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