Becoming Catholic in 34 Weeks…. When You Really Mean It

It’s actually encouraging and discouraging both at the same time. Ever since I wrote this, I have been getting a steady stream of inquiries about the contents of the RCIA program that we use with our Hollywood converts. It’s encouraging how many people want to find a smarter, more cohesive and rigorous program of introduction to Catholicism. It’s discouraging how many people find the offerings at their local parish pathetic, banal and disappointing. For posterity’s sake – and in hopes that it will cut down on the emails – I am posting the curriculum here.

It’s probably obvious that this program is both rigorous and demanding of the candidates/catechumens and the instructors. We tell the students to plan on an hour or two of reading every week and sometimes more. We count on the students feeling over-whelmed as that seems to make for a better preparation for prayer than the way a banal program would leave them feeling superior.

There are a whole bunch of sub-texts to this kind of program which the students hopefully absorb and generally start saying out loud by week three.

– “Wow, the Catholic faith is a lot smarter than I am.”
– “I could spend my whole life and not get to the bottom of the Church’s moral theology, or Her spirituality, or Her liturgy, or Her Biblical hermeneutics, or Her ecclesiology, or Her Christology or Her epistemology, etc. etc. etc.”
– “There isn’t anything I could wrestle with that the Church doesn’t have a lot to say about in Her ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium, or in the writings of Her saints and scholars.”
– “Who knew there were great storytellers who were Catholic?”
– “Everything Jesus gave us is saving. And none of it is superfluous.”
– “Catholic prayer is brilliant.”

One lovely gent from the UK wrote me to ask for the syllabus. After I sent it, he wrote me back and said, “Could you please send the instructor along with the syllabus?” It’s a good point. This program requires a teacher who has studied theology, philosophy and Scripture, and who knows and loves the great literature written by Catholics. The reading is more of a survey, but the lessons absolutely need to drill down into making dogma matter in the lives of the students.

It looks imposing, but it really is a blast, in the best possible sense of that. The students tend to love the classes and, by the end of the program, there is always a deep bond between everyone who has sat in the room all year. I can’t conceive of anyone going through this exercise without discovering a whole new life. A better one.

Hollywood RCIA Program

Created by Barbara R. Nicolosi, M.A.

Program Goals: A presentation of the basic theology and spirituality of the Catholic Church using classic texts and literature. To set the seeker on the journey of faith with humility through awareness of the richness of thought with which the Catholic Church protects the deposit of faith.

Course texts:

- The Catholic Study Bible, ed. John Senior, http://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Study-Bible-Donald-Senior/dp/0195297768/ref=dp_ob_title_bk

- The Catechism of the Catholic Church – (CCC) – Get the big green version – http://www.amazon.com/Catechism-Catholic-Church/dp/1574551094/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372630824&sr=1-3&keywords=Catechism+of+the+Catholic+Church

- Vatican Council II: Constitutions, Declarations, Decrees, ed. Flannery, (VCII) http://www.amazon.com/Vatican-Council-II-Constitutions-Declarations/dp/0918344379/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372631036&sr=1-1&keywords=documents+of+Vatican+II

- Triumph: The History and Glory of the Catholic Church, by Crocker

    http://www.amazon.com/Triumph-Power-Glory-Catholic-Church/dp/0761516042/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373493054&sr=8-1&keywords=triumph+history

- The Christian Idea of Man, by Josef Pieper, http://www.amazon.com/The-Christian-Idea-Josef-Pieper/dp/1587311127/ref=lh_ni_t?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER
- Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
- Brideshead Revisited, by Eveyln Waugh
- The Lord, by Roman Guardini
- Introduction to the Devout Life, by Francis De Sales
- The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
- The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis
- The Inferno, by Dante
- Silence, by Shusaku Endo
- The Reed of God, Caryll Houslander
- Handouts will include: “The Grand Inquisitor,” (by Dostoevsky, from The Bros Karamazov) “A Temple of the Holy Spirit” and “Revelation” (Two short stories by Flannery O’Connor), “The Four Ways to God” (by Benedict Groeschel from Spiritual Passages)

Curriculum:

#1 – ORIENTATION/INTRODUCTION – THE BEATITUDES
Reading: Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5:1-12

#2 – FAITH and PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
Reading: CCC 27-49, 142-175, 2558-2565, 2626-2643, 2697-2745
To learn: The Glory Be, The Morning Offering

#3 – “THAT CATHOLIC THING”
Reading: Brideshead Revisited

#4 – THE NATURE AND SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE HUMAN PERSON
Reading: CCC 355-379, 1700-1709, 1730-1742; Handout: Revelation by Flannery O’ Connor
For journal: “Why do I do the things I hate?”

#5 – THE NATURE OF THE HUMAN PERSON, PT. II
Reading: The Christian Idea of Man
For journal: What is a human person? How is a human person distinct from animals?

#6 – SCRIPTURE IN CATHOLIC LIFE
Reading: Vatican II, “Dei Verbum, CCC 50-141
For journal: How has God spoken to me personally through His Word?

#7 – THE TRINITY / GOD THE FATHER
Reading: CCC 238-256 (for memorization: #266); Handouts: from Fr. Groeschel’s Psychology
and Spirituality; The Book of Job

#8 – GOD AS REVEALED IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES; COMMANDMENTS 1-3
Reading: Bible, Wisdom, Song of Solomon; CCC 2083-2188
For journal: What is the name that God gives me?

#9 – JESUS CHRIST – Part I
Reading: CCC 430-463; The Lord, Chapters 1-12
For journal: “And you, who do you say that I am?”

#10 – JESUS CHRIST – Part II
Reading: CCC 464-560, The Lord, Chapters 13-17

#11 – JESUS CHRIST – Part III
Reading: CCC 561-679, The Lord, Chapter 17 – end
For journal: Which metaphor of Christ (ie. Good Shepherd, Light of the World, Sheepgate, Bread of Life, The Vine, Divine Physician, Way, Truth, Life) speaks the most to me and why?

#12 – THE HOLY SPIRIT AND GRACE
Reading: CCC 687-741, 1830-1832; “Temple of the Holy Spirit” by Flannery O’Connor
To learn: The gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit

#13 – THE CHURCH, PT. I
Reading: Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church – Vatican II);
To Learn: The Precepts of the Church

#14 – CHURCH, PT. II: HIERARCHY, APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION, INFALLIBILE
MAGISTERIUM, GRACE
Reading: CCC 748-870, 1996-2005, 2041-2043

#15 – THE SACRAMENTS OF BAPTISM AND CONFIRMATION
Reading: CCC 1210-1216, 1229-1274, 1285-1314;
For journal: What can confirmation mean in your life? What will make the difference in what it
could mean, and what it will mean?

#16 – MAN AND THE NATURAL LAW
Reading: The Abolition of Man, by CS Lewis

#17 – THE CLASSICAL AND THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES
Reading: CCC 1803-1829; Handout from Pieper “The Four Virtues”

#18 – CONSCIENCE, EVIL AND SIN
Reading: CCC 309-314, 385-412, 1846-1869; Man’s Search for Meaning
To commit to memory: types of sin and conditions necessary for serious (mortal) sin
For journal: What kind of a person would I have become as a prisoner in Auschwitz?

#19 – TEMPTATION
Reading: “The Grand Inquisitor,” from The Brothers Karamazov

#20 – COMMANDMENTS 4, 5, 7 and 8 / ON RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY, MURDERING, STEALING AND LYING
Instructor: Barbara Nicolosi Harrington
Reading: CCC 2197-2246, 2258-2317, 2401-2449, 2464-2503

#21 – HOLY MASS AND EUCHARIST, PT. I
Reading: Vatican II “Sacrosanctum Concilium;”

#22 – HOLY MASS, PT II
Reading: CCC 1322-1405; Handout from Spirit of the Liturgy
.
#23 – SACRAMENTS OF VOCATION I: MATRIMONY AND HUMAN SEXUALITY (COMMANDMENTS 6, 9, 10)
Reading: CCC

#24 – SACRAMENTS OF HEALING: PENANCE AND ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Reading: CCC 1434-1439; CCC 1422-1424, 1440-1470, 1499, 1511-1525;
To learn: The Act of Contrition (see p. 191 in the Compendium)
For journal: What is it that tempts you? How do you respond to temptation? How do I
understand the sacrament of reconciliation?

#25 – SACRAMENTS OF VOCATION II: PRIESTHOOD / RELIGIOUS LIFE
Reading: CCC 1536, 1572-1584; The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
View: Becket
For journal: Is God calling me to priesthood or religious life? Why or why not? (If you are
married, how can you help others who might be discerning a religious or priestly vocation?)

#26 – SUFFERING
Reading: Silence, by Endo

#27 – The Last Things: DEATH, JUDGMENT, HEAVEN, HELL / PURGATORY Reading: CCC 988-1014, 1020-1050; “The Inferno” from The Divine Comedy by Dante

#28 – CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING I (Bioethics / Life Issues)
Reading: CCC 1877-1948; Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church – Vatican II)- Preface, Introduction, Part I, Part II (chapters 1 and 2)

#29 – CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING II (Economic/Political Systems, Environmental
Stewardship, Nuclear Weapons, etc.)
Reading: Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church – Vatican II)
– Part II, chapters 3-5; Conclusion

#30 – THE LAY APOSTOLATE
Reading: Vatican II, “Apostolicam Actuositatem”

#31 – INTRODUCTION TO THE DEVOUT LIFE
Reading: Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis De Sales

#32 – BEAUTY AND STORY IN THE LIFE OF THE DISCIPLE
Reading: Handouts from Maritain and Pieper

#33 – CHURCH HISTORY: The “Dark Ages,” the Orthodox Split, Crusades, Inquisition, Galileo Incident, and Reformation
Reading: Triumph

#34 – SAINTS AND THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Reading: The Reed of God; CCC 954-975

The Rest of the Review: Flannery O'Connor's "A Prayer Journal"
Because That Puerile, Stupid Song is Really a Poison
See Barb at Via Affirmativa in Colorado Springs in May
Coming Soon: Exposing the Ickiness of the Christian Movie Selling Business

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