What to Teach the RCIA Class about the Saints?

This coming Sunday, (and the Monday evening following) I’ve been asked to teach the RCIA Catechumens and Candidates from my parish a class on the Communion of Saints. What should I tell them? What questions should I be prepared for? What do you think they want to know? What would you like to know if you were them?

Aside from the dry, formulaic, and dare I say it, boring (!) presentations on the saints that many have endured, what would you suggest?

I’m excited about the saints, because as you know, I think they are hards corps. So I don’t think I’ll bore anyone to death, but I don’t want to scare anyone either (the horror!). And I’m humble enough to admit that I don’t have all the answers either.

So shoot me your suggestions in the comm box below. And I promise an “after-action” report when I’m all finished (including how many people I put to sleep).

Thanks for your help!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02270396127498411004 Shannon

    I'd move out of "teaching a class" mode and share with these new friends something about your old friends. In other words, help them get to know the other relatives in the family.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17691145638703824456 kkollwitz

    I have spent one 6th-grade class period per year for 6 years on the Saints. I cover:"Pursuit of Happiness;" saints are perfectly happy via perfect & eternal friendship w/God.Saints are like us, they were sinners, e.g, Augustine, and St Paul:"…though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; 16 but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."Sin is not an obstacle to sainthood; failure to repent is.Also recall St Peter's denial & later reaffirmation of Jesus.Conversion experience, sometimes like St Paul, whap! Sometimes like St Peter, repeatedly falling and getting up.Informal saints: anyone on Earth enroute to salvation. Anyone in Heaven not canonized. Anyone in PurgatoryFormal saints: canonization from Greek "Kanna" a stick, a measuring rod. Church's authority to set rules about sainthood & declare saints.Church Militant, Suffering & Triumphant.Communion of Saints: Nicene Creed and Hebrews 12:1, cloud of witnesses. Saints as our extended family. Saints intercede for us. we ask people on Earth to pray for us; we can still ask them after they die & go to heaven. Being perfectly righteous, how effective would their prayers be?Describe the Cathedral of Savannah Ga., with its murals showing the "cloud of witnesses:" oodles of saints and OT figures. Say a bit about attributes: Peter's keys; Matthew Mark Luke & John's Angel, Bull, Lion & Eagle; Catherine's wheel; Sebastian's arrows, etc.(Prayer is not always worship; it can also be communication, thus I pray to my Grandma).Elisha's bones:"So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet."And from that lesson, the veneration of saints' relics. I act out Max Kolbe exchanging himself for other prisoner, SS officer deciding who in class will die. Say a bit about M Teresa, Isaac Jogues, Fr. Damien.Have a look at this old post based on class:http://platytera.blogspot.com/2009/10/sticks-saints.htmlLast: a saint is a sinner who lets God make him into all he was created to be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02759106786222445808 Will Edmonson

    Mention Jesus' comment about God being the God of the living, not the dead in Mark 10, an allusion to Moses and Abraham being living while not on earth. Also mention the transfiguration and Jesus communing with Elijah and Moses. Those are two scriptural references to it. You could also mention the process of becoming a saint- the miracles, etc.http://thewonderfulkey.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04545510194367389333 Stefanie

    November is my favorite month to teach RCIA because of the saints. They are our allies, our collaborators, our instigators, our crazies, our inspiration. One simply cannot read about saints — the real stuff — not the Golden Legend gloss-over…and NOT be unmoved. Our saints share the human qualities known to all of us mortals. Yet — unlike the Old Testament prophets and kings who saw dimly, the Christian saints eyes and souls were opened as they began to embrace the Truth of Jesus. The Joy of Him and the Sorrows of Him. St. Jerome said famously, "Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." I would venture to say that ignorance of our saints is ignorance of what it is to be Christian. Many of our saints operated in an awful lonely place–seeing the people around them turn from full-out worship of God. This happens in our day, too. And we have examples of it every week. I was just now watching a CNN video of the prayer service for all parishioners of Bagdad's Syrian Catholic cathedral — the one in the news on the eve of All Saints Day. The blood splatter of those who died there during Mass — Muslim and Christian–was still on the walls, floors. The cathedral has now been additionally consecrated with their blood. And yet the survivors gathered to pray and light candles in the midst of all that. We don't know how we will die, but we can change how we live. Additionally, Father James Martin, S.J. wrote a great article last week for HuffPost which I shared with my group. It is titled,"The saints were as strange as you are and you can be as holy as they were" — a good read for those considering Catholicism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Thanks for these great thoughts and ideas. Keep 'em coming!@Shannon: There isn't much hope for the normal "teaching a class" mode. Have you read my For All The Saints posts? Get ready to rock n' roll ;).@kkollwitz: Aye, aye and thanks for all the fine suggestions. Body of Christ is definitely on the checklist. As for the cathedral in Savannah, she sounds like a beauty!@Will: Got it, and how handy that we just heard it in the Gospel reading this past Sunday.@Stefanie: Yes ma'am, I agree with you (and I was ignorant for far too long) and I saved that recent Father Martin post just for this occasion too!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06592533679018215561 Caspar Ignatius

    Oh, heck–focus on the (substantiated) miracles! Call Jean Vianney the "Demon Fighter of France," Padre Pio "The Bloodiest Good Guy Around," Mother Teresa "The Albanian Tank." Do a little melodrama! These guys had contact with God!And really, I think that should be part of the intro–here's real life, historical examples of people who met, talked with, loved deeply God. He was not just the third party in an argument with an atheist, or merely the impotent old guy, or the flying spaghetti monster, or whatever–he acted in power.Demons fled before those who were truly temples of the living God. The deaf heard, the blind could see, the lame walked. How do we know we are in the Body of Christ? Because her greatest sons and daughters made manifest the power and presence of the Spirit of God by their works and their words.These are what stoked my faith first–taught me to hope as I had scarcely dared hope before (all right, melodrama–and props to whoever gets the reference–I was pretty young). I knew that God was real because men and women such as these were once real.Pope Benedict once said there are only two good arguments for the truth of the Faith of the Church–her saints, and the beauty she generates in art, music, liturgy, literature, etc. Show these to your students first. Then you can give them the framework. But give them their heritage of miracles, cool spiritual warfare (where the good guys actually win!), and a real sense that we live in Lord of the Rings.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04545510194367389333 Stefanie

    Caspar — great comment! Whenever I learn about yet another saint's life, I feel so unworthy of 'the name – Christian' — and I say to myself, "What a Church, to have such people in them!" Makes me want to cry with joy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    "The Albanian Tank"…;) And the Miracles, absolutely. And the Incorruptibles—how is that not miraculous?!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    @kkollwitz: "Elisha's Bones" That was the neatest thing I learned from Father Bampfields Bible Class!

  • Ashli

    Frank, you will do a wonderful job! I went through RCIA last year. When I first heard about the saints, my first thought was that they were these incredible, almost supernatural, people on a pedestal. I was frustrated because I thought I could never relate to such persons, like what they had was unattainable. It was so nice to find out that they were regular people that struggled and sometimes failed. It was their faith that was so special, and that faith is attainable to all of us with God's help.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    @Ashli, It may be impossible for me not to go bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm. ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02449860276137795051 Pat Gohn

    I always try to tell saints' stories that might resonate with the demographics of the group. Beyond that… I'd go with the amazing idea of the connectedness of the Church Militiant, Suffering, and Triumphant….and I'm sorry I don't have the exact citation from Lewis' Screwtape Letters but there's a great exchange where the veteran devil reminds the newbie devil that we don't want people to realize that the Church is Triumphant, etc, because then there would be no stopping them. If people can stay in their narrow (and given Church scandals et al) and discouraging ideas about the church, it will lose its relevancy to their lives.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16813482372662211165 Mike Fears

    I just completed a talk on the saints, and used Fr. Robert Barron's insights from his program Untold Blessings. That and some of Scott Hahn's information from his book Signs of Life seemed to work well. I also "spread it around" and don't try to address specific demographics – I've found it to be a recipe for misunderstandings. It's difficult to know what aspects of saints – personalities, mission, writings, relics, devotions, etc. – will make the greatest impact on any one person. I do have an outline of the talk if you're interested.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    @Pat, The Screwtape Letters approach to the Church Triumphant is a great one-liner!@Mike, After all, there is a saint for every demographic/stage of life that anyone will ever find themselves in. Thanks!

  • http://www.saintgianna.org Joe Cunningham, President Emeritus, Society of Saint Gianna

    Just learned of your website. Please consider Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, http://www.saintgianna.org, wife, mother, physician whose children are alive. Canonized "Mother of a Family", first female physician canonized.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    @ Joe: Thanks, she sounds fascinating and I love to learn about all of our extended family members. But many other saintly mothers have welcomed her into heaven. Like Blessed Marie of the Incarnation.