Archive for the ‘RCIA’ Category

I am slowly deciphering some of the written materials left by the late Msgr. William J. Awalt. For review and comments, they are being posted at my BLOGGER PRIEST site.


Msgr. Awalt was the pastor of St. Ann’s Church in NW Washington , DC for just over 30 years, retiring in the year 2000. I was honored to preach at the Mass celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2007. His pastorate was marked by a deep devotion to the Eucharist and a never-ending preoccupation with preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.

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RUPERT: I have a couple of questions for you. The Latin traditionalists oppose the Vatican II stress on Ecumenism. Is Ecumenism really Catholic or just a break from the long-standing tradition and teachings of the faith? It seems to me that Ecumenism, especially the so-called anonymous Christian business of the theologian Karl Rahner did much to undermine evangelization and missionary outreach. Is this not so?


Father Rahner’s “anonymous Christian” has to do with people who sincerely seek to do God’s will, even as they suffer severe ignorance about his revelation to men. The mission mandate remains the same. Such ignorance should be dispelled so that all men and women might know the Lordship of Jesus Christ and his holy Church.

Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism – “It is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God” (3 #5).

One of the reasons why there is no perpetual teaching about Ecumenism is because the vast fracturing of the Christian communities is largely an event of the last quarter of the Catholic Church’s existence. Ecumenism was originally a word used to describe the unity between particular churches within Catholicism. Today it has to do with dialogue and cooperation with Christian faith communities that exist at varying degrees of separation outside the visible Catholic Church. I am somewhat at a loss in answering because it is not clear what you mean by Ecumenism.

Modern transport and communication has made the world a smaller place. By necessity the Church must have a more diplomatic and nuanced stance toward non-Christian religions, giving a special place of respect to Judaism. As for a fragmented Christendom, the Orthodox churches of the East and the Catholic Church of the West have valid sacraments. The singular defect of Orthodoxy is the denial of the full authority of the Holy See. The problem becomes more serious in regard to Protestant faith communities or those which are spin-offs of Christianity like the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Unitarians, Quakers, and others.

I suspect that many traditionalists are upset with a poorly disguised religious indifferentism that masquerades as Ecumenism. All churches and religions are not the same. Elements of the truth exist and are taught by non-Catholic faith communities; but these are often partial truths mixed with serious errors. In reference to Protestantism, these elements of saving truth were taken with them from their Catholic source. Notable among these elements is a faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Bible, although the latter is edited down from the Catholic version.

If anyone can be saved no matter what the religion or if truth is subjective, then the need to evangelize would be seriously compromised. While we leave the ultimate judgment of others to God, we believe that the Catholic Church is the great mystery or sacrament of salvation. That is the essential meaning of the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church. We cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus Christ is the redeemer and Saviour. The Church is his Mystical Body. The Church makes Christ present in his person and in his saving activity. Pope Benedict XVI refused to back down about this when certain Jewish leaders took offense at prayers that they should be enlightened to know Christ and to accept him. But he argued that we could not abrogate the heart of the Gospel. Many had unfortunately misconstrued statements of ecumenism from Pope John Paul II. Adding to the confusion has been the policy positions from various bishops, quite a few in the U.S., who have imprudently told their clergy not to evangelize or catechize potential Jewish converts.

When it comes to other Christian communities, we can dialogue so to better understand each other; however, Catholic teachings are not negotiable. We can work together for issues of justice and the needs of the oppressed and the poor. We have certain common faith elements and even orations, like Our Lord’s Prayer. But Catholics cannot take an active part in the rituals and services of Protestant communities. Similarly, while non-Catholics are welcome to attend Mass and even to make a spiritual communion, they cannot receive the Eucharist until or unless they are formally received into the Catholic Church.

It is important to remember that Jesus only founded ONE Church. That is the Catholic Church. The apostles were the first bishop-priests of the Church. St. Peter was the first Pope. While it sounds offensive to those who disagree, true ecumenism can never water down our conviction that Roman Catholicism is the TRUE Church.

Apologetics has sometimes been effective with certain more intellectual Protestant ministers like Scott Hahn. Of course they need humility to hear the Catholic position fairly. However, this form of debate is often missing or brushed aside by certain ecumenists. Ecumenical language tends to emphasize those things upon which there is consensus or agreement. However, it may be dangerous to ignore the crucial issues and practices that divide Catholics and Protestants.

The Catholic Church believes that the end of any debate or faith discussion is ultimately fixed. That is why Pope Benedict could speak to non-Christians about a dialogue where religious people in search of the truth can assist one another. He argues for clear reasoning and objectivity. He is not afraid because he firmly believes that genuine truth will bring sincere seekers to Jesus Christ and to the Catholic Church. He believes that only the Catholic Christian faith has the answers that most satisfy our longing for truth and meaning.

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This spiritual decision for Christ cannot be identified with water baptism or with any so-called saving works and certainly there is no foundation for infant baptism.


John 3:3,7: “Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew (again), he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . . Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.'”


This spiritual rebirth is intensely important for Catholics. Ours is no juridical imputation of righteousness; rather, we are literally remade into a new creation. Deleted from the pericope by our protagonist is this line, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Faith in Jesus and an abiding trust and obedience to him brings us to the baptismal font.

The Scripture citation here is still incomplete. It also states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:5). The font of life-giving waters is known as the “tomb and womb” of the Church. We die to our old self, to sin; and we are reborn to Christ and the life of grace. We become temples of the Holy Spirit and are configured to Christ’s likeness as adopted sons and daughters of God.

Our rite of initiation is not circumcision, but baptism into the name of the Trinity. Faith and baptism also makes us members of the new People of God, the Church of Christ. This theme of unity has always been important among the faithful. The Scriptures themselves narrate that sometimes whole households were converted to the faith (see Acts 16:15; 16:33; 1 Corinthians 1:16).

During this historical period and again with the development of second penance and regular confession, babies were also brought forward for initiation. The bond joining the members of Christ’s body was understood to be so intimate that parents and sponsors could make a profession of faith for a child who had not yet reached the age of reason. Mortality rates being high, this was of crucial emotional importance to parents and had eternal ramifications for the children.

Jesus himself had urged, “Let the children come unto me, and do not hinder them.” Over time, the final anointing of the baptismal ceremony was separated from the first part, often reserved for the visiting bishop. Similarly, first Eucharist was also delayed until the child was older.

When records are not available or when there is some doubt of validity, the Catholic Church will offer a conditional baptism to candidates seeking entry into the believing community. However, if their prior baptism in a Protestant community is deemed authentic, then they make an act of reception and subsequently receive confirmation and holy communion. Baptism is a one-time sacrament which forever configures a person to the Lord.

Technically, we equate the “born again” experience with baptism, although it can be personally affirmed with confirmation and a more full sharing in the gift of the Holy Spirit. We might also experience an exaultation at prayer which might give an emotional high or a special satisfaction to our faith. Christians baptized in the Catholic Church, even as infants, who seek and receive baptism in Protestant churches are in fact disavowing their prior baptism. What they are saying is that our baptism is null-and-void and that Catholics are not Christians nor are they “saved”, to use their language. This is a terrible happenstance. Catholics were the first Christians and Catholicism is the TRUE Church. We love and pray for our Protestant brothers and sisters; we join their chorus in praising God for giving us such a wondrous redeemer as Christ; however, we cannot rejoice in the ignorance of our own or the bigotry which steals them from our ranks.

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Calendar of Events

  • 10/05  Red Mass
  • 10/06  Voter Registration Deadline (DC)
  • 10/09  Christ in the City
  • 10/12  Archdiocesan Marian Pilgrimage to the National Shrine
  • 10/14  Voter Registration Deadline (MD)
  • 10/26  Marine Corps Marathon Run for Vocations
  • 11/04  Election Day
  • 11/13  Christ in the City
  • 12/11  Christ in the City
  • 01/08  Christ in the City

News and Announcements

Annual Archdiocesan Marian Pilgrimage/Peregrinación Annual – We call your attention to an important announcement concerning the annual archdiocesan Marian Pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, October 12. All are invited to attend and show our love for Mary. The theme is In the Year of St. Paul, a journey of faith with Mary, Mother of Hope. Confessions will begin at 1:30 p.m.; Scriptural reflections at 2:00 p.m., the Rosary at 2:30 p.m. and Mass at 3:00 p.m. The Mass satisfies the Sunday obligation.

Elections 2008

The United States bishops’ document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, reminds us that “participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all that we do.”

To assist parishes this fall, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a website with extensive resources and ideas for parishes, individuals, youth and schools, www.faithfulcitizenship.org. In addition, the Maryland Catholic Conference has produced a booklet on parish guidelines for elections.

Please note that all of the USCCB materials are available in both English and Spanish.

Resource for Parish Websites – Help your parishioners stay connected with Scripture. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has the complete Bible (New American) online, along with daily readings, video reflections on the readings and podcasts: www.usccb.org/nab/. This is a great link for parish websites.

World Priest Day (October 26, 2008) – The ninth annual World Priest Day, sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter in conjunction with the Serra Club’s Priesthood Sunday will be held on October 26. This is a day for families to celebrate and honor their Catholic priests and an opportunity for parishioners to thank, affirm and share their love and support for all of our priests. For more information about how you can participate, please visit www.priestsunday.org. Please forward the attached letter to your parish council president.

Voter Registration Deadline Coming Soon – You must be registered in order to vote in November’s general election for president and U.S. Congress. The deadline to register to vote in Maryland is Tuesday, October 14. Basic requirements include American citizenship, Maryland residency, and being at least 18 years old by the election. For more information or to register, please visit http://www.elections.state.md.us or call 1-800-222-8683. The deadline in the District of Columbia is October 6. Voter registration is online at the website of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, www.dcboee.org or call 202-727-2525.

Fall is the Time to Apply to a Catholic High School! – Families of 8th graders: Fall is the time to apply to a Catholic high school. Catholic high schools emphasize strong academics, faith, values and service and offer a wealth of enriching activities such as athletics, art, music and cultural events. See your principal or parish catechetical leader in September to obtain a directory profiling the various schools. Visit www.CatholicSchoolsWork.org for a schedule of open houses, links to high schools’ websites and other information.

Christ in the City (for Young Adults) – Christ in the City is a ministry of the Office of Young Adult Ministry that specifically focuses on spiritual growth and provides an opportunity to establish a relationship with Christ truly present in the Eucharist. On the second Thursday of each month, young adults from across the city congregate at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 10th and G Streets, NW, Washington, DC to pray and worship. Stop in for a few minutes or join us for the entire service. Either way, your prayer life will be enriched by the experience.

The evening starts with a 7:00 p.m. Rosary. From 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., there will be Eucharistic Adoration, Praise and Worship, Confession available and Reflection. St. Patrick’s is Metro accessible via Metro Center’s 11th Street exit or Chinatown’s 9th Street exit. Free parking is available at the parking garage on Tenth Street between G and H. Bring your ticket to the sacristy for validation. Dates for Fall/Winter 2008: October 9, November 13, December 11 and January 8.

Conference to Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem – Twenty years after Pope John Paul II issued the path-breaking apostolic letter on the dignity of women, Mulieris Dignitatem, leading scholars from the United States, Europe and Canada will gather during a conference in Washington, DC, October 3-4, to reflect on both the progress and the future of women and men. Civil and canon lawyers, philosophers, theologians and others will address each of the themes offered by the document: the importance of the feminine vocation for humanity; women and international rights; Christian anthropology and equality; original sin and its effects upon the male/female relationship; motherhood, virginity and the family; and the mystery of the Church as the bride of Christ. In a final roundtable discussion, scholars and participants will reflect upon the tasks ahead in order to realize the promise of the dignity of women.

The conference is co-sponsored by The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and Ave Maria School of Law. For more information, go to http://www.avemarialaw.edu/conference or call 734-827-8073.

Marian Conference at Mt. St. Mary’s – Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD is hosting a conference in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday, October 11. The day will begin at 9:00 a.m. with Mass and conclude at 5:00 p.m. Participants will be able to choose four Marian presentations from a total of 11 talks. Topics include The Blessed Virgin in the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, Pope Benedict XVI’s Teaching on the Blessed Virgin as Model of Faith, Mary and the Social Doctrine of the Church, The Perpetual Virginity and Divine Motherhood of Mary, and Consecration to the Blessed Virgin according to St. Louis de Montfort. For more information and to register, visit www.mount2008.com/symposium/ or call 301-447-5017. Please join us!

Chastity Events for Teens – and Parents – All teenagers from 7th-12th grade and parents are invited to attend Chastity Day: Real Freedom, True Love. Jason Angelette, a national chastity speaker will speak to the teens. At the same time, parents are invited to a session specially designed for parents to learn new ways to support your child in living a chaste life. For more information, go to www.adw.org (under events) or contact the Department of Life Issues at 301-853-4555.

  • Sunday, October 19, 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Our Lady of Perpetual Help Panorama Room, Wash, DC
  • Sunday, October 19, 6:15 p.m.-7:45 p.m., Jesus the Good Shepherd Church, Owings, MD
  • Monday, October 20, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Mark the Evangelist Church, Hyattsville, MD
  • Tuesday, October 21, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., St. John Church, Hollywood, MD
  • Wednesday, October 22, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., St. Patrick Church, Rockville, MD

All teenagers from 7th -12th grade and parents are invited to attend Chastity Day: Real Freedom, True Love. Jason Angelette, a dynamic chastity speaker will be talking to teens and new this year will be a session with a speaker for parents.

John Carroll Society Lecture for Year of St. Paul – Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., president of The Catholic University of America, will deliver the annual John Carroll Society Lecture on Tuesday, September 23, 6:45 p.m., at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, 1725 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. The title of the lecture is “The Journey Continues Today: Year of St. Paul.” Free admission. A concert prior to the lecture will begin at 6:15 p.m.

“Moral Life: Living with Hope Within Us” – Msgr. Peter J. Vaghi continues his series of lectures on “Moral Life: Living the Hope Within Us” on Thursday, October 2, 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Church of the Little Flower, 5607 Massachusetts, Bethesda. The second of a nine-part series, this lecture is entitled “The First and Second Commandments: Liberating Words of Faith.” The morning lecture (with coffee and bagels) will be in the Rectory Meeting Room and the evening lecture in the Music Room of Little Flower School. Admission is free. For information, call 301-320-4538.

Lyra Russian Folk Ensemble Concert – Lyra, the Russian Vocal Ensemble of St. Petersburg returns to Little Flower Church, 5607 Massachusetts Avenue, Bethesda, MD, on October 10, 7:30 p.m. These young, talented musicians have a repertoire of sacred, classical and folk songs. Admission is free (free-will offering). For information, call 301-320-4538.

Weekend Retreat for Women: Explore Religious Life – The Sisters of Bon Secours invite single Catholic women, ages 20-45, to learn more about religious life during a weekend retreat, October 25-26 at Bon Secours Spiritual Center, 1525 Marriottsville Road, Marriottsville, MD 21104. You will have the opportunity to be with sisters as you learn about their life, and will meet and share with other women who are exploring religious life as a life option. This weekend offers time for reflection, discussion, liturgy, relaxation and one-on-one conferences with a sister. There is no charge. To register or for more information, call 410-442-3172, toll free 1-877-742-0277 or visit http://www.bonsecoursvocations.org/journeywithus/pop_comeandsee.html.

Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation Conference – The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) was established in 1998 by an ecumenical group of Christians who sought to raise awareness about the plight of the indigenous Christians of the Holy Land. The HCEF 10th annual international conference will be held October 24-25, National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016. The conference title is A Decade of Seeking Peace: Pursuing Hope, Security and Human Dignity. For more information, contact Zachary Wales at HCEF, 301-951-9400 x 211.

Have Fall Travel Plans? – It’s easy to find a Mass at your destination. Just visit www.masstimes.org.

Awaiting the Resurrection of the Body at Catholic Cemeteries – Many of us recite the “resurrection of the body” line of the Creed without focusing on the fact that the body being referred to is our own! Yes, our faith in the Risen Christ points to an eternal future not just for our souls, but for our bodies as well. This consoling belief of the Church is the reason why Christians have always buried their dead together, awaiting the resurrection of every body on the last day. The Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese exist for this purpose: to await the resurrection of the body with family members, friends and fellow parishioners. To secure a “waiting place” for your family at the Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington, kindly contact the manager of a Catholic Cemetery nearest you or visit www.ccaw.org.

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When our Lord was asked questions by the scribes and pharisees, they were not always seeking real answers but looking for a way to convict him of false teaching and maybe even kill him.  Similarly, some people today may quote scripture and ask questions, not because they want to know more about the Catholic faith, but because they want to dismiss and repudiate it.  Subsequently, some of the material in the sub-pages here could just as well have been posted under Apologetics and anti-Catholicism.

Of course, many will also inquire in good faith and it is to this group that real dialogue and discernment is possible.  Please know that I believe that Catholics and Protestants need to work together to preserve our Christian values in a society that is becoming increasingly secular.  We profess with our separated brethren that JESUS IS LORD.  Please understand that no harshness is intended toward them and I apologize in advance for a writing style that might appear stringent at times.

Catholics can also take benefit from exploring questions of faith, particularly if their initial faith formation was lacking.  It must also be admitted that, as part of the human condition, we tend to forget things and may need a refresher.

The question and answer format has always been valuable in giving immediate responses to religious concerns.  Many of the questions here are inspired and follow a pattern reworked from an old book a century old that lacked a cover and literally crumbled to dust in my hands. Given changes in the Church, the old books suffer when revision is warranted and the extensive reformulations make such efforts new projects. The answers here are not full-blown, but are short and to the point. If such a format appeals to the reader, the old Baltimore Catechism remains an ideal example, although it will discuss such things as Limbo for unbaptised children, a theory that has largely fallen by the wayside today.

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  • “WE BELIEVE…” A Survey of the Catholic Church by Fr. Oscar Lukefahr, C.M.
  • Workbook for the Course
  • Outlines of the Catholic Faith Book
  • Bible
  • Prayerbook

If the notes used by presenters are made available, then they will be added to this site.

Pastor’s Remarks

On a recent visit to the United States, Mother Teresa surprised many of her admirers by observing that there was a poverty here which in many ways was even more dire than in Calcutta. What could she possibly have meant? If we were to really look around, the answer would hit us squarely between the eyes. Ironically, we have surrounded ourselves with a banquet of transitory delights and pursuits, while forgetting to seek an imperishable treasure. We have looked for love in all the wrong places. We separated sexuality from marriage and then wondered what had become of intimacy. We placed a greater value upon making and spending money than in leisure filled with peace and prayer. We have filled our lives with false gods who failed to make us happy and hid the fact behind noise pretending to be music and activity which only led us in endless circles. We have sought out easy quick fixes to our needs, instead of attempting responsible planning and hard work.

Where are we going?

What is the point of it all?

Why are we here?

What and who is the source of our existence?

The Church would desire to assist us in this journey to find the answers, both in ourselves and among others. Whether or not we really appreciate it, we are made for God. Without God, we are incomplete and frustrated. The greatest thrills and pleasures can become dull and boring. Money and power can lose their luster in the midst of suffering and death. Mother Teresa observed that we have become a spiritually impoverished people. We have sought to discover outside of ourselves, things for which we should have inquired within. Here is where the journey of a soul begins. The greatest figures and the least remembered all had to face suffering and death. Neither technology nor bribery could keep this great equalizer from our door.

We have become a lonely and frightened people. The Scriptures reveal that God made us in his own image and the humanists attempt to return the compliment by re-making God into man’s. It is not enough. There is an inner questioning and reaching in each one of us which seeks to be freed from a drowning sea of lies and half-truths. Even good things have become a part of the deceit. Religion has sometimes received bad press. Many people would claim to be Christian even though they belong to no particular community. Although this might be permissible for someone beginning the quest for truth, ultimately it should lead to a realization that God has called a people to himself in a visible and living community. We are a family of faith, not isolated monoliths to face the storms and calms of life without companionship.

None of these words, or those to follow, should be viewed as propaganda. The Church seeks to earnestly discover, to follow, and to proclaim the truth. She believes that her brand of truth is closest to the reality of things; however, the Church refuses to coerce anyone into her ranks. The Church merely offers the invitation, “Come and see.” Faith cannot be forced. It can be nurtured, but ultimately, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. If after seeing what the Catholic Church has to offer, one is still not convinced of her claims, to enter would be hypocritical. Intellectually, there have been many great minds drawn to the Church. Nevertheless, there have also been many well versed in what Catholics believed, who never seemed to receive the gift of faith. Instead of giving up, it is an occasion for more study and prayer.

Although the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was originally intended for those who were not baptized; the accompanying instruction programs include increasing numbers of the curious from other ecclesial communities. Our directives in this age would prevent us from any aggressive proselytizing, especially from the mainline traditions. However, the open invitation remains for any who would come of their own accord. Indeed, experience has shown that members from other communities, well versed in religion already and possessing the skills to search for truth, often outnumber those who look at Christianity for the first time. Engaging in the process of inquiry should make one feel eager to go all the way in becoming Catholic. We would hope that this would be one’s aspiration; but again, it must be a person’s own free decision. Another preliminary note of which we need to be reminded is to come with open minds and hearts. We will get nowhere otherwise. Also, it is important that we participate as much as our abilities allow in the learning process. There will be many influences, from the Internet community, from family, friends, some ministers, the media, etc., which will attempt to short-circuit this process of maturation in Christ. They may do this out of no ill will, but simply out of prejudice and ignorance. What danger can there be in hearing the Church out.


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