Welcome to the Catholic Newbie blog. My name is Lyn Mettler and I hope to share with you how I came from being a 30+ year non-believer to a Catholic convert. I was opposed to any sort of organized religion for most of my adult life but in 2011 had a dramatic change of heart. I became Catholic on Easter 2013, and I hope to daily share my thoughts, worries and hopes with you and others on the same journey.
If you’re curious about the Catholic church, want to learn more about it or are even ready to convert, what can you do? Join your local Catholic church’s RCIA program.
What in the heck is RCIA, you ask?!
What is RCIA?
RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and it is the formal program that allows individuals to become members of the Catholic church. RCIA programs tend to start in the fall, so this is a great time to begin considering joining the program before they start up again in the fall.
Joining RCIA, however, does NOT mean you HAVE to join the church. You’re always welcome to just come and learn, and if you decide it’s not for you — or maybe you just aren’t ready yet because you have more questions — you can opt out or continue on again next year.
RCIA programs generally go from September through Easter, when individuals are officially brought in as members of the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass, which is the mass held the evening before Easter.
It is a beautiful mass and ceremony where you are baptized (only if you have not been baptized by a Christian church in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), confirmed and receive the Eucharist (which Catholics maintain is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ) in First Communion.
As a convert who went through RCIA for TWO years before converting in 2013 and now part of the team who helps lead RCIA for interested new members, I’ve spent many years surrounded in the joy of welcoming “newbies” into the Church. In fact, I feel it’s my calling!
How Do I Sign Up for RCIA?
First, visit a few local Catholic churches and find one that feels “right” to you. Then visit their website and look for Faith Formation, Adult Formation or RCIA.
If you can’t find it, simply call the main office at the church and tell them you are interested in RCIA or in learning more about the church as a non-Catholic and as an adult, and they will direct you to the correct person for more information.
RCIA programs usually meet once a week, some on weeknights, others on weekends. So you will want to consider a program that works for your schedule as well, as you’ll want to be there as often as possible.
What Is RCIA Like?
While each church is different, throughout the process you’ll learn about key tenets of the Catholic faith and its history, and have an opportunity to ask questions, inquire about your doubts and concerns and discuss different aspects of the faith, including how to live the faith in your daily life.
There are also various welcoming ceremonies held during mass to provide “grace” (help from God) and prayer as you go through this process so that God might guide you as grow in your learning and practice of the faith.
These ceremonies are no big deal — simply standing up at mass with the priest saying a prayer over you along with others in your group. The Catholic church wants to welcome you and educate you, never pressure you, and that is what the process is about.
If you find an RCIA group that does not feel like a fit, don’t be afraid to opt out and look for a different parish. Pray that God will guide you to where you need to be.
Why Do People Come to RCIA?
As I mentioned, I’ve been involved with RCIA at my parish both going through it and assisting for several years. We hear all kinds of stories of why people have joined RCIA.
Here are a few: someone who was inspired by Pope Francis, others who are marrying Catholics and wanting to raise kids in the same faith, spouses who are converting after as many as 20 years, those feeling a direct calling from God, and those who are simply just interested in exploring Catholicism more in depth and learning the truth about the faith.
We’ve had people who are already Catholic who don’t feel like they know as much as they’d like about their faith and others who simply just come to welcome newcomers to the church. They are single, married, in high school, grandparents, pregnant, going through an annulment, former atheists, Baptists and Methodists. You name it, they’ve been there!
So never feel like you’re alone or have too unusual a story to join the group.
What questions do you have about RCIA? What’s stopping you from signing up? How can I help?
Advent is a time to put your faith at the forefont. It’s a time to snuggle up next to the fire and imagine the Baby Jesus snuggled in swaddling clothes in the manger.
It’s a time of anticipation, of waiting for our King, of dreaming of the joy we will have in joining him in Heaven.
I love Advent. It makes me think of crisp cold days, dark nights and a time to burrow. Gone are the busy days of summer, of travel, of activity. It’s a wonderful season to use that burrowing time to renew our faith, remind ourselves of the gift we have been given and reignite that fire lest we be lukewarm for the arrival of our King.
While email is NOT my favorite thing (I get WAY too many), I LOVE email about my faith. In fact, I make it part of my daily routine to read my faith emails while taking my dog for a walk :).
Usually that includes reading the USCCB’s email of the daily readings, Bishop Robert Barron’s reflections on the daily readings, the Divine Mercy Daily, Catholic News Agency’s daily round-up and a Mary’s Moms group I am a part of who pray for one another daily.
6 Free & Awesome Advent Reflections and Retreats
With that in mind, here are some wonderful free options to help you make the most of your Advent (which starts Sunday, December 2!), many of them daily or weekly emails. I will be adding a few of these to my daily email readings 🙂
Matthew Kelly was one of my favorite authors early on in my conversion to Catholicism, especially his “Rediscovering Catholicism” book. He has a real gift for explaining Catholicism in ordinary ways that are easy to understand, as well as relating the faith to everyday life. He is a great place to start as a Catholic newbie or for someone who doesn’t like to dive deep into theology.
This series offers his daily reflections on the season of Advent.
Bishop Robert Barron is my current favorite person to follow when it comes to delving deep into the Catholic faith. The creator of the popular “Catholicism” video series and many wonderful series since, Bishop Barron goes a bit deeper, but does a fantastic job of explaining the theology of Catholicism to the average viewer or reader.
These daily reflections offer his thoughts on the Gospel Reading of the Day in the Catholic Church through Advent and beyond.
Pray More Novenas is a nonprofit with hundreds of thousands of readers, which sends out regular novenas (prayers prayed over nine consecutive days) via email. If you’re the type (like me) who can’t seem to remember to pray a prayer nine days in a row, Pray More Novenas sends it to you via email so you can’t forget! Awesome!
They offer a special Advent retreat with videos from speakers on a variety of topics related to Advent. They do ask for a donation, but if you can’t pay anything, you’re still welcome to register.
This is a book I have read in the past and will be reading again this Advent. It’s a wonderful walk through Advent, taking a look at various people in the Gospel, including John the Baptist, Mary, the Wise Men and more.
Calling all Catholics: Now is the time to be a saint, be JOYFUL, examine your own sinfulness and live your faith to the fullest.
Let us unify amidst this great trial and use it as a time to growth stronger and closer to God than ever! As a colleague of mine said, “prayer and fasting must be our mainstays.” And I fully agree.
I humbly beg you to avoid judging others, using inflammatory language and setting up divisions in our faith. We must stop creating sides and dividing among ourselves as “conservative” or “liberal” Catholics and as to whether we are with Pope Francis or not. This only makes a bad situation worse, in my opinion, and feeds the enemy whose goal is division.
Instead, let us keep our eyes on Jesus Christ.
9 Reasons Catholics Should Unify Instead of Divide in This Trial
Here are 9 reasons why this one unimportant Catholic convert from a small town in Indiana humbly believes we should stop the division and unify our Church:
1. Division is not of Christ.
As my parish pastor Father Dennis O’Keeffe said last week, “Division is NOT of Christ.”SO many of the Bible verses the first week of September from 1st Corinthians were about human knowledge and division — by chance? I think not.
Of course, be sure to read all these in their full context…
1 Corinthians 2:5 “… so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 3:3-6 “While there is jealousy and rivaly among you, are you not of the flesh and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely men?
“What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (Is this not what we are doing now: dividing ourselves as “I am with Pope Francis” or “I am not” or “Bring back Pope Benedict”? Are we not all together part of the ONE HOLY and CATHOLIC Church?)
1 Corinthians 3:18-19 “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God…” (Are we wise? Are we wiser than the Holy Spirit? I know I’m not!)
1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgement on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgement before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” — Enough said!!
2. Like the Pope or not, he’s our Pope!
I beg for the end of criticism and judgement of Pope Francis. Jesus Christ founded our Church on Peter, like him or not :).
As Catholics, we believe the Church rightly interprets, as guided by the Holy Spirit, when and how the Church should be organized, what it teaches and how it moves forward. This includes how the Pope is elected.
Pope Francis is VALIDLY elected according to Church teaching. He is here in this time and place for a reason.
Can we trust God on that? Or do we think we know better?
3. It is not our place to judge the Pope.
It is not our job to judge the Pope. Is it our place to judge anyone lest we be judged? I think we should work on our own flaws first. Remember Matthew 7:5?
“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”
Are anyone’s eyes “clear” enough to judge except God? But really this is about judging the Pope. In fact, the Catholic Code of Canon Law 1404 (Thank you to Tim Staples of Catholic Answers for this) says:
“The First See [Pope] is judged by no one.”
I am very bothered by everyone judging what Pope Francis should do in this situation with comments like:
He should say this
He should remove such and such
He should resign
I think it’s quite presumptuous to think we know better than he does.
I’m trusting Peter as led by the Holy Spirit.
If something criminal has taken place, it will be rooted out by Church officials. If a lapse in judgement has taken place, the Pope will ask forgiveness and we WILL forgive him. We are Christians, remember?
Staples comments, “It is not the place of Catholic lay people to call for the resignation of the Holy Father. It is our place to pray.”
4. Many of the accusations are from long ago.
As I understand it, most of the accusations being made of sexual abuse are from prior to changes that were made by the Church in and around 2002. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report spans 70 years.
Now, I know some corruption and cover up may have occured later where officials should have been removed, and I fully agree with the USCCB, which is calling for an impartial investigation by the laity to root out the problems here.
In fact, my bishop, Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, who is the chair of the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, says that American Catholic bishops are working on reform of policy and practice and is asking for a visitation from Rome and lay investigative experts from the United States.
But, in terms of the actual sexual abuse, let’s not forget that the Church has made great strides forward in reducing this terrible atrocity since 2002.
I know in my parish I could never imagine any child alone with a priest for ANY REASON whatsoever.
As a religious education teacher, I go through a rigorous training and background check, and it is very clear to me that I am NEVER to be alone with a child without another adult present.
Father Mike Schmitz gives his raw reaction in the video below to the Pennysylvania Grand Jury Report and says he’s never seen any such activity or hints of any activity as he went through seminary and now as a priest. He explains how if there was any hint of disordered tendencies in a seminarian the head of his seminary would NOT allow them to continue:
A newly-ordained (2018) priest at my parish, Father James De Oreo, reiterated in a homily the incredibly in-depth scrutiny he had to go through with multiple 800-question psychological questionnaires, in-person interviews and repeated background checks he took again and again as a seminarian.
This is not to say this scrutiny and prudence is definitely the case everywhere, but my point is that is that the corruption IS NOT everywhere as the media would make it seem.
“Whatever its past record, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has made unparalleled strides in educating their flock about child sexual abuse and ensuring that children are safe in Catholic environments.”
“Allegations of new abuse cases continue to decline, as they have since 1980, and appear to reflect the effectiveness of some of the charter’s policies as well as ongoing efforts to increase screening of seminarians and to deal with suspected abusers before they claim multiple victims.”
5. This is not just a problem in the Catholic Church.
Don’t get caught up in all the media coverage leading you to believe this is a Catholic Church problem. It’s not. It’s a societal problem. But, of course, the media is focused on the Catholic Church, which gives the impression that it’s only Catholics who have this problem.
The same Washington Post article from above points out that other denominations from Baptist to Judaism are facing the same issues, as is the society at large with the scandals regarding the Penn State football team, USA gymnastics and even the Boy Scouts of America.
It’s a sad fact that when adults are allowed to be alone with children, some with disordered sexual tendencies are going to commit this horrific act. The world is sinful: teachers, parents, coaches, and yes, priests and bishops, too.
And this MUST BE one of the gravest of sins, as Jesus said in Matthew 18:10:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
Lastly, please remember that just because some priests, bishops, etc. commited this crime, that doesn’t mean they all do. As Bishop Doherty said in a recent newspaper column:
“The bishops and priests who had no part in the evildoing are now suffering a humiliating aftermath. The men and women in religious orders who had no part in the evildoing are suffering.”
Please don’t blame them for the evil acts of others!
6. Catholics are called to obedience to Church teaching — and that means the Pope.
As Catholics we are to be obedient to Church teaching, which also calls us to obedience to the Pope. Vatican One documents declare “He [the Roman Pontiff] is the supreme judge of the faithful.”
That does not mean we can’t have opinions that differ from Pope Francis (like the environment, etc.), but it DOES mean that on certain teachings we must adhere to what the Church tells us, which includes Pope Francis as our leader.
Pope Francis has said NOTHING infallibly and nothing heretical, as some try to assert. And none of his writings go against Church teaching.
I have also had people tell me recently that the Pope is not above other bishops. Church teaching says otherwise below.
8. Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful , and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment . The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon . And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.
9. So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.
Furthermore, I encourage all to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this subject. Read 880-887 to see what it is has to say about the office of the Roman Pontiff, or Pope, including these passages:
For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered. (882)
The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff. (883)
Why do we believe Church teaching? Because we believe Jesus left Peter in charge of his Church until His return and sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in all things and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Church teaching is the essence of our faith: trusting the Magisterium and Pope to interpret what Jesus taught and what the Holy Spirit would have us do.
Otherwise, we’re in the camp of each person figuring it out for themselves and we know how much error that causes.
7. Jesus will not let Peter fall!
Again, credit to Tim Staples on this one, but remember when Peter tried to walk on water to Jesus and began to fall when he took his eyes off Jesus. What did Jesus do? He lifted him back up.
He won’t let Peter fall! Trust in the Holy Spirit that He will lead Pope Francis and defer to Pope Francis’ judgement that the Holy Spirit knows best.
8. Remember the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
Credit to Father De Oreo for this well-spoken point. The parable of the wheat and the weeds speaks of the fact that the weeds (sin) must grow alongside the wheat (holiness) lest the wheat be cut when also trying to remove the weeds.
Sin, horrible sin if the devil has anything to say about it, is going to always be with us: always has been, always will be.
Bishop Robert Barron had this to say about the parable of the wheat and the weeds:
“When we discover evil, it is always very tempting to go after it with both fists, to take it out. But the warning of the Master here is extremely important. Sometimes, our zeal can lead to far greater problems, precisely because of the way evil is related to the good.
“So what should we do? Let them grow side-by-side for the time being. At the end, at harvest time, the Master will separate them out.”
That’s not of course to say we shouldn’t stop criminals from harming children! But that perhaps once we do that, we leave it to Church leaders, of which there are MANY capable, intelligent, validly-elected bishops and cardinals, not just those involved in any cover-up and corruption, to sort it out.
9. Lead with joy, not judgement!
By Manfredo Ferrari via Wikimedia Commons
Who wants to join a church that judges everyone? Not me!
Who wants to join a church that is arguing amongst itself? Not me!
Now more than ever, let us display our Christian joy! Think of Mother Teresa’s wonderfully joyful face in the midst of suffering.
We draw people to the faith by the witness of our lives, which should focus on joy and peace and not judgement and criticism and hatred and vitriol. There is never a time and place for any of this.
Don’t be the Internet troll who is nasty and mean, using vitriol and curse words to make your point. If you disagree, do so with respect, humility, prayer and kindness.
If we lose our joy, what do we have? Choose Joy!
Father Schmitz says now more than ever we must be the saints God has called us to be. Go forth and be a saint and let that be the difference maker in the world and its sinfulness!
This is just one convert’s humble opinion :).
And, go ahead and post your respectful comments below 🙂 I know they’re coming!
Just as baseball players head to spring training to practice and prepare for their upcoming season, might I suggest spring training for something a little different: being led by the Holy Spirit.
After Deacon Ralph Poyo lead my parish’s mission one year, the message that spoke directly to me was that we need to be a people and a parish that is led by the Holy Spirit. If we don’t ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things, we will not become the vibrant, welcoming parish we desire and the saints we are meant to be.
For example, after the second evening of the mission when Deacon Ralph talked about spiritual warfare, I commented to him that I had dreamt about demons afterward. I asked him, “Is this something I should be worried about?” He said, “I’m not who you should be asking. Who should you be asking instead?” So I immediately replied that oh I should probably talk with our pastor. He said, nope! Then I realized I should be talking to God and he clarified that I should ask the Holy Spirit specifically. Light bulb moment!
The Challenge of Being Holy Spirit-Led
Living guided by the Holy Spirit is not easy, as it’s not how we usually live our life. Rather, we tend to think what do I want right now and how can I get it? Or what do my kids want and how can I get it for them?
But we have to relinquish that “me, me, me” self-centered way of life and change it to “He, He, He.” 🙂 That requires some serious spring training for all of us to get into spiritual shape!
What does it mean to live guided by the Holy Spirit? It means asking His guidance in all things. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember to throw the empty shampoo bottle in the shower into the recycling bin! So remembering to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance before all things? That’s going to take some practice with undoubtedly a few curve balls along the way.
If we want to live “Holy Spirit-led,” then we have to turn it into a habit; we’ve got to get to the point that it’s just a part of our “swing.” That means at least three weeks of doing this on a regular basis until it becomes ingrained in our day-to-day activity so we no longer have to exert effort to make it happen. That takes practice!
And not only do we have to remember to ASK, we have to remember to take time to LISTEN for His answers and then ACT on them. I pray everyday to Mary for the grace to better discern God’s will for me, to actually DESIRE His will for me and then to have the courage to DO His will for me.
Spring Training Exercises to be Holy Spirit-Led:
First, we have to have give the reigns of our lives over to God, allowing him permission to guide us. THEN here are some other ideas and suggestions…
Go to daily mass as often as you can and present your questions during mass
Spend some time in the Blessed Sacrament at the beginning or end of your day, lifting up your thoughts to the Holy Spirit
Using a journal, write a note to God/Holy Spirit about any worries, concerns or direction that you need.
Write down a list of what you need to pray for daily. She includes:
Help she needs in her relationship with God
Help in her marriage (or vocation)
Prayers for her children
Prayers for her home
Prayers for outside relationships (or anyone you feel called to pray for that day)
Prayer that God will be the priority in all things
You could also add prayer for work related items
Read the Bible – You can read the daily readings or follow a Bible Reading Plan like the one from the Coming Home Network. Look for answers from the Holy Spirit.
Before major discussions, emails and phone calls, stop and say a prayer for those involved and that God’s will be done.
Pray the Angelus at noon – Set a timer on your phone and stop and pray this short prayer in solidarity with others around the world.
Pray one of the Liturgy of the Hours – Download the Laudate app on your smart phone and stop and pray at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. or 9 p.m.
Pray your calendar each day. Stop and review your calendar, praying for each person you will meet or talk with that day.
Daily Reflection/Examination of Conscience – Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic offers a great Prayer Process you can complete upon the close of the day, examining what you did and did not do to be the best version of yourself, pray for others, thank God for what you are grateful for that day, etc.
Go to Reconciliation monthly, so you can properly “hear” the Holy Spirit rather than have Him be clouded out by sin, even little ones.
Receive the Eucharist as often as you can to continue to cleanse yourself of sin and receive grace from God.
Engage in spiritual reading and look for answers from the Holy Spirit.
After You Listen, Put What You Learned Into Practice
These exercises help us make time to ask and listen to the Holy Spirit, but then it’s time to ACT, which can be the toughest part.
You’re going to be out on the field, in front of everyone, putting into action all that you’ve learned in training and following the coach’s (Holy Spirit) orders even if you don’t like them.
The Holy Spirit puts me outside of my comfort zone all the time in what He asks of me. I have slowly adopted the attitude that it does not matter what others think, only what God thinks of what I am doing.
So, as an introvert, if I feel afraid to introduce myself to someone, that they might think I’m being too forward or strange, it doesn’t matter, or as embarrassment and anxiety creep in, I try to just let those feelings go.
I have to be at peace knowing that I was trying to do what God asked and know that He will be pleased no matter what anyone else may think — and even if I feel embarrassed or silly as a result (believe me, that happens most of the time!). That is truly all that matters.
Are you ready to be Holy Spirit-led? It’s critical if we want to become the saints God desires us to be. Let us let Him lead us to the Promised Land but first let the spring training begin!