7 Things They Might Not Tell You in RCIA

Monday, April 10, 2017

We're on the edge of Holy Week y'all! 
This year I have been helping out with our parish RCIA program. RCIA is near and dear to my heart. My mom is a convert and so are some of my best friends. Hanging out with people who genuinely want to learn more about the Catholic faith and are seeking understanding is a great experience for re-lighting your own faith fire!
But there are a lot of little things involved in Catholic practice that might not get communicated in RCIA classes.


Crossing Yourself When Passing a Catholic Church

My husband did not grow up with this tradition and he took him months to finally ask me why I was always making the Sign of the Cross when we passed a Catholic church (on public transit, making the Sign of the Cross at odd moments gets you a couple stares.)

We do this in acknowledgement that we are passing the real Presence that is truly residing in that place. It's a pause of reverence. It doesn't take very long but it is an easy way to remind yourself of why that building is different from any other building.


Praying a Hail Mary When You Hear an Ambulance Siren

There are lots of variations on this one, but I grew up with saying a Hail Mary when you heard an ambulance siren. It is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the living and the dead. I don't need to know the specifics of the situation to know that that sound means that someone is in great need of help. I'm praying both for the person in need of care and for the emergency workers who now bear a responsibility for life saving measures. The prayer acknowledges that this need is happening in my community, is something I should care about, and offers the only help I am able to give at that moment.


All the Extra Prayers at the End of the Rosary

Hopefully, you covered what the rosary is and generally how to pray it in RCIA class. 
Then you get to your first time saying the rosary in a group. Maybe it's the night before a funeral, a post-mass rosary, or with a parish rosary group. You get through that last standard prayer, Hail, Holy Queen, and then everyone around you JUST KEEPS GOING. From memory. 

It's not just you, most rosary pamphlets don't include those additional prayers. However, there are some basic patterns!
The typical additional prayers are: The Memorare, St. Michael Prayer, Prayer for Vocations.
Prayer for Vocations has a lot of local variations, but the first two are fairly standard. There might be other additions, especially litany prayers but most of those are easy responded to with a "Pray for Us" at the end of each name. 
If you experience this in a rosary group or other regularly meeting group, ask the leader if they would not mind writing down the list of prayers they do at the end. Most are happy to help and you will be better able to participate!


Huge Variations in Fasting Rules

One would think that being required to fast and abstain from meat on the same days as all other Catholics in the world would mean that there were identical rules all over the world. 
But no. 
There are large cultural, local, and national variations in what constitutes appropriate fasting and abstinence.
Best rule of thumb is to look up the requirements in our country and diocese and start with those. If you feel called to a stricter practice, run it by a priest or trusted Catholic friend. Don't be intimidated by people who give up red meat or animal products for all of Lent or also abstain from water. Those are extra and you're not doing it wrong if you are following your country and diocesan guidelines.



You might notice people bending down on one knee before going into the pews on Sunday. They also seem to have other pauses and bends at other times. I don't think I got clear on when to genuflect/bow/kneel until I was an altar server growing up. Here are the basic rules:

* Genuflect with your right knee touching the ground (Fun Fact: This position is reserved for reverence to God so go down on your left knee to propose fellas!)

* Genuflecting is preferred but a bow at the waist or head is appropriate in situations when genuflection is physically difficult (say when super pregnant, arthritic, or holding crying baby.)

*Genuflect or bow when: entering the pew, crossing the alter or tabernacle, before receiving the Eucharist (Side Note: we don't genuflect when returning to the pew after receiving communion because your body is at that moment a living tabernacle. Whoa!)

Again, there will be local variations but these are good general rules.


Home Holy Water Fonts and Other Practices

Catholics are big on the domestic church concept, but the options can seem overwhelming. Know that beyond basic praying and teaching of the faith within the family none of this is required. But it's fun!

For most brand new Catholics, I recommend just starting with observing the major Solemnities and seasons in the Church calendar and Holy Days of Obligation in the home. Eventually you will develop your own traditions - maybe around the saint you chose as your patron at Confirmation or the date of the Easter Vigil you entered the Church (Easter will not always be the same calendar day!)

For this first Holy Week, maybe set aside a little table, or top of a desk or dresser, to place your blessed palm from Palm Sunday, your Baptismal candle, etc. 


What To Do If Your RCIA Class Missed Some Big Stuff

Don't panic! Your RCIA class is not meant to be completely comprehensive of everything there is to know about Catholicism. I've been Catholic since birth and I'm still not out of things to learn.

But what if you think you missed something really big and important?

When I asked women in some Catholic facebook groups I participate in what they felt they missed in RCIA, hot topics came up frequently as untouched in RCIA. Top among those was Church teaching on Natural Family Planning. Thankfully, most dioceses should have a coordinator for family life that should be able to direct you to NFP instruction in your diocese. There are also lots of awesome organizations and helpful facebook groups to help answer your questions.

Don't be afraid to talk to your pastor if you truly feel like big topics are missing in your program. Everyone wants to make sure you are as prepared as possible for this next step!

The pocket rosary giveaway with Rosaries by Allison ends this Friday! If you have not entered yet, head over to do that on this post.

Did you go through RCIA? What things surprised you about Catholicism? What got missed in RCIA class?
Also, early welcome to the Church to all of the Catecumens and Candidates reading this!


  1. I have a question, maybe you know the recommended answer:

    When praying the rosary, especially when I have an intention in mind, I find it really difficult to sort out what I should be meditating on. Should I be thinking about the text of the prayers themselves? About the day's mysteries? Or thinking on my intention? I feel like my mind often muddles around between them all... most often kind of thinking on the mysteries and what kind of metaphor they might be for my intention, but that's not always fruitful or coherent.

    1. I can tell you what I do anyway! Before each of the first three Hail Marys I say an intention. The first is always for the intentions of the Pope, the second is always for peace in the world, and the third is the personal intention one. From there on I'm meditating on the mysteries actively, but I often find an insight into that third intention often comes about once I finish the rosary. At least for me, I need to state the intention and then let it go and get handled by God for a few minutes.

    2. Ah, that approach definitely resonates. Thank you!

  2. I am commenting a little late to the party but I just saw this post. My husband and I with our 6 kiddos in tow are in RCIA and your 7 takes made me chuckle. We are baptized Christians who have come to see the fullness of Christ and His church in the Catholic faith. Our RCIA group is small and lack luster we would LOVE to have someone as passionate as you involved with our group. Thanks for sharing your passion on your blog!!


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