The new edition of a book by Fr. Dennis Chriszt, C.PP.S., is meant to help lay staff and volunteers put together an effective and spiritually fruitful Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program in a parish.
The second edition of Creating an Effective Mystagogy: A Handbook for Catechumenate Leaders is available from Liturgy Training Publications.
The book, originally published in 2002 by Resource Publications, was Fr. Chriszt’s doctoral thesis project when he was earning a doctor of ministry degree in liturgy from Chicago Theological Union.
For the new edition, “we had a different audience in mind,” he said. “The first edition, because it was a thesis project, needed to be more academically rigorous. The second edition is meant for people who do Christian initiation in their parishes, most of whom do not have masters degrees in theology and many of whom are volunteers.”
What they’ll find in Creating Effective Mystagogy is a guide to giving people a meaningful introduction and entry into the Church. “The most important thing about the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is that we’re handing on the faith,” Fr. Chriszt said. “That is far greater than simply handing on the doctrine of the Church. It’s not just about the head, it’s about the head and the heart. It’s not just about knowing about God, it’s about coming into relationship with the God who knows us intimately.
“If the faith doesn’t touch our hearts, we might baptize people into the Church who then within a few years cease participating in the life of the Church because their mind may believe, but their heart doesn’t draw them to gather with fellow Christians.”
People come to Christian Initiation of Adults from many different backgrounds. They are of different ages and have widely varying experiences in their faith lives.
“The focus of my work has been on mystagogy, which is about learning to reflect on the presence of God in my life today,” Fr. Chriszt said. “So if I’m an inquirer, I might be somebody who doesn’t know much about God, or I might be somebody who has been a Christian all my life but not a Catholic. Of each, we would ask, ‘Where have I already seen God at work in my life?’ And how do we help them see that? The reality is that one size doesn’t fit everybody.”
Fr. Chriszt, who is the Missionaries’ director of advanced formation and lives in Chicago, was previously involved in parish ministry. He has seen firsthand the power and richness of the Christian Initiation of Adults. He hopes the new edition of his book “helps more people have a wider vision of Christian initiation of adults, helps them see that it does not end with the Easter Vigil, and that one does not ‘graduate’ from Christian initiation, one just enters more deeply into it.
“For the rest of my life and the rest of their lives, the journey continues of growing closer and closer to Jesus Christ, to the Father and the Spirit, to the larger Christian community, both living and deceased. That somehow, we feel united with believers from generations before us, as well as those who are with us now, and those who might follow us in the future.”
The book is available from ltp.org.