The Commentary Project
I converted to Catholicism at the 1999 Easter Vigil Mass at St. Stanislaus Church in Modesto, California. I received my sacraments at that Mass following a two year commitment to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) which included weekly attendance at the 8:30am Sunday Mass at St. Stanislaus as well as the Catechumenate (teaching) session every Monday night from 7:00-9:00pm. As much as I enjoyed the process, I was looking forward to having my freedom. Once my commitment was over, I was free to attend whatever Mass I chose and could enjoy Monday Night Football again. I was ready to move on, but God had other plans.
Not long after the Easter Vigil, I was asked to join the RCIA Team in a teaching position at the invitation of then RCIA director Joan (O’Neil) Chiesa. My rapid and immediate response was an emphatic and loud “NO” but Joan knew me well enough to give me some time. It didn’t take long before I (somewhat reluctantly) accepted her invitation. I still can’t tell you what changed my mind (or if my mind even changed for that matter). The Holy Spirit is very persuasive (and so is Joan).
My time on the RCIA Team lasted from 1999 until my retirement in 2015, fifteen plus years of spending Monday nights in the Parish Hall (and missing Monday Night Football games). Looking back on it now, I can’t believe I did it. Joan never presented it as a long-term commitment. Each year when I was ready to be done, we’d celebrate another Easter Vigil and the conversion of more friends I had met on the way. Each year the Easter fire would light us up again and we’d recommit for another year.
My primary task on the team at St. Stanislaus was to prepare and present a commentary on the gospel that had been proclaimed the day before. We followed the Lectionary with our teachings. Joan had done the difficult and time-consuming work of preparing the teachings and her own commentaries in the years prior to my arrival. I took her words, researched other sources and came up with my own version each week. After the creation process of three years (the Lectionary runs on a 3-year cycle) I was able to pull my previous versions, edit them if necessary (they always seemed to need editing) and present them again. Each time the version would come around, we’d have a different group of people (and I’d be different too). It didn’t seem like a lot of work at the time, but adding to the list, little by little we’ve created some content that was helpful to those going through the process (as well as their instructors and sponsors) and may be helpful to others interested in a deeper dive into the weekly gospels presented at Mass.
Since my “retirement” in 2015 the work has sat on my computer and I haven’t paid attention to it at all. I’ve always wanted to put it in order (I have several different files with different versions and not in a logical filing system) however I’ve put off the project until now.
I have asked Joan to assist me in compiling the work in a presentable form to use as a personal reference, and also thought it might be useful (again) to others. In an effort to immerse myself in writing, I have committed to re-writing and sharing the commentaries on my website.
Each week I will share the commentary, follow up questions and original session handout (for that Sunday’s gospel reading) on the Commentary Project page of my website. The text will post on Sunday mornings at 8:00am (just like all those years of RCIA Mass and Scripture Breaking.) The commentaries will be arranged by the Lectionary Cycle Year (A, B or C) and then by Liturgical Season (Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, etc.) Commentaries for the Holy Days of Obligation will also be posted and shared at 8:00am on the day they are celebrated. Since we are editing and posting as we go along, this will be a 3-year project, however the previously posted commentaries will stay accessible for reference. I will share the upcoming commentaries on my social media channels (you can follow me by clicking the icons on the bottom of this page) or you can sign up to receive the weekly commentary directly, via email (which will be sent at 7:00pm on Mondays reminiscent of the Catechumenate Sessions in the Parish Hall). To subscribe, click here.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have about the RCIA process, my commentaries or actually, anything really. Message me on social media or complete the “Contact Me” form on my “About” page.
All of the work we did with the RCIA during our time was directed by The Holy Spirit. Every Monday night, the team prayed for guidance and direction. “Let it be Your words they hear, Lord.” God did the work. We just showed up.
I used many different resources for the content of the commentaries. There are several books written (in a scripture study format) by men and women much smarter than me and I read every one I could find. I also listened to homilies, podcasts and read blog posts for various opinions. Each time, I learned something new, (especially after reviewing them when the cycle came around again, three years later).
Each time I would sit down to write, I would ask for help from The Holy Spirit. I always asked for help, however if I’m honest, I have to say that I didn’t always listen to the help that was provided. He always showed up, but sometimes I didn’t pay attention. So, I will tell you (like I told everyone on Monday nights), if it’s good, it’s from God. If it stinks, it’s from me.