RCIA retreat focuses on the signs that shape the Church
Friday, Apr. 14, 2017
IC photo/Alex Harrington
Father Gustavo Vidal speaks to the Elect at the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults retreat on April 8 about the importance of Baptism, the Eucharist and Confession.
DRAPER — The many signs of God were the topic of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults retreat held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Draper on April 8. Father Gustavo Vidal, pastor of Saint Mary Parish in West Haven, who gave the three-hour presentation, explained that the Church is full of signs and symbols. “We humans are shaped by these signs,” he said.
Many who were in attendance are planning on being baptized on Easter Sunday. Bishop Oscar A. Solis came to the retreat as well and stood up and greeted the Elect gathered there.
Fr. Vidal quickly abandoned the lectern at the front of the church as he began speaking, preferring to walk up and down the aisles amidst the people. He started by asking those present to tell him about an object that was important to them. One woman spoke about an empty perfume bottle; though the perfume has long since been used, it was a gift from her grandmother in Guatemala, who gave her the perfume the first time they met, she said.
Though things like the empty perfume bottle may seem meaningless to others, they are important to those who know its significance or symbolism, Fr. Vidal said.
In the same way, the sacraments of the Catholic Church seem empty to those who don’t understand, but are signs full of meaning to those who do, he said.
With energetic gestures, Fr. Vidal encouraged the attendees to shout out answers as he asked, “Remember, God speaks through what? Signs!”
Many rituals described in the Bible make use of signs, and Catholics continue to practice those rituals today, he said. The Gospel of John chapters 2 through 12 is known as the Book of Signs, which Fr. Vidal referred to many times during the retreat.
The Sacrament of Baptism is a powerful sign in the Church, the meaning of which is shown in Jesus’ baptism, he said.
Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist is an example of the great power and meaning of signs, Fr. Vidal said. In it there is the use of the water itself as a sign of something else. “That’s the sign, the object, the tangible thing that I can touch and see,” Fr. Vidal said. But the water itself doesn’t do anything alone, it is a sign of what God is doing, washing people’s sins away and making them pure in his sight, he said.
The one sign above all others that shaped Catholics and the Church forever is Jesus himself, in all he did on Earth, Fr. Vidal said. Just like the water is a physical sign of cleansing, “Jesus is visible. He is the outward sign of God’s love for us. … He is the visible image of the invisible God!” Fr. Vidal said.
Jesus served as a sign of God’s love as well, which is made evident at the Last Supper, he said. Celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus was present as the unblemished sacrificial lamb, ready to be slaughtered as a sign of God’s forgiveness of the sins of the world, Fr. Vidal said.
Signs like we find in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are “what gives the Catholic Church its essence,” Fr. Vidal said. “When you are being baptized next Sunday,” he told the Elect, “God is welcoming you into his life so you can share his divine life. You become the children of God at that moment. You belong to him! You become his possession!”
Many of the Elect in attendance walked away satisfied with the retreat. One attendee, Cicilia Lesmes, said “I like Father (Vidal’s) explanations of everything … how he tied everything together.” The retreat helped her to understand the Sacraments better, she said.