RCIA 95-97: Blessings of the Catechumens

img_6803The third of the catechumenate rites (after celebrations of the Word and the minor exorcisms) are the blessings. The instruction and rubrics are brief, and though there are nine prayers given in RCIA 97, we’ll take a look at just one as a sample. First a definition:

95. The blessings of the catechumens are a sign of God’s love and of the Church’s tender care. They are bestowed on the catechumens so that, even though they do not as of yet have the grace of the sacraments, they may still receive from the Church courage, joy, and peace as they proceed along the difficult journey they have begun.

The essential motivation here is pastoral need. The blessings are seen as a gift from the Church, and presumably, of God’s grace working outside the reception of the sacraments proper. Those three qualities give pastors and catechumenate directors a hint as to when these blessings should be conferred: when people are in fear, sadness, inner upheaval, doubt, etc.–anything that impedes the development of faith.

Who and when:

96. The blessings may be given by a priest, a deacon, or a qualified catechist appointed by the bishop (see RCIA 16). The blessings are usually given at the end of a celebration of the word; they may also be given at the end of a meeting for catechesis. When there is some special need, the blessings may be given privately to individual catechumens. 

These are among the few liturgical blessings than a lay person can confer. I don’t know that if the RCIA were being formulated today, if this option would remain. My sense is that this is a necessity in mission lands in which the presence of the clergy is less a daily or weekly event, and more of an occasional thing. For a parish in which there is a resident pastor, it would be my suggestion the priest will make himself available to confer these blessings at scheduled catechumenate gatherings, as well as during individual counselling.

One adaptation I’ve employed is to occasionally insert one of these blessings into the Sunday dismissal rite.

The rubrics:

97. The celebrant, with hands outstretched over the catechumens, says one of the following prayers. After the prayer of blessing, if this can be done conveniently, the catechumens come before the celebrant, who lays hands on them individually. Then the catechumens leave.

The first and shortest of the nine options:

Lord,
form these catechumens by the mysteries of the faith,
that they may be brought to rebirth in baptism and be counted among the members of your Church.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen. 

Observations?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, RCIA, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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