RCIA 119: More on “Election”

img_6803A knowledgeable liturgist (or pastor or catechumenate director) can’t be satisfied with reading commentaries on the rites, nor should they operate on autopilot for RCIA, or really, for any of the Church’s liturgies. These eleven sections of introduction to the Rite of Election give a view to the catechumenate period that is to precede the liturgy with the bishop. I can imagine an earnest and well-meaning somebody cramming the rites, then hitting RCIA 119 a few days before the trip to the cathedral, and thinking, “Oops.”

Let’s read:

119. At this second step, on the basis of the testimony of godparents and catechists and of the catechumens’ reaffirmation of their intention, the Church judges their state of readiness and decides on their advancement toward the sacraments of initiation.

This can be a difficult judgment in some cases and for some pastoral ministers. “Judging” another person’s faith can seem intrusive, presumptuous, and even attributable to a false sense of godhood. The rite makes an important distinction, however. We do not judge the faith of newcomers as much as we assess their “state of readiness.”

Keep in mind that catechumens are already part of the household of the Church. Catechumens are presumed to have “first faith” when they are accepted into the Order of the Catechumenate. Making a determination that a person is not ready for Election is not a judgment on their spiritual life as much as it is part of an assessment of their preparation to live the Christian life.

Election, as we read, is the point of no return for Easter:

Thus the Church makes its “election,” that is, the choice and admission of those catechumens who have the dispositions that make them fit to take part, at the next major celebration, in the sacraments of initiation.

It would be a severe pastoral and liturgical abuse to designate a person for Election, then not baptize her or him at Easter.

This step is called election because the acceptance made by the Church is founded on the election by God, in whose name the Church acts. The step is also called the enrollment of names because as a pledge of fidelity the candidates inscribe their names in the book that lists those who have been chosen for initiation. 

The signing of one’s name is part of the “pledge” these candidates make. A few comments:

- The people are no longer called “catechumens” once they have celebrated the rite of Election. They are now the “elect,” as we baptized all are.

- I’m not convinced of the value of the pastor, RCIA director, or even the bishop signing the book. The book  lists those “chosen for initiation,” and not their companions, teachers, or clergy. There are other gestures and words during the rite for the godparents and for the bishop. My advice would be not to clutter the given ritual with additional signings.

Your own comments on any of this?

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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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