RCIA 125: The Bishop’s Responsibilities

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The homily is the usual moment for the bishop to exercise his first listed duty, communicating the significance of election. The homily is certainly the first teaching moment usually considered. I might have a quibble with “or elsewhere during the celebration.” A good presider will communicate without words the significance of the rituals and what is behind them:

125. The bishop celebrant or his delegate, however much or little he was involved in the deliberation prior to the rite, has the responsibility of showing in the homily or elsewhere during the celebration the religious and ecclesial significance of the election.

And so the listing of the bishop’s responsibilities begins. One paragraph is presented in the rite, but to tease out the particulars, I’ve set apart the sentences in the text. After communication, the bishop speaks in the name of the Church:

The celebrant also declares before all present the Church’s decision and, if appropriate in the circumstances, asks the community to express its approval of the candidates.

The bishop also speaks in the name of the community:

He also asks the catechumens to give a personal expression of their intention and, in the name of the Church, he carries out the act of admitting them as elect.

Something of a repetition from the first duty, but the bishop’s role as mystagogue is already beginning at the commencement of Lent:

The celebrant should open to all the divine mystery celebrated in the call of the Church and in the liturgical celebration of this mystery.

“Giving good example” is a consideration for the whole Church:

He should remind the faithful to give good example to the elect and along with the elect to prepare themselves for the Easter solemnities.

Not to mention placing the rite of election and this period of enlightenment in a liturgical context.

All in all, a good section that not only gives the bishop his points to cover, but also communicates to the reader, the preparer of the liturgy, and the catechumenate ministry just what this ritual intends and how it fits into the greater plan of the sacramental life of the Church. In my thinking, this would be one of the great developments of the second Vatican Council: a restoration of perspective. What I mean is that initiation rituals do not just stand alone; they are not just hoops to jump through on the way to the experience of the Eucharist. They are located within the experience of the Paschal Mystery, and our attempts to express and even imitate as we can the sacrificial act of Christ, his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Prior to the 60’s, initiation could happen at any time–whenever the priest and candidate finished teaching and learning. Today, the schedule of initiation has a proper locus within the liturgical calendar. It fits when the rest of Christendom is itself grappling with the Paschal Mystery. Or so we hope.

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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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