Sections 304 through 308 give the introduction to the “Third Step: Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation.” 309 through 329 give the rubrics and rituals for the Baptism, Confirmation, and First Eucharist of these children of catechetical age. This section parallels what is given in the adult rite, sections 206 through 243. We’ll look at the introduction in detail over the next two posts. Then I’ll highlight differences in the rites for children. Keep in mind that as Easter Vigil is the preferred time for initiation of adults and children, these initiation rites will be largely the same.
304. In order to bring out the paschal character of baptism, celebration of the sacraments of initiation should preferably take place at the Easter Vigil or on a Sunday, the day that the Church devotes to the remembrance of Christ’s resurrection (see Rite of Baptism for Children, Introduction, no. 9). But the provisions of RCIA 256 should also guide the choice of time for the celebration of the sacraments of initiation.
How much wiggle room is there on this? If a child is clearly unready for initiation, then obviously they remain in the catechumenate as a member of the Church, and whatever work and prayer must continue, will continue.
The priest or liturgist find the addition of children to the Easter Vigil to be problematic? This would not seem to be acceptable. We’re professionals, and we deal with complex rituals from time to time. Other parishes make it work easily, so the personal preferences of ministers should not factor in the decision.
Things get difficult, as I’ve experienced with infant baptisms, when a godparent or an out-of-town loved one cannot attend the Vigil. My own sense would be to urge the Easter Vigil for the sake of the child, her or his companions also being baptized, and for the community. That said, there are any number of ways to include a visitor at a later time, especially a Mass of Thanksgiving added to a parish calendar or designated at a regularly-scheduled parish liturgy. And as for the family’s social calendar, I’d say initiation is worth at least two big parties, wouldn’t you?
305. At this third step of their Christian initiation, the children will receive the sacrament of baptism, the bishop or priest who baptizes them will also confer confirmation, and the chidlren will for the first time participate in the liturgy of the eucharist.
No wiggle room here, clearly. For a child of catechetical age, confirmation is part of the sacramental package. If that is a concern on the part of the parish ministers, then catechesis and other preparation must target a “confirmation-level” preparation for the youth.