Most American parishes combine the initiation of the elect with the Rite of Reception into Full Communion at the Easter Vigil. I don’t claim to be well travelled (a vocation as a parish liturgist precludes being a liturgical visitor on the big feasts). But my own parish is the only one I know that always receives candidates at a time other than the Easter Vigil. When I was an RCIA director, baptized candidates would have the option, upon discernment, of disengaging from the larger initiation community to be received on a Sunday.
We’ll examine the instructions of RCIA 562-566 carefully over the next few posts. The Church doesn’t consider the usual American practice of combining initiation rites to be a slam dunk. Indeed, while it may be pretty well entrenched in parishes, I’m not convinced it is the best practice theologically. And pastorally, the testimony is a decidedly mixed one. The pastoral realm kicks off today’s discussion:
562. Pastoral considerations may suggest that along with the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation the Easter Vigil should include the rite of reception of already baptized Christians into the full communion of the Catholic Church. But such a decision must be guided by the theological and pastoral directives proper to each rite. The model provided here simply arranges the ritual elements belonging to such a combined celebration. But the model can only be used properly in light of nos. 206-217, regarding the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation, and of nos. 473-486, regarding the rite of reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
If only more pastors and parish ministers would read and consider this. Here’s what I see:
- Pastoral considerations are those of the newcomers, not the considerations of the catechetical program, or the convenience of the ministers (the Easter Vigil is long anyway; why not add another ritual or two to it?). If a baptized candidate is ready, and it happens to be close to the Vigil? Then sure, it’s a consideration from a pastoral view.
- That said, the rite also urges a consideration of the theological directives of adult baptism, RCIA 206-217. Confirmation and Eucharist are part of the Easter Vigil, but not as exclusively tied to it as the baptism of adults is.
- RCIA 566-594 just shows you how to do a combined rite. But just because it’s in the book doesn’t mean it should always be used.
- By the way, as long as you’re reading RCIA 206-217, don’t forget 473-486. Get the theology of it all.