Adapting Catechumenate Rites

A recent comment from Ashwin Acharya got me thinking. His post begs the question: why is a school and not a parish conducting RCIA? He has an intriguing plan for students:

(S)everal teenage students will be receiving the Sacraments of Initiation in the Mass of Pentecost Vigil (7th June, 2014). Unfortunately Easter was not possible, due to the school calendar.

By itself, Pentecost Vigil is not a bad choice. The Rite foresees a “Lent,” a period of Purification and Enlightenment for the community in advance of Pentecost initiations. That would mean fasts, scrutinies, and presentations during the Easter Season. That would mean everybody in the school community, if the vision of the Rite is embraced to its fullest. No meat on Fridays, and the whole Lenten array of practices.

There is an issue of sorting fish:

Some of the catechumens will be unbaptised, some will be baptised in another Christian faith, and some will be baptised Catholics.

Catechumens are, by definition, unbaptized. Candidates are baptized Christians, catechized or not, who are seeking full initiation. And by the time baptism is near, catechumens are already part of the elect. After the Rite of Election, they are no longer catechumens.

Mr Acharya outlines a plan:

1. Catechumens receive Baptism and Confirmation on Pentecost Vigil (those who are christened are welcomed, then receive Confirmation along with the Baptised),

2. The Rite of Dismissal takes place before Communion on Pentecost Vigil and the newly Baptised and/or Confirmed are dismissed.

3. Catechumens receive Reconciliation before the Most Holy Trinity Vigil, but are again dismissed before Communion.

4. Catechumens (having received Baptism, Confirmation, and Reconcilation) now stay for the whole Mass, and receive Eucharist on the Sunday of Corpus Christi.

This is sounds perfect to me – because it allows the catechumens to really appreciate and absorb each stage of the Sacramental journey. They are Baptised and/or Confirmed, but they can’t join in Communion. The next weekend, they are Reconciled, but they still can’t join in Communion. Finally, as their Sacramental journey reaches its summit (indeed, the summit of Catholic life), they stay for the entire Corpus Christ Mass, receiving their Eucharist for the first time. It’s an incredible build up. Admittedly, I do not know exactly what the Dismissal Rite is. But, if what I have said above is correct, it’s almost as if the catechumens are fasting, in a way, to prepare themselves to receive the Eucharist.

I couldn’t sign on to a program like this. You readers probably see why.

Baptism and Confirmation ennoble a person to receive the Eucharist. There is nothing to prevent a person from receiving the Eucharist once they have been initiated in this way. Only in children is the timetable stretched out to accommodate infant baptism and the so-called age of reason. If any confirmed teenagers raised a fuss about not going to Communion, they would have canon law and the liturgy on their side.

Baptism forgives sins. Once a person of the age of reason has been baptized, there is no reason to delay reception of Communion. This presumes that a proper examination of personal sin has been achieved during a Period of Purification and Enlightenment. That, as part of a comprehensive formation in the Christian life.

As for the dismissal ritual, this only applies to the unbaptized. Baptized Christians often are dismissed for Lectionary-based catechesis, but it is not foreseen in the rite, and not a requirement to impose on them at all.

There are probably local clergy and the diocese to consider in all this. I wonder what the local authorities would have to say about this.

Otherwise, the plan seems an earnest attempt to reflect more deeply on the sacraments. It’s just not in keeping with the Church’s vision of initiation.

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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.
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