Sections nine through sixteen in RCIA outline the “Ministries and Offices” of initiation ministry in the Church. First on the list is “the local Church.” This is a long and meaty section. Counting the reference to “active participation,” no less than four conciliar documents are referenced. Let’s read and comment as we go along:
9. In light of what is said in Christian Initiation, General Introduction (no. 7), the people of God, as represented by the local Church, should understand and show by their concern that the initiation of adults is the responsibility of all the baptized. (Ad Gentes 14)
This has become a slogan for RCIA people. Why? Vatican II suggests that newcomers are to be incorporated into the “People of God,” not a special club run by the priest or catechist. What does that mean?
Therefore the community must always be fully prepared in the pursuit of its apostolic vocation to give help to those who are searching for Christ. In the various circumstances of daily life, even as in the apostolate, all the followers of Christ have the obligation of spreading the faith according to their abilities. (Lumen Gentium 17) Hence, the entire community must help the candidates and the catechumens throughout the process of initiation: during the period of the precatechumenate, the period of the catechumenate, the period of purification and enlightenment, and the period of postbaptismal catechesis or mystagogy.
What would that “full preparation” look like? I would think a faith community currently unprepared would be given the adequate catechesis and leadership example so that the following examples would be second nature and just part of the overall effort of the evangelization apostolate.
1. During the period of evangeliozation and precatechumenate, the faithful should remember that for the Church and its members the supreme purpose of the apostolate is that Christ’s message is made known to the world by word and deed and that his grace is communicated. (Apostolicam Actuositatem 6) They should therefore show themselves ready to give the candidates evidence of the spirit of the Christian community and to welcome them into their homes, into personal conversation, and into community gatherings.
One RCIA director I knew never held inquiry sessions at the church, opting instead for homes of parishioners, especially non-RCIA team members. It would be the role of the catechumenate director, the pastor, and the team to make sure newcomers were invited to parish events.
The example of good liturgy should be evident:
2. At the celebrations belonging to the period of the catechumenate, the faithful should seek to be present whenever possible and should take an active part in the responses, prayers, singing, and acclamations.
Would you be prepared to offer testimony in this way:
3. On the day of election, because it is a day of growth for the community, the faithful, when called upon, should be sure to give honest and carefully considered testimony about the catechumens.
4. During Lent, the period of purification and enlightenment, the faithful should take care to participate in the rites of the scrutinies and presentations and give the elect the example of their own renewal in the spirit of penance, faith, and charity. At the Easter Vigil, they should attach great importance to renewing their own baptismal promises.
5. During the period immediately after baptism, the faithful should take part in the Masses for neophytes, that is, the Sunday Masses of the Easter season (see no. 25), welcome the neophytes with open arms in charity, and help them to feel more at home in the community of the baptized.
Liturgy is a big part of the good example the faith community can offer. Likewise a friendly integration into the social life of the parish. How many Catholics are prepared to give a testimony to the pastor of bishop as to the readiness of a catechumen? The implication is that priest or catechist or RCIA team alone is not enough of a replacement for the parish community at large.