Presiders of the rites of initiation, be they clergy or lay people, have options at hand to assist them in making liturgy as effective as it can be. This section confirms the need to be flexible.
35. Celebrants should make full and intelligent use of the freedom given to them either in Christian Initiation, General Introduction (no. 34) or in the rubrics of the rite itself. In many places the manner of acting or praying is intentionally left undetermined or two alternatives are offered, so that ministers, according to their prudent pastoral judgment, may accommodated the rite to the circumstances of the candidates and others who are present. In all the rites the greatest freedom is left in the invitations and instructions, and the intercessions may always be shortened, changed, or even expanded with new intentions, in order to fit the circumstances or special situation of the candidates (for example, a sad or joyful event occurring in a family) or of others present (for example, sorrow of joy common to the parish or civic community).
The minister will also adapt the texts by changing the gender and number as required.
It’s been my observation that many priests tend to include adaptations more easily in the homily. At a funeral, for example, the homily time may involve recounting the life story of the deceased. That time might, to use one imagined example, refer to the person’s military service, or the person’s volunteer time, or that a person was a good husband, father, etc.. Rarely does this witness transfer to something like the general intercessions.
When liturgists are not involved in funeral or in RCIA these sorts of adaptations (some would just call it common sense) don’t often get made. The homily becomes a eulogy. At RCIA, the homily might become a time of celebrating individuals. The alternative is a cohesive integration into the text and prayer of the liturgy. If a catechumen, for example, has become recently engaged, it would make sense for a prayer for engaged couples to be included in the intercessions of the rite.
Sometimes the adaptation of the minister goes completely out of the text. If a group of catechumens were having a particularly difficult time, one might consider the adaptation of taking extra silence during the rite to allow a more careful pace and avoid the sense of being rushed or railroaded.