Sections 36-40 give no rituals, only the ministerial approach to the period known as “Evangelization and Precatechumenate.” We might be exploding a few myths in these next few posts. Lots of parishes start out from the first meeting inundating inquirers with doctrine. Could that approach work intellectually? I don’t see why not. But is it what the Church calls for in the rites? Let’s read:
36. Although the rite of initiation begins with admission to the catechumenate, the preceding period or precatechumenate is of great importance and as a rule should not be omitted. It is a time of evangelization: faithfully and constantly the living God is proclaimed and Jesus Christ whom he has sent for the salvation of all. Thus those who are not yet Christians, their hearts opened by the Holy Spirit, may believe and be freely converted to the Lord and commit themselves sincerely to him. For he who is the way, the truth and the life fulfills all their spiritual expectations, indeed infinitely surpasses them. (Ad Gentes 13)
We’re going to take these parts of RCIA very slowly and carefully. Many pastors and liturgists and catechumenate directors gloss over these parts. Wrong move. Even though no rituals are given here, we get ample clues as to how a parish should handle inquirers to the faith. What does this section tell us? Quite a lot.
1. Don’t jump into the rite of acceptance too soon.
2. Ministers must have a trinitarian approach from the very start. God is proclaimed and Jesus is introduced to the people. The Holy Spirit is discerned working in the hearts (not the minds) of the newcomers.
3. What would the commitment of the inquirer look like as she or he approached a final decision? Here is where conversion is properly applied–not to Protestants coming to Catholicism. We speak of conversion to Jesus Christ, not to the Church of Jesus Christ. The goal of evangelization is “sincere commitment” to Christ, to following him, and to making a decision to adhere to what Christ asks of them spiritually.
We see here and will see in sections 37-40 that the precatechumenate is not about doctrine, is not primarily about the intellect, and it may amaze you that it isn’t even about Catholicism so much as it is about God. More about that over the next few days. Any thoughts or comments?