We’ve discussed some general approaches in the past two posts, but what are the particular responsibilities of clergy and catechists? What should the candidates experience during this time to facilitate their initial conversion?
38. During this period, priests and deacons, catechists and other lay persons are to give the candidates a suitable explanation of the Gospel (see RCIA 42). The candidates are to receive help and attention so that with a purified and clearer intention they may cooperate with God’s grace. Opportunities should be provided for them to meet families and others groups of Christians.
Section 38 reveals a theme we shall see repeated over and over in RCIA. The ministers are the entire Christian community, and from the very beginnings of first faith in those inquiring, the community has an indispensable role. Along with the community, catechists and clergy are to give a “suitable explanation” of the Gospel. Note this is not described as teaching, per se. Whatever this exposure to Christ is called, the end result of the precatechumenate is purer and clearer intentions. What might this mean? The unbaptized spouse or fiance might be guided to explore becoming a Christian for his or her own sake, not the expectations of the beloved, the families, or the culture of the Church.
How many parishes take RCIA 38 seriously and provide opportunities to meet families and other groups? I looked up my own parish’s calendar for the coming week. On Tuesday, for example, inquirers might be invited to no less than five groups: Centering Prayer, the Honduras Ministry dinner, the cookie bake, the prayer group or the Bible study. The cookie bake, in particular, would be an excellent way for inquirers to meet parishioners socially and be exposed to how ordinary Catholics live the Gospel.
Needless to say, there is the strong hint here that families invite inquirers to their homes, to neighborhood gatherings, and do so in a natural and friendly way, especially when whole families are pondering becoming baptized.