RCIA 81: Celebrations of the Word


Let’s give a bit of perspective on these posts. Last week we finished the section 75-80, which describes how to conduct a catechumenate. That followed the Rite of Acceptance liturgy (48-74) in which unbaptized newcomers to the faith enter the Church as catechumens.

Ahead (this week) in sections 81-89, we’ll have all text, no rubrics or rituals, to tell us how to conduct the most important liturgies of the catechumenate period, celebrations of the Word of G0d.

81. During the period of the catechumenate there should be celebrations of the word of God that accord with the liturgical season and that contribute to the instruction of the catechumens and the needs of the community. These celebrations of the word are: first, celebrations held specifically for the catechumens; second, participation in the liturgy of the word at the Sunday Mass; third, celebrations held in connection with catechetical instruction.

This is interesting. The rite presumes that liturgies of the word will be held in connection with catechetical sessions. For most American parishes, that would be a weeknight. What nearly every parish does provide is an invitation and expectation that catechumens will attend Sunday Mass. The usual practice there is to break open the word after dismissal, while the baptized community celebrates the Eucharist.

The rite seems to imply that on some occasions, the faith community celebrates liturgies of the word for the benefit of both the community and the newcomers, and without (necessarily) an explicit attachment to the catechetical session or to the pattern of Sunday worship. These celebrations seem to be given top priority above other forms. I know of no parishes doing this–not even my own. What would such celebrations look like? RCIA 85-89 give a model, and these will be discussed in an upcoming post. The purpose of these liturgies will be covered in sections 82-83. Offer your own speculation, but I’ll end with one of my own, because “liturgical season” jumps out at me.

I wonder if the intent here is, in large part, to introduce the catechumens to the rhythms of the liturgical year. I would surmise that such gatherings of catechumens and community introduce the primary seasons, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Eastertime. Gatherings also could coincide with major feasts such as Epiphany, Pentecost, and the holy days of obligation. A third consideration would be the prime solemnities of the liturgical year: All Souls, Annunciation, Sts. Peter and Paul. A fourth possibility would be the major divisions of the Gospel narrative in ordinary time. An example of the latter would be a session anticipating or breaking open the Bread of Life discourse from John 6 that we’ll be reading in August.

Additional thoughts on this?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, RCIA, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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