RCIA 256: Timing the Children


Some important aspects of timing the reception of the sacraments. Section 256 in whole:

256. In regard to the time for the celebration of the steps of initiation, it is preferable that, if possible, the final period of preparation, begun by the second step, the penitential rites (or by the optional rite of election), coincide with Lent and that the final step, celebration of the sacraments of initiation, take place at the Easter Vigil (see RCIA 8). Nevertheless before the children are admitted to the sacraments at Easter, it should be established that they are ready for the sacraments. Celebration at this time must also be consistent with the program of catechetical instruction they are receiving, since the candidates should, if possible, some to the sacraments of initiation at the time that their baptized companions are to receive confirmation or eucharist.


It’s not as strongly urged as it is for adults, but the preference is for the child catechumens to observe a Lent and Easter Vigil as adults would. What isn’t clear is that if children are deemed ready at another time, should the parish engage “another” Lent to prepare with them? That would be the understanding for adult catechumens.

Note that the vocabulary has shifted for the young catechumens: the rites do not speak of “scrutinies,” but of a single “penitential rite.” (RCIA 295-303) The rite also links this observance to the sacrament of penance for baptized children. I would assume that the penance liturgy for First Communion and/or Confirmation candidates would be linked to this penitential rite, assuming the groups are meeting, praying, or otherwise engaged together as “companions.”

The rite stresses that while Lent and Easter are important liturgically, the children must be really ready.

One aspect I’ve missed in the past: the coordination, if possible, of the parish’s First Eucharist and Confirmation efforts–both catechesis and liturgy–with that of the young candidates for baptism. How many parishes manage to do this? Would or should a bishop accommodate his schedule for a parish that coordinated such ministry, or make allowances over and above the parish that didn’t?

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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