RCIA 293-294: Penitential Rites, How Many?

img_6803Adult elect are “scrutinized” three times. Yet as we shall see, the RCIA only gives one penitential rite for children of catechetical age. What’s up with that?

RCIA 293 reminds us that children, godparents, and baptized companions participate in the penitential rite, and that the rites “are to be adapted in such a way that they also benefit the participants who are not catechumens.” In other words, these rites are for the liturgical assmebly present, and at least indirectly, bear on the spiritual life of the faith community in which they originate. Here’s the rest of RCIA 293 with a very interesting perspective:

(T)hese penitential rites are a proper occasion for baptized chiludren of the catechetical group to celebrate the sacrament of penance for the first time. When this is the case, care should be taken to include explanations, prayers, and ritual acts that relate to the celebration of the sacrament with these children.

Obviously, this is driven from the context of RCIA itself. But the framers of the rite consider these penitential rites so important that they should ordinarily drive the first sacrament experience for baptized Catholic children. Off the top of my head, this would seem to imply an endorsement of a first sacrament model driven by the liturgical calendar. How many parishes celebrate First Penance in Lent? I can’t say mine does. Many parishes celebrate two first sacraments in their children’s second-grade year, and often there is ample separation to accommodate catechesis: First Communion during the Easter season–that’s good. First Reconciliation toward the end of the calendar year, several months prior–what does that say?

This would be an example of a situation in which pastoral ministers, in implementing RCIA fully, come to variances from long-established practices. But then again, one would expect a liturgical document to occasionally challenge catechetical and pragmatic practices.

RCIA 294 recommends penitential rites to be celebrated during Lent, if initiation is to take place during Easter. But with eminent Roman sensibility, at a suitable time otherwise. One penitential rite is the minimum, and a second is strongly recommended “after an appropriate interval” from the first one. The penitential rite we will examine in RCIA 295-303 is described here as a “model.” A second celebration will be composed on that model, using appropraitely adapted texts for intercessions and prayer of exorcism from the adult rite (see RCIA 153-154, 167-168, and 174-175). We’ll get to the “model” in posts in the coming week. Meanwhile, any questions, comments, or other thoughts on this topic?


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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