The outline for this rite is even more brief than the one for “exceptional circumstances.” Here are the first two parts of the liturgy:
Affirmation by the Godparent and Witnesses
LITURGY OF THE WORD
Intercessions for the Candidate
Prayer over the Candidate
The rubrics of 375-376 have an instructive point or two:
375. The minister greets the family and then speaks with the sick person about his or her request for baptism and, if the sick person is not a catechumen, about his or her reasons for conversion. After deciding to baptize him or her, the minister should, if necessary, instruct the person briefly.
376. Then the minister invites the family, the person designated as godparent, and the friends and neighbors present to gather around the sick person and selects one or two of those present as witnesses. Water, even if not blessed, is prepared.
Note the classic use of the term “conversion.” Strictly speaking one does not convert to Catholicism. One converts to faith in Christ. Also note the implication that once one becomes a catechumen, one is presumed “converted” to Christ. Note in no. 376 the use of witnesses. First time I’ve noticed that. Doesn’t the godparent serve as a canonical and legal witness? It would seem the witnesses are for the promise to complete formation, should one recover from the threat of death.
The opening dialogue (377) is essentially the opening dialogue of the Rite of Acceptance (RCIA 51) with an abbreviation option C of the Candidate’s first acceptance of the Gospel (RCIA 52) distilled into three questions and a promise:
Dear brother/sister, you have asked to be baptized because you wish to have eternal life. This is eternal life: to know the one, true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. This is the faith of Christians. Do you acknowledge this?
As well as professing your faith in Jesus Christ, you must also be willing to follow his commands, as Christians do. Are you willing to accept this?
Are you prepared to live as Christians do?
Promise, therefore, that once you have recovered your strength, you will try to know christ better and follow a course of Christian formation. Do you so promise?
As with the Rite of Acceptance (RCIA 53), the godparents “affirm” their support, taking responsibility for assisting with the promise of RCIA 377. Witnesses are asked:
And will the rest of you, who have witnessed this promise, assist him/her in fulfilling it?
RCIA 379 states that the minister “reads some words from a gospel and explains them.” The choices are: John 3:1-6 (born from above), John 6:44-47 (belief leads to eternal life), Matthew 22:35-40 (the greatest commandment), Matthew 28:18-20 (the Great Commission), and Mark 1:9-11 (Jesus baptized in the Jordan).
That’s a good chunk for a Monday morning. Any comments?