On the Sunday of the EuroCat Conference we joined the local diocese in the cathedral in Paderborn for the Mass for New Catholics or Neophytes. It was, I think, joined on to the regular Sunday evening Mass and there was a feeling of celebration in the air as the local football team had been promoted to the next league (or something like that).
The neophytes joined in the Entrance Procession, about 30 of them, each wearing a white scarf. They were a diverse group in terms of background.
After the Homily the Bishop led the neophytes to the Baptistery at the back of the Cathedral where there was a dialogue between the bishop and the neophytes – it wasn’t a renewal of baptismal promises. In the Congregation we all turned to support them.
It was a very joyful occasion with loud organ music and a girls choir. What struck me was how well the readings of the 4th Sunday of Easter fitted the place of the neophytes. The call to baptism in the first reading, you can read Psalm 22 through the ‘lens’ of Initiation (water, anointing, banquet), and these are the new sheep to whom Jesus promises ‘life to the full’.
I wondered, and I think it is true, that any the readings of any of the Sundays of Easter would make a suitable set to reflect on the gift of the neophytes. Indeed an often overlook paragraph of the rite is 237 which suggests that the readings of Year A may always be used in Easter time – I am not sure if anyone ever takes up this option but if we recall that 1 Peter is often understood to be a post-baptismal catechesis this makes sense.
In England and Wales my impression is that dioceses hold there Mass for new catholics at the end of the Easter Season or after. I have wondered if there is tendency to confuse two of the celebrations that the rite suggests:
- a celebration to mark the end of the period of Mystagogy, near Pentecost (239)
- a Mass with the bishop for neophytes, at least once a year. (241)
There is a third occasion mentioned in the Rite which is the anniversary of a person’s Baptism (a question Pope Francis has been known to ask). Because Easter is moveable and a busy time of year there is a tendency to focus on the now for team members and forget last year or the year before that. For the neophytes themselves it is a date they will remember with significance. Perhaps team members may need to make a note in their diaries and share the joy.