Last night we held our last session for two candidates who are being received into full communion on Pentecost Sunday. Reflecting together on the readings for the Ascension, ‘has the time come’, we talked together about the last few months, and our attempt as a team guiding the RCIA to be true to the spirit of the ritual text, based on Acts 15:28, that ‘ no greater burden than necessary is required for the establishment of communion and unity’, recognising that Peter and Jane have been on the road for a long time before they knocked at our door.
We are a small rural parish, with consequent limited resources. Jane and Peter have joined our weekly catechumenal sessions fairly regularly over the last 6 months – from the start, we explained the difference between them and our catechumen – the quantum leap, Baptism! In the group they have been encouraged to raise anything they wanted, and have entered fully into gospel-based sharing and the doctrinal and spiritual content that has emerged, adding great richness to our gathering. Each one has had separate opportunities to meet with our PP, their sponsors and catechist, for any personal issues to be raised. Every Sunday they have been coming to Mass, getting to know people, and growing in their experience of Catholic liturgy and life, including our justice and peace projects. We reflected long and hard on the appropriate moment for reception, and decided against using any form of combined rite at the Easter Vigil – ‘anything that would equate candidates for reception with those who are catechumens is to be absolutely avoided’. (RCIA 391 UK) – choosing rather to go with the very simple ceremony of the Rite of Reception within Mass. After the homily the candidate joins the gathered faithful in reciting the Creed, demonstrating their existing baptismal faith, and adding a straightforward and profound statement at the end: I believe all that the Catholic church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.’ The words of the celebrant are warm ‘The Lord receives you into the Catholic Church. His loving kindness led you here…. and after anointing with the oil of chrism, eh takes their hands into his own as a sign of friendship and welcome, and the whole community are invited to greet them in a friendly manner. The mass continues and they will come to be one with us at the table for the first time.
Given their personal circumstances, their baptism!, their journies on the Christian path so far, we felt that this length of catechetical formation was appropriate. It has been gradual, non-pressurised, and in the process, we as a community have also become more self-aware, hopefully demonstrating a little more humility, appreciating in Peter and Jane the spiritual gifts they bring to us. Aren’t we all on the road of continuing conversion to Christ! Our journey with these candidates has opened us to fresh promptings of the Spirit. For Jane and Peter, ‘the time has come’. We prayed for one another last night ‘ for the ‘spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed… may he enlighted the eyes of our minds so that we can see what hope his call holds for us.’ May next Sunday, in our simple ritual of Reception, express the joy of finding one another on the way.