As I heard name after name being called in the cathedral and the queue to sign their names in the Book of the Elect I felt it showed that the RCIA process is definitely alive and thriving in England and Wales. Our bishop announced that for the first time the number of Catechumens exceeded those seeking Full Communion with the Catholic Church. That delighted me.
I remain unconvinced of the need to celebrate a combined Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion. The rite was intended for the non-christian. Hence this rite recognises those coming forward are the elect:chosen by God, through the Holy Spirit, with the Church acting in God’s name [ RCIA 106]. They are chosen but not yet baptised. It is stressed how if the combined rite is used that it must be in a way that does not in any way ‘equate candidates for reception with those who are catechumens…’ [RCIA 391], This is quite a difficult task, but I felt our diocesan Rite of Election overcame the inherent difficulties.
The celebration was designed mainly in two parts. Following the Liturgy of the Word we celebrated the Rite of Election, with the Presentation of the Catechumens, each meeting the Bishop before returning to sign the Book of the Elect, and what a queue processing down the central aisle! It was very impressive. Such a variety of people of all ages: children to the elderly, ablebodied and wheelchair bound, and they had a real vitality for what they were experiencing..
There then followed the celebration for those for the Call to Continuing Conversion. They stood in their rows as called by parish, but were given the opportunity at the end of the service to meet with the bishop. One candidate proudly showed me how the sticker saying she’d met the bishop had got a piece of her hair stuck on it and was something she would be keeping.
So now thoughts of the Team and Clergy turn to the period of Purification and Enlightenment. While consideration may have already been given to the different rites, as this is a time of Scrutinies and Presentations: Presentation of the Creed [RCIA 144], there is a very helpful table in Thomas H. Morris’s The RCIA: Transforming the Church p.167 setting out the rites appropriate for catechumens and those for the already baptised and other groups.
Scrutinies are only for the non-baptised, that is clear from the language of the rite.
- RCIA 128 …the scrutinies should complete the conversion of the elect…
- RCIA 129 the scruties apply to those ‘asking for the three sacraments of initiation…’
- RCIA 140 et al – the whole section refers to the elect
- RCIA 140-1 the prayers refer to the elect awaiting the gift of ‘the living water‘, as ‘they draw near to the fountain of living water.’
If it is the practice of the parish to have combined rites including at the Easter Vigil, the need to ensure that nothing occurs that may equate the baptised with the non-baptised remains throughout. It is a duty to be carried out with forethought and tact by the RCIA team and clergy.
- Avoid assumptions
- plan carefully
- explain to the elect and candidates and the congregation why those involved participate in a particular rite.
- This is an apt time to explain/remind the assembly what RCIA – Journey in Faith is about, after all this is the result of their evangelisation.
- Remind or introduce your elect and candidates to the joy of keeping a spiritual journal. (It’s a great too for catechists too)
- And Enjoy what you do.