Well here we are in the middle of the easter season, and although our new catholics remain full of enthusiasm following their easter experience, and want to recount their feelings, they also have questions. They want to ask about the sacraments they have been initiated into, to explore their new status as members of the parish community, and revel in being one of the worldwide Church. Yet I often feel there is that sense of ‘what do we do now’ with our new Catholics?
So we have the final period of initiation: mystogogy ‘devoted to postbaptismal catechesis’ (RCIA 7.4) constantly reminding the whole church that what has just happened at the Easter vigil is an endless mystery that we are always trying to unravel. For those parishes who practice ‘ dismissal’ (RCIA 67), the candidates (and probably also catechumens) have been used to having the scriptures opened up for them when they retire to a place of their own, following the gospel each Sunday mass. The only ‘dismissal’ they encounter as fully initiated Catholics is that at the end of Mass when they are sent forth with the whole assembly to consider the Gospel.
The test is to build on the experience and practice of dismissal, or of the regular sessions arising from lectionary based catechesis, so that when RCIA meetings are no longer ‘a must’, our new catholics will have formed the habit of wanting to hear more of the Word of God: desirous of knowing Jesus more intimately and lovingly through a deepening understanding of the scriptures.
During the first half of the easter season we listen to many of the meal narratives in which Jesus reveals himself and teaches his disciples. On this 4th Sunday we heard how Peter filled with the Holy Spirit, was able to stand up to the Rulers of the synagogue; how John speaks of the love lavished on us as God’s children, and we hear the beloved parable of the Good Shepherd. Our new catholics are also called to go out into the world as disciples, but they like all of us, need continuing support from the community.
Here is an idea that can be used fruitfully during the mystagogy stage, but also answers Caroline’s question (blog 27.4.09) of ‘ How do we begin to integrate candidates and catechumens into the life of the community from the very start?’
Try Living In Faith Together
In small groups, enjoy a fellowship meal at each other’s homes. Not as formal as an RCIA session, nevertheless it involves dialogue, liturgy, and catechesis. Everything about the evening is about sharing – food, home, companionship and our faith, and that’s where the name LIFT comes from. It is important that the host does not provide any food, but that the guests bring it, so there is a real sense of sharing and of bringing the food to the home. It also reduces the pressure of being ‘host’. The evening starts with someone reading the forthcoming Sunday Gospel, followed by 2 minutes silence, then it is proclaimed by a different reader, followed by silence and a sharing of an image or word. Perhaps offer a commentary, or put it into context with the other lectionary texts. You can make it as simple or as detailed as those present require, so it is equally suitable for pre-inquiry and all stages of the catechumenate. A good session may start around the Bible and a candle, lasting half an hour before the group begin the meal and together, sit, eat and talk, starting with the gospel but wherever the discussion takes you.
- A gentle introduction is to say the Opening Prayer for the coming sunday,
- adapt the psalm as a prayer for enquirers,
- read the gospel once followed by silence but without inviting a response,
- A LIFT meal once a month can help extend the mystagogy period through to the anniversary of initiation,
- Have a Justice and Peace Meal,
- Include Ambrose’s sermon on the Baptismal garment (Yarnold, 1994, 2001, The Awe-Inspiring Rites Of Initiation, pp.129-30).
- Mystagogy: do refresh by reading RCIA #7.4 #244-251