Following the RCIA Network Conference a couple of years ago, RCIA co-ordinators and adult advisers from the Northern Dioceses of Hexham & Newcastle, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Hallam, Shrewsbury and Liverpool have been meeting regularly and planning and delivering study days – the same day is held in each diocese.  The first day, last year, was on the Enquiry and Mystagogy periods.  The second day, 2011/2012 is on the Catechumenate period.  The day covers:

  • the liturgical year – the heart-beat of the catechumenate as  the life, death and resurrection of Christ unfolds, and each Sunday,  nourishes the journey in faith
  • liturgical catechesis – using the lectionary and texts of the liturgy in planning for the themes of the catechetical sessions, beginning with a process of  shared lectio divina, followed by reflection on:
    • Who is the Jesus we meet in this Gospel? 
    • What are the themes of the Gospel that emerge (link to first Reading)? 
    •  What is the church teaching linked to the Gospel/other readings? 
    • What questions might you use with the catechumens and candidates? 
    • What are the implications for living this out in our daily lives? 
    • What form of prayer/song will we use to conclude our session with the catechetical group? 
  • roles in the catechumenate – the whole community, Sponsor, Godparent,  bishop,  priest, deacon, catechist – and a variety of  other supplementary roles (faith friends, welcomers/hospitality, Readers)
  • liturgies of the catechumenate period – Celebrations of the Word, Liturgy of the Word at Sunday Mass, Blessings, Anointings, Minor Exorcisms.

On Saturday last it was the turn of Hexham & Newcastle Diocese to host their Study Day.  A number of priests and catechists from across the Diocese took part.  Some were new to RCIA.  Table groups engaged in a process of liturgical catechesis, which was very profound and moving,  and uncovered a rich seam of Catholic doctrine to explore with catechumens.  The themes varied according to the make-up of the group and the parish context – centred round  ‘Jesus had a busy day’ – moving from the synagogyue and community prayer and community life, to the home life,  the response to suffering, healing, personal prayer, the demons in our lives, our context in the modern world and our response as Catholic Christians.   Most groups planned to use one of the liturgies of the catechumenate period to close their catechetcial sessions. 

At this point, we explored what the liturgies of this period are, including  ‘minor exorcisms’ – how did people feel about these?  Did they use them? Most were put off by the title ‘exorcism’ – but after reflection on the goal of catechesis ‘to put people not only in touch but in intimacy and communion with Christ’ and a look at the prayers offered in the Rite (RCIA90-93 A-M) which are about clearing away what stops us coming close to Christ,  people felt more confident, and were able to plan how they would introduce these.    

Generally, when used in the context of parish catechesis for Christian initiation, the word ‘exorcism’ is not in the sense of ‘psychic’ or ‘occult’ (although there may be people coming to the Church via RCIA who have dabbled in such things, who will specifically benefit from the one prayer than mentions these by name – choice RCIA 94 B).  It is more in the sense of awareness of the inner self, and the struggles we have with our own selfishness, and other ‘debris’ that gets in the way, impedes our journey and disables us from making good choices.  Have a look, and you will find these prayers are about healing, protection, building hope, allaying fears and hesitancy,  recognising the need for God’s help with self-denial and re-orientation to Christ and His kingdom of freedom, justice, love and peace.

What is the purpose of the Rites in this period?   Why bother? 

It’s pretty clear in the text:  In participating in the liturgies (not ‘talking about’ or ‘telling about – like a commentator at the Royal Wedding) and experiencing the liturgy with all our senses, this helps us to enter into the mystery of God-with-us, an encounter, where God is inviting us to be ‘family’ and share in the divine life of Christ – and this changes us!  Participating in the liturgy seeks to … ‘implant the teachings they are receiving, to give instruction/experience in different ways of prayer, to immerse them in the signs and celebrations and seasons of the liturgy, which prepares them gradually to enter the worship assembly of the entire community’. (RCIA 82) 

 

All agreed – our journey of conversion with the catechumens (adapted for candidates) is centred on a vital and convincing encounter with Christ – it happened on this day – through the gathering together, the Liturgies, the Gospel broken and shared, the blessings (RCIA 95-97) &  anointing (RCIA 98-102).

What is your experience?

  • Which of the Rites of the catechumenate period do you celebrate in your situation? 
  • What stops you celebrating them?
  • What are the strengths of the experience of celebrating these rites?

Action

If you would like to have a study event similar to the one described above, please get in touch with the Convenor – slides/process can be made available for diocesan, deanery or parish use.