The Summer holidays, or any holiday is a time to catch up on reading . If you have time try Paul Turner’s When Other Christians Become Catholic. It is a must when considering how we should be planning our catechumenate.
Turner not only explores the ritual text, but puts the practice of receiving others into full communion with the catholic church into our 21st century context, reminding us that the rite is what it says, about being “received”: it is not about being ‘forgiven or reconciled’. We have moved on from the early church needing a route, by which those guilty of heresy or apostacy, could renounce their beliefs and return to the fold. The process and rites that applied to such a situation are hardly applicable to those christians who knock on our parish doors today.
While restoring the RCIA, Vatican 2 also looked at providing an appropriate means that would enable other christians to come into full communion with the catholic church, in a way that would not make too burdensome, Turner shows how we have in a way compromised the rite, when we combine the rite of receiving baptised christians into the catholic church with the rite of initiating unbaptised catechumens.
What becomes clear, reading Turner, if you hadn’t already felt it so, is that there was no intention to make is so easy for catechists, that those already baptised would be added to the catechumens, so that all progressed the same route, using the same rites.
From such a background there are some surprising but reassuring insights, for Turner says the rite was intended for a single candidate. How many of us worry when we only have person forward? Turner refers to such a situation, which calls for a ‘simple ceremony with a profound meaning’. Looking at it from the opposite perspective, what does this say to us, when we have a large number of candidates, generally outnumbering the catechumens in combined rite? Should we immediately be thinking of spreading out our rites of reception throughout the liturgical year, so as to help that meaning come out?
For Turner the Rite of Reception happens within a Sunday mass, at any time of the year, any time that is, but at the easter vigil. Why not read his book and see if you think what he says makes sense . Will it influence your future planning of the RCIA process?