In her blog last week Caroline asked are we ready for the third period the Rite of Election heralds? Before we file this rite away until 2011, I would like to suggest that we ask ourselves, are we ready to think of a time in the not too distant future when we celebrate the Rite of Election as a single rite, and not as a combined rite with the Call to Continuing Conversion.
I know ours is not the only diocese to hold the rite on two separate occasions. We split the parishes: some in the morning and some in the afternoon. This was necessitated by the large numbers forward: 70 catechumens and 110 candidates. The cathedral could have been comfortably filled with just the catechumens, their godparents, family, friends and representatives from the parish communities.
So why would we bother to change?
Well, we’ve already been adapting the rite. In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults as approved for use in the Dioceses of England and Wales, Scotland, there is no provision for a combined rite. Have a look at the introduction #105-115. The combined Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion is borrowed from the USA edition (RCIA #547).
Another way of looking at it is to think of it as preparing a meal. The different dishes will complement each other, each important in their own way. Into one big cooking pot, you put some basic ingredients. You have done your preparation (see #107 and 108 2nd para). The pot is simmering nicely. It just needs the final touch and a bit of time, which comes with Lent.
Into another pot you place some different ingredients: green vegetables. See Part 11 chapter 4: Preparation of Uncatechised Adults for Confirmation and Eucharist. The preparation is similar to that of the catechumens, though not identical, because of the need to remember the candidates ‘already baptised status’. The candidates are not in the same position as the elect. Though some of the rites of the catechumenate can be used to advantage: this does not include the Call to Continuing Conversion (#382). Not the same basic ingredients as our catechumens, and so great care needs to be taken, calling I suggest, for a separate pot. Side by side, they can come to the boil at the same time (#385).
Then we have some more ingredients, root vegetables, all grown from the same prepared plots. They keep their flavour by cooking separately and come to their peak in their own time. These are covered by Part II chapter 5 Reception of Baptised Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church. They too receive spiritual and doctrinal preparation, suited to their specific needs, but avoiding anything that would equate them with catechumens (#391). So they definitely go in a separate pot.
As in all meals, each dish complements the other.
As to the advantage of having just the elect: it would allow for one ceremony where the elect could have their day. There would be room enough for more representatives from their parish. Thomas Morris (p.160) in his work on RCIA says how wonderful it would be if the affirmation by godparents could be spontaneous. Instead of the communal ‘They have’ called out, how great to hear a few words of witness about the catechumens progress.
For the candidates and those previously uncatechised catholics, our diocese already celebrates a special mass for new catholics and their families. Held in June it offers an opportunity for all new catholics to enjoy cathedral worship, feel what it is like to be part of the wider church and to meet the Bishop.
I wonder how long it will be before the conversation starts that will lead to just the Rite of Election being held in our different dioceses. I like to think that in years to come it will be necessary for our diocese to hold a morning and afternoon rite, but due to the sheer numbers of elect being prepared.
Morris, Thomas. (1997) The RCIA: Transforming The Church. A resource for pastoral implementation.