A while ago, I wrote about the very first stages of RCIA – how we first come in contact with an enquirer and how we need to welcome them, the first stage of the process called the precatechumenate, and the role of the sponsors.
In our parish, we’re approaching the next stage for some of the enquirers – their first liturgical step.
RCIA is a liturgical process, because this is how we ‘enter’ into Christ – through the sacraments, which are part of the Liturgy. The liturgical component doesn’t simply come at the end, however; if you have a look at the RCIA ritual book it is full of the liturgies of RCIA (with not too much guidance on the catechesis!). One thing is clear: the liturgical ‘gateways’ are a vital part of the process.
The first one of these is the Rite of Acceptance (for catechumens) or Welcoming (for baptised candidates). It comes after a period of evangelisation, at a point when the catechumen has reached a decision that they would like to receive preparation for Baptism. Before the whole parish community, they ask from God’s Church the gift of “Faith”, professing that this is what will give them “Eternal life”. Not only do they express their commitment to the Catechumenate, but they also receive the grace in this Rite to carry it out.
I will write more on the Rite and the preparation for it, but for now I want to focus on the pastoral element that precedes this point.
Last week, our parish priest met individually with all the enquirers who have all spent different amounts of time in the precatechumenate. These interviews were to discern each person’s readiness to move into the Catechumenate. This journey is a very individual process: the people who will take part in the Rite of Acceptance next weekend are an extraordinarily varied group of people, all with very different needs. In each one of them, the signs of initial conversion manifest themselves very differently, which is why it’s important for the priest to meet each of them to discern their progress.
Tomorrow morning we have a mini “retreat” in preparation for the Rite which will take place on Sunday.