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A different Model for RCIA Catechesis

Diana Macalintal has outlined a different model for Catechesis for RCIA where seekers gain Catechesis from all the Parish teams. The model more resembles an apprenticeship rather than the formal instructional nature of many teams. This model does not move away from Lectionary Based Catechesis, but does move away from relying on the RCIA teams to be the principle Catechists.

22 October 2019

Emmaus Story

The Emmaus story in Luke’s Gospel [Lk 24:13-35] directs our Christian faith with Christ as our guide, our eyes are opened to recognise Him; we then set out to share this Good News with our companions. This lived discipleship is the reality of Mystagogia. From the moment of The Rite of Acceptance the Church embraces the catechumens and candidates with parental affection;

“From this time on the Church embraces the catechumens as its own with a mother’s love and concern. Joined to the Church, the catechumens are now part of the household of Christ, since the Church nourishes them with The Word of God and sustains them by means of liturgical celebrations.” [RCIA #47]

As every household knows, the loving bond nurtured within never ceases, but rather must become open to enable those within to mature in their own particular manner.


A certainty in life is growth, hopefully progressive, which involves moving from one stage of life to the next. The depiction of the RCIA Rites as doorways that lead candidates from one phase to the next is familiar to us. Human life is a series of continuous doorways we pass through; for example primary to secondary school; student to professional; single to married life; couple to family. This movement often encompasses feelings of loss, yet the excitement of newness, spurs us on to further discovery and confidence. The subjective process of transition depends on our character, attitude and support services. The two disciples in the Emmaus narrative begin their journey despondent over the tortured death of their hero, Jesus. Though Cleopas and his friend are joined by Christ as they return to Emmaus, something prevented them from recognising Him.


During the catechumenate, the role of the RCIA team is to ‘begin with Moses and all the prophets, and interpret to them the things about Christ Himself, in all the Scriptures;’ [Lk 24:27] affectively representing the presence of Christ to the Emmaus candidates. The example Christ presents us with in the Emmaus story is that as soon as the two disciples receive the blessed and broken bread from Christ, He physically vanishes from them. Christ’s attendance to their needs takes on a deeper understanding, since now, by His nourishing from within, He is food for the mystagogical path forward. This natural transition also applies to the RCIA team, who move from weekly meetings to walking alongside the neophytes as we are communally fed and joined through the Paschal Mystery.


The Elect may be viewed as an adolescent on the bridge to adulthood, which includes developing an understanding of rights and responsibilities, with faith understanding of lived discipleship embodying the caritas of love for others. The RCIA team must remember that while it has nurtured with a mothers love the faith development of Christian initiation, we are walking with adults, not children. During the phase of Purification and Enlightenment the team in developing an expectation of independent ownership of faith, can lay the seeds of affirming The Elects’ autonomy and commissioning at Pentecost. This parallels the natural stages of life, and prepares The Elect to understand that the discipleship of their relationship with Christ will involve experiences of struggle, growth and inertia; that the Ordinary Time in the Liturgical cycle supports continued faith development.


Throughout the process of RCIA, we nurture and guide those on the conversion journey home to Christ, humbly appreciative that we too travel this same road to our heavenly destination with measured and continuous purpose. “Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. Therefore an educational growth process is necessary, in order that individual believers…may patiently be led forward, arriving at a richer understanding and a fuller integration of this mystery in their lives.’ [Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981) # 9]


The need for a welcoming and supportive parish for new members in the Church is well acknowledged. The Liturgical celebrations gradually acquaint candidates with the wider Parish community and simultaneously make known to the Parish the joy of adult Christian initiation in their midst. The role of sponsors, to introduce and deepen this sense of belonging is essential to developing comfort and familiarity with the Parish and wider Church. Invitation to join one of the many Parish ministries develops the sense of the individual becoming part of the parish community through active involvement in the mission of the Parish life.


At what point does the RCIA team release the bonds of ‘motherhood’ which have developed? If we analogise that received into the Church at Easter, the Neophytes begin the probationary time to drive alone, then the commissioning of them at Pentecost involves their maturing into independence. The experiential reality of life is undefined, that “continuous, permanent conversion …is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward.”  [Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981) # 9] The integrity of faith demanded by the RCIA team is to encourage this freedom, while appreciating that the permanency of conversion will include times of struggle and doubt. The RCIA team, while remaining available to the Neophytes, should create a sense of free will, whereby the Neophytes begin to take ownership of their faith and how they will live their mystagogia.


The great conversion story of St Augustine reminds us that our life is in constant tension of choice. Augustine’s theology explained that we each possess emotional baggage that makes us who we are; it is inescapably part of us and should be viewed as strength of our humanness to learn, choose, change and develop. It is part of our being human that we search for our maker, seeking completeness only when we unite with our divine architect: “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” [The Confessions of St Augustine] In the fast pace of life today, if our intentions are not met quickly, there is a tendency to drift away or move on. The role of RCIA is to meet those on the journey to Emmaus, while being reassured that Christ will open their eyes and walk alongside us all. Our challenge is to kindle the spirit within, sharing our Christian faith and belief in ‘The Way, The Truth and The Life’, [Jn 14:6] and continually pray for each other, united in human sympathy, for together we journey home to Christ.

July 2019

Five things your RCIA team may not know about the dismissal

Five things your RCIA team may not know about the dismissal

Posted by Nick From TEAM RCIA reprinted with permission


The very first time I heard about the RCIA was at a diocesan information meeting in St. Louis in 1982. I dont remember a lot

about the meeting, but the one thing that really grabbed my attention was when the presenter said that we would be dismissing the catechumens from Mass after the homily. At the time, that was such an unheard of idea that I knew instantly it would cause a great stir in parishes. And indeed, it did cause an initial shock in parishes that implemented the dismissal. Many other parishes decided to simply not do it because it was such a radical departure from the way we had always done things.

It seems like we have gotten over the initial shock, but there is still a lot of resistance to the dismissal. There is also a lot of confusion about it. So here are a few thoughts of mine about why I think it is important. Id love to hear yours as well.


Hostility or hospitality?

I dont hear this as often, but there used to be a refusal to dismiss catechumens because it seemed inhospitable. I hope that thinking has died out. We are not sending the catechumens away because they are somehow unworthy. Were sending them out to do the work that is appropriate to their order in the Body. The job of the Order of Catechumens is to hear the Word of God. During the dismissal session, they focus more intently on the Word, listening deeply to Gods call to them. This is an essential part of their training in the Christian life.


Don't do catechesis

Another reason for not dismissing is parishes say they dont have enough catechists. This is a confusion. The dismissal is not a time for catechesis. It is a time for reflection, prayer, and faith sharing the flows from Gods Word at that moment. The leader does not need to be a catechist. He or she only needs to be someone who can lead a reflection on faith. That could be a youth minister, a first communion preparation catechist, a choir member, a lector, someone from the parish council, a Bible study participant, or a member of the Womens Guild. It could even be a catechumen who has some experience with the dismissal process. Or it could be a neophyte who has been through at least a years worth of dismissals already.


A single exception

A somewhat legitimate reason to skip the dismissal that sometimes comes up is that a parish has only one catechumen. I think you could do a dismissal session with only one or two catechumens, but it is true that having a few more participants is beneficial. If you decide not to dismiss the lone catechumen, it is still important to break open Gods word with him or her. You would simply do it after Mass instead of after the homily. After Mass, you could gather a few of the baptized to also share faith and the catechumen will not seem so isolated.


Keep the baptized candidates in the Mass

Here is one of the biggest confusions. Oftentimes, a Protestant who is married to a Catholicand who has been going to Mass for yearsdecides he wants to become Catholic. Too often, the pour soul is stuck into the catechumenate and is then sent forth from the liturgy every Sunday without his wife. These people almost never belong in the catechumenate. Someone who has been to Sunday Mass regularly for years is catechized. They might need

more catechesis, but they do not require the beginning conversion level of catechesis that the catechumens need. And since they are not in the catechumenate, these catechized Protestants would not be dismissed from Mass.


Keep the Catholics in the Mass

And, of course, parishioners should never be dismissed. Thats seems obvious, but we still get lots of questions about sponsors, spouses, and other team members. The only baptized person who should leave with the catechumens is the dismissal leader. By way of adaptation, baptized uncatechized participants in the catechumenate might also be dismissed. But my preference is that even these folks stay with the other baptized members of the assembly as a sign that they are in a different orderthe Order of the Faithful.


So what happens in your community? Are you dismissing catechumens every week? What about in the summer? And what are you doing with the children? Please share your thoughts.

How do You solve a problem like Mystagogia

After a long and intense preparation, the celebration of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation at the Easter Vigil comes as a great time of celebration for the whole community. This is followed by the period of Mystagogia. Havent we done work? Havent the neophytes experienced enough catechesis? Hasnt the scriptural, the instructional, the liturgical, the ecclesial catechesis in the previous months been enough? What are we meant to do during the period between Easter and Pentecost?


The rite asks us to continue to build on the catechesis given during the previous stages of the initiation journey. The emphasis during this period is on mystagogical catechesis. But what is mystagogical catechesis?


My reflection is based on two fundamental documents: 

1) the Rite itself; 2) Pope Benedict XVIs Encyclical, Sacramentum caritatis 


1) IN THE RITE

This is the time for the community and the neophytes together to grow in deepening their grasp of the paschal mystery and in making it part of their lives through meditation on the Gospel, sharing in the Eucharist and doing works of charity. (RCIA 234) 


THE PASCHAL MYSTERY: 

Mystagogia is a time of deepening the neophytes grasp on the paschal mystery. This is not a purely intellectual or academic exercise. As they reflect on the events of the Easter Vigil, they become aware of the link between the death and resurrection of Jesus and their own initiation. The death and resurrection of Jesus still bear fruit in the lives of the neophytes. They entered into the tomb with Jesus and they now share in the new life of the resurrected Christ (see (Rom 6:1-11). During this period they are called to deepening their grasp of this wonderful gift so that their lives continues to be lives on the pattern of the death and resurrection of Jesus: dying to oneself in order to live more fully in Christ, with Christ and for Christ.


During their catechumenal journey the word of God has helped to grow in Christ. This process is now continued and deepened as they are now sent out to be messengers of the gospel to their families, to the friends and to all people they meet.


SHARING THE EUCHARIST: 

During their journey they have received strength and courage from the celebration of the catechumenal rites: In the celebration of the Word of God, in the rites of blessings, healing and anointings, in the celebration of the scrutinies. All these rituals led to and prepared for the source and summit of all liturgies: the celebration of the Eucharist. The focus of mystagogia must be on the Eucharist: deepening their understanding, eagerness and desire to participate with the rest of the community in the celebration of the Eucharist. Several of the Gospels of the Easter period point towards the Eucharist (the story of the Emmaus disciples, the breakfast on the beach, the risen Christ asking the disciples: Do you have anything to eat?)


DOING WORKS OF CHARITY: 

This is not new. During their catechumenal journey they have been encouraged to use their gifts and talents as a service to the church and to the community. Now they are called to share more deeply into the very mission of the Church towards all humanity. Jesus disciples are called to become the messengers of Jesus message; they are called to become the witnesses of Jesus love for all human beings.


2) SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS 

In Pope Benedict XVIs Encyclical, Sacramentum caritatis, the purpose of Mystagogical Catechesis has a threefold aim: 

a) It interprets the rites in the light of the events of our salvation 

b) must be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites. 

c) must be concerned with bringing out the significance of the rites for the Christian life in all its dimensions. (Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, 64) The time of Mystagogia is therefore a time of reflecting on the awe-inspiring rites of Christian Initiation celebrated during the Easter Vigil. We are called to gather the neophytes and with them reflect on the actions, the words, the symbols and the rituals of the Easter Vigil. We are called to take the neophytes on a journey of re-visiting the celebration of the Easter Vigil, step by step, moment by moment. For each of the Easter Vigil rituals we are called to reflect on the following three questions:

  1. What did you experience during the ritual? 

  2. What was God/Christ/the Holy Spirit doing for you through those rituals? 

  3. What is God/Christ/the Holy Spirit sending you forth to proclaim and to witness through the ritual?


The emphasis and the focus of mystagogia are service, commitment and mission. That is why mystagogia is not only for the neophytes but for every member of the parish. Like the Apostles after their Pentecost experience, we are all sent to proclaim the good news and to become the witnesses of Christs death and resurrection to the whole world. I started this reflection with the question: How do you solve a problem like Mystagogia? To help you solve the problem I have prepared a resource on mystagogia. It consists of a book for the RCIA leader and a journal for the neophytes reflections. This is the link to this resource


CALLED GIFTED SENT: The Sacraments of the Christian Initiation of the Triduum. Catechists Manual and Catechumens Journal Dr Elio Capra SDB James Goold House Publications - Website: www.kwl.com.au

July 2019

Returning Home to Christ

There exists in the human heart an innate yearning to return home. In the context of faith and spirituality, this longing finds its home in God. Our modern world offers much distraction and clutter in our minds, yet this does not eclipse the spiritual hunger within us. This is what the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) responds to. Christ has already initiated the invitation to unbaptised catechumens, and to candidates who have received Baptism in other Christian denominations, to come and see. The Divine manner through which this invitation is offered, may be given through family, friends or other encounters, determined by The Spirit. The Ministry of RCIA is to offer welcome, hospitality and friendship to those we are privileged to walk with, in their conversion journey. RCIA supports those seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ, by providing a sense of welcome home through acceptance and belonging within our Catholic family.


RCIA developed in the early Church when Christian conversion demanded a high price due to the persecution it received. Discernment of faith thereby was a process which involved visible signs of the heart and mind converting to Christ. Greek understanding of the elements of conversion offer an ongoing appreciation of the unfolding nature of faith: Kerygma, identifies the gradual growing in closeness to Christ. Evangelia, involves developing familiarity with Gospel teachings. Koinonia, is experiencing the sense of belonging and acceptance within the Catholic community. Leitourgia, refers to the strengthening practice of prayer and worship. Diakonia, is the relational context of sharing in the caritas of loving service for others. For the fullness of the Catholic faith to be shared it is important to present Lectionary, Liturgical and Instructional based catechesis. The catechesis of sharing faith experience includes explaining Catholic tenets of belief; the celebration of faith through community worship, prayer and ritual; which are guided by growing familiarity with Christ's Gospel teachings.


Christ calls us to "listen with the ears of our heart"(1) . Thereby each catechumen and candidate is on their own spiritual journey home to Christ, supported through the evangelical mission of RCIA. Catechumens and candidates are aware that they are searching, often with needs difficult to verbalise. The gradual unfolding of the mysteries of Catholic faith and belief over the catechumen period, are patiently encouraged and shared. The Ministry of RCIA through the clergy, Parish catechists, sponsors and God-parents, and the prayers and welcome of the wider Parish community, provides the hospitality for new members to the Church to fully assimilate and actively engage in the Liturgical life of the Church. (2)


(1) Psalm 95

(2) Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults #42, 75-78, 105-108

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