Don’t catechize in Lent

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAOkay, that’s a little strong. But if your lenten catechesis for the elect looks a lot like the catechesis that was going on during the period of the catechumenate, something is amiss.

What the RCIA says about lenten formation

The rite is pretty clear. If you have your RCIA handy (or maybe even if you don’t; go get it) open to paragraph 139:

[Lent] is a period of more intense spiritual preparation, consisting more in interior reflection than in catechetical instruction.

If, in Lent, you have both elect (who will be baptized this Easter) and catechumens (who won’t), you’ll have to do a little bi-locating. The catechumens will need to continue their grounding in and exploration of the content outlined in paragraph 75 of the RCIA. So during this time, you might need two catechists—one to be with the elect and one to be with the catechumens. If you don’t have the person power for that, remember that Lent is primarily a time to focus on the spiritual preparation of the elect.

While our ministry to the catechumens remains crucial during the lenten season, our concern for the elect is paramount. Check out paragraph 121:

The election, marked with a rite of such solemnity, is the focal point of the Church’s concern for the catechumens.

Click for a FREE “Prayer for the Elect” by Diana Macalintal

Not the time for RCIA catch up

All that we have been doing with the catechumens is to get them to this point—the point at which the bishop declares them to be candidates for baptism. At that moment, it is pretty much a done deal. It’s like getting engaged—so engaged that you’ve sent out the invitations, rented the hall, and booked the flight for the honeymoon. There really is no turning back now unless something really drastic and unforeseeable happens.

So lenten catechesis is not about “catching up” on stuff that got missed in the catechumenate. It is about preparing in a soul-filled, prayerful way for a life of joy—and a life of sacrifice.

What should RCIA catechesis of the elect look like?

Well, then, what does the actual lenten catechesis look like? It looks like what is happening in their lives. The major events for the elect over the 40 days of Lent are going to be the three scrutinies on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. Lenten catechesis for the elect will ask three questions, each with a strength and weakness side to it:

  1. What have you most drunk in of Christ? What do you continue to thirst for?
  2. What have you seen that you never saw before? What do you remain blind to?
  3. What is most life-giving in your new intimacy with Christ? What is still dead that needs resurrection?

Structure the 40 days as a retreat for the elect centered on these questions and you will have answered the challenge of the rite “to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect” and “then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good” (141).

See also these related articles:
  1. Choreographing the Scrutinies
  2. Don’t catechize in Lent
  3. Reckless Love: A Scrutiny Homily
  4. 9 Ways to Treat the Elect Like Royalty
  5. Are your catechumens ready for the next stage?
  6. How to rehearse the rite of sending

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan |

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  1. The articles published here are a great resource for our RCIA Team. Thanks for the helpful info.

  2. Thank you so much for your continued support for the RCIA program. Now if we can convince all the parishes the importance of the value in it, we will have done our jobs as leaders. It’s hard to break old habits, but I think with more education on the details of RCIA we will make the necessary changes.

    I value your emails on Team RCIA. It has helped me in planning and passing on information to my team.

  3. This message is so appropriate in a world that spends far too much time in its head and not its heart. I very much appreciate your support in transforming the implementation of the RCIA in our parishes into a TRANSformative rather than only an INformative one. Many blessings to you!

  4. Nick- I love the twitter updates from TeamRCIA- you are constantly challenging me to deepen the experience for the Catechumens and Elect. Last night we actually met in the Church instead of our usual meeting place to pray about the living water that Jesus offers–and to find ways to share the good news of Jesus with the same enthusiasm of the woman at the well! ThankS!!

  5. Hi Tracy. Wow, you are so right about spending too much time in our heads. I’m sure your parish is luck to have you shepherding the catechumenate process!

    Hi Michele. Always great to hear from you. It sounds like you had a wonderful reflection on the woman at the well! Thanks for all the great work you are doing in this ministry.

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