If you have inquirers who are ready to become catechumens now, you need to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance with them before Pentecost in order for them to be eligible for initiation at the next Easter Vigil. Flip open your RCIA to the very back. Look for the section that is titled “Appendix III: National Statutes for the Catechumenate.” Then find paragraph 6, and underline the last sentence:
Ordinarily [the period of the catechumenate] should go from at least the Easter season of one year until the next; preferably it should begin before Lent in one year and extend until Easter of the following year.
I know, I know, you are completely worn out right now, and you can’t even think of starting up another group of catechumens. Well breathe easy for a second. I’m going to give you a few tips to make things simpler.
- Note that what is required is that the inquirers become catechumens and participate in Sunday liturgy for one full liturgical year. While it would be ideal to begin weekly catechetical sessions with them immediately, it isn’t required. If you can only do the bare minimum right now, celebrate the Rite of Acceptance with them and make sure their sponsors are taking them to Mass.
- If you can rely a little more on the sponsors, ask them to take the catechumens out for coffee after Mass for the next few weeks and discuss the liturgy. No teaching, just talking.
- If you have neophytes this year, you are likely having some kind of meetings with them during the Easter season. Invite the new catechumens to participate in those and call on the neophytes to share what they’ve learned and experienced with the catechumens.
- Is your parish holding parent sessions for first communion and confirmation preparation? With a little creativity and flexibility, adult catechumens could participate in those. Child catechumens could join with their peers and get a sense of what they will be getting ready for.
- Ask some of the folks who were initiated last year or the year before to lead the catechumens in an extended breaking-open-of-the-Word each week until you can begin more formal catechetical sessions. They should be pretty good at it if you did a good job with them during their catechumenate.
- Do you have a parish Bible study or faith-sharing group? (Or does a neighboring parish?) Ask if the new catechumens can sit in for a few weeks until you are ready to go.
- Also remember the requirement for a year-long catechumenate is for catechumens. Baptized candidates, especially those who are somewhat catechized, don’t require a full liturgical year of catechesis.
If you are looking for a Sunday to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance, the Sixth Sunday of Easter (A) is a good choice. The assigned gospel, John 14:15-21, is part of Jesus’ farewell to the disciples in which he promises to send them the Holy Spirit. “Whoever loves me,” he tells them, “will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
If your parish celebrates the Ascension on the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the gospel for the Seventh Sunday (A), John 17:1-11, can be read on the Sixth. It is also an appropriate text for the Rite of Acceptance: “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me.”
If you don’t tell anybody I told you and you really want to stretch things, you could wait until the Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (June 8, 2008) for the Rite of Acceptance. It’s not ideal, but it is better than trying to cram in a six-month process staring in October. And the gospel, Matthew 9:9-13, is perfect: “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.”
If you do have a Rite of Acceptance scheduled before mid-June, hit the comment button below and tell us about it!