This is the fifth in a series of articles on the places, postures, and gestures in the Rite of Welcoming the Candidates.
One of the exciting things about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is it’s exhortation that we should “make full and intelligent use of the freedom given” to prudently accommodate the rite to the circumstances of the catechumens and candidates (RCIA 35). After looking at several of the pieces of the Rite of Welcoming Candidates, what can we say about accommodating this ritual to the needs of the baptized candidates?
Remember that our goal with this rite is to use “prayers and ritual gestures [that] acknowledge that such candidates are already part of the community because they have been marked by baptism. (412; emphasis added. In Canada, see nos. 457 and 465.)
An RCIA adaptation checklist
Here is a checklist that seems prudent to me. Please add your own ideas in the comments box below.
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- Celebrate the Rite of Welcoming the Candidates only with those who are truly uncatechized. The RCIA defines “uncatechized” as “adults who were baptized as infants…but did not receive further catechetical formation nor, consequently, the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist” (RCIA 400; Canada 376). If the candidate has celebrated first Communion (or whatever the Protestant equivalent would be), they are not eligible for this ritual. (See also the National Statutes, nos. 30-31.)
- Celebrate the Rite of Welcoming the Candidates and the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens as separate rites, not as a combined rite, to help clarify the distinction between the baptized and unbaptized (See the Canadian edition of the RCIA, which does not permit combined rites, especially no. 466.)
- Always begin the Rite of Acceptance with the inquirers outside and begin the Rite of Welcoming with the candidates inside (RCIA 48, 416; Canada 48, 467)
- Take advantage of the rubric that allows us to adapt the Opening Dialogue and use the one we traditionally use with the faithful (i.e. “The Lord be with you….”) instead of the example given in the ritual (RCIA 418; Canada 470).
- Limit the Signing of the Candidates with the Cross to only the forehead. Do not sign the other senses (RCIA 421; Canada n/a).
- Do not include the optional Presentation of a Bible after the homily (RCIA 428; in Canada, the presentation does not appear to be optional, see 481).
- Do include the usual General Intercessions (which are either dropped from the Rite of Acceptance or done after the catechumens are dismissed).
- It is not an option to dismiss the candidates, but many parishes do it anyway. Stick to the rite, and do not dismiss the candidates from the assembly until all are dismissed after the final blessing.
Strive to highlight the special status of the baptized
It may seem counterintuitive to eliminate options and to do fewer things with the baptized candidates in the ritual as a way of highlighting their status. But think about it for a minute. The more we use rituals that are similar to those we use with catechumens—and dissimilar to those we use with the faithful—the more the candidates seem to be ritually identified as different from us.
They are somewhat different, of course, but they are even more different from the catechumens. Because the candidates are baptized, their status—their place in the holy order of the liturgy—is the same as all of the Catholics in the room (except the priest and deacon, who are in different orders).
Everything we do publicly with the candidates should reinforce and catechize the reality that they are already part of the order of the faithful, part of the royal priesthood.
See also these related articles: