If you want to effectively prepare inquirers for the Rite of Acceptance, you might need to rethink your precatechumenate process.
In a previous post, we talked about why it is important to prepare the inquirers for the Rite of Acceptance. We can think of preparation in two ways. One way to prepare them is through rehearsal. We show them where to stand, what to say, what to do—much like a director of a play.
Deep preparation is required
However, there is a deeper, more important understanding of preparation that we sometimes overlook. If you turn to the “Outline for Christian Initiation of Adults” (just before paragraph 36 of the RCIA), we see there that at the “Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens,” the inquirers “declare their intention to respond to God’s call to follow the way of Christ.”
For them to be able to do that, we have to prepare them to authentically declare that intention.
If we take this goal seriously, it will radically change the way many of us organize the precatechumenate. Someone told me recently the precatechumenate in their parish is one session. Someone else told me they purchased an eight-session precatechumenate program from a publisher. If you Google “precatechumenate,” you can find precatechumenate “lesson plans.”
All of these are misunderstandings of the purpose the period before the Rite of Acceptance. Look again at the “Outline for Christian Initiation of Adults.” It says there that the precatechumenate “is a time of no fixed duration or structure.” RCIA 36 says the precatechumenate “is a time for evangelization.”
We must first evangelize
Here is the bottom line. To effectively prepare the inquirers for the Rite of Acceptance, we neither rehearse them or school them. We evangelize them. However, tread carefully here. Many inquirers come to us already evangelized. If they are already evangelized, they probably don’t need a precatechumenate period, or they would only need a very short one to discern their level of conversion and the type of catechesis they might need.
How do we know if someone is evangelized? The RCIA gives us several criteria. We need to look for:
- an initial conversion
- a feeling in the inquirer that he or she needs to turn away from sin
- an attraction to the mystery of God’s love (RCIA 37)
In order to prepare the inquirers for the Rite of Acceptance, we must give them opportunities during which they can develop these signs of first faith. This is the whole purpose of the precatechumenate.
Our faith brushes off onto the inquirers
So how do we do this? We cannot do it by sending the inquirers to class. Instead, send them to dinner. Or to the parish picnic. Or to Sunday Mass. Or any other place Catholics gather. The idea is to introduce them to lots and lots of Catholics and begin to intertwine the inquirers’ lives with ours. As they tell their stories and hear our stories, they begin to experience all of the things we need to look for in an evangelized person.
There is a caveat however. The RCIA process assumes our parishioners are evangelized and are living a life of intentional discipleship. We know that is not universally true. However, there is a core of parishioners who are living an active gospel-based lifestyle. We have to bring the inquirers to these active disciples and let their faith “brush off” on the inquirers.
No fixed structure or time for the precatechumenate
A preparation process like this obviously cannot be scheduled into a set number of weeks or meetings. How can we know when the Spirit will catch hold of an inquirer? It will take longer for some than for others. That is why there is no fixed duration or structure to this part of the process. Nevertheless, it is a tremendously important first step. If we do not prepare the inquirers well, they will not be able to authentically celebrate the Rite of Acceptance. And they will have a more difficult time during the more intense formation process of the catechumenate period.
What is your experience?
Does your precatechumenate look for the signs of evangelization listing in RCIA 37? How do you prepare your inquirers so they come to that level of first faith before they celebrate the Rite of Acceptance?
“Bomb” by graur razvan ionut | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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