Thousands of parishes are getting ready to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance over the next several weeks. Catechumenate team leaders will gather with those who are to become catechumens and offer them a ritual catechesis something like this:
“And then Father will ask you your name. You tell him your name. And then Father will say, ‘What do you ask of God’s Church?’ and you say, ‘Faith.’ Then Father will say, ‘What does faith offer you,’ and you say, ‘Eternal life.’ Okay, let’s all try that together.”
If that’s roughly how your rehearsal goes, grab your copy of the RCIA, and let’s chat for a bit. Turn to paragraph 50 (which is on page 21 in my book, but might vary in yours). Then skip down to the long red paragraph that starts, “The celebrant continues with the following questions ” (top of page 22 in my book). Note the second sentence, which reads: “The celebrant may use other words than those provided in asking the candidates [for the Rite of Acceptance] about their intentions and may let them answer in their own words.”
Okay, this will be hard I know, but it’s important. Use other words than those provided. Why would you want to do that? Because this is real life. You want to catechize both the catechumens and the assembly that something powerful and important is taking place. The presider should ask a real question and expect to get a real answer.
Imagine for a moment you and I are in a small faith sharing group. I am really interested in you, and I want to know more about how you came to believe in Jesus. What kinds of questions would I ask? What kinds of answers should I expect? That is the dynamic that should be taking place in the Rite of Acceptance.
So the presider asks a real question. Something like: “John, what is it you are seeking?”
What does John say?
…If he doesn’t know what he is seeking, he is not yet ready to become a catechumen…
How should I know? I’m not John. I might be able guess what he might say, but even so, I shouldn’t be putting words in his mouth. John should answer honestly about what he is seeking. If he doesn’t know what he is seeking, he is not yet ready to become a catechumen.
John’s entire time in the inquiry period should have been focused on why he has come forward now, at this time. What is it he is seeking? What does he want? Who moves him and calls him? After weeks and months of struggling with questions like these, John will be more than ready to give a real answer when the question is put to him in the ritual. And the assembly will recognize it for what it is—a statement of faith.