Many parishes have recently celebrated the combined Rite of Acceptance and Rite of Welcome. The full name of this rite tells you right away it is going to be problematic:
the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens
and of the Rite of Welcoming Baptized
but previously Uncatechized Adults
Who Are Preparing for
or Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church.
I’m tired just reading it.
The introduction to the rite lays out for you an almost impossible goal. Flip open your RCIA text to paragraph 506: “[I]n the celebration of the rites, care must be taken to maintain the distinction between the catechumens and the baptized candidates.”
That sounds deceptively simple. So how did you do? Was the distinction clear? When I ask myself that question, I give myself the “mother” test. I replay the celebration of the ritual in my head. Except I imagine it as though it took place in my mother’s parish. Then I imagine Mom driving home after church and walking into her house. The test is, does she pick up the phone and call me to ask me to explain what happened? Or did she get it from the celebration of the rite itself? If she calls me, the liturgy wasn’t clear. So how was your ritual? Would it pass the mother test?
Here’s why the rite fails the mother test most times. The structure of the rite is designed primarily to deal with unbaptized people. The baptized are then sort of smooshed into a ritual structure that wasn’t originally intended for them. And, to complicate matters, you’ve got all different kinds of baptized people.
The structure of the rite is designed primarily to deal with unbaptized people. The baptized are then sort of smooshed into a ritual structure that wasn’t originally intended for them. And, to complicate matters, you’ve got all different kinds of baptized people.
Baptized, catechized Catholics
Go re-read the title again. Slowly. The Rite of Welcoming is supposed to be for uncatechized Catholics who are preparing for Confirmation and/or Eucharist. Our parishes are filled with Catholics who missed confirmation somewhere along the way, but they’re going to Communion every Sunday. These folks are catechized. I know they probably can’t name the pope nor name all ten of the commandments. But they are going to Communion, which is the goal of initiation. If your parish is allowing them at the Table, you shouldn’t be allowing them in the catechumenate. And if you leave them out of this rite, it will be clearer to my mother what is going on.
Baptized, catechized non-Catholic Christians
This is the same problem. It’s not a rite for catechized Christians. And even though most of us know that, the majority of the folks who go through the Rite of Welcoming are baptized, catechized Christians who want to become Catholic. Next year, resolve not to do this to them. A ritual that is designed primarily for the uninitiated and imposed on catechized Christians is a subtle display of triumphalism, which the RCIA abhors. If you find another place for these folks, the rite becomes clearer.
Baptized, uncatechized Catholics
Most of these folks started their initiation process as children and dropped out before reaching adulthood. In this category, you have three sub-groups. Those preparing for confirmation. Those preparing for first Communion. And those preparing for both. While this can be an appropriate rite for each of these groups, you still have the challenge of keeping the groups distinct from the non-Catholics and the unbaptized.
Baptized, uncatechized non-Catholic Christians
Right rite, but a logistical, liturgical problem. How do you make it clear to my mother that these folks are essentially different than the unbaptized? Does the ritual make everyone look to Mom like just a big group of folks who want to become Catholic?
Click here for part 2 and discover some ways to make the distinctions clear by adapting the structure of the rite.