One article that has received a lot of comments here on TeamRCIA is “Why dismiss the catechumens before Jesus becomes present?” (Scroll down to the end of the article at the link to see all the comments so far!)
Dismissal is such an integral part of the formation of catechumens that the RCIA lists it as one of the four ways we train catechumens for the Christian life. Dismissal is a right and responsibility of those who are catechumens. We should also note that the RCIA never mentions dismissal of those who are baptized. One of our long-time readers from Australia, Max Norden, offered a great comment to Nick’s post above that can help all of us understand better the meaning and importance of dismissal. We reprint his comment here with his permission. And add your own comments below to join in the conversation!
And if you’re wondering where to find all the RCIA number references that Max mentions below, be sure to have your own copy of the official Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It’s the one book you absolutely must have if you’ll be doing RCIA ministry (note: this link is for the United States edition).
Greetings and blessings to all participating in this energetic discussion on dismissal from Max in Australia.
This is the discussion on RCIA #67 and the subsequent critical analysis and reflection on what is actually being said and asked for by the Church in #67 that is desperately needed within the RCIA community worldwide.
My observation of some responses is that we still need to become fully familiar with the Rite and the rubrics within the rite. In many cases it is the rubrics within various clauses that give us the Church’s intention for that action. RCIA #67 is one such case.
To understand the concepts and requirements of dismissal of catechumens requires us to discuss and appreciate the role and responsibilities of the baptized in the liturgy versus the role and responsibilities of catechumens in the liturgy. It also requires us to look at, discuss and reflect on the other RCIA clauses that relate to and/or support #67.
Once we understand these concepts we will appreciate “the catechumens are now part of the household of Christ, since the Church nourishes them with the word of God and sustains them by means of liturgical celebrations” (RCIA #47).
The dismissal reinforces and honours the dignity of baptism. It teaches the community that there is a difference between the unbaptised and baptised and that there is a different role and function for each with the baptised having a specific role in the liturgy of the Eucharist that is not yet available to the unbaptised catechumens.
Dismissal is also important because it has a critical role in preparing catechumens, over time, for their eventual role and responsibilities in the order of the faithful. RCIA #75.3 and #82.4 spell out this concept: “at Mass they may also take part with the faithful in the liturgy of the Word, thus better preparing themselves for their eventual participation in the liturgy of the Eucharist. Ordinarily, however, when they are present in the assembly of the faithful they should be kindly dismissed before the liturgy of the Eucharist begins . . . for they must await their baptism . . . to participate in Christ’s new worship.” (RCIA #75.3) And again: “celebrations of the word of God arranged for the benefit of the catechumens have as their main purpose: . . . to prepare them gradually to enter the worship assembly of the entire community” (RCIA #82.4). RCIA # 83.2 is also specific on the matter of dismissal: “After the liturgy of the Word they should, if possible, be dismissed, but an intention for them is included in the general intercessions”.
Therefore, from these passages in the Rite, we can see that mother Church does not see dismissal as something optional, light-weight, or something that might be done just during lent, or just on the scrutiny Sundays, but rather, once becoming a member of the order of catechumens through the Rite of Acceptance, it is expected that catechumens will be dismissed each time that they are at Mass as an essential part of their preparation for entry into the order of the faithful.
The rubrics within RCIA #67 tells us what should happen with the dismissal: “After the dismissal formulary, the group of catechumens goes out but does not disperse. With the help of some of the faithful, the catechumens remain together to share their joy and spiritual experiences”. This instruction from the Rite is very simple but very clear: does not disperse (remains as a body of catechumens) . . . help of some of the faithful (dismissal leader) . . . share their joy and spiritual experiences of what has just happened during the liturgy of the Word.
However, I can also hear you now saying “but what about catechesis?”
The Rite tells us clearly that catechesis is needed: “A suitable catechesis is provided by . . . planned to be gradual and complete in its coverage” (RCIA #75.1) However reflecting on RCIA # 7.2, 47, 67, 75, 82 and 83 we can see that the Rite sees dismissal and catechesis as two separate actions with different people involved: Dismissal – “Some of the faithful” (#67.A) and Catechesis – “whole community (priests, deacons, catechists and faithful)” (#75.1). It is clear from the Rite and its rubrics that we should not be confusing and mixing what takes place in a dismissal session with what happens in a catechetical session.
The next discussion point is “what to do and talk about in a dismissal session along with who leads it”. This is beyond this current forum discussion, but I do refer you to one of Nick and Diana’s webinars – October 2013 – “What every RCIA team needs to know about dismissal” for the answers.
Here is a link to a podcast on what happens during the dismissal. The discussion of the dismissal starts at about 11:00.