Are you having trouble getting your parish involved in your RCIA process? Do you sometimes feel like you and your team are working off in a corner somewhere, unnoticed by the larger community? When you celebrate RCIA rites at Sunday Mass, do you sense the assembly is disgruntled because the liturgy might go longer than normal?
If that’s true for you, you are not alone. Many RCIA teams experience similar things in their parishes. What you need to know is your experience is pretty common.
You also need to know that things can change. Change is never easy, and I’m not going to give you a one-size-fits-all solution that will solve all your problems in the next week. But I am going to suggest a small step your parish might consider implementing. You are going to need your pastor’s cooperation for this step, and getting that cooperation may or may not be a challenge, depending upon your pastor, but it’s worth a try.
Stay on message!
On the Second Sunday of Lent, I was in a parish I had not been to before. In that parish, someone (the pastor?) had decided to forgo the homily and instead show two videos that promoted a social service ministry within the parish that was seeking more volunteers. While service to those in need is an important ministry in any parish, the primary focus of Lent should be on the journey of the Elect as they prepare for initiation.
If we want our parishioners to become involved in the catechumenate process, we have to use every opportunity available to us to catechize them about primary importance of this ministry. If your pastor and the liturgy planners in your parish agree with that, here are ten different things you can try on the Second Sunday of Lent next year.
- The most obvious thing to do is to preach on the gospel. The Second Sunday of Lent focuses on the story of Jesus’s Transifiguration. As the Elect enter their final period of preparation, they will be focused on their own transformation that will take place at their baptism. How can this gospel encourage them and all of us on our Lenten journey?
- Another option is to structure the homily as a mystagogical reflection on the Rite of Election that took place at the cathedral the week before. Summarize what the bishop asked the godparents about their catechumens and explore the primary symbols of the liturgy.
- It is always an option to preach about the liturgical season. Often, we think of Lent as a time of penance and fasting. But it is equally a season of preparation for baptism. Make sure the baptismal font is full of water throughout Lent, and use this Sunday to preach about the baptismal call of the Elect to missionary discipleship.
- The following week, we begin the celebration of the scrutinies. The Second Sunday of Lent is an ideal time to foreshadow what is going to happen in those rites. The homilist can give an overview of the progressive nature of the three scrutiny gospels and invite the community to come participate at the Masses where the Elect with undergo those rites.
- Either in addition to or instead of the homily, one of the Elect could give a testimony about his or her experience of the Rite of Election. If you have several Elect, you can divide them up and ask them to testify at different Masses over the weekend.
- If the Elect are too shy to offer testimony, you could ask some of the godparents to testify to their experience of the Rite of Election and of their commitment to guide the Elect to the font, as well as walking with them in their mission as Christian disciples.
- This might be a stretch, but I’ve always wanted to ask the bishop to video tape a message that would go out to all the parishes in which he would talk about the Elect. Often, bishops are willing to do this for a stewardship campaign. Perhaps we could convince some of our bishops to do the same kind of thing in support of those who are about to become disciples of Christ. The Second Sunday of Lent, just after the Rite of Election, would be the perfect time for his message to be delivered in all the parishes.
- Another option for the homilist would be to preach about the Creed. The Elect will be presented with the Creed during Lent, and a homily that explores why that is significant could be very helpful to them and to the parish.
- If you are not able to have much influence over what happens during the homily time, another possibility is to ask the cantor to chant the intercessions. Be sure that one of the intercessions is a prayer for the Elect. In that intercession, call out the names of each of the Elect.
- One option that I would not do is the optional penitential rite for the baptized candidates. The best place to mark the penitential journey of the baptized candidates is with the rest of the baptized faithful at the parish reconciliation service that happens in most communities in Lent.
Do you have other ideas for how we can use the Second Sunday of Lent to catechize about the central place of initiation ministry in our parishes? Please share your thoughts below.
Photo by bk1975 | Flickr