I have a confession to make. I don’t like RCIA. I do love everything about the catechumenate and the ministry of initiating new folks into the mission the gospel. But I do not like how this awesome process of joining people to Christ is reduced to a set of initials.
You might think that’s odd since the name of our ministry, TeamRCIA, contains those very initials. I’ll say more about that in a minute. Before I do, however, I want to talk about an upcoming change in the initials — and maybe the way in which we refer to the important work that we do.
Why is a change on the way?
In a previous post, I wrote about the upcoming retranslation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The new translation is likely many years away, but one sure prediction we can make is that the name of the rite will change.
We have seen this previously with the Rite of Funerals and the Rite of Marriage, which became the Order of Christian Funerals and the Order of Celebrating Matrimony. Likewise, the Rite of Confirmation recently became the Order of Confirmation. The Rite of Infant Baptism, which is currently in the translation process, will likely become the Order of Baptism of Children.
When the RCIA is retranslated, it will become the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.
There are two reasons for this. First, the Latin text from which the English is translated is titled Ordo initiationis christianæ adultorum. This has always been the title of the rite in Latin. When it was translated into English, the word ordo was translated as rite. In the new translation, using the English word order more strictly adheres to the Latin.
But more importantly, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is not one, single rite. It is a collection of rites that are used and adapted to fit the various circumstances of each seeker. (This is also true of all the other sacramental orders I listed above.) By referring to this sacramental process as an order, we more clearly say that this isn’t a simple, one-step process that we are engaging in.
Why do we say “order” in the first place?
The church uses the word “order” in a lot of different ways. The Sundays of Ordinary Time are called such not because they are commonplace but because they are ordered. Holy Orders is how we refer to the way ministries are ordained (ordered). Specifically, the term refers to clergy, but it also implies that there are other orders in the church. For example, we have the order of the baptized faithful and the order of catechumens.
There is also the liturgical order of the worshiping assembly. In liturgy, everyone has a specific role to play. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council said, “In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 28).
This is not solely so that we will have a good liturgy but also to provide a model for how we are to act in the world. If everyone does “all of, but only, those parts” for which we have been gifted by the Holy Spirit, we will truly transform the world into a holy, ordered place.
The way that we establish this “holy order” with catechumens and candidates is crucial. The most obvious action to take is to be attentive to the dismissal of the catechumens. Those who belong to the order of catechumens are to be dismissed after the liturgy of the word and before the liturgy of the eucharist (RCIA 67). The candidates, who belong to the order of the baptized faithful, are to remain with the rest of us who belong to that order, and they are dismissed along with all of the baptized at the end of Mass.
Overcoming an RCIA roadblock
All of this is a beautiful image of God’s reign and the glory and splendor that Jesus promised us if we would follow his way (his order). But so far, it remains an ideal that we still strive for. The reason I don’t like using the initials “RCIA” is that it is one more roadblock we have to overcome as we strive for the vision. We use acronyms for two reasons: to be more efficient and to establish insiders and outsiders. Neither of these are values we should be espousing in the initiation process.
When we chose to name our ministry “TeamRCIA,” we did so for a very practical reason. When catechumenate teams search online for resources, they don’t usually google “catechumenate” or “initiation.” They google “RCIA.” In order to be able to be found and to be helpful to the most people possible, we made the hard choice to include “RCIA” in our name.
Whenever we receive the new translation of the rite, we will have an opportunity to make a change. The easiest choice would be for all of us to just start using the acronym “OCIA” instead of “RCIA.” But what if we all agree to not do that? What if we found a less efficient, less cliquish way to refer to our ministry? Would that make a difference? Would it help us move closer to the vision of Jesus’s holy order for the world?
Add your thoughts below. What are some suggestions for terms we could use to describe our ministry in the future?
See also these related articles:
- What is Pope Francis’s plan for dreaming together about the future?
- Why dreaming together about the future is important for RCIA teams
- Dreaming together about the church of the future
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year B – The 27th to 31st Sundays in Ordinary Time
- Six ways to convince others that the RCIA dismissal is a good idea
Photo by Matt Henry on Burst