Easter Vigil is no doubt the high point for everyone going through the RCIA. As RCIA leaders and team members we feel honored and privileged to have played a part in their faith journey. But with this great and holy night behind us, now what?
According to the RCIA, we now enter the period of mystagogy with our neophytes. This is perhaps one of the hardest parts of the process. The RCIA text seems very vague on what it is we are specifically meant to accomplish during this period. For our neophytes, some feel that their initiation marks the completion of their journey. As with every part of the RCIA, we need to take some time training ourselves on this important final step of the process in order to better implement it in our parishes.
One of the best places to start is to simply search “Mystagogy” here on the TeamRCIA web site. There are a number of very good articles that can help us to better understand the nature of this period of the process and how we can more fully celebrate it with our neophytes. But I also thought it might be helpful to look at a few simple “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to addressing this period with our teams and our neophytes.
Do give neophytes a chance to gather and reflect on their experiences
This is the essence of mystagogy, taking time to reflect back on events and moments to find the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. Of course, as has been mentioned here by our TeamRCIA authors, this mystagogical reflection is something we should be doing throughout the catechumenate as part of our catechetical process, but it is especially important during the post-baptismal period.
Don’t treat this like a regular catechetical session
Remember, the time for formal catechesis ended with the Rite of Election. We no longer should feel compelled to teach them what they should know. Instead, we should let them run the table. Our job now it to facilitate the discussion on their experience and help them better see how the Holy Spirit moved them — not just through the Easter Sacraments, but through their entire journey of preparation.
Do use this time to answer any questions they may have
Yes, by this point in their faith journey they will have had plenty of time to ask questions and understand all the Catholic basics, but now as neophytes, their perspective has changed. They are now fully initiated members of the Body of Christ. This can often spark new questions or cause them to reflect on older questions from their new perspective. Take the time necessary to unpack these questions with them.
Don’t use this time as a chance to “catch-up” on material you didn’t have time to cover
Here again, the period of the catechumenate is, if following RCIA paragraph 76 (and paragraph 6 of the National Statues), should have allowed all the time necessary to provide them with solid foundation in the Christian life. And don’t use this as a time to focus on the sacrament of reconciliation. Even though the Elect cannot celebrate this sacrament until after they’ve been baptized, the nature and practice of this sacrament should have been well covered during the catechumenate. There are plenty of opportunities during Ordinary Time and the seasons of Advent and Lent for this.
Do schedule mystagogy sessions as works best for your community
There is no one way to have and schedule mystagogy sessions. They don’t need to be (nor should they be) a weekly activity. Some parishes get by nicely with only three or four sessions between Easter and Pentecost. Some like to do it right after Easter and some like to wait a week or two. Be flexible and see what works best for your neophytes.
Don’t use this time to introduce them to the various ministries and organizations of the parish
Years ago we would host a “ministry night” for the neophytes with the idea that they should now integrate themselves into the parish community. But as you may have heard, our thinking and practice on this has also evolved. We should be encouraging them to explore and become involved in our various parish groups, activities, and ministries from the moment they become seekers. While certain liturgical ministries might not be open to them until they are fully initiated (such as lector or communion minister), they should already be actively participating in parish groups and ministries as part of their preparation.
Lastly, don’t get discouraged
It is a reality in this ministry that not all our chicks return to the nest once they’ve received their Easter Sacraments. That’s OK. Use this as an opportunity to evaluate your mystagogy process. These are just a few tips I have to offer. What has been your experience? What’s worked for your parish? What hasn’t? Share your thoughts in the comments below.