I shouldn’t do this to myself. I wanted to write a bit about the period of evangelization and precatechumenate. I know there are many misunderstandings about this part of the process. The biggest one is that there’s a “schedule” for the precatechumenate. There isn’t one. At least, there shouldn’t be. So, to find some examples of what parishes might be doing, I Googled “RCIA schedule.”
Should the RCIA process look like this?
The first result that came up was schedule that began in mid-June and ends with the Easter Vigil.
It starts with a period called “Inquiry” that consists of six every-other-week classes.
After a couple weeks off, the weekly “Precatechumenate” classes start at the beginning of September. These classes are a read-through of the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, two-chapters per week for eleven weeks (no “class” on Halloween or Thanksgiving).
The Rite of Welcoming / Rite of Acceptance is scheduled for the First Sunday of Advent. This begins the “Catechumenate.” The following Tuesday evening, the weekly read-through of the catechism continues until the First Sunday Lent in mid-February.
“Purification & Enlightenment” begins with the next chapter in the catechism and continues until Easter Vigil.
That schedule covers all 36 chapters of the catechism. There is no distinction among the periods of the process other than the celebration of the rites.
I need to breathe for a moment.
The heart of the RCIA is an encounter with Jesus Christ
I am sure parishes that do this kind of thing have good intentions. But why do we so often do things like this to our seekers? What are we hoping to accomplish?
Way back in 1979, about a year after he was elected, Pope John Paul II wrote “On Catechesis in Our Time.” In that document, the pope uses the word “Christocentricity.” By using that word, he “intended to stress that at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth” (5).
Everything we do as catechists has to help seekers encounter the mystery of Christ. “The definitive aim of catechesis,” said the pope, “is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (5).
Now, if you are already a disciple, if you encounter the mystery of Christ every day, if you are in communion, in intimacy with the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, you are already centered on Christ. You are “Christocentric.” And for you, a chapter-by-chapter read-through of the catechism may indeed lead you to deeper intimacy with Jesus.
But if you are not yet “Christocentric,” if you don’t yet know Christ or have only just begun to know Christ, you need someone to help you get “not only in touch, but in communion, in intimacy with Jesus Christ.” And that won’t happen by reading the catechism. The Person of Jesus of Nazareth is not in a book.
“This teaching is not a body of abstract truths,” said Pope John Paul II. “It is the communication of the living mystery of God” (7).
The RCIA leads your seekers to an encounter
So how do we do that? How do we bring the seekers to an encounter with mystery? Pope Francis gives us an answer:
On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over:
“Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” (Joy of the Gospel, 164)
When you look through the entire catechism, there are obviously some things the church teaches that are more important than other things. Pope Francis says we have to focus on the one, most important thing. Like Pope John Paul II, he is telling us our catechesis has to be “Christocentric.”
“To get diverted by many secondary or superfluous things does not help,” said Pope Francis. “What helps is to focus on the fundamental reality, which is the encounter with Christ, with his mercy and with his love, and to love our brothers and sisters as he has loved us” (October 14, 2013).
To be “Christocentric” catechists, we must lead seekers to that transformative encounter the Person of Jesus of Nazareth so that they know they are loved, saved, and freed. We do that over and over, deeper and deeper. There is nothing else. We have no other job as catechists.
I’ll get to the article on precatechumenate soon. I promise to stay away from Google. But more importantly, I promise to try to be more “Christocentric” and focus on the core message:
“Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”
How are you leading your seekers to an encounter with Christ? What has helped the most with being a “Christocentric” catechist? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
- How do you know if your seekers are ready for the next step in the catechumenate process?
- What is a rite and why does it matter for catechumenate teams?
- One Latin phrase that was not translated in the initiation rites
- Q&A: Proxies for the scrutinies
- How do we avoid “judgement” when looking for conversion in the seekers?
- 46 ways to accompany seekers even if you’re not in charge of the RCIA process
- Q&A: What do we do about RCIA seekers who don’t go to Mass?
- Be sure your RCIA sponsors have what it takes
- Why the role of “sponsor” is so important in the RCIA
- How the RCIA rites move seekers from the old to the new
Photo by Marvin Ronsdorf on Unsplash