Many parishes organize their catechumenate ministry on a school-year model. While this is not the vision of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, it is nevertheless a reality in many communities. However, the isolation and distancing requirements of the coronavirus outbreak have disrupted that model. And now, we’re feeling a little panicked. What in the world are we going to do with our elect as we await the time when we can initiate them?
This is the time to look at the formation principles of ongoing initiation process and apply those principles to this unique situation. I urge you not to simply schedule more classes to be delivered digitally. Instead, let’s ask ourselves the purpose of formation in the Christian life and how the church envisions a process for that formation.
What does the Christian life look like for the Elect?
The RCIA tells us that we are supposed to provide “pastoral formation and guidance aimed at training [the seekers] in the Christian life” (RCIA 75).
The rite then goes on to tell us what the Christian life looks like. Disciples of Jesus practice four types of Christian behavior.
- Word. We reflect on and ponder the teaching of the church as revealed by the Logos (God’s incarnate Word) over the course of the liturgical year (RCIA 75.1).
- Community. Because we support one another and serve one another, we are able to keep our hopes set on Christ during difficult times. We do this together through faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. We do this even when we lose patience or are short-tempered. We continuously reconcile with one another by asking and offering forgiveness. The rite says that when we do this, and when the seekers follow our example, “they also taste the joy that God gives without measure” (RCIA 75.2).
- Worship. The most powerful means of formation that we have is the liturgical life of the church. While we cannot form our seekers through Sunday Eucharist in communities that are under quarantine, we can still worship. Our buildings are closed, but the church is open. Our households are small churches where we continue to pray and worship. (RCIA 75.3)
- Witness. We never cease to spread the Gospel, even if we cannot physically connect with one another. Through digital communication, financial support, and even volunteering for safe activities, we can continue to serve those most in need, bringing them the good news they desperately long for. (RCIA 75.4).
So in this time of physical isolation, we continue to form the seekers not with more classes but with a true training, an apprenticeship, in how Christians live when faced with adversity. Here are some specific examples of ways you can pastorally form and guide your elect, your catechumens, your baptized candidates, and, indeed, your whole parish community.
Cook meals based on Bible stories
You can suggest the elect cook some of the foods Jesus might have eaten at the Last Supper. See this article for ideas.
This site is good for families with kids.
Read messages from popes
- Pope Francis’s address on coronavirus and Jesus calming the storm
- Pope Francis’s letter on The Call to Holiness in Today’s World
- Pope John Paul II’s letter to artists
Reflect on the Sunday readings together as a household
Give Us This Day is an excellent resource to help you do that.
Set up a Netflix watch party
If all your elect have Netflix accounts, you can join together to watch a spiritually uplifting movie. Find instructions here.
Some movies to watch include:
- The Pursuit of Happyness
- My Life as a Zucchini
- Mary Poppins Returns
- The King’s Speech
- Same Kind of Different as Me
Tour the Vatican Museums
Encourage your elect to explore one or more of the free virtual tours of the Vatican Museums. Learn more here.
Because we are all forced to stay at home during the pandemic, tensions can rise. Suggest ways to your elect that they can practice forgiveness in their households.
- Read Pope Francis’s message about families as a training ground for giving and forgiving
- Teach or remind the elect how to examine their conscience
- Share some creative ways to apologize
Plan a household foot washing for Holy Thursday
Also, plan for domestic church worship for all of Holy Week. See the Liturgical Press website for adapted rites and liturgies to celebrate at home.
Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
A simple way for households to mark the hours of the day is the pray the Lord’s Prayer at morning, at noon, and in the evening.
A slightly more advanced option is to use the digital version of Give Us This Day.
Set up a home altar
You can probably guide your elect about how to set up a prayer space at home, but if you need inspiration, see this article.
Give blood. There is shortage, and you cannot catch the coronavirus by donating.
Reach out to those on the peripheries
Discover some ways to reimagine Jesus’s command to love our neighbor. Read this article from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
What’s most pressing on your mind at this time about your Elect? What are you trusting them to do in the coming weeks and months? How will you help them do it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Read more about other RCIA team training ideas here:
- An RCIA calendar for celebrating the initiation rites outside the usual times
- RCIA mystagogy when there have been no baptisms
- Is your RCIA open all year-round? The period of mystagogy
- Rejoice and be glad: An RCIA story of mystagogy
- Mystagogy in the RCIA is easier than you think — and more challenging
Photo by Martin Shreder on Unsplash