What’s the Significance of the “Special Things” We’re Doing at the 8:30 Mass This Sunday?
On Sunday, October 11th at the 8:30 AM Mass we are celebrating two important milestones in the faith journeys of those in RCIA; we do this through two rites (a set of prayers and actions that ceremoniously marks their transition from one phase to the next). The first rite is for those that are not yet baptized; it is called the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. Prior to the rite, these participants were inquirers who were discerning if they wanted to commit themselves to this formation process, but they weren’t the only ones discerning – it was also the responsibility of the Church to determine if these individuals exhibited evidence of first faith, initial conversion, an intention to change their lives, a start of the practice of prayer, and a sense of the Church. Today, these individuals declare their intention to the Church, and we as the People of God recognize their progress so far. Therefore, we go out to welcome them and commit ourselves to praying for them and to assisting them on their journey.
The other rite that is also taking place at this Mass is for those who have already been baptized; it is called the Rite of Welcoming the Candidates. This rite if for those who are seeking to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church (or who are seeking to complete their Christian initiation). The prayers and ritual gestures for this rite are slightly different from the Rite of Acceptance because these individuals have already been marked by Baptism, and therefore, already have God’s grace within them to help them on their journeys. As the People of God, we welcome them as brothers and sisters already united to us, but not as fully as God desires. Therefore, we also commit to praying for them and providing the special care and support they will need.
The rites begin at the doors of the Church. We, as a community, go out to greet and welcome them. At separate times the unbaptized (now known as catechumens) and the baptized (now known as candidates) declare their intentions, and the celebrant then asks the sponsors and the entire assembly if we are committed to helping these individuals. Because following Christ requires taking up our cross daily, the catechumens and candidates then are signed with the cross on their forehead, ears, eyes, lips, heart, shoulders, hands, and feet. It is also a great reminder to us of our own responsibility to follow Christ in every aspect of our lives. The catechumens and candidates then join us for the Liturgy of the Word, and before being dismissed, are given a Bible so that they might come to know and love God more fully through the Sacred Word. Again, this is a great reminder of our own responsibility to encounter Jesus through the daily reading of Sacred Scripture. Finally, there are several special intercessions for the catechumens and candidates, in which we as the People of God manifest our commitment to pray for these individuals.
After Mass, the candidates and catechumens will be gathered at the kiosk. Please stop by and introduce yourself to them. As well, next Sunday, you will see a poster of all the new candidates and catechumens, which will be placed in the narthex. Take a moment to get to know your new brothers and sisters in Christ, and take a card with their names on it to use in your daily prayers on their behalf.