Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Have You Celebrated the Rite of Acceptance Yet?

ack!If you haven't yet celebrated the Rite of Acceptance with your would-be catechumens, you're technically already too late to consider baptizing them next Easter. Easter is very early next year--March 27, 2005. This means Lent and the Rite of Election are early too--1st Sunday of Lent is February 13, 2005.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults National Statutes (US regulations for the RCIA) paragraph 6 says:

The period of catechumenate, beginning at the acceptance into the order of catechumens and including both the catechumenate proper and the period of purification and enlightenment after election or enrollment of names, should extend for at least one year of formation, instruction, and probation. Ordinarily this period should go from at least the Easter season of one year until the next; preferably it should begin before Lent in one year and extend until Easter of the following year.
What this means is that you should have been celebrating the Rite of Acceptance last February! Catechumens normatively should participate in the catechumenate for at least one year before they are baptized. Even those who celebrate the Rite of Acceptance now would be short-changed their right to a full catechumenate if they are baptized at Easter 2005.

As a diocese, we haven't been very careful about following this practice, and many catechumens have gone through a "fast track" catechumenate. (I know of some catechumens who celebrated the Rite of Acceptance the week before the Rite of Election!! Talk about fast!) As pastoral as it might seem to do this, it really isn't fair for the catechumens or for the church. Becoming disciples, falling in love, and making commitments take time. Both the catechumen and the church need at least one full year to make the genuine commitment that initiation requires.

So that all our catechumens can experience the fullness of the liturgical year and all our parishes can take adequate time to really know their catechumens, we'll be working toward a goal of at least a one-year catechumenate for anyone celebrating the Rite of Election. (Remember that the period of the catechumenate has no set time-line and needs to be accomodated to the readiness of the catechumen.) Because of the early Easter in 2005, it won't be an expectation until Easter 2006 that most of your catechumens will have been in the catechumenate for at least a year, but I'm giving you fair warning so you can start planning now. (Easter Sunday 2006 is April 16; 1st Sunday of Lent 2006 is March 5).

Remember that you can celebrate the Rite of Acceptance several times throughout the year as inquirers become ready to enter the catechumenate. If you don't already have 3 or 4 dates scheduled for the upcoming year, sit down with your pastoral staff and parish calendar now and reserve some possible dates for this rite. The majority of those who will celebrate the Rite of Election in 2006 need to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance before Easter Sunday of 2005 (March 27, 2005) if the initiation process is to have its fullest effect on both catechumens and the faithful.

If you have questions about this, let me know at Macalintal@dsj.org.