Questions and Answers
Do you ever ask yourself…
What am I looking for in life?
What is the meaning of my life?
How can I be a better person?
What can I do about the loneliness I feel?
How can I come to know God’s love?
How can I know the right path God has in store for me?
If you are asking these questions, or questions like them, the Catholic way of life awaits you. For centuries,
people have turned to the Church to find the answers to the deepest and hardest questions of everyday life.
Are you interested in finding out more about how to become a Catholic?
Sessions are always held on [day] at [time].
This first session is [date] in [location] at [parish name and address]. Feel free to come any [day].
Please give us a call if you have questions, would like further information, or need directions, at [number]
or email at [email address]. Or check out our church’s website: [web address]
The RCIA RITUAL BOOK states that “it is a very ancient custom of the Church that adults are not admitted to Baptism without godparents, members of
the Christian community who will assist the candidate at least in the final preparation for Baptism and after Baptism will help them
persevere in the faith and in their lives as Christians” (GI 8). Godparents and sponsors play a crucial pastoral role in the Christian
initiation process. They are called upon throughout the Christian initiation process to give public testimony to the progress and readiness
of participants for the major RCIA liturgies, and serve as a bridge and connection between participants and the parish. They must be able to enter into
a relationship with a single person, and be willing to give considerable prayer, time, and energy to serve as a mentor, role model, and friend.
Go here for more information: http://acmrcia.org/categories/sponsors
RCIA 247 is referring to paragraph #247 in the RCIA Ritual Book.
For a detailed expaination of Mystogogy and the Neophyte Year read paragraphs 244-251 from the RCIA Ritual Book. It is important to keep in touch with the neophytes during their first year. A Bible study for the neophytes is a good way to keep in touch as well as making sure they take advantage of and are participating in the life of the parish.
Unless it is stated in the Ritual Book that these rites are optional, (which it does not), we are expected to do them.
The minor Rites are too often viewed as “just something extra.” This view underestimates the power of the Church’s liturgy.
The Catechism explains that it is in the liturgy that Christ works most powerfully to transform those who participate in it (see CCC 1074; see NDC 33). Therefore, all of the minor Rites are significant and powerful liturgical moments. Participation in these liturgies is an essential element to the catechumens’ and candidates’ growing relationship with God, and they are privileged places for participants to encounter Christ. They do so as they hear the Scriptures that are proclaimed, through the prayers and liturgical actions that take place, and through the witness of other members of the Body of Christ who are present. The actual graces made available through the minor Rites strengthen and nourish participants, and help to deepen their conversion to the Lord. These graces are rich liturgical fare that will trengthen and feed participants, bringing them great growth and development in the Spirit and in their conversion to Christ. This liturgical food is extremely significant for them. To omit the minor Rites is to deprive them of graces which can sustain them on their journey to the sacraments.
It appears, after reviewing their web site, that the New Apostolic Church Baptism is valid.
However, the decision on validity is made by your Bishop.
Start with your pastor and check with the appropriate episcopal authority on this matter.
Can this work? Yes. Is this recommended? No.
The mixing of rites during a liturgy is not a best practice especially mixing children with adults.
I would ask the Pastor to do them on different days but bow to his decision.
The USCCB identified five problem areas within the three aspects of the RCIA process.
Liturgical: Not doing the Rites and/or doing them poorly
Catechetical: Not presenting a systematic, organic and complete catechesis
Pastoral: Lack of involvement of the clergy.
Lack of team, community, communio.
Lack of discernment. Are they ready?
They are not at this time. However, the new Roman Missal's affect on our books is minimal.
I would not plan a topic for the first RCIA session. This is a "break the ice" session. We typically have the team introduce themselves and have the candidates do the same. We ask why they are with us today. I do a brief review of the process. We hand out Bibles and Catechisms with a brief review of each. I usually close with a definition of Catholicism and explanation of the sign of the Cross.
The National Statutes can be found in Appendix III of the RCIA Ritual Book, page 363.
Since the RCIA is primarily a Liturgical process, it would follow the colors of the liturgical year.
This is covered in the RCIA Ritual Book #400-410.
The RCIA Ritual 33.7 is clear on the use of the Oil of Catechumens.
the National Statutes #16 is succinct,
"The rite of anointing with the oil of catechumens is to be omitted in the Baptism of adults at the Easter vigil."
The ritual book describes sponsors of unbaptized
inquirers as “persons who have known and assisted the
candidates [for admission to the catechumenate] and
stand as witnesses to the candidates’ moral character,
faith, and intention” (RCIA 10). The ritual book does
not specify the responsibilities of sponsors of baptized
inquirers, so it is reasonable to assume that they are the
same. This means that the leader must appoint spon-
sors for inquirers fairly early in the precatechumenate,
so that sponsors will be able to stand up for inquirers at
the Rites of Acceptance and Welcoming.
Sponsors should begin attending the weekly
catechetical sessions as soon as they are appointed.
This accomplishes several things: first, sponsors and
inquirers have a natural starting point for conversations
during the time they are getting acquainted; second,
sponsors know what the inquirers are being taught,
and can help reinforce and extend the teaching in one-
on-one encounters; and third, by hearing the cateche-
sis, sponsors themselves gain further formation in their
faith and can deepen their own conversion to Christ.
During this period, the deepest meaning of dis-
cipleship must be examined, including the respon-
sibilities to witness and to bring the light of the
Gospel to every corner of the world. the Church
has designed the Year A lectionary readings for
the Sundays and the Solemnity of the Ascension
to form the basis for the teaching during this peri-
od (see RCIA 247). Below is a summary of some
of the Mystagogical themes present in the read-
ings for Year A:
• Second Sunday of Easter — Sacrament of
Penance – Apostolicity
Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31
• Third Sunday of Easter — Emmaus Event –
Paradigm for the Mass
Acts 2:14, 22-33; Ps 16; 1 Pt 1:17-21; lk 24:13-35
• Fourth Sunday of Easter — The Church as
the Sheepfold – Relationship with Jesus
Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 23; 1 Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10
• Fifth Sunday of Easter — Heaven – Relation-
ship with the Father through Jesus
Acts 6:1-7; Ps 33; 1 Pt 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12
• S ixth Sunday of Easter — Relationship with the
Spirit through Jesus – “do whatever he tells you”
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps 66; 1 Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-20
• Ascension — The Great Commission – Evange-
lism/Witness – Necessity of Baptism
Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47; eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20
• S eventh Sunday of Easter — Prayer for Unity
and Glorification of the Church – Apostolicity
Acts 1:12-14; Ps 27; 1 Pt 4:13-16; Jn 17:1-11a
It is assumed that many of the truths discussed
in this period will have been presented earlier in
the RCIA process. the catechesis here thus seeks
to deepen what has been offered in prior months.
The work of this period is to more profoundly chal-
lenge and encourage the neophytes to become true
disciples of Jesus.
The term Neophyte applies to all new Catholics until the following Easter.
The RCIA coordinator and or Pastor are well aware of the needs of the young children. They will advise the candidates (parents) about the reception of sacraments for their children.
The paths are different for Baptized vs non Baptized individuals. Take your friend to your Church and introduce them to the RCIA leader and/or Pastor. They will determine what is necessary for your friend to come into full communion with the Church.
Do the book signing this Sunday and the 1st Scutiny on schedule. It is not a good idea to combine the scrutinies.
Liturgical Training Publications distributes all of our books. They produce a catalog. You can contact them about a catalog and any printed material they have concerning our publications.
Liturgical Training Publications distributes all of our books. You can get in touch with them concerning your inquiry.
Here is the link to their web site; http://www.ltp.org
Yes. Read in the RCIA Ritual Book #s 400-472.
All the Rites are in the RCIA Ritual Book.
RCIA Ritual Book paragraphs 118-137.
Go to the RCIA Ritual Book #s 41-47 "Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens"
The Precatechumenate is a necessary part of the RCIA process. please read #7 in the RCIA Ritual Book. Inquirers coming throughout the year does pose a challenge to the RCIA team. Please go here for help on how to deal with this issue.
The USCCB keeps track of this data. go here:
A simple google search will turn up many options for this item.
All questions concerning your marriage will be answered by your Pastor and RCIA leader.
It is not only feasible but also desirable to introduce Lectio to your catechumens and candidates. Teaching on prayer should occur throughout the RCIA process starting with the more simple prayers familiar to all Christians and gradually moving to the more Catholic forms of prayer. The Catechism states (1177) that the Liturgy of the Hours is a preparation for silent prayer. Therefore, I like to slowly introduce the Liturgy of the Hours before Lectio. There are many Scriptures that can be used for reflection on the Eucharist. Here are a few; Gen 14:18-20, Ex 16:2-16, John 6:1-14, John 6:48-58, Luke 22:14-20 and 1 Cor 11:23-29.
The RCIA Ritual is a very adaptive process. Call a Catholic Parish close to you and explain your situation. I am sure they will be able to help you.
Have your Pastor review, in the Ritual Book, "Reception of Baptised Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church", paragraphs 473-504 and Appendix III, "National Statutes for the Catechumenate", paragraphs 30-37. Paragraph #33 deals with your concern directly.
The Rites of Acceptance and Welcoming should
be celebrated more than once during the year. For
catechumens, the ritual book specifies that two, or
three if necessary, dates each year should be “fixed as
the usual times for carrying out this Rite [that is, the
Rite of Acceptance]” (RCIA 18.3; see also RCIA
44). For candidates, the ritual book does not state
a required number of times each year for the Rite
of Welcoming, noting however that the “specified
days” should be “suited to local conditions” (RCIA
414). The RCIA leader, in consultation with the
pastor and other parish clergy involved in RCIA,
must establish these days. The Rites are optionally
celebrated within a special Liturgy of theWord (see
RCIA 61-63, 425-427, 522-524) or within a Mass
(see RCIA 68, 432, 528). Although the Mass need
not be a Sunday Mass, it is desirable for parishioners
“to be present whenever possible [taking] an active
part in the responses, prayers, singing, and acclama-
tions” (RCIA 9.2), and the assembly is most reliably
present at a Sunday Mass (or a SaturdayVigil Mass).
The two or more opportunities each year for going
through this Rite ensure that each inquirer partici-
pates in the Rite only when he or she is ready for the
commitment the Rite signifies.
This question is best answered by your Pastor. Canon 841 states that it is for the Church alone to approve or define those things which are required for validity.
Go here for our position on a Lectionary Based RCIA process;
Preparation — Liturgy of the Word
If beginning with a hymn or song, see previous page for suggestions
First Reading: Nm 21:4-9
Response: Ps 26
Gospel: Jn 3:1-21
Proclamation: Justification frees us from sin, for the glory of God and to give us the hope of receiving God’s own life. Once justified, we can share in Jesus’ merit, grow in God’s love, and attain Heaven.
Understanding the Gospel: blueprint for justification and sanctification (see Rom 6:3-23)
God desires all to be saved (see 1 Tm 2:3-6)
In Sacred Scripture, the Father has told us how we are to be saved and become his adopted children
The grace of the Holy Spirit, first given in Baptism, forgives our sins, gives us God’s righteousness and justice, and gives us his own life
Faith is necessary, and faith itself is a gift of God, unmerited by us
The graces of faith and justification flow only from the merits gained by Jesus’ Paschal mystery
But faith without works is barren, incomplete, and dead (see Jas 2:18-26)
Salvation depends upon not only our justification but also on our cooperation with God’s grace
God has promised to reward our good works, which gain their merit from Jesus’ merits (see 2 Tm 4:7-8; Rv 2:23)
Justification: restoration of sinners to friendship with God (see Rom 3:21-26)
Justification is the greatest work of God’s love, offering to us life in the family of the Trinity
Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and our freedom; no one can be saved against his or her own will
Justification respects our freedom to choose or reject God
Justification, which is essential for salvation, can be lost through sin
Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, God in his great mercy will forgive even serious sin and restore our justification
Justification demands faith, but to retain it we must do God’s works
Merit: the promise of reward for obedience to God’s commandments (see Col 3:23-25)
Our salvation comes through no merit of ours, but is the free gift of God
God freely associates us with his work of grace; he calls us to cooperate with him (see Lk 10:2)
Jesus’ saving actions in his Paschal mystery are the only source of our merit
In justification, our sanctification by the Holy Spirit is begun
We must hear and obey all that Jesus commands to gain everlasting life (see Jn 5:28-29; Mt 19:16-17)
Jesus’ teachings tell us what we must do; with God’s grace, we can keep his commandments
Jesus’ teachings tell us how to persevere in holiness by being faithful members of his Body, the Church, by using the sacraments he entrusted to the Church, and by following her teaching
Application — Suggested Questions for Discussion:
1. What does the doctrine of justification teach us about how to read Scripture as one, single book?
2. Why is simply acknowledging Jesus as our Lord and Savior not enough for salvation?
3. How do my good works fit into the idea that grace is a free gift of God?
4. What are ways to persevere at what God has begun in me?
Celebration — Suggestions for Closing Prayer:
1. Pray for the gift of God’s grace of faith, a desire for Baptism, and a desire to do good solely out of love for him.
2. Hymn or song (see previous page for suggestions)
3. Pray together Psalm 69 (see Participant’s Book)
The different status of the elect and the candidates must be kept in mind so that, when the Combined Rites prescribed in the ritual book are used,“anything that would equate [candidates] with catechumens [that is, the elect] is to be absolutely avoided” (RCIA 565).
It is important to note that the ritual book makes provision for, and expects, that not all candidates will be received into full communion at the EasterVigil (see RCIA 473-486) but recognizes, as a practical matter, that elect and previously uncatechized candidates may both be received at the EasterVigil (see RCIA 562).
Sponsors must fulfill the requirements as stated in Canon Law 872-874 and RCIA Ritual Book #10.
It is important that candidates encounter Catholics filled with the faith. This topic is covered in detail in
our Leaders Manual chapter 19. You can find more on this from our blog here;
As a rule, the dismissal and Reflection on the Word should take place at one or more parish Masses every Sunday after the Rite of Acceptance, together with at least one RCIA team member who has been trained to help lead the catechumens in discussing and reflecting on the Sunday readings. “If for serious reasons the catechumens cannot leave” (RCIA 67C), the Church provides options in the dismissal
formularies that invite them to stay for the remainder of the Mass while acknowledging the fact that they are not yet able to partake of the Eucharist (see RCIA 67C). It is clear that the Church desires the catechumens to be dismissed, but it is equally clear that serious reasons can make this impossible for pastoral or practical reasons (see RCIA 67, 75.1).
They are being reprinted and updated. The Participants Manual is in need of minor updates such as prayers like the Creed, Confetior and the Gloria. However these changes involve very few of the 380 handouts.
They are being reprinted and updated. The Participants Manual is in need of minor updates such as prayers like the Creed, Confetior and the Gloria. However these changes involve very few of the 380 handouts.
The best reflection for the Rites are the Rites themselves. Read them slowly and prayerfully to prepare for the preceding Catechumenate period as well as the Rite itself.
ACM does not have any publications translated into Korean.
You certainly could attend the inquiry sessions to find out more about Catholicism. However, as candidates are moving on to the Catechumenate they will declare their intention to become Catholic at the rite of Acceptance/ Welcoming. There is a certain dynamic that occurs among those moving toward discipleship and anticipating the sacraments of initiation. Someone who has declared no intention of becoming catholic would be a distraction to this dynamic. There are better ways for you to satisfy your curiosity about Catholicism. I would suggest reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and The Map of Life by Frank Sheed.
Sorry, English only at this time.
This is a delicate pastoral issue. Having never met the person it is difficult to comment on their conversion status. How long have they been in the Precatechumenate? Are we dealing with extreme shyness, pride or something else. This person is worried about "public" Baptism but is unaware of the public Rite of Acceptance, Rite of Sending, Rite of Election and Scrutinies. However, based on what you have said, it appears that this person is not ready to enter the catechumenate. Go back and read #42-43 of the RCIA Ritual Book that details the requirements for entering the Catechumenate. I would suggest a meditation on John 13:1-17. Pay particular attention to Peter's change of heart. Try to get to the root of their problem with public Baptism and get your pastor involved.
We do not offer an online training course for the RCIA. However, there is much you can gather from our web site to get a sound understanding of the catechumenal process. Start with this one hour video from our blog http://acmrcia.org/blog/introduction-rcia-video. Then download and read the 7 free PDF files from the Home page.
These two suggestions would give you a basic understanding of the catechumenal process. To continue on your own, you could purchase the Leaders Manual and the RCIA Ritual Book and work your way through them.
You may want to recommend ACM to your Diocesan RCIA official so that you could attend an ACM seminar in person :)
The Ritual Book describes sponsors of unbaptized inquirers as “persons who have known and assisted the candidates for admission to the catechumenate and stand as witnesses to the candidates’ moral character, faith, and intention” (RCIA 10). The ritual book does not specify the responsibilities of sponsors of baptized inquirers, so it is reasonable to assume that they are the same. This means that the leader must appoint sponsors for inquirers fairly early in the precatechumenate, so that sponsors will be able to stand up for inquirers at the Rites of Acceptance and Welcoming. The sponsors should attend all the major and minor rites of the Catechumenate as prescribed in the Ritual Book. See the following examples;
Rite of Acceptance/Welcoming Ritual Book 53/420
Rite of Sending Ritual Book 112/538
Rite of Election Ritual Book 131/552
Scrutinies Ritual Book 152/166/173
Penitential Rite Ritual Book 468
Sacraments of Initiation Ritual Book 219/568
I am assuming that your question concerns Catechist training. After a complete explanation of the ecclesial method that includes walking through some examples, handing out blank forms and having students develop a lesson plan following the ecclesial method would be a beneficial exercise.
The Rite of Baptism of adults is in the RCIA Ritual Book. In the United States edition it is
paragraphs 218 to 230. I would suggest going to your local parish and asking the pastor
to show you the rite.
RCIC = Rite of Christian Intiation of Children.
See pages 155-203 in the RCIA Ritual Book.
A job description for RCIA coordinator will vary from Diocese and Parish. Here is a sample;
Job Title: RCIA Coordinator
Department/Location: Roman Catholic Parish
Primary Function: Under the direction of the Pastor, Pastoral Administrator, or DRE, is responsible for directing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process for the parish.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities:
§ Perform as a lay minister in support of the parish’s spiritual and pastoral mission
§ Assist the pastor to articulate a vision of RCIA within the Parish community to include an assessment of needs, setting of priorities, setting of goals and objectives, and the implementation of the RCIA process
§ Recruit, train, and provide ongoing formation of members of the Catechumenate (RCIA) team; identify leaders within the community to assist with RCIA effort
§ Provide appropriate training materials as necessary
§ Coordinate the liturgical celebrations of the RCIA process
§ Administer all financial aspects of the RCIA process
§ Ensure the existence of a safe environment is in place at all times
§ Prepare reports as necessary
§ Perform other duties as assigned
Physical/Mental Requirements: Requires coordination and manual dexterity, normal mental and visual ability; ability to lift as required in a normal education and office environment.
Required Activities: Walking, sitting, standing, stooping, reaching, talking, handling, hearing, carrying, and keyboarding.
§ Must have a working knowledge of and a strong commitment to the mission of the Diocese and Catholic Church; be in full communion with the Church
§ Excellent communications skills, verbal and written; public speaking and presentation skills; excellent human relations and interpersonal skills
§ Exercise courtesy to fellow employees, parishioners and the general public
§ Must be a self-starter; well organized; perform multiple tasks simultaneously and work with a sense of urgency
§ Ability to maintain confidentiality
§ Ability to work collaboratively in a team environment; punctuality is a must at all times; ability to travel locally as required; weekend and overtime work may be required
§ Proficiency in computer technology to include word-processing, spreadsheets and power point Professional bearing; clean and neat personal appearance
§ Ability to successfully pass a background, criminal history, and credit history check
Education and Experience:
§ Bachelor degree in Business or Public Administration or a related field or equivalent experience
§ 3 years experience in a Catholic religious education environment as a practicing catechist
§ Level 1 catechetical certification or equivalent education
It is best to contact the appropriate Diocesan official concerning this issue. Rules vary across the country. Some dioceses do not allow candidates to participate in any part of the RCIA until a decree of nullity is issued. Some dioceses allow candidates to enter the inquiry stage during the marriage tribunal process.
It would be impossible to make a blanket statement about the necessary catechesis for a baptized christian. Each inquirer should be assessed individually and the necessary catechesis tailored to their needs.
Your wife not wanting to join the Church is not an impediment for you. However, the three marriages may be. You need to talk with those in charge of the parish RCIA about your marriages as soon as possible.
Yes, if this person is Baptized and has received proper preparation for the sacrament.
The Catechist Manual contains 60 lesson plans on the doctrines of the faith. To accompany the lesson plans the Participants Manual contains 380 handouts. The Resurrection is directly covered in the lesson called "The Paschal Mystery" and has two handouts, "THe Paschal Mystery" and "The Resurrection". Read more about our publications here, http://acmrcia.org/publications.
Yes, please see the video and handouts on the blog entry titled Integrating a Systematic Catechesis with a Year-Round R.C.I.A. Process.
ACM has translated the 60 lesson plans from the Catechist Manuel into Spanish.
Please go here http://acmrcia.org/espanol to see what else is available in Spanish.
Thank you for inquiring about ACM’s materials for the Teen and Children’s Catechumenate.
St ignatius of Antioch, St Clement, St Irenaeus of Lyons, St Cyprian, St Jerome, St Augustine, St Peter Chrysologus, Pope St Victor, Pope St Zephyrinus, Pope St Callistus, Pope St Steven I, Pope St Dionysius, St Thomas Aquinas.
See the book titled "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" by Ludwig Ott, pages 286-289.
This question is best answered by your Pastor.
I would say that this person would agree to remain celibate until the day they are married.
The RCIA team will have to carry the day in this situation. Your passion, enthusiasm and command of the RCIA process may influence your pastor and in turn the parish.
Some parishes use albs that may be available from the sacristry.
The pastor should be consulted if he does not object to a white stole like garment that can be used and is used by many parishes. There is no confusion here with priestly vestments because the authority the priest's stole represents is quite clearly different than the white garment distributed at Baptism. However this is a pastoral decision.
Some RCIA teams make garments (sometimes the sponsors are involved). This requires planning, sizing, and in all cases, the pastor should be consulted.
What has become known as “Breaking Open the Word” is found in RCIA 67.
67. After the dismissal formulary, the group of catechumens goes out but does not disperse. With the help of some of the faithful, the catechumens remain together to share their joy and spiritual experiences.
The Rite of dismissal is not an end in itself, but a means to move the catechumens (unbaptized) and perhaps candidates (baptized) (see RCIA 406) to a place where they can be spiritually fed. Though they cannot yet come to the table of the Eucharist, Mother Church still has an obligation to feed those who have entered into a relationship with her through the Rites of Acceptance and Welcoming (celebrated recently). This obligation is fulfilled by sending them out to dwell more richly on the Word of God that they have just heard at Mass.
His Word is their only food during this period. Participants depart from the Mass with one or several RCIA team members, godparents, and sponsors to go out to discuss the readings for that Sunday and experience more fully the impact of the Scriptures in their lives. While the congregation is being nourished by Jesus in the Eucharist, those seeking to join us at the sacred table are being nourished by Jesus in the sacred words of Scripture.
The session is not catechetical in its intent; it follows from the liturgical experience, and concludes approximately when the Mass concludes. Breaking Open the Word sessions are not opportunities for the delivery of a prepared catechesis. It is to be a facilitated reflection upon the content of the Liturgy of Word for that Sunday, and opportunity for each participant to actively engage the Scriptural text and to be fed by that encounter with the Word.
The acclamations are found in the RCIA text (see RCIA 595). They are provided for RCIA leaders to make use of in Celebrations of the Word (Liturgies of the Word, see RCIA 81-89), normally following the “Alleluia” in preparation for the proclamation of the Gospel reading.
Yes. It is in some cases encouraged (see RCIA 409 and National Statutes 20-21, 31-34).
Five documents of the Council address the issue: the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops (Christus Dominus), the Decree on Ministry of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis), and the Decree on Mission Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes).
There is a certain value of liturgical purity that is validly argued by those who advocate only dismissing the unbaptized catechumens. This recognizes that catechumens, lacking Baptism, are not yet joined to Christ sacramentally, and would greatly benefit from the additional spiritual nourishment that the Church can offer at the table of the Word of God, as they prepare to join the community at the Eucharistic table. The other side of this issue notes that, although baptized, the candidates cannot partake of the Eucharist either, and so would also benefit from deepening their experience of the Sunday readings in this special way. The RCIA text allows for this discernment of pastoral need, without directly calling for candidates to join the catechumens in the dismissal Rite (see RCIA 83 and 406).
Annulment issues need to be identified as early as possible, for the sake of beginning the annulment process for those whose living situations might call for pastoral scrutiny, and for the sake of allowing a participant to move forward to sacramental initiation, if possible, in a timely fashion commensurate with their readiness and desire to become a Catholic.
The first steps are to conduct a private interview to determine the need for an annulment, and the nature of the case. The pastor, if not conducting the initial interview personally, should be involved as soon as a case comes to light. While taking the time to ensure a participant understands the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding annulments, the initial interview should in no way impart a false hope or make any promises about the outcome of a case, however well intentioned. Beyond this, a pastor should assist the participant in assembling a package for the diocesan tribunal, and encourage the RCIA team to be attentive to the pastoral needs and sensitivities inherent in annulment cases that impact a participant’s likelihood of sacramental participation.
The term mystagogue can be defined as "a person who initiates into mysteries" and comes from two Greek words: mystes "one initiated into the mysteries" and agogos "leading, a leader."
In the early Church, this concept was used to describe the bishop who gave what are known as "Mystagogical Homilies" - exhortations given to the newly baptized regarding the sacraments they had received at the Easter Vigil. One of the most famous of these mystagogical works is On the Mysteries by St. Ambrose of Milan.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: Liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ (It is "mystagogy.") by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the "sacraments" to the "mysteries." (#1075)
These bishops in the early Church - also known as the Early Church Fathers - gave incredible post-baptismal homilies that described the power of the sacraments by means of elaborating upon the symbolic or sign aspect of the sacrament. They would do this using the Bible.
Let's remember what a sacrament is: an outward sign instituted by Christ that gives grace. Each sacramental sign is wholly Biblical and has deep roots in the Old Testament. Each sacramental sign speaks volumes about the grace that is given through its performance.
The famous mystagogue mentioned above, St. Ambrose, led his neophytes (the newly baptized) to see the power of their baptism by a form of Biblical catechesis that showed how water is both a sign of life and death in the Old Testament. Baptism, through the use of water, destroys sin and grants the new life of grace. To see this for yourself, see Chapter 3 of On the Mysteries.
St. Ambrose and the other bishops waited to give this liturgical catechesis until after baptism because baptism enabled the baptized person to understand the sacraments in a way unlike an unbaptized person.
"The neophytes are, as the term 'mystagogy' suggests, introduced into a fuller and more effective understanding of the mysteries through the Gospel message they have learned and above all through their experience of the sacraments they have received. For they have truly been renewed in mind, tasted more deeply the sweetness of God's word, received the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and grown to know the goodness of the Lord. Out of this experience, which belongs to Christians and increases as it is lived, they derive a new perception of the faith, of the Church, and of the world." (RCIA, n. 245)
This postbaptismal catechesis known as mystagogy in the early Church would happen during the Sunday Masses with the bishop during the Easter Season, following the Easter Vigil. So, the RCIA says:
"Since the distinctive spirit and power of the period of postbaptismal catechesis or mystagogy derive from the new, personal experience of the sacraments and of the community, its main setting is the so-called Masses for neophytes, that is, the Sunday Masses of the Easter season." (RCIA, n. 247)
The RCIA envisions mystagogy's main setting to be a Sunday Mass celebrated specifically with the neophytes in mind.
"All the neophytes and their godparents should make an effort to take part in the Masses for the neophytes and the entire local community should be invited to participate with them. Special places in the congregation are to be reserved for the neophytes and their godparents. The homily and, as circumstances suggest, the general intercessions should take into account the presence and needs of the neophytes." (RCIA, n. 248)
This brings us full circle to the question at hand: What is the role of the mystagogue in the mystagogy process?
The mystagogue is primarily the priest or deacon who gives the homilies during the Masses for the neophytes. The role of the mystagogue is to explain the power and reality behind the signs of the sacraments by giving a Biblical catechesis using the readings just read in the Liturgy of the Word.
"[T]hese celebrations include particularly suitable readings from the Lectionary, especially the readings for Year A. Even when Chrsitian initiation has been celebrated outside the usual times, the texts for these Sunday Masses of the Easter season may be used." (RCIA, n. 247)
These readings for Year A for the Easter Season were handpicked for mystagogy.
In the United States, the National Statutes for the Catechumenate state:
"After the completion of their Christian initiation in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist, the meophytes should begin the period of mystagogy by participating in the principal Sunday eucharist of the community throughout the Easter season, which ends on Pentecost Sunday. They should do this as a body in company with their godparents and those who have assisted in their Christian formation." (RCIA, Ap. III, n. 22)
This helps us to see that the Masses for neophytes are not scheduled at some new time apart from the normal Sunday Masses celebrated at the parish church. Rather, the parish should pick one of the regular Sunday Masses and appoint that particular Mass during the Easter season to be focused upon the neophytes.
Apart from the principal mystagogue, other catechists can and should help the newly baptized neophytes through a deeper Scripture study of the sacraments. This study should "embrace a deepened understanding of the mysteries of baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist, and especially of the eucharist as the continuing celebration of faith and conversion." (RCIA, Ap. III, n. 23)
Here are two good resources for catechists:
The Sacraments in Scripture: Salvation History Made Present by Tim Gray.
Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians by Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina
Finally, part of leading the neophytes includes "thoughtful and friendly help" given to the neophytes as well as "doing the works of charity" (RCIA, n. 244). This can be done through personal one-on-one encounters and through participation in the apostolic endeavors of parish life.
Inquirers sometimes suggest a Catholic spouse, fiancé(e), or “significant other” to serve as godparent or sponsor. It is not prohibited by the code of Canon Law or the ritual book, but it also is not advisable, even if they meet the canonical requirements.
The close emotional tie makes it difficult for the inquirer to freely choose to become a Catholic. It also is difficult for the godparent or sponsor to remain objective if problems arise that threaten the conversion, such as doubts about a certain doctrine on the part of the person who is trying to decide whether to become Catholic. There can be a temptation for the godparent or sponsor to not allow such a crisis to run its proper course, since he or she has so much stake in the person’s “successful” completion of the process. The participant then is deprived of the disinterested advice and loving, but non-pressuring support that a godparent or sponsor should be providing.
A pastoral solution for inquirers is appointing a parish sponsor and inviting the spouse, fiancé(e), or “significant other” to accompany the inquirer to the catechetical sessions and liturgies. Should a participant, however, then choose the spouse/fiancé(e)/”significant other” as a godparent before the Rite of Election (which cannot be prohibited), the leader might suggest that the participant choose the parish sponsor as another godparent, canonically permissible so long as both godparents are not of the same sex.
Pastors are given authority over the Christian initiation process for the people he shepherds in a given parish. However, that authority exists within the context of higher authorities, that of his bishop and the Magisterium.
Regarding the Magisterium, its main voice in regard to Christian initiation is the Rite of Christian Initiation itself, and its accompanying guidelines. In those authoritative guidelines (see paragraphs 138-139), which were mandated for the United States as normative in 1988, there is a clear assumption that gatherings of those preparing for initiation are still ongoing during Lent (termed the Period of Purification and Enlightenment in the text). These guidelines specify that the formation of elect and candidates in this period takes on a more spiritual than catechetical bent. This is expressive of the fact that, as the guidelines state, “the catechumenal formation of the elect is completed” (paragraph 147), in terms of them having received the total necessary instruction on the Deposit of Faith, and therefore is about “more intense spiritual preparation, consisting more in interior reflection than in catechetical instruction” (paragraph 139).
The delivery of the full doctrine of the Church is indeed supposed to be completed before Lent, hence allowing them to make a decision to enter the Church, which is expressed and confirmed at the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion. During Lent, the Church is clearly still forming them spiritually and in readiness for the sacraments. The possibility of gatherings for reflection and formation are also assumed in the option ‘B’ forms of the dismissals at the end of each of the Presentation Rites in Lent and at the end of the Scrutiny Rites (see paragraphs 155, 162, 169, 183).
Confirming this are the directives added by our U.S. bishops, normally published in the third appendix of the Vatican’s RCIA text. It states: “…beginning at 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.” (National Statutes, paragraph 6).
Finally, you may wish to ask your diocesan office for a copy of its sacramental norms for the Christian initiation process, which may provide further support for your understanding of the Rite.
There has been no recent change that would modify these normative guidelines, and although the form of the gatherings certainly should be different from the doctrinal catechesis that precedes Lent, there is nothing to in any way prohibit or discourage gathering the RCIA group during the weeks of that period.