Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, offers a prayer over catechumen Bonnie Steube during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in De Pere, Wisconsin, in this 2013 file photo. CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

Setting the Stage

Preparing for the rite of sending of the catechumens for election

0

In Shakespeare’s famous balcony scene, Romeo says of Juliet, “See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!” In the text, there is no stage direction to indicate that Juliet is to lean upon her hand. Yet, that is clearly what is intended.

Shakespeare often used embedded stage directions. The actors were to intuit what was supposed to happen based on the context and text of the scene. Many of our liturgical rituals have similar embedded directions or rubrics. This is especially true in the rite of sending of the catechumens for election.

To grasp the full context of the rite of sending, we have to understand what the catechumens are being sent to — that is, the rite of election, or enrollment of names.

An Outline

As a reminder, this is the outline of the diocesan rite of election, or enrollment of names, which begins after the readings are proclaimed:

· Homily
· Presentation of the catechumens
· Affirmation by the godparents (and the assembly)
· Invitation and enrollment of names
· Act of admission or election
· Intercessions for the elect
· Prayer over the elect
· Dismissal of the elect.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron
Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron questions candidates and catechumens at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament during the annual Rite of Election, the first milestone in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in this 2018 file photo. CNS photo/Dan Meloy, The Michigan Catholic

Rite of Sending

This is almost the same outline for the parish rite of sending with two exceptions. First, the invitation and enrollment of names is not part of the rite of sending. But there is a caveat: In the rite of sending, the names of the catechumens may be inscribed into the Book of the Elect.

However, they are not considered enrolled until the names are presented to the bishop at the Rite of Election. In some dioceses, this signing of the book is not done as part of the parish rite of sending but instead is done within the Rite of Election.

And, of course, there is no act of admission or election in the rite of sending because the act of election is the climax of the Rite of Election. This seems like an obvious statement until you participate in an actual Rite of Election. To many, the moment the elect “meet the bishop” and shake his hand (which is not part of the rite) feels like the climax. Few participants remember the moment when the catechumens became elect.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

RESOURCE

For a free rehearsal outline of the rite of sending, go to TeamRCIA.com/sending.

After all have signed, a final “embedded” direction might be to have an assistant process the book, held high and open, throughout the assembly as the assembly continues to sing an acclamation or psalm.

After the book is returned to its place, the celebrant concludes with words similar to the text at the end of No. 112: “May God bring to completion the good work he has begun in you.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Parish liturgical leaders will have little influence over how this diocesan liturgy is celebrated. However, remembering that we are sending the catechumens to be elected and not “to meet the bishop” will help us in planning and celebrating the parish rite of sending.

Another contextual element to note is that the rite of sending is optional: “A rite of sending the catechumens to their election by the bishop may be celebrated in parishes wherever this seems beneficial or desirable” (RCIA, No. 106). (In addition, the rite of sending is not celebrated if the Rite of Election takes place in the parish.)

At first glance, we might think the reason for celebrating the rite of sending is when it seems beneficial to the catechumen. However, a little further on we read: “This rite offers that local community the opportunity to express its approval of the catechumens and to send them forth to the celebration of election assured of the parish’s care and support” (No. 107).

This tells us the rite is as much for the parish assembly as it is for the catechumens. The embedded rubric here is that we should celebrate the rite in a way that maximizes the involvement of the assembly.

With that embedded rubric in mind, let’s look at each of the elements of the rite of sending.

Presentation of Catechumens

After the homily, a member of the community presents the catechumens to the celebrant. Note that the words given in the rite are an example text and not meant to be read word for word. One way to increase the participation of the assembly is to be sure the person presenting the catechumens uses words from their own heart. The text in the rite is only an example and guide.

Another way to more deeply involve the assembly is to pay attention to the explicit rubric: “One by one, the catechumens are called by name” (No. 111). This is much more engaging than calling them forward as a group.

An embedded rubric that we can infer here is that the godparents direct their catechumens to stand in the midst of the assembly at various spots throughout the worship space, closer to the parishioners themselves. So, if you have a long center aisle and four catechumens, for example, the catechumens might stand at equal spacing down the aisle instead of all together up near the sanctuary.

Affirmation by Godparents

In this section of the rite, we have an opportunity to engage the assembly in a way that is not usually possible in the diocesan Rite of Election. The rubric says the celebrant addresses the assembly “in these or similar words” (No. 112). We might infer that the godparents and assembly may also respond “in similar words” other than the exact text in the rite. Instead of asking yes/no questions of the godparents, the celebrant might simply say: “Godparents, I invite you to offer your testimony about these candidates and their readiness to be presented to the bishop for the Rite of Election.”

Then each godparent would offer a heartfelt testimony. Godparents need to be prepared for this, of course. I ask godparents to spend some time in prayer with this phrase: “I have seen God at work in the life of (Name) in the following ways.” I also ask them to schedule a time with me to rehearse what they are going to say.

In addition to the godparents, you can invite members of the formation team to also testify in favor of the catechumens.

Then, to involve the assembly even more deeply, the celebrant might say, for example, “Members of St. Mary’s Parish, I invite any of you to offer your testimony about these candidates and their readiness to be presented to the bishop for the rite of election.”

Wagner and MacalintalThis requires an extended preparation that begins at the start of the catechumenate journey.

The preparation for election must include an immersion of the catechumens into the life of the parish and the lives of the parishioners. If we do that, many will be moved to testify to the readiness of the catechumens.

However, if the catechumens have remained mostly sequestered in the RCIA group, and if their preparation period has been brief — just a few months in most parishes — few parishioners will know the catechumens well enough to be able to testify on their behalf.

Affirmation of the Assembly

Even if your catechumens are not well-known by the assembly, your parishioners still have an obligation to express their approval and offer their care and support: “The people of God, as represented by the local Church, should understand and show by their concern that the initiation of adults is the responsibility of all the baptized. Therefore the community must always be fully prepared in the pursuit of its apostolic vocation to give help to those who are searching for Christ” (No 9).

Using the principle of embedded rubrics, you might add in a scripted affirmation by the assembly in place of asking for spontaneous testimony. See sidebar below for an example.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Affirmation of Catechumens by the Assembly

Members of St. Mary’s Parish, you have heard the testimony of the godparents and catechists for these catechumens. Are you also willing to recommend sending our dear catechumens to the bishop for election?

Assembly: We are.

Celebrant: Are you willing to offer your care and support for them throughout their journey of faith and especially as they prepare for the Easter sacraments?

Assembly: We are.

Celebrant: Are you willing to stand by them and pray for them during their Lenten preparation rites and in your personal and household prayers?

Assembly: We are.

Celebrant: Are you willing to be an example to them through your own renewal in the spirit of penance, faith and charity?

Assembly: We are.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Signing the Book

In some dioceses in the United States, the signing of the book takes place in the parish at the rite of sending. In other places, the signing takes place at the diocesan Rite of Election.

Unfortunately, there is no text or ritual direction given for signing the book in the local parish. Because of that, parishes sometimes use the invitation and enrollment of names from the Rite of Election itself (see RCIA, No. 132). This, however, is problematic.

The signing of the book in the parish is not the enrollment of names. The enrollment does not happen until the signed book is presented to the bishop. So you have to be careful to use language that reflects what is actually taking place in the rite of sending. See sidebar for an example, which, of course, you will want to put into your own words.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Invitation to Sign the Book of the Elect during the Rite of Sending

Celebrant: My dear catechumens, your godparents, your catechists [and this assembly] have testified to the good work God has done in you. You have clearly heard and followed the call of Christ. Are you ready now to go before our bishop to offer your names for enrollment?

Catechumens: We are.

Celebrant: This community gladly recommends you to the bishop. Therefore, sign your names in the Book of the Elect, which this community will present to the bishop at the Rite of Election.

[As the catechumens inscribe their names, the assembly sings an acclamation or psalm.]

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Intercessions for Catechumens

Book of the Elect
Joanne Tohei places the seal on the Book of the Elect held by Father Joseph Chamblain, pastor of Assumption Parish in Chicago, during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion liturgy at Holy Name Cathedral on March 17, 2019. CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

The intercessions for the catechumens provide another opportunity for parishioners to show their care and support. Ideally, the catechists and godparents will know the needs of the catechumens well enough to help write the intercessions. The prayers given in the rite can serve as models but should not be read verbatim.

Perhaps the biggest embedded stage direction in Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene is the balcony itself. There is no balcony in the script, and Shakespeare never placed Juliet on one in any of his live productions. A performance of the play in the 1600s was the first to put Juliet on a balcony because the director interpreted not only the text but also the context of the scene as requiring it.

When you are staging your celebration of the rite of sending the catechumens for election, pay close attention to the text and context of the rite. If you do that, you can be assured the celebration will be a great benefit to your parish and your catechumens.

NICK WAGNER is co-founder and co-director of TeamRCIA.com, a free resource for parish teams. He is the author of many publications, including “Field Hospital Catechesis: The Core Content for RCIA Formation” (Liturgical Press, $16.95); “Seek the Living God: Five RCIA Inquiry Questions for Making Disciples” (Liturgical Press, $16.95); and “The Way of Faith: A Field Guide for the RCIA Process” (Twenty-third Publications, $16.95).

 
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe now.
Send feedback to us at PriestFeedback@osv.com