Last week here at the Mother Church, we celebrated the Rite of Welcome, also known as the Rite of Acceptance. You may have witnessed it in person or through the livestream of the Mass and may be curious as to what exactly was happening and why. One of the benefits of Vatican Council II was that we as a Church looked at what we do and why we do it. In answering those questions, things changed for the Church. One thing that changed greatly is our approach to initiating adults into the Faith. For one, the order of the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their original order: first is Baptism, then is Confirmation, and finally, the Eucharist. These all take place for adults at the Easter Vigil, but after a long period of formation. This formation is not just book knowledge. Rather, the entire process (called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults or RCIA), has a strong push toward a lived experience of what Church is all about. The whole RCIA is to be a community experience. It involves a conversion. If you think about Lent and Holy Week and all we do during those times, we “already-Catholics” can better understand what is going on with the RCIA folks. You may not realize though that Lent and Holy Week were originally created for the individuals seeking initiation into the Church. The early Church would invite folks who were interested in the Faith to break from their pagan backgrounds and join the community in a lengthy period of formation and discernment. The final stage for this was Lent and Holy Week. Beginning in the third century, the whole process got distorted and was not restored until Vatican II.
The first step in the RCIA is known as the Pre-catechumenate. Here, people dip their toe into Catholicism. This is a time for interested folks to hear the Word, spend time with our community and ask lots and lots of questions. At the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament we begin by having them attend Alpha. Alpha is a gathering of folks over several weeks which seeks to introduce the basics of the Christian/Catholic faith through a series of talks and discussions. The second step is the catechumenate.
This is what we kicked off last week with the Rite of Welcome. The catechumens (those seeking baptism) and candidates (those already baptized but wanting to be fully initiated with Confirmation and Eucharist) move from being inquirers to people who begin to live the Christian life (though not yet full members). Our RCIA Director Marian Bart rapped on the door loudly (she used a tool to allow the knocking sound to echo through the Cathedral) to signify the want of the inquirers for “more.” Because of the pandemic, one of our enquirers joined us virtually. The other stood next to Marian waiting for us to officially welcome him literally into the Cathedral and figuratively into our community. Marian shared with me that the inquirer who was next to her did something no other inquirer ever did in her years of experience. He was so excited; he didn’t let her do it alone; he knocked on the vestibule door simultaneously with her. To me, this shows that he wants badly what we have.
Our job is to show these candidates and catechumens that we want them just as badly. They are not joining a collection of theological treatises and doctrines; they are trying to join a community. This is the what the Lord is calling us to be about. No bystanders. Therefore, I challenge you to cut out the list of names included in this bulletin (see page 4) or to find them on our website (Look under ‘News and Notes’ or use this link) and use it to pray for these folks daily. Also, I encourage you to take it one step further. Write them a note (send it to Marian at the Cathedral; she will get it to them). Introduce yourself, share your faith journey and offer them encouragement. When the pandemic settles more, introduce yourself in person. In other words, make what we celebrated last week a true Rite of Welcome.