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BECOMING CATHOLIC

Lucy came from Oregon to live with her dad. Her newly blended family also included
her step-mom, little brother, and grandmother. Although she was new to Indiana, new to
middle school, and new to her little brother, Lucy’s transition to being in a blended family
was going well. So her father thought the time seemed right — it was time to come back
to church. Since the family occasionally went to Mass at St. Mary, Dad decided to find
out how he, Lucy, and her brother could become Catholic.
His e-mail’s subject line was “Becoming Catholic.” He asked, “What do my kids
and I need to do to become Catholic?” It’s hard to answer that question without making
the reply too long and complicated. So, I replied, “The process of becoming Catholic is
different for everyone. How about we sit down and talk about it?”
I have been getting messages like that one for over thirty years, and whether they
came on pink message slips, voice mail, e-mail, or text, the inquiry hasn’t changed.
Parents or grandparents or other concerned adults want the children they love to receive
the sacraments of initiation and become part of the Catholic Church. When I talk with
them, I find that at the heart of their request is the desire for their children to know our
loving God and be a part of God’s loving family — the Church. They want their children
to have faith and believe in Jesus Christ. But the journey to becoming a Christian will
take various forms and varying lengths of time.

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About this Book
In this book, I want to share what the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and
pastoral experience have taught me about the process of initiation with children. You will
learn how to make following the Rite work in your parish and adapt it to specific and
varying circumstances. I recommend that you have a copy of the ritual text at hand to
reference as you read this book. Also, note that in this book the RCIA will refer only to
the ritual text and not to the children’s journey of faith. That process will be referred to
as “the initiation process.”
The examples you will find in this book are realistic and parish-tested. The real-life
situations of the families you’ll meet (though names have been changed) come from a
variety of parishes: urban, suburban, large, small, with a Catholic school and without a
Catholic school. Several models for conducting various initiation sessions are included
here, and you will learn to design your own sessions based on the needs of the families
seeking initiation. I will also discuss how the initiation process with children connects
with other sacramental preparation models.
Whether you are a catechist, director of religious education, youth minister, or
coordinator involved with the initiation of children, you will become prepared to help
families as they undertake their journeys of faith. More specifically, this book provides:

• An overview of the vision of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults as found in
Part I of the ritual text. (See also an outline of the process in appendix 5.) Knowing
the structure, vision, and theology of the ritual text will help you to design a better
process that will fit the needs of your parish.

• A clear explanation of the RCIA, Part II, chapter 1, Christian Initiation of
Children Who Have Reached Catechetical Age. When you understand the context
and the details of this chapter on children you will confidently lead families on their
journey of faith.

• A description of what the ritual text means by “children of catechetical age” and
who belongs in the RCIA by Paul Turner.

• A rationale for children’s conversion. You will understand not only conversion in
children seeking initiation but also how the entire process — the rites, the different
periods of formation, the catechesis, the opportunities for service and worship, the
family, the peer companions, the entire parish community — fosters and helps bring
about conversion. You will see that Christian initiation happens in and through the life
of the parish, not just in the classroom. You will discover how the child seeking

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initiation, the family, and the process of conversion all come together in the journey
of Christian initiation.

• Explanations of the liturgical rites. The rites are foundational to the process. You
will see how each rite is essential to the process, and how it fits together with the
catechesis. You will learn how to prepare for and unpack these rituals with children,
parents, and companions.

• Descriptions of Christian formation. The Rite describes a formation for children


that is different from regular religious education. You will discover models for
precatechumenate catechesis, catechumenate catechesis, dismissal catechesis,
mystagogical catechesis, and more.

• Real-life examples of how to deal with various initiation scenarios. Discover best
practices for situations of children who are unbaptized and situations of children who
are baptized in another Christian tradition. We will also address the question of where
baptized Catholic children belong in the initiation process.

By now you may be thinking the process of initiation for children is too
complicated, takes too much work, and takes too much time. Wouldn’t it be easier to just
baptize the children and let them join their peers in the regular religious education
program or Catholic school? Why do we have different models of initiation for different
children? Kids are kids. Why not treat them all the same?
It’s true: kids are kids. And each one is beautifully different. Furthermore, the
Church has different pathways of initiation depending upon the age and circumstances of
the children. On the other hand, those different pathways lead children to the same
place — the Paschal Mystery. For that’s what the sacraments of initiation do: they lead
us into the mystery of Christ, whether we are adults or children. This description of the
two pathways for leading children to the Paschal Mystery will help you to see how the
initiation process with children easily fits with what is already happening in your parish.
Pathway One: Rite of Baptism for Children. This pathway is for infants or children
“who have not yet reached the age of discernment and therefore cannot profess personal
faith” (Rite of Baptism for Children, 1). For these children, they have been baptized at a
very young age and are expected to receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and
Eucharist later. After they are baptized, these children receive faith formation in the
home, at the liturgy, in religious education programs, at Catholic schools, and in the
parish.

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Pathway Two: Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. This pathway is for children
“who have attained the use of reason and are of catechetical age” (no. 252). As Paul
Turner describes on page 3, these children are old enough to profess personal faith.
Thus, they receive all three sacraments of initiation in the same celebration, preferably at
the Easter Vigil (8, 256). Before these children are baptized, they receive formation in the
Christian way of life, precisely because they are capable of developing a personal faith.
These two pathways overlap at times and have variations and detours. These
variations (as when a child is baptized as an infant, but receives no faith formation) will
be discussed in appendix 1, where you’ll read more about ministering to families who
have children baptized and catechized in other faith traditions, but who now want to
become Catholic. For now, let’s examine where the pathways overlap and intersect —
where the initiation process meets and complements the faith formation and sacramental
catechesis in your parish.
Most of us know how to navigate the first, more “traditional” pathway. Children
baptized as infants are incorporated into the Paschal Mystery. Then, they receive First
Communion at about second grade and the Sacrament of Confirmation sometime later.
The catechetical wisdom of past decades has produced excellent sacramental preparation
programs for us to follow to help this group of children complete their initiation.
However, when children follow the second pathway (the initiation process), they are
old enough to understand, in a developmentally appropriate way, the Paschal Mystery
into which they are being incorporated. So, they follow the precepts of the rite instead of
one of the sacramental programs developed for pathway one. And, they receive Baptism,
Confirmation, and Eucharist in one and the same glorious celebration of the Paschal
Mystery (305).
Even though these two pathways are distinct, they certainly intersect within the life
of the parish. In this book, we’ll refer to the times when those intersections work
effectively for the good of all the children and their families. Similarly, we’ll talk about
when it’s appropriate to include unbaptized children in a religious education program that
is designed for baptized children who are following pathway one.
The first step in understanding this initiation pathway for children of catechetical age
is to understand the vision the Church puts forth in the Rite of Christian Initiation of
Adults. In the next chapter, we will explore the vision of initiation given in Part I of the
ritual text. In subsequent chapters we will discuss each of the periods and steps of the
initiation process for children.

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Chapter 1

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A Special Circumstance: Initiation of Children

“Why don’t we go to church?” is the question second-grader Soraya asked her dad
many times before they finally came to Mass at St. Joseph. Soraya’s two best friends,
Isabel and Caroline, went to St. Joseph and she wanted to go, too. Isabel and Caroline
were preparing for First Communion, and Soraya had been to church with them on
several occasions. Finally, because of Soraya’s persistence but also undoubtedly
because of the Holy Spirit, Soraya’s whole family came with her to church. Moreover,
Dad took the extra step of inquiring how Soraya and her siblings might be baptized.

This form of the rite of Christian initiation is intended for children, not baptized
as infants, who have attained the use of reason and are of catechetical age. They
seek Christian initiation either at the direction of their parents or guardians or,
with parental permission, on their own initiative. Such children are capable of
receiving and nurturing a personal faith and of recognizing an obligation in
conscience.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 252

his first chapter is an overview of the vision found in the Rite of Christian
T Initiation of Adults. The Rite describes the process of initiation as a journey of
conversion whereby seekers, whether adults or children of catechetical age, develop and
then deepen their relationship to the Living God through Jesus Christ by the power of the
Holy Spirit. The journey of initiation is not a lonely one; it involves the children seeking
initiation, their parents, peers, sponsors, and indeed, the entire Christian community.
The process of Christian initiation for children varies greatly depending on the
child’s and the family’s circumstances. The child may participate full time or part time in
regular religious instruction. The entire family — parents and child — may undergo the
process of initiation. Or she may be included in sacramental preparation classes with the
baptized children. She might already attend your Catholic school. As catechumens
attending Sunday Mass, the children seeking initiation will be dismissed to reflect upon

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the Word of God. These various options will be outlined in this chapter later. A
prerequisite for any of the paths the child undertakes, however, is that she must first
experience conversion.

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A Journey of Conversion
Conversion is the cornerstone for children’s initiation. The Church says very directly that
initiation of children “requires” a “conversion that is personal and somewhat
developed. . . . The process of initiation thus must be adapted both to their spiritual
progress . . . and to the catechetical instruction they receive” (253).
This process of conversion is different from the traditional models of preparing
children for sacraments. When we prepare baptized children for the Sacraments of
Reconciliation, Eucharist, or Confirmation, we tend to rely on an age- or grade-level
model. In general, we prepare second graders for Reconciliation and Eucharist and
although we ask them to undergo sacramental catechesis, we do not “require” (253)
them to undergo conversion. Similarly, when we prepare young children for infant
baptism, we don’t require anything of them because they are too young to have faith or
to undergo formation. We do ask their parents (and godparents, though it is not required
of them), to undergo formation for they are the ones who have faith and the children are
baptized in the faith of the community. But, children of catechetical age are much
different than infants. They are capable of developing faith and they are capable of
speaking for themselves.
Indeed, the Church says that the initiation process is for “children, not baptized as
infants, who have attained the use of reason and are of catechetical age. . . . Such
children are capable of receiving and nurturing a personal faith and of recognizing an
obligation in conscience” (252). The Church respects the innate abilities of children to
know God and to profess faith. Thus, the Church asks that we too respect the natural
capabilities of children and provide for them a process that matches their needs in a
developmentally appropriate way.

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Catechetical Age and Conversion
It’s important to understand at the start what the Church means by “children of
catechetical age.” The very first sentence in chapter 1 of Part II of the Rite states: “This
form of the rite of Christian initiation is intended for children, not baptized as infants,
who have attained the use of reason and are of catechetical age” (252). According to
Paul Turner:

The RCIA coined the term “catechetical age.” In the past, various documents
associated the “years of discretion” with the Sacraments of Penance and
Confirmation, and the age of “the use of reason” for the first reception of
Communion. Because the conferral of full initiation rites for children restored a
practice that predates both these expressions in Church history, the RCIA created
another expression for its concerns.
The historical age for the conferral of Confirmation was linked to the age
for the conferral of Penance because confession is encouraged prior to
Confirmation and because both sacraments may be administered before First
Communion. The appropriate age is called “of discretion” because of the history
of penance, which required one to be able to tell the difference between right and
wrong in order to be found guilty of sin.
The age “of reason” is for those who can tell the difference between
ordinary food and drink and Eucharistic food and drink. “Catechetical age”
obviously refers to the years when a child can learn. It predates the age for the
use of reason. The RCIA includes unbaptized children “who have attained the
use of reason and are of catechetical age” (252); however, in Latin the original
edition refers not to those who have attained the use of reason but to those at the
“age of discretion.” The difference is slight, yet significant. The catechumenate is
for children who are slightly younger than the age required for First
Communion.1

Whether the child is of catechetical age or the age of discernment or the age of
reason, the point is that at a relatively young age children are capable of developing a
personal faith and they are capable of conversion. But what is meant by conversion may
not yet be clear.
A classic definition is that conversion is a change of heart. In the Christian context
conversion is a turning toward the God of Jesus Christ; a deepening of one’s relationship
with God. This definition is applicable for children as well as adults. Furthermore,
regardless of age, each person’s experience of conversion is unique. As with adults,
conversion for children is multifaceted. It can be affective conversion or intellectual

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conversion or moral conversion or religious conversion or any number of other types of
conversions that don’t necessarily fit into a specific category.
The following story is a clear-cut example of pure, all-out conversion. Eight-year-
old Charlie and his family came to the parish completely new to the Church. He had very
little knowledge of God, Jesus, the Scriptures, much less any notions of Church. His
parents were also completely unchurched and had only vague notions of the Divine.
Charlie’s conversion happened on many levels. He experienced religious conversion
when he went from no religious experience to an awareness of God acting in his life.
Moreover, Charlie developed a real relationship with Jesus Christ: a Christocentric
conversion. His conversion also happened on an intellectual level, moving from virtually
no knowledge of God, the Scriptures, or the tradition of the Church to a basic
understanding of God and Church.
The following example is more common and less dramatic, but just as important.
Lucy was baptized in her mother’s Pentecostal Church in Oregon. Lucy had a lively faith
and an active prayer life. She initially wanted to become Catholic because her dad was
becoming one. Lucy’s conversion was intellectual: she had been misinformed about what
Catholics believe, and during the course of her initiation, many of her beliefs about the
Catholic Church changed from negative to positive. Her conversion was also communal:
she moved from feeling outside of our Catholic community to feeling very much inside
our faith community. She came to feel loved, cherished, and accepted by our
community.
My favorite story is of Cory and his family, who came to Our Lady of Grace parish.
Initially it was only Mom and Cory who wanted to come back to church; Mom was a
lapsed Catholic, and Cory wanted to be baptized. Our family initiation sessions happened
on Sunday morning at the same time regular religious education was also taking place.
When I asked if the whole family could come to our sessions, Mom hesitated and
explained that Sunday morning was when the family did their weekly shopping at
Walmart. But after a period of time, the whole family experienced a conversion that
resulted in prioritizing family initiation sessions over shopping at Walmart.
These three conversion stories illustrate another important point: conversion
happens in the context of family. Young children experience change because the family,
or even just one member of it, experiences that change too. Family systems theory tells
us that the functioning of one family member affects the functioning of other family
members.2 Common sense tells us this is true, too. For example, when Cory and his
mom started going to church instead of shopping at Walmart on Sunday mornings, this
change affected the way the family operated. When a child asks to pray before the
family meal, it begins to affect the mealtime dynamic of the family. When a child hears

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and internalizes the Good News, it affects the way she or he treats family, friends, and
classmates. Conversion and the family are constitutive to the process of initiation with
children.

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Children as a Particular Circumstance
The foundation of your Christian initiation plan is the rite itself, the vision of the Rite as
it’s found in Part I, the “Christian Initiation of Adults.” Although it deals specifically with
adults, it is important to know it in its entirety to make the appropriate adaptations for
children. In summary, this part concerns the evangelization and formation of the
unbaptized, uncatechized adults and the rites appropriate to them as they move from
inquiring about the Christian faith and the Catholic Church to full initiation by receiving
the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, and then living the Christian
life as members of Christ’s Body.
Part II, chapter 1, covers “Rites for Particular Circumstances,” which has to do
with the Christian initiation of children of catechetical age. These unbaptized children are
considered adults under Church law, but their religious and developmental needs are
different from actual adults. Part II offers adaptations for Part I while maintaining the
overall vision.
There are two introductions in the ritual text. The first is a thirty-five paragraph
general introduction to Christian initiation (including the Baptism of infants). The second
is another thirty-five paragraph introduction that is specific to the Rite. The vision being
discussed here is contained in the second introduction.
Conversion is a constant and underlying theme throughout the initiation process and
particularly in the introduction of the ritual text. Having already established the
importance of conversion in the process of initiation with children, in this chapter we will
discuss how the ritual text describes this conversion as a journey for children and their
families. Initiation is a journey of faith that leads to conversion for not only the children,
but often the parents and family as well.
The very first paragraph of the introduction of the Rite has two key ideas: seekers
and journey. The Rite begins by describing how “the rite of Christian initiation presented
here is designed for adults who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed,
consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as
the Holy Spirit opens their hearts” (1). Significantly, these same images of seeking and
being on a journey are repeated in the opening paragraphs of the children’s chapter in
Part II (252, 253).
Seekers
Children are seekers, too. “They seek Christian initiation either at the direction of their
parents or guardians or, with parental permission, on their own initiative” (252). The
vision of initiation includes this notion that the human person (regardless of whether she
is an adult or child) seeks God. The process of initiation is the Church’s way of

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addressing that longing for God. Even though most children do not use direct language
such as “I am looking for something more in my life,” they often ask questions that
communicate or convey that they are looking for God. They might ask: “Is heaven in the
clouds?” or “Dad, why don’t we go to church?”
The process of initiation begins slowly when children or their parents begin to sense
that the child and/or the family need God and a faith community in their lives. Either the
child or the adult begins to seek that something more that is God. Then, once they
recognize and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, they enter the way of faith.
They begin the journey of conversion.
The Church recognizes that, “as with adults,” children are seekers and experience
conversion, albeit “in proportion to their age” (253). In fact, in paragraph 253, the text
emphasizes and reiterates how the child’s journey of conversion corresponds to the
journey for adults. Further, paragraph 253 refers back to Part I, urging us to remember
the vision given in the first part of the rite. The Church implores us to embrace the
notion that initiation is a spiritual journey of conversion.
Journey

Children have a desire to belong to a faith community, to know more about God, and to develop a spiritual life.
PHOTO © LTP

The seekers are on a journey to the Living God. Initiation is “a spiritual journey” that is
varied, gradual, and takes place in the community of the faithful (4, 5).

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The concept of initiation as a “spiritual journey” means that a child’s relationship
with God is primary. Although the children are certainly given an “acquaintance with
dogmas and precepts” (75), the spiritual journey is more about initiating children into the
mysteries of salvation (78) and less about teaching them all the doctrine in the
Catechism. The children are being called to follow Jesus Christ. As Jesus says, “Let the
children come to me; do not prevent them.”3
The journey leads them to Jesus Christ. The journey leads them to the Paschal
Mystery, the saving mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and Resurrection. At the
culmination of their journey at the Easter Vigil they will be baptized into the life of Christ.
They will be united with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, everything about
the journey is leading to the Paschal Mystery. Paragraph 8 of the introduction says
everything about the journey “must bear a markedly paschal character.”
So the journey of initiation must be something more than a typical Sunday morning
or Tuesday evening religious education class. The process is “aimed at training them in
the Christian life” (75), which means showing the children how to be disciples of Jesus
Christ. The journey must take the shape of an apprenticeship in “the Christian way of
life” (75.2) rather than a baptismal preparation class.
The journey is also gradual and varied according to the needs of the child. The
spiritual needs of a six-year-old are different from that of a twelve-year-old. And, this is
even truer if, for example, the younger child has not been evangelized, but the older child
has. As paragraph 5 so wisely points out, God’s grace is varied and takes many forms.
Likewise, in the children’s chapter, paragraph 253 points to this same notion when
saying, that the process of initiation must be “in proportion to their age” and “adapted to
both their spiritual progress, that is, to the children’s growth in faith.” Moreover,
paragraph 253 emphasizes the gradual nature of initiation with children and says that “as
with adults, there initiation is to be extended over several years, if need be, before they
receive the sacraments.”
One way to understand this concept of children as seekers on a gradual spiritual
journey is to contrast this image with children in a typical parish religious education
program. For example, in a typical religious education program all the baptized third-
grade students use the same textbook and after eight or nine months they have all
completed the third-grade curriculum and move on to fourth grade. Religious instruction
is the main means of formation and instruction, along with prayer, service, and
community participation. However, religious education is a classroom model whereas
initiation is a journey model.
With a journey model, initiation is an ongoing, year-round approach to Christian
formation. A school-year, classroom model tends to have a graduation mentality, in that

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children finish a grade level in May and graduate to the next grade level. When a parish
has a classroom approach to initiation, then the same graduation mentality often spills
over into the initiation process for children. A classroom approach leads to “graduation”
at Easter, when all the children receive the sacraments. Conversely, when a child has
entered into a process of initiation that has spiritual journey as the model, the culmination
of the journey is the reception of the sacraments at the Easter Vigil. But the journey to a
deeper relationship with God in Christ continues beyond the Easter Vigil and into the
Period of Mystagogy. Indeed, the journey of Christian initiation lasts a lifetime. As
mentioned previously, this journey is not a solitary one; it involves walking with many
people, including those in the community of faith.

Community
A second element of the vision of Christian initiation that is found in Part I is that
initiation takes place “within the community of the faithful” (4). Returning to the example
of the third-grade classroom, we see another contrast. For those baptized third graders,
their formation takes place in the classroom with their peers and with a catechist. But, for
adults and children in the initiation process, formation takes place amidst the whole
parish. In fact, the entire parish is the classroom. And the community is the catechist.
The importance of the community’s role in the initiation journey is emphasized in
Part I. Paragraph 4 states that “the faithful provide an example that will help the
catechumens.” Then, the ritual text provides a whole section (9–16) entitled “Ministries
and Offices” that describes the various roles of the members of the community. Arguably
the most important is paragraph 9, which says that initiation “is the responsibility of all
the baptized.” The baptized members of the parish community are directly responsible
for and active in the process of Christian initiation. Members of the community serve as
sponsors, godparents, companions, and catechists. The community also plays a vital role
in evangelization, in the celebration of the liturgical rites, and in apostolic witness. By the
witness of their lives, the faithful teach the youngsters what it means to be a disciple of
Jesus Christ.
For children the role of the community, particularly their peers, has significance. But
the most important people accompanying the children in their initiation journey are their
parents.
Parents
It’s important to recognize that the parents’ role is much more than attending parent
meetings and dropping their children off to class. Remember that the initiation process
should not follow a classroom model. When you think of a classroom model you think of
students present without parents. But in initiation, where the parish is the “classroom,”

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parents are ideally engaged and involved throughout the process. (Later, though, we will
address a situation in which parents are not involved.)
In paragraph 252 the ritual text emphasizes the role of parents by first reminding us
that children are dependent on their parents or guardians. The Rite asserts that the
children, who are dependent on their parents or guardians, seek Christian initiation
because of their parents or guardians, or have permission to seek initiation (252). Notice
the word dependent because it’s repeated two paragraphs later. “The children’s progress
in the formation they receive depends on . . . the influence of their parents” (254). When
the Church claims that children’s initiation depends on the help of their parents, we can
assume that parents are to be intimately involved in the children’s journey. They are
walking the pathway with the children. Parents who participate in formation sessions are
actively involved in catechesis and are present with their children during the rites. As an
example, look at the opening paragraphs for the Rite of Acceptance and the Rite of
Election for children (262–265, 282–283). In these major rites, it is assumed that the
parents present their children to the Church and can testify to their desires and readiness.
The parents don’t just show up at the rites and say their child wants to be baptized. The
parents have been walking the walk, praying the prayers, reading the Scriptures, and
sharing faith with their children. When the parents are not present, a sponsor stands with
the children (262).
The Church sees parents as the ones who present their children to the community.
The picture we get from the ritual text is that parents are on the journey with their
children and when they arrive at one of the liturgical thresholds — one of the ritual
moments — they stand before the parish and ask that their children be prepared for
Baptism. This implies that the parents have seen the faith of the children grow and they
have been talking about the Gospel with their children, not just dropping them off at
class.
There are many ways that parents, guardians, and family members can be actively
involved in the initiation process. Every family and every parish has a different set of
needs and circumstances. Later in this chapter you will find some family-based models to
use in your parish. But first, consider the role other members of the faith community,
sponsors and companions, have in the initiation process.
Sponsors
In some situations, parents cannot be, or choose not to be, involved in the initiation of
their children. Sometimes, life is just too hectic and complicated for parents to be
involved. For example, Stephanie, a single mom working two jobs and caring for her
younger children, was not able to participate actively in her twelve-year-old daughter

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Samantha’s initiation. So, following the guidance of paragraph 260, a parish sponsor
stood in for Stephanie.
According to paragraph 260, which is an introduction to the Rite of Acceptance, if
the parents “cannot come, they should indicate that they have given consent to their
children and their place should be taken by ‘sponsors’ (see 10).” Then, throughout the
following paragraphs the text reads “parents or sponsors” to indicate that a sponsor takes
the place of the parent. This model of sponsor standing in for the parent can be used
outside of the ritual moments too. In the case of Samantha, we asked another family, the
Jameses, to sponsor Samantha because their daughter Rebecca was Samantha’s public
school classmate.
Thus, Ryan and Heather James, the parents, along with Rebecca, stood up with
Samantha at the rites. But more than that, they acted as her sponsor and guide
throughout her initiation journey. And, they acted as a helper and guide for Samantha’s
mom, Stephanie, too. This is the beauty of having a family sponsor a youngster for
initiation. A sponsoring family provides guidance not only for the child, but for the parent
as well. The James family gave Stephanie the help she needed to get Samantha to church
and served as good role models.
Without the James family, Samantha probably would not have been able to prepare
for and receive the sacraments. Yet, at twelve years old, her desire to become Catholic
was sincere, and it would have been a shame to deny them to her because her mother
couldn’t bring her to church. One hopes that the story will eventually end with Stephanie
and her younger children finding their way to the Church. Although that has not
happened yet, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it might. Sponsoring families have been
instrumental in bringing parents to faith and to the Church.
Sponsors and sponsoring families play a major role in the child’s spiritual journey
when parents cannot be involved. They are even more helpful when the parents of the
child seeking initiation are involved. Often these children come from families where the
parents are (1) inactive Catholics, (2) Catholic but new to the parish, (3) unchurched, or
(4) unbaptized and possibly seeking initiation themselves. In any of these situations, a
sponsor or sponsoring family can be of great service to the initiation family. The Smiths
are another good example of how a sponsoring family can help. Jennifer and Jared Smith
and their two children were unbaptized and unchurched. They started coming to 5:30 PM
Mass, but they knew no one in the parish. After starting the initiation process, the Smiths
were paired with Mike and Darla Walters. The Walters were retired and also attended
5:30 PM Mass. The Walters gave the Smiths a connection to the 5:30 PM Mass
community: introducing them to other parishioners, meeting them at the parish festival,
and taking them to the parish picnic. Even though the Walters did not have young

20
children, they were like grandparents to the Smith children and showed them what it was
like to live, work, and pray as a Catholic Christian family. That’s really what sponsors
and sponsoring families do. They show others the Christian way of life and they support
them along the way. And, in this case, as with many other families undergoing the
initiation process, the parents needed as much formation as their children did.

The sponsor welcomes the child, listens to her questions, supports her, and accompanies her at various rites.
PHOTO © JOHN ZICH

Companions
Adults aren’t the only ones who walk with child catechumens. The best way to show
children how to be disciples of Jesus Christ is to have other children their age show them.
This is exactly what the Rite reiterates in paragraphs 252 and 254. The rite says the
children’s formation “depends on the help and example of their companions” (254). The
text goes on to describe who the companions are — that is, the already-baptized children
of the parish. These baptized companions are “preparing for confirmation and eucharist”
and initiation is to take place “gradually and within the supportive setting” of this group
of parish children (254.1).
One way to do this is to involve sponsoring families who have children of similar
ages. As in the example of the James family who sponsored Stephanie and Samantha,
young Rebecca James was a great role model for Samantha. The two girls went to
Sunday night religious education classes together. Rebecca introduced Samantha to her
Catholic friends, showed her the rosary, her statue of the Blessed Mother, her prayer

21
books, the chalice she made for First Communion, and she even talked to her about how
she herself prayed.
Another way to involve children seeking initiation with their same-age peers is to
include the unbaptized in some of the religious education programs. But remember that
most parish religious education programs and Catholic school religion curricula are
designed for already-baptized Catholic children. These programs presume a certain level
of knowledge about the Catholic faith and a certain relationship with the community. The
Rite wisely points out that some of our catechetical instructions may be appropriate for
the unbaptized. In the National Statutes for the Catechumenate, which are at the back of
the ritual text, number 19 says, “Some elements of the ordinary catechetical instruction
of baptized children before their reception of the sacraments of confirmation and
eucharist may be appropriately shared with catechumens of catechetical age. Their
condition and status as catechumens, however, should not be compromised or
confused. . . . ” Two points need to be highlighted from this text.
First, notice the word some. This implies that not all elements of ordinary
catechetical instruction are fitting for catechumens, so do not presume that everything
good for the baptized children is good for those not yet baptized. This is in accord with
our understanding of primary catechesis, too. The General Directory for Catechesis
(GDC) reminds us that the first step in the catechetical process is coming to know Jesus
Christ and the Good News of salvation. In paragraph 62 the GDC says, “the Church
usually desires that the first stage in the catechetical process be dedicated to ensuring
conversion.” This first stage is called a “precatechesis,” whereby a person is evangelized
before they are catechized. For children seeking initiation, this means that we must see to
it that they have had adequate precatechesis before they are ready for our religious
education programs.
A second and related point regarding National Statutes, 19, is the word
catechumens. The statute is in line with the GDC in that ordinary catechetical instruction
could be shared with catechumens who are in the second stage of their formation
process. Unbaptized children who are in the first stage of their formation are usually
called inquirers and thus are more inclined to a “precatechesis,” moving toward a goal of
evangelization and deepening one’s conversion to Jesus Christ. In other words, some
inquirers might need precatechesis or precatechumenate before they join in regular
religious education class.
So, although including unbaptized, uncatechized children in a typical religious
education program is a good way for them to connect with Catholic peers, automatically
doing so without discerning the needs of the child makes this inclusion premature. Be
sure to talk with the child and parents and discern their readiness for catechetical

22
instruction before including them in the regular religious education program. More on
discernment is in chapter 2.

Peers of the same age can provide support to a young catechumen. PHOTO © JOHN ZICH

The Catholic school is one place where unbaptized children easily and regularly
spend time with their baptized classmates. Notwithstanding the caution just given for too
quickly combining the unbaptized with the baptized, in the Catholic school setting
children are together all day long and usually for religion class, too. In this setting,
children learn and benefit from one another, and the wise classroom teacher makes
necessary adaptations for the unbaptized.
Another way to connect children seeking Baptism with their already-baptized peers
is to invite the baptized to participate in initiation sessions. At St. Mary parish, four
families who had children seeking Baptism met on Sunday morning for intergenerational
initiation sessions. In two of the families, parents were seeking initiation, too. The
families met at the same time the parish children had religious education. A catechist led
the intergenerational session, and sponsoring families were there, too. Each week varied.
Usually the initiation session began with prayer and a few announcements. Then, during
some of the weeks “friends” (the students from various religious education classes)
joined the initiation group for an activity, movie, skit, game or for a minor rite such as an
anointing of the catechumens. During one initiation session the catechumens were
learning about discipleship. Three of the catechumens were middle school-aged children
so the middle school religious education students joined the initiation group to watch a

23
relevant video clip and participate in an activity. The session ended with a short
Celebration of the Word and anointing of the catechumens (85–89). During other weeks,
the child catechumens joined the religious education classes. The agenda of each
initiation session depended on what was happening with each group. And there was
enough interaction and fluidity between the groups that the children enjoyed the variety
and flexibility.
Catechetical sessions are just one of the ways that children in the initiation process
can interact with their same-age peers. Service opportunities, retreats, and social events
in the parish are other ways for those children preparing for Baptism to connect with
other children in the parish. But it doesn’t happen automatically. As the coordinator or
catechist, facilitate these opportunities for interaction within the community. Sponsors
and sponsoring families can help, too. A big part of a sponsoring family’s role is to help
those undergoing the process of initiation build relationships in the parish.

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Models for Implementation
It can seem overwhelming to choose the best pathway for each unique situation. But
here are five models that you can adapt in your parish, including their pros and cons.
Also, throughout this book you will learn how these models will work in your parish.

Model 1: Intergenerational Initiation


This model is the most faithful to the vision of the rite and fits with all kinds of parishes
and all kinds of family situations. In this model, parents, guardians, grandparents,
sponsors, companions, and children of all ages, even adolescents, participate in
intergenerational formation sessions. Adults and children learn from each other while
those undergoing the initiation process, sponsors, and companions form community as
they share faith with one another. A very basic sketch for an intergenerational initiation
session follows:

• Icebreaker activity and introductions

• Prayer with proclamation of Scriptures

• Reflection on Word that leads into topic for session

• Break out into age-appropriate groups for doctrinal input and activity

Option: Stay together in large group for input on movie clip, guest speakers, or
games

Option: Break into family groups (that is, the initiation family stays together and
sponsoring family stays together, each forming their own small group)

• Whole group gathers for wrap-up and closing prayer or minor rite

Vary this general outline according to the number of catechists and facilitators
available to lead the various groups. For example, if you don’t have enough catechists for
the age group breakouts, then rely on the other adults who are already present. Leader
provides all the materials to facilitate the small groups, and then leads the older children’s
group; an adult sponsor or baptized parent leads the younger children’s group; another
adult facilitates discussion in the adult group.

— Pros —

25
✔ Children who are catechumens and children who are baptized, uncatechized
candidates stay together. This fulfills paragraph 255 in Part II, which says that “a
group of several children who are in this same situation . . . help one another in their
progress as catechumens.” Not only do the children help one another, but the parents
and siblings help and support one another, too.

✔ An intergenerational approach helps diminish age differences in a group of


children of varying ages who are seeking initiation. Invite companions or sponsoring
families to balance the ages. For example, if you have seekers who are twelve years
old and seven years old, add sponsoring families with children of near ages to have a
balanced group. (You might try this incentive: when sponsoring families attend
initiation sessions, have their attendance count towards a religious education session
and they may skip the next class.)

✔ Parents who are seekers or who are returning to the Church benefit from this
model. Instead of parents going to weeknight adult initiation sessions and children
attending a separate session at another time, the family shares faith, learns, and prays
together.

✔ Those in the initiation process form an intimate community.

✔ Including the minor rites is easy and parents can participate.

✔ Preparation for the rites and reflection after the rites works easily as does
dismissal catechesis when you arrive at the Period of the Catechumenate.

— Cons —
✘ Children are not as connected with their baptized peers. They form an intimate
community within the initiation group, but having them attend a few religious
education classes can address this as long as you don’t ask them to do too much.

✘ Carrying out this model is time consuming and could be complicated. Not many
resources are available that support this model. Although you will find
intergenerational materials and materials for children’s catechumenate, you have to
adapt a great deal.

Model 2: Religious Education Inclusion with Rites Attached


This is a common model that many parishes use because it works easily with the existing
religious education program. Children seeking initiation are included in the parish religious

26
education program and the classroom catechist primarily tends to the formation needs of
the unbaptized child, adapting to fit the child’s needs. The child seeker also learns and
benefits from the peers in the classroom. Additionally, parent sessions are part of this
model. Since children are attending religious education classes, parents meet separately.
The parent formation sessions can be at the same time the children are meeting or at
another time. Also, additional “catechumenal sessions” help initiation families prepare for
the liturgical rites as well as cover topics and themes that aren’t addressed in regular
religious education.

— Pros —
✔ It’s a great way to connect the children with their same-age peers. Children
seeking initiation are immediately integrated into the community.

✔ It’s an easy approach when you have only one or two children seeking initiation.

✔ The children learn the required doctrine for their age level; they get on the “same
doctrinal content page” as their peers.

✔ Scheduling and coordinating is easier. All your faith formation for young people
can happen at the same time and place — if you have room.

✔ Having minor rites done in the classroom is a wonderful advantage because all the
baptized peers can participate.

— Cons —
✘ It’s a classroom approach rather than a journey of conversion.

✘ The liturgical rites tend to become “add-ons” to religious education classes


because they don’t flow naturally from the religious education curriculum. In the
classroom the curriculum typically drives the agenda rather than the needs of the
seekers. For example, when it is time to discern and then prepare for the Rite of
Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens, it can seem like the rite is coming from
left field. A good catechist can help overcome this.

✘ This approach doesn’t fit well with paragraph 255, which calls for a group of
catechumens to meet together to help one another. The only time the children
preparing for Baptism are together is during dismissal catechesis and when preparing
for and unpacking the rites.

27
✘ Since parent sessions are separate from children’s sessions, parents are more
segregated from their children. While it may be challenging to facilitate faith sharing
between parents and children, it can be accomplished at home instead.

Model 3: Children-Only Catechumenate


This model comes from paragraph 255 whereby children who are in a similar situation
are grouped together for catechumenate sessions. Large parishes with many catechumens
even have separate groups for younger catechumens and older ones. Parent sessions are
usually done separately, but you could certainly combine this model with the family
model and have parents meet occasionally with children for intergenerational sessions.

— Pros —
✔ Personalize the process to meet the needs of the person seeking initiation. For
example, if the children are in need of evangelization, spend as much time as needed
in the precatechumenate period, covering the Scripture stories, parish stories, and
stories of saints and of the Church. Approach the catechumenate period the same
way.

✔ The children form a strong catechumenal community. (The addition of


companion peers strengthens this model.)

✔ It’s easy and effective to do the minor rites of the catechumenate as well as the
preparation and unpacking of the major rites.

— Cons —
✘ Meetings become catch-up classes instead of a catechumenal journey.

✘ Parents are left out or their role is less important.

✘ Peers may be left out. It’s harder to connect the catechumens with their same-age
peers unless you have them come to the catechumenate sessions to serve as
companions.

Model 4: Catholic School Plus


When a seeker attends a Catholic school, much of the child’s religious education happens
right in the classroom. The classmates are their built-in companions and their community.
In many Catholic school classrooms, service and worship are also part of faith formation.

28
In this model, the parish community is an important element that needs to be added.
The Sunday assembly that celebrates Eucharist each week is a foundation for the
catechumenal journey. The initiation journey culminates in celebration of the Eucharist,
which is based in the parish. Further, it is the Sunday assembly gathered for Eucharist
that most fully makes manifest the Body of Christ. Catechumens in the Catholic school
must be connected to that Body.
In order to connect Catholic school catechumens to the parish, have them meet
child catechumens not in the school, parents, sponsors, and companions for formational
sessions. This is the “plus” part of the Catholic School Plus model. These sessions can
be on Sunday morning after the dismissal session or during the week. The sessions are
for service, worship, and catechesis, and they include the sessions that are the
preparation and unpacking of the liturgical rites. These “plus” sessions also include the
minor rites, particularly the celebrations of the Word.

— Pros —
✔ A strong connection to Catholic peers and strong religious education.

✔ Dismissal at weekday school liturgies and doing the minor rites in the classroom
are major advantages.

— Cons —
✘ Initiation sometimes gets centered in the school community rather than the parish
community, where Sunday Eucharist is the source and summit.

✘ Parents are left out or their role is diminished.

✘ Liturgical rites are sometimes added on instead of integrated in the process. They
can seem like they are coming out of left field as in the religious education model. A
good catechist can help overcome this.

Model 5: Youth Ministry


This model is ideal for adolescent catechumens, and it works really well if your parish
has a vibrant and active youth ministry. In general, teen catechumens participate in the
catechesis, community, worship, and service (paragraph 75 in the Rite) components of
youth ministry. They participate in the Sunday dismissal session and the liturgical rites
with adults and children in the initiation process. The preparation for the rites is done
with other catechumens in the parish or it can be done within the youth ministry setting.

29
The parental component in this model is largely separate, but it is what the teenagers
prefer.

— Pros —
✔ Peer companion element is very strong. Other teens are strong models of
discipleship for the teens seeking initiation.

✔ All elements of paragraph 75 are covered really well.

✔ Doing minor rites within youth ministry setting is favorable for catechumens and
their baptized peers.

✔ Good collaboration between youth ministry and Christian initiation teams is


essential.

— Cons —
✘ Weak connection to larger catechumenal community in the parish (see 255).

✘ It can become youth ministry and not Christian initiation.

✘ Parents are not very involved.

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Summary
This chapter offers a general picture of the Christian initiation of children, as well as an
overview of the vision of initiation as a journey of conversion. Use any of the models
given here to implement that vision in your parish. The chapters that follow will help you
navigate each period and step of the initiation process, and they include stories and
practical ways to work within various circumstances.

31
Chapter 2

32
Getting to Know Jesus Christ: Evangelization,
Precatechumenate, and the Rite of Acceptance

I asked Nicky to tell me what he knew about God. His piercing black-brown eyes were
searching for an answer, and I could tell he wanted to respond. But he was uncertain
about what to say. He held my eyes intently for a long time. He did not seem
uncomfortable, and so we sat in silence. He knew God, but he couldn’t put it into
words. Finally, he just said “Heaven.”

“[P]recatechumenate is of great importance and as a rule should not be omitted.


It is a time of evangelization: faithfully and constantly the living God is
proclaimed and Jesus Christ whom he has sent for the salvation of all.”
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 36

fundamental principle of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is that


A everything in chapter 1 regarding Part I applies to both adults and children;
paragraph 253 states that the formation of children should follow the same pattern as that
of adults: “[C]orresponding to the periods of adult initiation are the periods of the
children’s catechetical formation that lead up to and follow the steps of their initiation.”
But the process of initiation for children should occur in a way that is developmentally
appropriate. The first period of the children’s catechetical formation is the Period of
Evangelization and Precatechumenate, when young people will learn more about Jesus
Christ and will develop their relationship with the Living God.
Many children seeking initiation know almost nothing about God. Or perhaps a
better way to describe this phenomenon is that many children are not able to articulate
their knowledge of God. Like Nicky in the opening story, children have an innate sense
of God. They have a kind of divine intuition, but they cannot quite name God. They
know of the Divine One because they know love. Children have experienced God
because they have experienced the love of an adult. Tragically, some children in the

33
world do not know love. However, most of the children who seek Baptism in our
parishes have a parent, grandparent, or guardian who loves them. So, they know
something of God because they know something of love. This is the foundation for
children’s spirituality. And, it’s a basic premise of the Period of Evangelization and
Precatechumenate with children.
This chapter covers the building blocks for this first period of initiation, the Period
of Evangelization and Precatechumenate, the various ways to work with the children and
their families, and the models you can implement in your parish. The foundation of the
period is evangelization with children and their families.
To prepare for this period, discernment skills are absolutely essential and vital. First,
one must be able to discern what type of precatechumenate formation the child needs.
Then toward the end of the first period, one must be able to discern when the child is
ready to move to the second period of catechumenate formation.

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Discernment
Discernment is “not so much a rational process, but a listening to what God is doing, to
where God is leading.”1 It includes decision making, but it’s more intuitive. Discernment
happens throughout the process of initiation as we look and listen for signs, indications,
hints, and clues for where the Spirit is leading. For example, perfect attendance at all
initiation sessions may or may not mean that initial conversion is happening. On the other
hand, sporadic attendance could mean the family is not really committed to developing a
relationship with God and the Church. Or, it could just mean that other life priorities have
taken precedence over the initiation schedule. It’s important to listen and discern what is
really going on in the life of a child and her or his family before determining what’s best
for the child’s journey.
The first type of discernment is the initial discernment that occurs when the child
first approaches the parish. Together with the parents or guardians, determine what type
of precatechumenate model is best for this child’s situation. The second type or stage of
discernment is determining when a child is ready to move to the Period of the
Catechumenate. The third type of discernment is discerning her readiness for receiving
the sacraments.
When initially meeting a child seeking initiation, the first step is to discern what type
of formation the child needs. As has been explained with the different models of
precatechumenate, do not assume that one size fits all. It is imperative to conduct an
initial discernment before simply deciding that the child must join the religious education
class for one year before she may prepare for Baptism. Initial discernment will allow you
to design an initiation process that attends to the needs of not just the child but also the
family. Having an initial discernment conversation with an inquiring child and her parent
also helps to build trust and rapport with the family. Most importantly, this approach
shows a level of pastoral care and welcome and avoids automatically placing the child
into an RCIA program or religious education program.
The ritual text addresses this need for discernment with children when it refers to
the need for adaptation. In paragraph 253, after referring to conversion and education
being in proportion to the child’s age, the Rite continues, “The process of initiation thus
must be adapted both to their spiritual progress, that is, to the children’s growth in faith,
and to the catechetical instruction they receive. Accordingly, as with adults, their initiation
is to be extended over several years, if need be.” Discernment is so important to
understanding the child’s spiritual progress and growth in faith.
Discernment begins simply with conversation. The purpose of the conversation is to
begin to build a relationship with the family, find out the religious history of the family,

35
and discover the depth of faith the child already has. This information will help you
determine where to start with the child and how to design the pathway of initiation.
Use the following conversation starters when meeting inquiring children and their
parents. These are in no particular order and can change according to each family. The
latter conversation starters are directed to the children. It’s recommended that parents
hear their children’s response. Sometimes parents are surprised by what their children do
or do not say. It also helps parents to understand their children’s need for formation:

• What brings you to our parish? What are you looking for?

• Do you know anyone in our parish? (This helps to identify potential sponsors.)

• How have you been involved in church?

• Why is now the time to seek Baptism?

• How often and when does your family pray?

• Tell me what you know about God.

• Tell me what you know about Jesus Christ.

• What Bible stories do you know? Which ones are your favorites?

An initial discernment conversation using questions like these will help you know
how much evangelization or precatechesis a child might need. Or, particularly in the case
of a baptized child (see appendix 1) there may be no need for evangelization. Some
children seek initiation already having heard the Good News. They may not need to
spend much time, if any, in the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate. In that
case, the child would be accepted as a catechumen as quickly as possible and begin the
Period of the Catechumenate.
Certainly one conversation does not make for thorough discernment, but it’s a good
start. Depending upon the responses of the parents and the child, the initial conversation
will help determine whether the child should be in your religious education program or
whether a family-based initiation process might be better. Or another approach to
precatechumenate might be the best course. Discernment continues throughout the
Period of Precatechumenate. As the children hear the Good News and begin to develop a
relationship with Jesus Christ, the signs of their initial conversion slowly emerge. After

36
weeks or months, discern the child’s readiness to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance into
the Order of Catechumens, which will be discussed later in this chapter.

37
Evangelization with Children and Families
Evangelization is the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In paragraph 17 of
Evangelii nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI describes evangelization as “proclaiming Christ to
those who do not know him,”2 which applies to many children seeking initiation. It’s
important to acknowledge that some children, and even some of their parents, do not yet
know Jesus Christ — at all.
In trying to discern what kind of formation eight-year-old Aubrey needed during the
Period of Precatechumenate, I asked her about Jesus one December. It quickly became
clear she had not heard much about Jesus nor had she heard much about God at all.
Since it was Christmastime, in the commercial world at least, I asked her if she had ever
heard the story about baby Jesus being born in a manger in Bethlehem. Surely anyone
who had watched television or who had been at a shopping mall would know that story.
She looked at me blankly. What I thought of as a commonly known story was
completely unfamiliar to her. We needed to start evangelization at the basic level.

Children will begin learning about the Catholic faith from the Bible and from Church history. PHOTO © JOHN ZICH

Thus, we turned to the ritual text as our guide, those instructive words in the very
first paragraph of the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate in the rite itself.
Paragraph 36 says that “faithfully and constantly the living God is proclaimed.” For
children, one way to proclaim God is to proclaim love; they can describe God when they
describe love.3 For children who do not yet know Jesus Christ or God, evangelization
includes pointing out the presence of God in their young lives, showing children how the

38
presence of love — the love of parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, and others — is
the presence of God.
Telling stories of God is another way to proclaim God’s love and to describe who
God is. Telling Scripture stories is a way to also describe God’s relationship with us. We
tell inquiring children the story of creation, the story of Noah and the flood, the story of
Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the Exodus, about the prophets and prophetesses, and
all the great stories of our ancestors. We share with them the story of our salvation,
which of course culminates with the story of Jesus Christ whom God “has sent for the
salvation of all” (36). The ritual text highlights the importance of giving “the candidates a
suitable explanation of the Gospel” (38). The Gospel stories are rich fare for children.
The stories are full of compelling characters that capture the imaginations of children.
The Gospel teaches children about Jesus the person and what it means to be his disciple.
Storytelling is an effective way to lead children into a relationship with Jesus Christ
whereby they come to know Jesus as friend, brother, companion, and Savior.

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Models for Precatechumenate
Nicky’s and Aubrey’s journey to faith illustrates how evangelization works with children
in the Period of the Precatechumenate. What follows is a variety of models and options
to design the precatechumenate in your parish. To show you how the basic models
presented in chapter 1 can be adapted for your parish, they are given here with some
adaptations.

Religious Education Inclusion Model


The searching look in Nicky’s eyes and his unfamiliarity with stories from Scripture told
me that the Bible was a good place to start the process of evangelization. Nicky had not
heard the Good News. Although his dad had been reading the Bible and had been
researching the Catholic Church online, Nicky and his parents were in need of
evangelization. They were seekers. By life’s twists and turns, their family — Nicky’s dad
in particular — felt like God was calling them to faith, and the Catholic Church was the
way for them to get there. Thus, Nicky’s mom and dad started in the process of initiation
with the adults. Since there were no other children seeking initiation at that time, we
decided that Nicky would join the second grade religious education class, which
comprised eight children. The catechists were masters in the ministry and were well-
prepared to receive Nicky into the group. They worked to help Nicky fill in the gaps in
his catechesis. The religious education program used a Lectionary-based program so that
each lesson centered on the Gospel of the week.

Combination Model: Intergenerational Initiation Plus Religious Education


Inclusion
While Nicky was with the second graders in religious education class, his parents and his
little sister met with other parishioners for coffee and donuts on Sundays in the
community room. They were able to make connections with other parents and with
those in their Tuesday evening adult initiation sessions. As the ritual text indicates, the
Sunday morning and Tuesday evening gatherings were opportunities “to meet families
and other groups of Christians” (38). What’s more, one of the parish families from those
coffee and donut gatherings became a sponsoring family for Nicky and his family.
In a different parish, another second grader had a different experience in the
precatechumenate. Shelby was a perky and precocious unbaptized eight-year-old. She
came to Sacred Heart Parish with her older brother, younger sister, and parents. The
children and Mom were unbaptized. Dad was an inactive Catholic. Shelby was a driving

40
force behind her family’s coming to the Church because she wanted to attend Mass with
her best friends. Her fifth-grade brother, Matt, was less enthusiastic, but her five-year-old
sister Abigail was open to anything.
After two extended discernment discussions with the family, we decided on a multi-
faceted, “combination model” approach to precatechumenate. Mom and Dad readily
admitted that although their children had a sense of God and Jesus Christ, they felt there
was still a need for their children to hear the Good News. In other words, Mom, Shelby,
Matt, and Abigail needed evangelization, whereas Dad needed a re-evangelization.
Three other families were in the initiation process at Sacred Heart, so Shelby’s
parents and Matt joined the intergenerational initiation sessions that met on Sunday
morning during regular religious education class time. Abigail joined the Kindergarten
religious education group. Shelby met primarily with the second grade class, although at
times she would come to the intergenerational sessions. The reason for her shifts
between sessions with her family and with her peers is that Shelby greatly desired to be
with her friends in the second-grade. She also knew they were preparing for First
Communion and she wanted to be a part of that process. The intergenerational sessions
were similar to the format given in chapter 1.

Combination Model: Children’s Catechumenate Plus Catholic School


Stephen and Pete were sixth and seventh graders at St. Viator parochial school. Their
precatechumenate (that is, the proclamation of the Good News) happened through their
years of formation and worship in the Catholic school setting. They were evangelized via
their school experience.
Meanwhile, Cassidy and Anthony and their parents were newcomers to St. Viator.
Cassidy and Anthony joined a small group of children who were seeking Baptism and
inquiring about the Catholic faith. This group of inquiring children in grades two through
five met on Sunday morning at the same time as the children in regular religious
education. The catechists in these Precatechumenate sessions used the Scriptures and a
curriculum-based religious education textbook to provide an overview of the Catholic
faith and to help the children develop their relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and the
Holy Spirit. The parents of these children met once a month on Sunday morning.
Stephen and Pete had no knowledge of other children in their parish who were
seeking Baptism. They would eventually join the other group of inquirers to prepare for
the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. The entire group would then
continue to meet together on Sundays for dismissal during the Period of the
Catechumenate.

41
Later in this chapter you will learn how to prepare children for the Rite of
Acceptance. In chapter 3 you will discover how children from school come together with
others for the dismissal sessions. But first, a model for precatechumenate — with
adolescents — follows.

Youth Ministry Model


The wisdom of the RCIA is especially pertinent here as we consider a model that
involves the evangelization of teens. The adolescent seekers are “strongly influenced by
their companions and their social surroundings” (252). Teens learn best about Jesus’
unconditional love, mercy, acceptance, strength, freedom, and friendship from other
teens. A quality youth ministry program can be an effective source of evangelization and
a place where precatechumenate can easily happen.

Help youth get to know Jesus Christ by proclaiming the Word and teaching them how they can live by his
message. PHOTO © JOHN ZICH

When fifteen-year-old Taylor came with her friend Andrea to our parish and asked
if she could be baptized, we first contacted her parents for permission. Dad was out of
the picture, but Mom was fine with the possibility of her daughter becoming Catholic.
Mom herself, however, had no interest in the Catholic Church. So, with her mother’s
permission, Taylor attended the deanery youth ministry sessions with Andrea. The youth
ministry sessions were fun, centered on Jesus Christ, and Scripture-based. Taylor fit right

42
in. Later, as the time for her to become a catechumen drew near, the youth ministry
group supported her as she discerned her readiness to take the next step and enter the
Period of the Catechumenate.

A Model for the Baptized


Thus far, models for unbaptized children of catechetical age have been presented. In
reality, baptized children from other Christian traditions also ask to become members of
the Catholic Church. Also, children who are baptized Catholic might sometimes belong in
RCIA. (See appendix 1 for what to do in that situation.)
The Rite instructs that if those who seek initiation are baptized but uncatechized,
their formation is generally the same as that of one who is unbaptized, with the great
exception that “their conversion is based on the baptism they have already received, the
effects of which they must develop” (400). It continues, “for the most part the plan of
catechesis corresponds to the one laid down for catechumens” (402). Although inquirers
are the focus at this point rather than catechumens, the point is well made. Those who
are baptized, but uncatechized, need a pastoral plan that takes into account their Baptism
and their need for formation in the Catholic Christian faith.
What this means for baptized children is the same as it means for baptized adults.
Baptized, uncatechized children may generally participate in the precatechumenate
models that have been described. However, if the children have already been catechized
in another Christian tradition, then they do not need evangelization. Their formation
follows the plan laid out in Part II, chapter 5, of the RCIA. These children may receive
some formation and then simply be received into the Church with their parents.
Now that we have described several pastoral models for precatechumenate, the
question arises as to how long a child stays in the Period of the Precatechumenate. Does
the child in a religious education model of precatechumenate stay for the duration of a
school year? The Rite tells us that the “whole period of the precatechumenate” lasts long
enough “that the will to follow Christ and seek baptism may mature” (37).

43
Discerning Readiness for the Rite of Acceptance into the
Order of Catechumens
The first period of the inquiry and growth for the child “ends with the rite of acceptance
into the order of catechumens” and thus begins the second period of his or her formation
(7.1). But how does one know when a child should move from the Period of
Precatechumenate to the second period of the Catechumenate? The RCIA gives us
guidance on what to look for as one discerns children’s readiness to take a major step in
their journey. Although Part II offers guidelines and rubrics for celebrating the rite with
children (260–276), refer to Part I for a description of what to look for in determining if
a child is ready to move to the Period of the Catechumenate. Consider a real-life
scenario.
St. Perpetua parish scheduled a celebration of the Rite of Acceptance into the Order
of Catechumens for November 1. Maya and Mateo had been participating in inquiry with
their mother, Emmy, since the previous September. All three of them attended St.
Perpetua’s intergenerational initiation sessions, and the children attended some religious
education classes. But their attendance was sporadic. Maya and Mateo were with their
dad every other weekend, and that affected their level of participation. Is it to be
assumed that since they had been in the precatechumenate period for two months, they
were ready to become catechumens and enter the Period of the Catechumenate?
Paragraph 42 of the Rite specifies that there must be evidence of an initial conversion
and that the candidates for the catechumenate should show:

• an intention to change their lives and to enter into a relationship with God in Christ;

• evidence of the first stirrings of repentance;

• a start to the practice of calling upon God in prayer;

• a sense of the Church; and

• some experience of the company and spirit of Christians through contact with a
priest or with members of the community.

This may seem like a lot to ask of children, but children can show conversion and it
is up to us to spot the signs. For example, “evidence of the first stirring of repentance”
for a child means that they recognize when they have done wrong and they show signs
of sorrow for the wrongdoing. Notice that all of the prerequisites given in paragraph 42

44
are beginnings. Terms such as “a start,” “evidence,” “a sense,” and “some experience”
direct us to look for initial signs of conversion in the children.
Look also to the rite itself before determining whether a child is ready to celebrate
the Rite of Acceptance. The rite as given for children in Part II, chapter 1, tells us a great
deal about the expectations the Church has of the children who come to this rite. The
opening dialogue between the celebrant and the children as it is given in paragraph 264 is
as follows:

Celebrant: “What do you want to become?”


Children: “A Christian.”
Celebrant: “Why do you want to become a Christian?”
Children: “Because I believe in Christ.”
Celebrant: “What do you gain by believing in Christ?”
Children: “Eternal life.”

The children’s responses in this dialogue indicate that the children must have some
understanding of what it means to be a Christian, and what it means to join a Christian
community. Furthermore, if the rite is to be celebrated well, the children must also know
what it means to believe in the Christ who gives them eternal life. So, in the case of
Maya and Mateo, being in the precatechumenate period for two months does not
necessarily enable them to understand the meaning of Christ and eternal life.
The rite continues with the signing of the candidates with the cross (266–268). The
children are covered with the Sign of the Cross. This ritual presupposes that the children
must have some perception of the power and the meaning of the Cross before they are
covered with the sign of our salvation. A prayerful reading of the entire rite (260–276)
gives further clues as to what the Church expects of her young catechumens.
Understanding the rite itself is a precursor to discerning for the rite. Discernment is a
serious, yet enjoyable and personal process that facilitates conversations between
children, parents, sponsors, and pastoral ministers. Once again, discernment does not
occur with one conversation. Here are some steps to follow when discerning a child’s
readiness for a rite.

Step One: Talk with the Parent


The first step is to talk with the parent or guardian and explain the significance of the
ritual moment. This explanation can be given to a group or in a one-on-one conversation.
It is helpful for parents to recognize that the rite marks the transition from the first period
of formation to the second period of formation. The Church considers this transition a

45
major “step” or a “doorway” through which a person passes to mark their movement on
the journey (6). Also explain to parents that their children are being officially accepted by
the Church as catechumens. It may be helpful to give the parent a guide with a few
questions to be discussed with the child (see step two).
In addition, the parents are asked to reflect upon their own faith journey, especially
if they are also candidates for initiation. Regardless of whether the parents are candidates
or Roman Catholic or of another faith tradition, they are involved with their child in this
journey of conversion. Therefore, the discernment questions are directed to the parents
as well as the children.

Step Two: Parent (and Sponsor) Talks with the Child


The conversation that takes place between a parent and child is very informal and
relaxed. This is not meant to be a formal question-and-answer dialogue. Regardless of
whether the sponsor stands in for the parent or is helping the entire family, the sponsor
should share in the dialogue also. This conversation may happen informally over dinner,
or at home, or in the car — anywhere. You can also have this conversation take place
during an inquiry session.
The conversation starters that follow will help the parent and/or the sponsor see
how initial conversion is taking place in the child, in the parent, and in the family. Many
of the discussion points are based on paragraph 42 and Rite of Acceptance for children
(260–276):

• Tell me what you like about being involved in the parish (or church).

• What are some of things you’ve learned about God? Jesus? the Holy Spirit?

• Tell me about the Bible stories you have learned. Which are your favorites?

• How do you pray? How has your prayer changed over the past months?

• What do you think it means to be a follower of Jesus? Why do you want to be a


follower of Jesus? How do you follow Jesus? Do you need to change anything in
your life to be a better disciple?

• What does Jesus’ Cross mean to you?

• What would you like to ask God? How can God help you?

• What would you like to ask the Church? How can the Church help you?

46
Step Three: Respond and Decide
After the parent and child have had an opportunity to reflect upon the child’s readiness
for the Rite of Acceptance, they should discuss their responses with the initiation
coordinator, a catechist, a sponsor, or a priest (43). This discussion to determine the
child’s readiness can be an informal conversation or it could be incorporated into a day of
reflection and discernment. Some parishes schedule “Discernment Days” as part of their
overall initiation process. The RCIA does not tell us exactly how to discern, but we are
advised in paragraph 43 that “before the rite is celebrated . . . sufficient and necessary
time, as required in each case, should be set aside to evaluate and, if necessary, to purify
the candidates’ motives and dispositions.”
Returning to the discernment story of Maya and Mateo and their mother Emmy, St.
Perpetua’s Christian initiation coordinator followed the steps outlined above and talked
with Emmy and her children about celebrating the Rite of Acceptance. Maya and Mateo
did not have much to say when Mom talked with them about Jesus and the Church.
Although they had attended some precatechumenate sessions, they had not yet
developed an understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. As she
talked with her children, Emmy saw that, too. She realized that the whole family, herself
included, needed more time to develop that sense of what it means to a Christian (42,
264). So, Emmy and her children continued in the precatechumenate period. They
attended family initiation sessions and came to church more regularly. They were
assigned a sponsoring family and were introduced to other families at the parish. Later
that spring Emmy and her children celebrated the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of
Catechumens and began the Period of the Catechumenate.

47
Celebrating the Rite of Acceptance with Children and
Families
The Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens usually takes place at a Sunday
Mass. At this rite, the children will be introduced to the community and asked if they
want to become a Christian. After they respond in the affirmative, they will be marked
with the Sign of the Cross. The priest will then declare that the Church accepts the
children as catechumens. In many parishes, the new catechumens will be prayed over
and sent out with the catechist after the homily to continue to talk about the Scripture
readings. (If the child is already baptized, there may be a similar ritual called the Rite of
Welcoming the Candidates.)
Before this happens, though, the pastor will be “judging” the readiness of would-be
catechumens (43), relying on the insights and recommendations of the sponsors,
catechists, and deacons. Once their readiness has been determined, it’s important to help
the children, their families, sponsors, and companions spiritually prepare for the ritual
celebration so that they can fully enter into the experience. Remember that Catholic
worship is new to some of these folks. When you prepare for the liturgy well, the
Catholic sponsors and companions will also benefit. Indeed, when the liturgy is also
celebrated well, the whole parish community, who witnesses to those being accepted as
catechumens, will also find meaning in it and fully enter into the experience with the
catechumens. Understanding what liturgical catechesis is will clarify why we must do a
good job preparing children and their families for the rites.

48
Liturgical Catechesis
The liturgical rites have a preeminent place in the initiation process. The rites are not only
“doorways” that usher the children from one period to the next, but also the pinnacles of
each period. Each of the first three periods ends at a high point with a major liturgical
rite. The rite is the culmination of all that has happened in the period that precedes it.
The rite proclaims God’s presence and celebrates God’s grace working in the life of the
catechumen. In a sense, the entire period is a remote preparation (that is, all the sessions
and meetings that take place prior) for the ritual moment. For example, everything we do
with children in the precatechumenate period is leading up to the ritual pinnacle of the
Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens.
In addition to this remote preparation, an immediate preparation comes just prior to
the celebration of a major ritual. The immediate preparation includes more specific
catechesis that focuses on the rite itself. (Refer to appendix 3 for sample sessions.) All
this preparation, the remote and immediate, comprise the first movement of liturgical
catechesis.
The second movement of liturgical catechesis is the liturgy itself. The signs,
symbols, movements, gestures, Scriptures, prayers, and blessings of the rite proclaim and
celebrate God’s saving grace. In addition, the rite summarizes all that God has done in
the preceding period and points ahead to the period that is to come. In the case of the
Rite of Acceptance, the child is ushered from the precatechumenate period to the
catechumenate.
After the rite is celebrated, have the children look back on and reflect upon what
they experienced in the ritual. This is the third movement of liturgical catechesis:
mystagogical catechesis. The word mystagogy comes from the Greek root word that
means “mystery.” Thus, when we talk about mystagogical catechesis we mean that we
are helping the children to understand the mystery they have just experienced, and to
understand the mysterious ritual language of the rite.
These three movements — preparation, ritual celebration, reflection — comprise
the basic elements of the liturgical catechesis that are foundational to the initiation
process. Liturgical catechesis provides an ebb and flow to the journey. One period leads
up to a ritual moment and then that ritual propels the candidates into the next period. The
process then repeats for the next period. Liturgical catechesis also happens within the
Period of the Catechumenate and the Period of Purification and Enlightenment (75.3,
138).
In addition, liturgical catechesis is especially effective for children because ritual
speaks to children in a way that is deeper and richer than words. The signs and symbols

49
point to the Divine in way that is different from the usual God-speak. The rituals touch
the imagination of children and help them to understand who God is and how God acts
through the Church. Helping children tune into this ritual language is the purpose of the
first preparatory movement of liturgical catechesis.

50
A Few Tips on Celebrating the Rite
Even if you are not primarily responsible for the planning and execution of the liturgy
itself, it’s still really important to understand the ritual to be able to lead the children and
families to a fruitful celebration and help them unpack its meaning afterwards. Here are a
few tips.
Know the Rite: Study the ritual text. Study the rite in Part I (41–68) since it is the
normative ritual. Then, study the rite for children in Part II (260–276). You will notice a
few differences between the adult rite and the children’s rite.
Celebrate with a Large or Small Group: The first significant difference between
the rites in Part I and Part II is that paragraph 260 tells us to celebrate with a “small
congregation, since the presence of a large group might make the children
uncomfortable” (see 257). In most parishes, the Rite of Acceptance with adults usually
takes place during Sunday Eucharist (see 68). But for children, according to paragraph
261 in Part II: “The celebration is not normally combined with celebration of the
eucharist.” This is contrary to the pastoral experience of many initiation ministers.
When asked about this, Balthasar Fischer, one of the committee members who
authored the ritual text, said that the Europeans in general and Germans in particular are
so protective of their children that the writers assumed this was a wise suggestion. He
went on to say that we should make adaptations to our cultural setting and particular
circumstances, per paragraph 35.
When children are properly prepared most are comfortable being in a larger
congregation. Many liturgists and catechists agree that there are great benefits to having
the children celebrate the rite with the Sunday assembly. Since this rite welcomes the
children into the “household of Christ” (47), it’s important for the children to be in the
midst of the household. Each witnesses to the other. The children see the parish welcome
them with open arms and the parish sees the children choosing to follow Christ.
Thirteen-year-old Izzy reflected on her experience celebrating the rite. She said, “As
I walked down the aisle everyone was smiling and everyone looked like they were so
happy I was coming in.” She was right. Everyone was happy that Izzy and her family
were entering the Church. The smiling faces in the Sunday assembly made a big impact
on Izzy’s experience of the rite.
Ask Parents to Give Their Consent: An important element found in the children’s
rite that is not found in the adult one is the very clear and specific role that parents have.
In the children’s rite, parents are asked to give their public consent to the children’s
request to prepare for Baptism (265). Not only is this significant for legal reasons, it also
affirms the general principle that parents have a primary role in the initiation of their

51
children. Notice that if parents are not present their place is taken by a sponsor.
Furthermore, the dialogue with parents is telling (262–265). The parents are presenting
their children and they are asked to do their part in the preparation for their Baptism.
They are seen as actively involved in the process and they act like the sponsors described
in Part I. They guide, help, and support the child. However, be advised that parents
cannot be baptismal sponsors, that is, godparents.4 This tradition of godparents being
persons other than the parents has to do with the distinction between “natural parenthood
and spiritual parenthood” (see commentary on canon 874).
If the parents are candidates for Baptism themselves, they would still stand and give
their consent, but a baptized Catholic sponsor would also stand with the parent to pledge
support for the journey. Moreover, as suggested previously, the sponsor or sponsoring
family should stand with the parents as a sign that an active member of the parish
community is also presenting this family to the Church.
Signing of the Senses: The language for the children is different from the language
for the adults on the signing of the senses (56 and 268). The rubric for paragraph 268
says that parents, sponsors, or catechists may sign the children with the Sign of the
Cross. Depending upon the situation and the timing of the ritual action, it is appropriate
to have baptized parents, sponsors, and even companions sign the children with the Sign
of the Cross. Note that touching children is a very sensitive act. Be sure to ask for
permission from the child and the parent before signing them with the cross. Lastly,
rehearse the signing with parents and sponsors. Adults may be reluctant to touch
children, but given permission, physical touch is powerful and evocative.
Celebrate with Adults and Children: When adults and children are being received
as catechumens, use the adult rite as the basis for your celebration and have all ages
celebrate together. The multigenerational ritual is a beautiful reflection of the
multigenerational face of the Church. Then again, there may be times when you have
only children who are ready to become catechumens. In this instance, it makes sense to
use the children’s rite as given in Part II. You also have the option of celebrating with
children in the church or in another place (261).
Dismissal of Children: When the celebration takes place within the context of
Sunday Eucharist, the children are dismissed at the conclusion of the rite. This is also the
beginning of weekly dismissal before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the conclusion of
this rite, the children are now catechumens, and they are dismissed every Sunday after
the Liturgy of the Word (75.3). The place and purpose of dismissal will be discussed in
the next chapter.

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Summary
The Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate is a time for the young inquirers to
get to know Jesus Christ. It’s a time for the children and their families to deepen their
relationship with our Loving God through the power of the Holy Spirit. This process of
evangelization, of getting to know Jesus, happens primarily through the telling of stories.
The Christian community tells the great Scripture stories of our tradition, the stories of
our parish, the stories of saints and sinners alike. Then, as the children come to initial
faith in Christ and respond to God’s call to discipleship, the Church accepts them as
catechumens. The Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens serves as a
doorway into the second period of formation, the Period of the Catechumenate. In the
next chapter, we will explore this period and explain how the Church carefully and
lovingly “trains” children in the Christian way of life.

53
Chapter 3

54
Becoming a Follower of Jesus Christ: Period of
the Catechumenate

After celebrating the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens with his fifth-
grade classmates, Roberto said, “I felt like I was joining a secret society.” Silvia, the
fifth-grade catechist who was leading the mystagogical reflection, replied thoughtfully,
“Well, it is kind of like that, but it’s not a secret. You should tell as many people as you
can that you have become a follower of Jesus.”

“The catechumenate is an extended period during which the candidates are given
suitable pastoral formation and guidance, aimed at training them in the Christian
life. In this way, the dispositions manifested at their acceptance into the
catechumenate are brought to maturity.”
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 75

ecoming a follower of Jesus Christ takes more than the celebration of a ritual — it
B means learning a Christian way of life. The Period of the Catechumenate is the
formation period when catechumens learn that way of life. The catechumenate is a full,
rich, fun, and wondrous time, especially for children. For now, erase “classroom
learning” from your mind and think “training in the Christian life,” per paragraph 75 of
the ritual text.
Like training to become a distance runner, or a pianist, or a mathlete, training to
become a Christian takes time and effort. My daughters were competitive swimmers in
high school. They did not learn to swim in a classroom or from textbooks. They learned
how to swim from other swimmers. They learned by swimming in the pool. For those
unfamiliar with a competitive swimmer’s life, it’s a world unto itself. There is a culture, a
lifestyle, a language one learns when training to swim. Athletes make sacrifices and
commit to early morning swim practices; they give up Friday night parties, junk food,

55
and sleep. The training is intense, but it leads to great reward and to a lifetime of
friendships and fitness. My girls, now young adults, still swim.
We learn to be Christian in much the same way as swimmers learn to be swimmers.
Swimmers spend time in the pool, they hang out with other swimmers, they are
immersed in the culture of competitive swimming, and they train every day. Child
catechumens learn to be Christian by spending time in the parish, by hanging out with
other Catholic Christian kids, by serving alongside other Christians. They learn to be like
Jesus from other people who are like Jesus. The Period of the Catechumenate is their
training period.
Paragraph 75 of the Rite gives the details for the training in the Christian life.
Although there is no comparable paragraph in Part II, paragraph 253 refers to the
“children’s catechetical formation” as “corresponding to the periods of adult initiation . . .
that lead up to and follow the steps of their initiation.” In addition to pointing us to the
description of the periods in Part I, notice how this paragraph refers to liturgical “steps”
that surround each period. This is a not-so-subtle reminder that the Period of the
Catechumenate follows the Rite of Acceptance and culminates in the Rite of Election.
Since there is no further instruction in Part II as to what we do during the
catechumenate period for children, look to Part I for the details of how “the dispositions
manifested at their acceptance into the catechumenate are brought to maturity” (75).
Further, the training that the young catechumens receive is achieved by

• suitable catechesis (75.1)

• the help and example of the Christian community (75.2)

• suitable liturgical rites (75.3)

• apostolic works and witness (75.4).

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Suitable Catechesis

Catechumens will learn more about the Gospel and the teachings of the Church and what it means to live and
pray as a Christian. PHOTO © JOHN ZICH

According to paragraph 75.1, catechesis is

planned to be gradual and complete in its coverage, accommodated to the


liturgical year, and solidly supported by celebrations of the word. The catechesis
leads the catechumens not only to an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and
precepts but also to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation in which they
desire to participate.

As this beautiful description of catechesis applies to children, catechumenate catechesis is


thorough, lengthy, liturgical, and Scripture-based. More specifically, “accommodated to
the liturgical year, and solidly supported by celebrations of the word” points to the
Lectionary as a primary factor in their catechesis. Furthermore, the mention of “dogmas
and precepts” and a “profound sense of the mystery of salvation” tells us the catechesis
is weighty and strongly connected to the conversion a child must exhibit during this
period.
Moreover, the description of catechesis in paragraph 75.1 is consistent with what is
said in Part II, chapter 1, about personal, somewhat developed conversion for children
and a “catechetical instruction” extending “over several years, if need be” (253). In

57
addition, National Statutes, 6, advocates a year-long (at minimum) Period of the
Catechumenate. The Rite tells us that the catechumenate catechesis is substantial,
liturgical, Scriptural, doctrinal, and Jesus centered. Indeed, the person of Jesus Christ is
always at the center of catechesis and especially so for child catechumens who are
learning how to follow him.1
Also consider paragraph 75.3, which tells us the catechumens are kindly dismissed
from the main assembly after the Liturgy of the Word during celebrations of the
Eucharist. They are dismissed to reflect upon the readings and their “spiritual
experiences” (67.A). This, combined with paragraph 75.1 (and paragraphs 81–84, which
we will discuss later in the chapter), tells us that the Word of God proclaimed in the
liturgy is a major source of the catechumens’ formation.
An abundance of materials is available to help you design the extended catechetical
sessions, particularly for the children’s catechumenate model and the intergenerational
model. Or, design your own sessions by using Lectionary-based catechetical materials
and incorporating the parental and family components that are included with most of the
current programs. Keep in mind that the extended sessions do not need to be lengthy,
especially when the children have already participated in the dismissal session.
Furthermore, remember that a child’s attention span is limited. Thus, a thirty-minute
dismissal session and forty-five minutes to an hour for extended catechesis on a Sunday
morning is plenty of time. For an example of how to prepare and design your own
extended catechetical session that fits the specific needs of your catechumens, see
appendix 3.

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The Help and Example of the Christian Community
Children learn from other children. And so, according to paragraph 75.2, as child
catechumens

become familiar with the Christian way of life and are helped by the example and
support of sponsors, godparents, and the entire Christian community, the
catechumens learn to turn more readily to God in prayer, to bear witness to the
faith, in all things to keep their hopes set on Christ, to follow supernatural
inspiration in their deeds and to practice love of neighbor even at the cost of self-
renunciation.

A child is also formed in the Christian way of life when she participates in service projects. PHOTO © JOHN ZICH

The catechumens’ formation in the “Christian way of life” happens with the help and the
example of members of the faith community, their companions on this faith journey.
More specifically, the Rite tells us in Part II that catechumens learn from their baptized
Catholic peers. As described in chapter 1 of this book, the Rite emphasizes that the
catechumens’ training “depends on the help and example of their companions” (252,
254).

59
In addition, catechumens learn the Christian life just by being with other
parishioners. Joining coffee and donut meetings, coming to the parish fish fry, helping at
Catholic Charities Christmas Store, and attending the parish festival or the high school
lock-in party are just a few examples of the many parish events where catechumens can
learn from the community. These opportunities also signify the necessary role of
sponsors and companions, who in turn are a crucial part of the formation of the
community’s life as described in paragraph 75.2. A catechumenal family (one or more of
the family members are undergoing the catechumenal process) is unlikely to go to the
parish fish fry unless someone from the parish (that is, a sponsor) invites them to go.
Likewise, an adolescent catechumen is unlikely to attend a high school lock-in unless she
or he goes with a companion from the parish.
Making parish events a priority in catechumenal formation strengthens the
catechumenal family’s bond with the parish. So make these social occasions intentional
events in your initiation ministry. Schedule them into the parish calendar. Ask sponsors
and team members to specifically invite catechumenal families to join them in parish
events. Then, as the catechumens and their families feel more comfortable and know
more people in the parish, they will feel confident enough to go on their own.

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Suitable Liturgical Rites
The Church, like a mother, helps the catechumens on their journey by means of
suitable liturgical rites, which purify the catechumens little by little and strengthen
them with God’s blessing.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 75.3

This third element by which catechumens learn the Christian life is a big part of what
makes catechumenal formation unique. Liturgical signs, symbols, and gestures
communicate the divine mystery to children in a way that is deeper than words. With the
Rite of Acceptance, children are taught the Church’s ritual language. Then, throughout
the catechumenate process the children’s exposure to the beauty and power of liturgical
actions is gradually increased. Specifically, the rites belonging to the Period of the
Catechumenate (80–105) are an inimitable part of the pastoral formation of
catechumens.
Frankly, this is also a fun part of catechumenal ministry. The rites add a dimension
to pastoral formation that is lacking in other areas of catechetical ministry. In many
classrooms there is little quality ritual formation. That is not an indictment of classroom
teaching. There is a difference between classroom teaching and celebrating the rites of
the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The former is catechesis and the latter is
liturgy. The two complement and enhance one another and a skilled catechist knows how
to do this. For now, let’s look at how the “Rites Belonging to the Period of the
Catechumenate” can form young catechumens as Christians.
Rites Belonging to the Period of the Catechumenate (Minor Rites)
In initiation ministry, the minor rites of the catechumenate are a valuable means of
formation. The anointings, exorcisms, blessings, dismissal rites, and “special celebrations
of the word of God” (81–103) are an irreplaceable means of forming children in the
Catholic Christian way of life. They teach children in a different way from how they’re
taught in a classroom. Catechists are qualified to preside at these minor rites, which
include celebrations of the word of God, blessings, and exorcisms (16, 91, 96), if
appointed by the pastor as a catechist for children’s initiation ministry. However, it’s
always safer to check with the diocesan office of worship.
Celebrations of the Word
The Word of God is celebrated in three ways during the Period of the Catechumenate
(81). These simple celebrations of proclaiming God’s Word form child catechumens in
the faith. The third type of celebration (84) is very common and easy to implement.

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Celebrations of the Word as part of a catechetical session
Having a Celebration of the Word is a great way to begin or end any “instructional
meetings of the catechumens” (84). This works with any of the catechumenal models
already presented. Any type of gathering, whether it’s intergenerational or children only,
can start with a Celebration of the Word. The rite even provides a simple model to follow
(86–89). Also, note the asterisk with accompanying footnote that immediately follows
paragraph 89. This footnote reiterates that “celebrations of the word that are held in
connection with instructional sessions” may include the minor rites. The next paragraph
of the footnote talks about including minor rites with “meetings of the catechumens after
the liturgy of the word of the Sunday Mass.” We will come back to this point when we
talk about dismissal. What follows is a simple example of what happens on a typical
week in Ordinary Time during the Period of the Catechumenate:
The catechumenate session with both adult and child catechumens on the Tuesday
night of the Thirty-First week in Ordinary Time, Year C, began with a Celebration of
the Word. The Gospel was the story of Zacchaeus and the basis for our session.

• Song. Choose a melodic song that connects well to the liturgy, such as the opening
song for that Sunday.

• Reading. Proclamation of Luke 19:1–10. (Use the children’s Lectionary, if


preferred.)

• Brief reflection on the Gospel by the catechist. This reflection sets the tone for the
session and incorporates the catechumens’ thoughts from the dismissal session from
that Sunday. For example, if the catechetical session is on the meaning of salvation
then the catechist might offer a brief, child-friendly reflection of what salvation
means.

• Closing prayer. A spontaneous or previously written prayer is prayed by the


catechist.

• Catechumenate session continues with the breakouts in small, generational groups


for catechesis.

• Concluding rite. Adults and children come back together and catechist leads the
blessing (89, 96, 97).

Celebrations of the Word at Sunday Mass: The Liturgy of Word

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This second type of celebration of Word for catechumens is their “participation in the
liturgy of the Word at the Sunday Mass” (81). Now that the children have been accepted
as catechumens they are expected to come to Mass every Sunday. The child
catechumens attend Mass and are dismissed before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The
ritual text states, “After the liturgy of the word they should, if possible, be dismissed”
(83.2). Then, their “meetings . . . after the liturgy of the word of the Sunday Mass” (see
footnote after 89) include reflection on the Word of God and it may also include one of
the minor rites.
The proclamation of the Word at the Sunday liturgy is a very important part of the
catechumens’ formation, for Christ is present in the Word; “it is He Himself who speaks
when the holy scriptures are read in the Church.”2 For those who might worry about
whether the catechumens are being taught everything they need to know, it’s important
to remember that the liturgy itself forms the catechumens. By being present in the
worshipping assembly and hearing the Word proclaimed, the catechumens gradually
deepen their understanding of the Christian message. For indeed, within the cycle of a
liturgical year the mystery of Christ is unfolded.3 This is the power of the Word of God
proclaimed and should not be underestimated.
Furthermore, the power of that Word is another reason to do the dismissal of
catechumens and gather immediately afterward to reflect upon it. The Rite instructs that
after the dismissal “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” (67). (See appendix 3 for a “how to” of doing a dismissal session
with children.)
Special celebrations of the Word that benefit catechumens
While this third type of Celebration of the Word is described in the fullest detail, it is
probably used the least. These “special celebrations” of the Word help “implant in [the
catechumens’] hearts” the teachings, the prayers, and the liturgical life of the Church
(82). They are also meant to help the catechumens become comfortable worshipping
with the entire assembly (82.4). For example, the celebration could help the catechumens
better understand the responsorial psalms and how they fit in the worship life of the
Church. Or a celebration in conjunction with a patron saint helps young catechumens
understand “the signs, celebrations, and seasons of the liturgy” (82.3).
The following is an example of a “special celebration of the word of God arranged
for the benefit of the catechumens” (82). A catechumenate session was scheduled on
October 7, the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. So, adult and child catechumens

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were brought together to teach them to pray the Rosary. The model for the session is
given in paragraphs 86–89:

• Opening Song Hail, Holy Queen

• Readings from the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, Lectionary no. 653.

• Reflection on the readings. The catechist gives a brief reflection on how Mary’s
role in salvation history is reflected in the Rosary.

• Concluding Rites. The catechist calls forward the adult and child catechumens for a
blessing (97.E).

• While not specified in paragraphs 86–89, the catechists may lead the catechumens
in how to pray the Rosary after the Celebration of the Word of God.

Minor Exorcisms
The minor exorcisms are prayers of petition that “draw the attention of the catechumens”
to “the unending need for God’s help” (90). They are moments when the community
offers prayers for the catechumens as they move forward in their journey in faith. In the
minor exorcisms we ask for God’s grace in living the Christian life. The minor exorcism
may be celebrated at the beginning or end of a meeting for catechesis. They can also be
part of a Celebration of the Word for catechumens.
Certain topics and discussions, such as sin and temptation, lend themselves to a
celebration of a minor exorcism. One Sunday during Ordinary Time, the focus of a
catechetical session was on the virtues and the Christian life. Paragraph 92 indicates that
the “minor exorcisms take place with a celebration of the word of God . . .” and “may
also be held at the beginning or end of a meeting for catechesis.” A simple, yet formative
example follows:

• Catechumens, parents, sponsors, companions, and team members gather in a semi-


circle with catechist as presider (91) in front of the group.

• Catechist invites catechumens to bow their heads and she extends her hands over
the group and prays (94.C).

• Close with a sign of peace.

• The format for the minor exorcism is the same as that for the blessings, except that
the blessings have a different purpose and include a laying on of hands.

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Blessings of the Catechumens
The blessings “are a sign of God’s love and of the Church’s tender care” (95). They can
be used abundantly throughout the catechumenate period at the end of a Celebration of
the Word or at the end of a catechetical session (96). These beautiful blessings bestow
“courage, joy, and peace” on the children as they “proceed along the difficult journey
they have begun” (95). The blessings are a fitting way to end a catechumenal session or
a dismissal session (see footnote after paragraph 89). What follows is an example of a
simple, yet reverent and effective way to end your catechumenal session. The presider in
this example is a catechist.

• Call to Prayer. At the conclusion of the session (dismissal session, or an


intergenerational session, or a religious education class), ask everyone to stand for the
closing prayer and blessing. Ask those who are catechumens to step forward. The
blessing begins with a simple invitation: “Let us pray” (97).

• Prayer of Blessing. Ask an assistant to hold the ritual text for you as “with hands
outstretched over the catechumens” you pray one of the prayers given in paragraph
97. (For added emphasis intone the prayer.)

• Laying on of Hands. Approach each child catechumen and “lay(s) hands on them
individually” (97). By this time you and the children know each other well so you can
offer specific prayers as you lay your hands on their heads in prayer.

• Invite the baptized parents or the sponsor to silently lay hands on the child’s head
after you. (You will need to explain this to them prior to beginning the minor rite.
Many parents who are new to the Catholic Church or returning to the Church after
an absence may feel unsure about laying hands on their child in prayer. An advance
explanation will help them understand their role. This is an adaptation of paragraph
97, which does not specifically call for parents to lay hands on their children.
However, as the first and primary catechists of their children, it is appropriate for
parents to do this.)

• Closing Prayer. Return to your place and close with a prepared prayer, the Lord’s
Prayer, or the Sign of Peace.

Presiding at the Minor Rites


If you are a catechist who has not yet tried presiding at a minor rite, try it! The Church
has confidence that you are qualified to do this. Ask your parish liturgist or pastor for
some training on presiding. Or contact the diocesan worship office for any training

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offered at the diocesan level. With the help of a liturgical musician, intone the prayers.
Intonation of the prayers adds another level of reverence to the ritual.
Prepare for the minor rite to make for a more effective celebration. Think through
how the rite will flow. Where will children and parents stand? Where will you stand?
How will you move as you approach children for the laying on of hands? What directions
and preparation will you give to participants prior to beginning the ritual? After you have
thought through the ritual, walk through the rite in the space you will use for the
celebration.
Anointing of the Catechumens
The presider for the Anointing of Catechumens is a priest or deacon (98). So, when the
time is appropriate for the anointing, coordinate with a presider and schedule in advance.
The anointing strengthens the young catechumens and “symbolizes their need for God’s
help” (99). Yet, before the children are anointed with the oil of catechumens, be sure that
they have some “understand(ing) of the significance of the anointing with oil” (99).
Another easy example of when to do an anointing of catechumens is after the
Baptism of the Lord. Baptism and Confirmation are relevant catechetical topics and the
discussion can include instruction on the significance of oil and anointing. The session
can conclude perfectly with an anointing of catechumens. However, the catechetical
session does not have to be on sacraments. In fact, anointings are celebrated whenever
they seem beneficial and can also be celebrated privately (98, 100).
What follows is an illustration of how an anointing is celebrated in the religious
education or Catholic school catechumenate model. The students in Ms. Butler’s fourth-
grade class, which included two catechumens, had just learned about Baptism and
Confirmation. Deacon Pawel joined the class and brought with him the oil of
catechumens. The oil was placed on a prayer table where the Word of God was already
enthroned. At the end of class, the students gathered around the prayer table. Deacon
Pawel began by making the Sign of the Cross and proclaiming the Gospel:

• Reading from the Baptism of the Lord.

• Homily. Deacon Pawel briefly connected the story of Jesus’ baptism to the
anointing of the catechumens and explained how the baptized children were
important witnesses to the Gospel message.

• Prayer of Exorcism. The first prayer in the anointing of catechumens is a prayer of


exorcism (102). However, any of the exorcism prayers from paragraph 94 can be

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used. So, choose the prayer that fits your catechumens’ needs as well as the reading
just proclaimed.

• Anointing. The presider then called forward the two catechumens. He anointed
them each on both hands. Ms. Butler held the book for Deacon Pawel as the fourth
graders attentively looked on. Deacon Pawel anointed their palms saying the words
from the Rite, no. 103.

• Blessing. The anointing was followed by a blessing (103) in which Deacon Pawel
then extended his hands over the catechumens, prayed the blessing (97.A), and laid
hands on the catechumens’ heads. Ms. Butler then laid hands on the children as well.

• Sign of Peace. Although the rite does not call for this closing, Deacon Pawel ended
the ritual by asking everyone to give each other the Sign of Peace.

It’s important to note that the anointing of catechumens “may be celebrated


wherever this seems beneficial or desirable” (98). An option is to include an anointing at
the end of the Liturgy of the Word at a Catholic school Mass or at a parish Sunday Mass.
After the homily, the presider calls the children forward and following the rubrics given in
paragraphs 102–103, he anoints them. Then, the catechumens are dismissed, or if your
parish does not dismiss catechumens, the children return to their places for the Liturgy of
the Eucharist.
Presentations and Sending of Catechumens for Election [optional]
The presentation of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer are typically celebrated during Lent, but
they are given in paragraphs 104–105 as optional rites of the Period of the
Catechumenate. These rituals will be discussed in the next chapter on the Lenten Period
of Purification and Enlightenment.

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Apostolic Works and Witness: Working with Others
Paragraph 75.4 points to the apostolic nature of the Church:

catechumens should also learn how to work actively with others to spread the
Gospel and build up the Church by the witness of their lives and by professing
their faith.

The first part of this paragraph is often referred to as Christian service. The
catechumens need to work alongside others to learn how to live out the Gospel command
to serve those in need. Likewise, those becoming part of the Church learn about the
Church’s social ministry and outreach by participating in it. Young catechumens work
beside their peers who are collecting canned goods at Thanksgiving or toys at Christmas.
Jacob, a middle-school catechumen, and his dad worked at the community garden when
the baptized middle-school children and their parents worked on a Saturday morning
service project. Indeed, this experience of Jacob working with others at the community
garden summarizes all the elements of paragraph 75. Here’s how:

• The service project started with a brief catechesis on caring for the earth and
feeding those who are hungry (75.1).

• Next was a blessing of the earth and the workers (75.3).

• The children worked together with their parents for two hours picking vegetables,
pulling weeds, and spreading compost (75.2 and 75.4).

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Summary
The Period of the Catechumenate for young catechumens is much more than a catch-up
class. It’s a process of forming children in a way of life and showing them how to be
followers of Jesus Christ. It’s more than religious education class with the Rite of
Acceptance added at the beginning and the Rite of Election added at Lent. This
formation can take a long time. But what length of time should be allotted for the Period
of the Catechumenate? When is the appropriate time for children to move on to the next
period?
Chapter 1 in Part II of the Rite gives us some insight: although paragraph 253 is
referring to “their initiation” in general and not the catechumenate period specifically, the
Rite indicates that “as with adults, their initiation is to be extended over several years, if
need be, before they receive the sacraments.” Similarly, paragraph 76 reads, “The time
spent in the catechumenate should be long enough — several years if necessary — for
the conversion and faith of the catechumens to become strong.” This guidance,
combined with National Statutes, 6, which says that the Period of the Catechumenate is
to last “at least one year,” gives us a picture of an extended catechumenate in which
nothing “can be settled a priori” (76).
In addition, this point of an extended catechumenate may be of some comfort to
those who want to argue, “Why should ‘those kids’ get all three sacraments when my
child has to go through two years of Confirmation preparation?” Each child’s journey is
unique and “varies according to the many forms of God’s grace” (5).
Try to erase the picture you might have of an unbaptized child coming to your
parish, attending religious education classes or going to Catholic school for nine months,
and then being baptized. Instead, picture a process that takes as long as it needs to, one
in which each child’s journey is unique and designed to meet the needs of the child and
the family. The catechumenate period is certainly about religious instruction, but it also
“directs the heart toward God, fosters participation in the liturgy, inspires apostolic
activity, and nurtures a life completely in accord with the spirit of Christ” (78). All of that
takes time.
Nonetheless, at some point the child moves from the catechumenate period to the
third period of Purification and Enlightenment. The Rite of Election is the culmination of
the catechumenate period and signals the beginning of the next one.

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Chapter 4

70
God’s Work in the Child’s Life: The Rite of
Election and Rite of Sending

With her dad, her godfather, her catechist Vanessa, and her friend standing with her,
Lucy stood in front of the faith community. As she listened to Vanessa’s testimony, she
tipped her head slightly downward and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.
Vanessa said in part, “I’ve seen God’s grace transform this young woman from a
nervous, uncertain, giggly newcomer into a confident, ‘on-fire-for-Jesus’ kind of
disciple and leader in our group.”

In the rite of election, on the basis of the testimony of parents, godparents and
catechists and of the children’s reaffirmation of their intention, the Church judges
their state of readiness and decides on their advancement toward the sacraments
of initiation.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 278

he Rite of Election is the second step in the initiation process. It’s the ritual that
T marks the catechumens’ transition from the Period of the Catechumenate to the next
period of Purification and Enlightenment. This third period is the “final, more intense
preparation for the sacraments of initiation” (118). In this chapter, we will first examine
the Rite of Election and its partner, the Rite of Sending. Though the Rite of Sending
occurs first chronologically, it is necessary to understand first what election is before
understanding how to discern and prepare children for election.
In Part I the Rite explains that this second step is the Church’s celebration of the
catechumens’ “election by God, in whose name the Church acts” (119). Indeed, it’s
imperative to recognize that election is God’s work. God’s grace has been drawing the
children into an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church. It’s not so
much that the children have attended all the right classes or learned all the correct
doctrine; election is about what God has done, not the children or the families, or even

71
the catechists. So the children who are ready to receive the sacraments of initiation are
called “the elect” because God has elected them to receive the sacraments. God has
chosen them to be among the holy ones. As Rita Ferrone describes in her influential
work, the Church declares those who celebrate this rite the elect based on the “the
conviction that God has chosen them and destined them for eternal life — the life that
will be given to them in the sacraments of initiation.”1 This same point on eternal life is
echoed in Part II in the children’s Rite of Election. As the celebrant speaks to the
children’s godparents, he says, “May Almighty God bring joy to your hearts as you see
the hope of eternal life shine on these elect. . . . May these children grow as faithful
members of God’s holy people” (286).
At this step, godparents play a critical role. Godparents are chosen prior to the Rite
of Election and Rite of Sending (123). The role of godparent is different from the role of
parish sponsors.
Having established that election is God’s work, we now turn to the role of the
Church. The Church gives voice to God’s election through the rite. The Church’s ritual
action is a recognition that the catechumens “have the dispositions that make them fit to
take part . . . in the sacraments of initiation” (119). For the catechumens have been on a
lengthy journey and God has brought in them “a conversion in mind and in action”
(120). It is incumbent on the initiation ministers to help the children and parents discern
these “dispositions” and the “conversion” of which the Church speaks. But first, consider
another important point about the Rite of Election with children — namely, why the
ritual text makes this rite an option rather than required (277).
Clearly, the Rite of Election is a vital step for anyone in the process of initiation.
Why then, does the Church tell us that this is not required for children? The answer most
likely lies within the reasoning found in paragraphs 257 and 260, which say that children
should celebrate the rites with a “small congregation, since the presence of a large group
might make the children uncomfortable” (see also chapter 2, pp. 35–36). The authors of
the ritual text presumed that going to the cathedral for a diocesan celebration would be
overwhelming for children. However, many dioceses in the United States have had
successful diocesan celebrations of election with children and adolescents present.
Moreover, if the Rite of Election is omitted then the second step for the child
catechumens (the ritual that marks their transition from the second period to the third
period) becomes the penitential rite or the scrutiny. In fact, the heading in the table of
contents and the heading prior to paragraph 291 reads, “Second Step: Penitential Rites
(Scrutinies).” The text continues that the penitential rites “mark the second step in the
children’s Christian initiation” (291). This is curious since the purpose of the children’s
penitential rite is repentance and purification (291, 141, 143). It’s hard to see how a

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penitential rite serves as a threshold to the next period of formation. So when you
celebrate the Rite of Election with children it is easier to see the progression from one
stage of the journey to the next: the culmination of the children’s time in the
catechumenate is the acknowledgement that they are now ready to receive the
sacraments.

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Celebrating the Rite of Sending and Rite of Election with
Children
To better understand the important elements found in the Rite of Election, consider the
rituals of sending (which come first) and then of election with children. Make special
note of the three main elements of the sending and election rituals: testimony of parents
and godparents, signing the Book, and the act of election.
The Rite of Sending of the Catechumens for Election by the bishop at the cathedral
(106–117) is often celebrated in the parish prior to the Rite of Election. In many parishes,
the signing of the Book of the Elect is done at the parish. Then, the Book of the Elect,
with the names of the elect already inscribed, is presented to the bishop at the Rite of
Election. (In some dioceses the elect sign their names in the Book of the Elect during the
Rite of Election. Consult your diocesan office of worship to see what the protocol is.)
Furthermore, there is no Rite of Sending given in Part II of the ritual text; thus, use the
rite that is given in Part I.
The purpose of this rite is to offer the 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” (107). For the parish to “express its approval”
of the catechumens, the faith community must first hear testimony from the parents and
godparents as to the “state of formation and progress” (107) of their children. After
hearing the testimony, the community affirms the catechumens and sends them on to the
bishop to carry “out the act of admitting them as elect” (125).
The testimony of those who are accompanying the children on this journey is vital
to this rite. It’s the testimony of parents, godparents, sponsors, and even companions that
tells the parish what God has been doing in the lives of the catechumens. That’s why it’s
so important to put time and effort into preparing those who will testify. The discernment
process will help prepare those involved for the giving of their respective testimony, but
an immediate preparation (combined with rehearsal for the parents and godparents) will
also help. See the appendix 3 for the Rite of Election and Rite of Sending preparation
session.
Presentation of the Catechumens
When the catechumens are presented, they are called forward with their godparents. In
the children’s Rite of Election, the parents and godparents are called forward together
(282). Since there is no Rite of Sending given in Part II, chapter 1, refer to the children’s
Rite of Election on how parents should be involved in the Rite of Sending. When using
the adult Rite of Sending and Rite of Election, many initiation ministers make the

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understandable mistake of having only the godparents present the child catechumens
because that’s what the rite instructs (111). Indeed, even Part II instructs us to use the
adult rite “when older catechumens are also to receive the Church’s election” (279).
However, the ritual text goes on to remind us that “appropriate adaptation of the texts”
should be included (279). For children being presented, it is imperative that parents be
included in the rite with godparents. Parents should be involved in as many of the rites as
possible. This point will come up with subsequent rites, including the Easter Vigil, so
make note of it now.
Affirmation by the Parents, Godparents, and the Assembly
Once everyone has come forward, the celebrant explains to the assembly, “It is the
responsibility of this community to inquire about their readiness before they are
presented to the bishop” (112). He then turns to the parents and godparents and asks a
series of questions (112, 283). It is more effective to have parents and godparents speak
in their own words rather than give the rote responses to the questions in paragraphs 112
and 283. The result is that the parents’ and godparents’ testimony is personalized and
makes the rite much more engaging. Members of the assembly also find the testimony
compelling. A parishioner once told me that the testimony helped her to feel like she
knew the catechumens and what was going on their lives.
In addition, it is very meaningful for the children to hear their parents and
godparents speak about how God is working in their lives and how they have responded.
One parent said, “God has given my daughter, Rose, many gifts. I have noticed how
over these past months God has led her to use those gifts to help other kids at school
who are struggling. I think this is part of Rose responding to Jesus Christ in her life.”
Then, Rose’s godfather took the microphone and added, “I am Rose’s godfather and I
have witnessed a change in Rose, too. I, and others, have seen God bring forth an
incredible compassion and giving heart in Rose.”
After other parents and godparents gave their testimony, the celebrant turned to the
assembly and asked, “Is there anyone else here present who wishes to give testimony as
to the readiness of these catechumens?” This question is an adaptation from paragraph
131 of the Rite of Election. It’s also from the rubric given in paragraph 112. Also, note
that paragraph 132 refers to “teachers” speaking in favor of the catechumens. Thus,
Rose’s seventh-grade catechist and two of her classmates also gave brief testimony.
Always check that parents and godparents are giving appropriate testimony.
Testimony is not a list of all the good things the children have done or how sweet the
children are. The testimony is about how God is working in their young lives.
Signing the Book

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If the signing is to be done at the parish prior to the Rite of Election at the cathedral, then
after accepting the testimony from the parents, godparents, and assembly, the celebrant
invites the catechumens to offer their names for “enrollment” (113, also see 132, 284).
(Check with your diocesan worship office whether the Book of the Elect is to be
presented to the bishop in the Rite of Election. It’s very common, but not universal, for
the already-signed Book to be presented to the bishop since the signing takes time.)
Paragraph 284 gives several options for the way in which the inscription of the
children’s names can be done. It is highly recommended to have the children sign the
Book themselves. It is remarkable to watch children slowly, deliberately writing their
names in the Book of the Elect. The careful inscribing in the Book speaks of the
children’s earnestness and sincerity in responding to God’s call.

Intercessions, Prayer, and Dismissal


The Rite of Sending concludes with the intercessions for the catechumens, the prayer
over the catechumens, and the dismissal of the catechumens. They will continue to be
dismissed throughout the Period of Purification and Enlightenment, just as they have
been throughout the catechumenate. Their dismissal includes the breaking open of the
Word and possibly the mystagogical reflection on the Rite of Sending.
Mystagogical Reflection on the Rite of Sending
As with all the rites of the initiation process, the Rite of Sending speaks volumes to the
newly elect and it’s important for them to reflect upon this experience. This reflection
can be done as part of the dismissal session that immediately follows the rite or it can be
done at another time. Often, the elect rush off to the cathedral, leaving little time for
reflection on the Rite of Sending. So, combine the mystagogical reflection on the Rite of
Sending with the mystagogical reflection on the Rite of Election. It all depends on when
and how these rituals are celebrated in your parish. See appendix 3 for a model of a
mystagogical catechesis on these rites.
The Rite of Election
The act of electing catechumens belongs to the bishop so this rite is ordinarily celebrated
at the cathedral (121). While initiation ministers don’t need to plan the liturgical
celebration, it’s nonetheless imperative to understand the Rite of Election from Part II to
effectively prepare the children, parents, and godparents for the celebration.
First, the Rites of Election in Parts I and II have the same structure. The difference
in celebrating it with children is that parents are included in the affirmation and giving of
testimony (131, 283) and there is an additional option in Part II, “Recognition of the
Godparent(s)” (286). Already the important role of the parents has been emphasized, but

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here the Church is honoring the relationship between parents and godparents. The
celebrant prays that the parents and godparents “be a constant support to each other”
(286). Initiation ministers must nourish this relationship and involve godparents and
parents in the journey as much as possible.
The second point to consider is the central action of the rite — the Act of
Admission or Election. This central act is the same in Part I and Part II (133, 285). The
bishop declares the catechumens to be members of the elect, the ones chosen to receive
the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist at the upcoming Easter Vigil.
Finally, the Rite of Election concludes in the same way as the Rite of Sending: with
intercessions, prayer, and dismissal. Often, the Rite of Election doesn’t take place at
Mass and does not include the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Thus, when the elect are
dismissed they leave the cathedral and often go to a reception or meet the bishop.
Plan for a mystagogical reflection soon after the Rite of Election takes place. Even if
your parish initiation model does not include parents and godparents on a regular basis,
it’s important to schedule a time when you can invite parents, godparents, sponsoring
families, companions, and anyone who experienced the rite to participate in a
mystagogical reflection.

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Discerning the Child’s Readiness for the Rite of Election

It is a significant moment in children’s journey of faith when they move from being catechumens to becoming
the elect. PHOTO © JOHN ZICH

The Rite of Election is important because it “marks the beginning of the period of final
preparation for the sacraments of initiation, during which the children will be encouraged
to follow Christ with greater generosity” (277). Furthermore, “the Church makes its
‘election,’ that is, the choice and admission of those children who have the dispositions
that make them fit to take part, at the next major celebration, in the sacraments of
initiation” (278). Before this happens, “the Church judges their state of readiness.” The
Church arrives at this judgment based on “the testimony of parents, godparents and
catechists and of the children’s reaffirmation of their intention” (278). This testimony is
given publicly during the Rite of Election. To prepare for this event, help the children,
parents, and godparents decide if the children have “the dispositions” to receive the
sacraments.
These paragraphs from Part II have already offered clues on what to look for in
children who may be ready to move from the catechumenate to the next period.
Moreover, the Rite of Election itself provides some criteria. In the Rite of Election with

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children, the celebrant asks the parents, godparents, and the assembly if the children
have shown specific signs of readiness (283). He asks if they have:

• shown a desire for Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist

• listened well to the Word of God

• tried to live as his faithful followers

• taken part in the community’s life of prayer and service

Notice how closely the content of these questions aligns with the content of
catechumenal formation given in paragraph 75 (catechesis, community, rites, service).
Another way of looking at the discernment questions is, “Have the catechumens done
everything 75 asked them to do?” If yes, then they are ready for election and thereby the
sacraments.
Two important points come from the questions asked by the celebrant in paragraph
283. One point is that if the children are going to be “judged” on how well they were
formed by the catechumenal elements given in paragraph 75, then the parish must
provide all these elements of formation — not just religious instruction. Arguably, the
elements happen naturally to some extent. For instance, children experience community
when they attend religious instruction in the classroom. They experience “suitable
liturgical rites” when they go to Mass. However, as noted in chapter 3 of this book, a
complete reading of the formation described in paragraphs 75–80 depicts catechumenal
formation as much more than classroom catechesis. It’s our responsibility to provide
effective catechumenal formation so the child catechumens will be ready for election.
A second point to be gleaned from the questions the celebrant asks in paragraph 283
is that these questions can form the foundation for discerning the children’s readiness for
the Rite of Election. In addition, parents, godparents, sponsoring families, and catechists
help with this discernment.
The important foundation the questions give us notwithstanding, we must also
consider what Part I says about readiness for Election. Generally, what we see in Part I
is a similar, yet somewhat fuller description of the readiness described for children in Part
II of the Rite. For example, like paragraph 278, paragraph 119 says that readiness for
Election is based on the “testimony of godparents and catechists and of the catechumens’
reaffirmation of their intention.” Paragraphs 119 and 121 also refer to judging readiness.
An additional significant element in Part I is the expectation of conversion. In
paragraph 120 the Rite tells us that “the catechumens are expected to have undergone a

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conversion in mind and in action and to have developed a sufficient acquaintance with
Christian teaching as well as a spirit of faith and charity.” For child catechumens this
means that they have experienced some degree of conversion as demonstrated by their
actions and their attitudes, as well as gained familiarity with Church teaching.
Furthermore, paragraph 122 indicates that there “should be” a “deliberation” about
the “catechumens’ suitableness.” Priests, deacons, catechists, godparents, members of
the community, and of course, parents should be involved in this deliberation (122). This
deliberation, or discernment, is made to “exclude any semblance of mere formality”
(122). Do not just assume a few months in religious education or youth ministry or
initiation sessions or Catholic school means a child is ready for the sacraments of
initiation.
Given what the Rite says about the seriousness of deliberating readiness (122), a
model for discerning sacramental readiness follows. There are two parts to this model.
The first part of the model is the same three-step process that was outlined in chapter 2
when discerning readiness of the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. The
second part of this model is a group process that is used during a “day of discernment.”
Usually, part one is done before part two.

Part One: Discernment for the Rite of Election


Step One: Talk with the Parent and Godparent. This step happens before the
group gathers for a day of discernment. Well before the First Sunday of Lent, (when the
Rite of Election usually takes place [118, 277]), talk with parents and godparents about
the importance of discerning in their children the readiness for the sacraments. Provide a
guide for parents, sponsors, and godparents (if they have been chosen at this time) with
discussion starters based primarily on paragraph 283. See appendix 4 for a handout to
give parents.
Step Two: Parent and Godparent (and/or Sponsor) Talk with Child. The parent
and godparent (and sometimes the sponsor, particularly if the godparent resides remotely)
talk with the child about the child’s readiness for the sacraments. According to
paragraphs 119 and 121, the Church makes its judgment as to the children’s readiness for
Election based on the testimony of the parents, godparents, catechists, and other
members of the community (sponsoring families and companions). It is also important to
involve godparents, sponsors, and even companions in this discussion, because it helps
them prepare for the testimony they will give at the Rite of Election or the Rite of
Sending (278, 283, 112, 131). Their conversation focuses on how God has been working
in the child’s life bringing about conversion. The discussion encourages the child to talk
about how her or his relationship with Jesus Christ has developed and deepened. These

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are serious topics, so they need to be discussed in a developmentally appropriate way
that is not intimidating for the child.
Step Three: Respond and Decide. Finally, the parents, godparents, sponsors, and
the child herself decide if she is ready for the sacraments. This is an important step; since
she is old enough to have faith (of catechetical age) the child articulates her desire for the
sacraments herself.

Part Two: A Communal Process for Discerning Readiness for Election


(Note: If you have a sense that a child is not ready for the sacraments, talk to the parent
in advance of this day.)
Gathering and Celebration of the Word. Provide plentiful, child-friendly
hospitality. Welcome catechumens, parents, godparents, sponsoring families,
companions, and family members. Use the model Celebration of the Word given in
paragraphs 86–89.

1. Song (86). Enlist the help of a parish musician to lead an opening song (and the
responsorial psalm). Or download the music and lead the singing.

2. Reading and Responsorial Psalm (87). Consider choosing readings that are
connected to Rite of Election or Rite of Sending. These readings are what the
children will hear as they celebrate election or are sent for election, so it is helpful for
them to hear and reflect upon these readings in advance.

3. Homily (88). Include the pastor or deacon. Invite dialogue with the children.

4. Concluding Rite (89). Conclude with a blessing or an anointing of catechumens,


whichever is more appropriate.

Introduction to Discernment. Describe for the group the purpose of the day. Use
these or similar words (modify if there are also adult catechumens present):

After many months together on the journey, we come together today to talk
about how God is working in our lives, and particularly in the lives of your
children, who are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. We are
going to take time to identify the ways that God has helped us, changed us, and
made us into followers of Jesus Christ. Today will help you — catechumens,
parents, godparents — determine readiness for Baptism at the Easter Vigil.
Those who are indeed ready for Baptism will celebrate the Rite of Election with
Bishop ____ at the Cathedral on the First Sunday of Lent.

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We have listened to God’s Word. Let’s now talk about how God is actively,
lovingly working in our lives.

Parents should talk with the children about whether they are ready to receive the sacraments of initiation. PHOTO
© LTP

Walk & Talk. Each catechumen meets in a small group with her or his parents,
sponsors, godparents, and companions. If you don’t have all the additional supporting
community members for the child, then the parent and child talk together. Ideally, you
have given discernment questions to the parents in advance for their own private prayer
and reflection. (See appendix 4). Use the four basic questions from the Rite of Election
for children (283). Explain to parents and godparents that these four questions will be the
basis for the testimony they give during the Rite of Sending or Rite of Election. Ask the
parents and godparents to take notes on the children’s responses. These written notes
will help them when they provide testimony.
Invite each catechumenal family group to take a walk and find a place in the church,
the school, or somewhere on the parish grounds (or at the retreat center) to talk about
the questions. Explain that responses will be shared with the large group. Give ample
time for the group to walk and talk, approximately twenty to thirty minutes. Provide

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white boards or other drawing materials to family to aid the discussion. Some children
respond better by drawing or writing instead of talking.
Testimony in the Large Group. Catechumenal families, godparents, sponsors,
companions (and adult catechumens) come back together to the central gathering space
for whole group sharing. Invite the parents and godparents of each child catechumen to
choose two of the responses from the questions to share with the group. Or invite the
children to speak. Children are often affirmed by what they hear the adults say about
them. Sometimes the children want to speak for themselves. In addition, this testimonial
is a good rehearsal for what parents and godparents will say at the Rite of Sending.
Closing and Optional Rehearsal. Close the session with a song and a Sign of
Peace. Reiterate to the parents and godparents that they will provide similar testimony
during the Rite of Sending. Announce when the preparation and rehearsal for Rite of
Sending and Rite of Election will be. Or in some circumstances, you may be ready to
have a brief rehearsal with parents and godparents (note that both parents and both
godparents do not have to be present). Because there’s no need to rehearse with the
children, have some of your team members or the other parents or godparents take the
children to the parish center or to another area for snacks and to wait. The children must
be free to enter into the rite fully without preconceived notions or worry.

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Summary
The Rite of Election is a major moment for the unbaptized children in the initiation
process. It’s the second doorway through which the children pass in their journey of
initiation. Election is such an important moment because the children are elected by God
for the sacraments of initiation and chosen for eternal life. So, make time to discern for
the rite, prepare for the rite, celebrate the sending to election, celebrate election itself, and
then reflect upon it.
Once the children leave the Period of the Catechumenate and enter into the Period
of Purification and Enlightenment they begin their final preparation for the sacraments of
initiation. This Lenten period of purification is different from the preceding Period of the
Catechumenate. Indeed, this upcoming period is like a retreat. It’s a retreat specifically
for the elect but the whole parish is also a part of the retreat.

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Chapter 5

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A Lenten Retreat: Period of Purification and
Enlightenment

During the preparation for the first scrutiny, we told the story of the Samaritan woman
at the well. Then, we talked about her thirst for living water. We talked about how Jesus
Christ is the Living Water, who quenches our thirst for good things. And, we talked
about how Jesus Christ strengthens us and frees us from bad things. As part of our
reflection, we shared what we were afraid of and what worried us. Worry and fear can
make us feel “dried out” and in need of Living Water. Thirteen-year-old Sofia said, “I
am afraid something might happen to my dad.”

For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of
sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in
Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 141

he Period of Purification and Enlightenment is different from the previous periods;


T it’s more like a retreat. This is a time to hear and reflect upon great Gospel stories.
It’s a spiritual time, full of prayer and ritual. The children will move from the classroom
to participating in the liturgy; it’s a time to let the liturgies of Lent speak to them. Help
them by preparing for the liturgies and guiding them to reflect upon them once they have
been celebrated.
According to the Rite, this period, which ordinarily coincides with Lent, has a
spiritual purpose to purify and “enlighten the minds and hearts of the elect with a deeper
knowledge of Christ the Savior” and is a time “consisting more in interior reflection than
in catechetical instruction” (139). This purification and enlightenment is brought about
primarily through “[t]he celebration of certain rites, particularly the scrutinies . . . and
presentations” (139).

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Celebrating the rites well is critical to the effectiveness of this period for children, so
really prepare for the liturgical rites and the post-rite reflection. Indeed, the Rite stresses
that it is through “the liturgy and the liturgical catechesis of Lent” that the baptized are
renewed and the elect are “prepared to celebrate the paschal mystery . . . through the
sacraments of initiation” (138). As we also described in chapter 2, this is the very
essence of liturgical catechesis.
The ritual text is very clear that the scrutinies and presentations are the keys to this
period. There is no need to schedule a Lenten retreat for the elect. The Period of
Purification and Enlightenment is the retreat. And, it is a very effective one! The three
scrutinies and two presentations will require much preparation to celebrate and reflect on
them well. The addition of Holy Week and the Triduum is plenty of content during Lent
so there is no need to add another retreat. In fact, adding one will actually detract from
the liturgical catechesis the Church instructs us to do during Lent (138).
To effectively prepare children for the scrutinies and presentations we must
understand the purpose of each. The three scrutinies are essential to Lent. Let’s now
explore the Lenten rites with children by examining the scrutiny for children in Part II
(291–302) further.
The description of children’s penitential rites in paragraph 291 is not detailed
because we are instructed to refer to and make the appropriate adaptations from
paragraphs 141–144. The purpose of the scrutinies is to “uncover, then heal all that is
weak, defective, or sinful . . . then strengthen all that is upright, strong and good” (141).
Furthermore, the scrutinies instill a sense of repentance and help deliver the elect from
the “power of sin and Satan” (141). In short, the scrutinies are meant to spiritually heal
and strengthen the elect, free them from evil, and bring about in their hearts a sense of
sorrow and contrition for sins. Are these noble purposes appropriate for children? Yes,
and we can help them with each at a developmentally appropriate level.
In general, many children have a need for strengthening and healing. Though some
have very minor hurts and needs, there are others who are victims of evil. Some children
inflict hurt and evil upon others. Consider that most schools are required to have active
shooter drills at least once a year — a consequence of the Sandy Hook Elementary
School shooting tragedy, but also of school shootings that have been pervasive in today’s
society. The possibility of violence and terror, fear, and evil is real for children and they
are very much aware of it. Children also have worries that are not related to violence or
terror. For example, Sofia’s dad had some serious health issues and she was concerned
about him every day. Adolescents, as well as younger children, have uncertainties about
fitting in at school, having friends, and navigating peer pressures on social media, to
name just a few of their stresses.

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Moreover, we must recognize that children are capable of committing sin. Even
elementary school-age children bully their peers. They can be unkind and outright cruel.
They sometimes lie and cheat. The Church knows this is true of children, but she also
knows that children at the catechetical age are capable of remorse and sorrow for sins.
Hence, the Church offers the Sacrament of Penance for baptized children and the
scrutinies for unbaptized children.

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The Penitential Rites (Scrutinies) for Children
Indeed, the connection between the Sacrament of Penance and the scrutinies is seen in
the Penitential Rite (Scrutiny) given to us in paragraphs 291–303. For unbaptized
children, adapt the scrutinies accordingly from the adult rite, and for the baptized
children, who may “celebrate the sacrament of penance for the first time,” take care to
explain what the prayers and ritual acts related to celebrating Penance mean (291, 293,
303). Even though the penitential nature of both rites is clear, it is somewhat curious that
the Church combines a scrutiny with a sacrament for the baptized (293). Elsewhere in
the ritual text, we are told to keep the penitential rite for the baptized and the scrutiny for
the unbaptized separate (463).
Nonetheless, in Part II the two rites are combined and thus we have the option of
having the elect celebrate the scrutiny at the same time their baptized companions
celebrate First Penance (293, 303). This can work as long as the wisdom of the rite is
considered when combining “baptized companions from the catechetical group” and the
elect. “When this is the case, care should be taken to include explanations, prayers, and
ritual acts that relate to the celebration of the sacrament with these children” (293). A
well-prepared presider can do this as he carefully explains the various parts of the ritual,
clarifying, for example, that only the unbaptized are anointed with the oil of catechumens
(301).
Additionally, Part II offers other options for celebrating the scrutinies with children.
First, we are given the option of celebrating just one or two scrutinies rather than all three
as done in the adult rite (294). Second, the Rite calls for an anointing of the
catechumens. Or, the option for the laying on of hands is given if the children have
already been anointed (301).
Overall, given the complexities and curiosities of this children’s Penitential Rite
(Scrutiny), it is best to follow the advice we are given in paragraph 291. Namely, “the
guidelines given for the adult rite (141–146) may be followed and adapted, since the
children’s penitential rites have a similar purpose.” Notably, the paragraphs on the adult
scrutinies speak to the importance of the three scrutinies and the role of the respective
Gospel story within those celebrations (143). It is strongly recommended to celebrate all
three scrutinies with children and use the characters and images of the Samaritan woman,
the man born blind, and Lazarus to prepare the children for the rituals. Also, these
Gospel stories and the rituals themselves teach children volumes about the nature of both
sin and grace.
The guidelines given in appendix 3 provide you with a model for preparing for the
liturgical rites. Use this model and adapt it to fit with the Gospel images for the three

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scrutinies: dryness/water, darkness/light, and death/life. Appendix 3 gives you a model for
conducting the mystagogical reflection afterward as well.

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Celebrating the Scrutinies with Children
The Rite not only offers an option of celebrating the scrutinies with baptized children of
the catechetical group, but also celebrating the scrutinies with the adult elect of the parish
during Sunday Mass. Or celebrate the three scrutinies with children only during Sunday
Mass. Choose an approach based on your pastoral situation and the needs of the children
and their families. The most common option is to celebrate with adults and children
together during Sunday Mass on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent, using the
Lectionary for Mass, Year A readings (146).
Readings, Homily, Invitation to Silent Prayer
After the readings and the homily, the children are called forward with their parents and
godparents. It cannot be emphasized enough what the parents’ role is in their child’s
journey of faith; parents, particularly if they are baptized Christians, come forward with
their children and the godparents. The elect kneel (or bow their heads) while the parents
and godparents remain standing in silent prayer. Once again, the image of parents
personally praying for their children is powerful. If the parents are unbaptized, they
would kneel with their children, and the godparents would pray for both the children and
parents.
A pastoral and catechetical note: having the parents and godparents involved in the
preparation for the scrutinies helps them to know what to pray for at this point. It will
help them to hear the children speak of their need for strengthening and healing.
Intercessions for the Elect
The Rite gives three options for the intercessions. Option A in the adult rite is focused on
the elect. Option B in the adult rite is broader in scope, but more specific to the Gospel
of the week. Then, you have the intercessions given in Part II (299). Study all three
options and then make adaptations to your choice to reflect the insights and input you
gathered during the Scrutiny preparation. For example, an intercession that reflects the
need that Sofia named in the preparation session might be, “That they may be freed from
the worry; and their families protected against evil and illness, let us pray to the Lord”
(an adaptation of the fifth intercession in no. 299).
Although many liturgists caution against over-preparing the elect and letting the
rituals speak for themselves, tell the children to listen carefully to words of the scrutinies
for they contain special prayers just for them. It is not necessary to tell the children
everything that is going to happen. Since there is so much verbiage in the scrutinies, the
children can lose focus so simply give them key words to listen for in the rite.
Exorcism

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The exorcism prayer given in the Rite for adults has three parts. The first is addressed to
God the Father. After this, the priest lays hands on the elect in silent prayer. In some
parishes, the parents and godparents also lay hands on the children in prayer. Then, in
the third part, with hands outstretched over the elect, the priest asks Jesus Christ to send
the Holy Spirit. These three parts to prayer speak to the Trinitarian nature of all Christian
prayer.

The priest celebrant silently lays hands on the child after praying the Prayer of Exorcism. PHOTO © LTP

In Part II, there are two choices for the exorcism prayer. The second option calls
for a dialogue with the children and would require the children to have a worship aid.
The exorcism prayer for the adult rite is much richer and full of beautiful images from
the Gospel of the day. This choice is preferred, even if you are celebrating with children
only. Incorporate these exorcism prayers into a preparation session. After you have

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talked about the Gospel from one of the scrutinies, read the corresponding exorcism
prayer and ask children if they recognize any key words.
Dismissal of the Elect
The Scrutiny concludes with the dismissal of the elect. Catechumens would also be
dismissed with the elect for further reflection on the Word of God. The outline of the
Scrutiny presented is the same for all three scrutinies. The children, their parents, and
godparents return on the fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent for the Second and Third
Scrutinies, presuming you are celebrating all three. Amidst the scrutinies, the Rite also
calls for the Presentation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer as well.

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The Presentations
The Creed
The presentations are done “in order to enlighten the elect” (147). The Creed is a
summary of “the wonderful deeds of God for the salvation of the human race” and it
gives the elect the “sure light of faith” (147). The Presentation of the Creed takes place
at a weekday Mass after the first scrutiny (157). This is easily done if the elect are in a
Catholic school. Although it is more challenging for families to come to a weekday Mass,
having the Presentation of the Creed during Mass gives the parish community a
wonderful opportunity to “hand over” or “pass on” this ancient prayer. However, the
Presentation of the Creed can be done within a Celebration of the Word outside of Mass
(157).
In addition, the Rite also allows for the Presentation of the Creed and the Lord’s
Prayer to be anticipated and celebrated during the Period of the Catechumenate, when
it’s easier to celebrate the presentation. However, the Rite cautions us to be sure the
catechumens are mature enough in their faith (104). For children, this means that they
should be able to understand the Creed as a summary of our faith. Further, they should
be able to come to see the Creed is connected to the profession of faith they will make at
their Baptism. The children are to memorize the Creed for they will be asked to recite it
during the preparation rites on Holy Saturday (193–196).
At their Baptism, the children will profess their faith by answering a series of
questions on the renunciation of sin and about their belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ
the Son, and the Holy Spirit (313, 314, 316). When they are presented with the Creed,
the children listen to the faithful proclaim our belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ the
Son, and the Holy Spirit.
For children, the Apostle’s Creed is easier to memorize than the Nicene Creed.
Consult the pastor and parish liturgist to be sure that the Creed you are using with
children is the same one that will be used throughout Easter Time. Furthermore, in the
catechetical preparation for the presentation, help the children to understand the
difference between the two Creeds.
Also, note that during the rite a written copy of the Creed is not presented; rather,
the children listen to the faithful recite the Creed. The presider asks the children to
“listen carefully to the words” (160). This means our preparations with the children
should include how and what to listen for at the Presentation of the Creed.
The Lord’s Prayer
The purpose of presenting the Lord’s Prayer is to help instill in the child elect “the new
spirit of adoption” they will receive at Baptism (147, 149). Many children are somewhat

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familiar with this prayer by the time they become the elect. The presentation helps them
to prepare for the day when they will say this prayer with the faithful at “their first
celebration of the eucharist” (149).

The elect should be prepared to listen to the faithful recite the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer during Mass. PHOTO
© JOHN ZICH

The Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer takes place in the fifth week of Lent,
following the third scrutiny. However, it can also be celebrated during the Period of the
Catechumenate (104, 147) or as part of the Holy Saturday preparation rites (149, 185).
Like the Presentation of the Creed, this presentation is to take place during Mass, but can
also be done within a Celebration of the Word of God.
Like the Presentation of the Creed, the Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer also
requires careful listening. This time the presider tells the children to listen to the words
“in which our Lord teaches his followers how to pray” (180). Again, it’s important to

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prepare children to listen at this presentation. Do some catechesis on Jesus’ teaching in
Matthew 6:9–13, which is the Gospel proclaimed by the presider during the presentation.

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Holy Week and the Preparation Rites
The time for the Easter sacraments draws near. The journey for the children and their
families is coming to its pinnacle. The elect have celebrated the scrutinies and the
presentations and it is finally Holy Week.
The logistics of Holy Week are tricky for busy families. With school, sports,
extracurricular activities, and spring break schedules, families can feel overwhelmed by
the expectations that come with Holy Week. The sporadic attendance is also a challenge
for initiation ministers, and it is hard to impress on the families the importance of being at
the Triduum. However, it is not impossible. At one Easter Triduum in my parish,
everyone in the initiation process attended all three days. This perfect attendance
occurred for the first time in my thirty-five years of initiation ministry. It is my firm belief
that conversion really took place; they came because the rites were done so well, and
because of the in-depth preparation by the initiation team with the elect. If your parish
celebrates the rites well and conversion has happened in the life of the child and her
family, then the family will want to be at the entire Triduum; they will feel in their bones
the need to be present. There will be no question. It’s the parish’s responsibility to have
fostered conversion by celebrating the rites well, evangelizing and catechizing well, and
engendering a sense of community and service in the children and their families.
Nothing — no game or practice or piano recital or spring break trip — will be more
important than the celebration of the Paschal Mystery.
Thus, it’s important for families to grasp the primacy of the Sacred Triduum and
how it is the summit of the entire journey. And, it’s not just about the Easter Vigil; it’s the
entire three-day festival that families must be a part of in order to fully celebrate the
Paschal Mystery. On the other hand, if your parish initiation process has been mostly
about attending classes, then it is hard for families to see how a three-day liturgical feast
is so important. When the emphasis is on doctrinal catechesis and liturgy takes a
secondary role, then families will not understand why the entire Triduum is essential. If
the children and their families have been focused on receiving the sacraments, then for
them, it may seem enough simply to come on Holy Saturday and receive the sacraments.
If, however, the children have experienced conversion and long to unite with Christ their
friend and Savior, then they and their families will want to be a part of the entire three-
day festival that is the Sacred Triduum. Having a good understanding of the Triduum’s
significance will help you lead others to this great feast.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. The entire week is
a remembrance of Christ’s passion, death, and Resurrection. For some children, this
Palm Sunday may be the first time they have celebrated this lengthy Mass, which

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includes the reading of the passion account and Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
It’s helpful to prepare children in advance for the reading of the Christ’s passion. In part,
learning about the passion happens organically throughout the course of the Lenten
season as we look toward Christ’s death and Resurrection. But a little liturgical catechesis
on Jerusalem, the palms, and of course, the passion would help them to pay careful
attention. After the Gospel and the homily, the children are dismissed with the dismissal
leader for the breaking open of the Word. Consider omitting an extended catechetical
session on this Sunday, as the Liturgy of the Word and the dismissal session have already
given the children and families plenty of content for reflection. Also, the coming week’s
schedule is so full, omitting the session may give families a little break before they return
on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This approach also helps to set the tone that this
week is different from the other preceding weeks.
The Triduum refers to the three holy days, which really are one unitive celebration
of the Paschal Mystery. The feast begins on Holy Thursday with the commemoration of
the Lord’s Supper. It continues on Good Friday with the passion of the Lord and reaches
its high point on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil. The Masses of Easter Sunday are also
part of the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord.
Explain to the elect the unitive nature of the celebration so the children understand
that the entire Triduum celebrates the Paschal Mystery into which they will be
incorporated. One easy, very concrete way to see the unified nature of the celebration is
to note that there is no concluding rite and dismissal on Holy Thursday. The Eucharist is
transferred to the altar of repose and the community disperses in silence. The community
then gathers again on Good Friday for the celebration of the Lord’s passion. There is no
introductory rite as part of the Good Friday service. The community gathers in silence
and then begins with a prayer. In similar fashion, Friday’s celebration ends in silence and
the altar is stripped. The community then gathers for the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday
night with the candidates for Baptism awaiting the waters of rebirth (though the elect and
their parents and godparents will meet for the preparation rites earlier on Holy Saturday).
So much is happening at these liturgies and the children will be in the midst of it all.
But it is not too much for them — with proper rest and preparation the children can fully
participate in the Triduum. The sight of tiny lights from each candle, lit from the big fire
blazing in the darkness; the feel of the cleansing water from the baptismal font; the
exuberant sound of music; and the taste of the Body and Blood of Christ will stimulate
their imaginations and keep them engaged throughout the magnificent celebration.
To help make the Triduum a meaningful experience for the children, consider
reserving the front pews for the elect to sit throughout the Triduum. When the children
sit at the front they can clearly see all the action. Also, discuss the Church’s guidelines on

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fast and abstinence for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Although children under the age
of fourteen are not required to fast,1 it’s good for younger children to observe an age-
appropriate fast, and the entire family can support them by fasting, too. Fasting helps the
children further develop their sense of repentance.

Holy Thursday
In many parishes, the holy oils blessed by the bishop at the Chrism Mass are brought up
in procession. If the oils are carried up before the elect are dismissed, it is appropriate to
have one of the elect walk in procession with the oil of catechumens. Or if you have a
child who is a baptized candidate for full communion, he could carry the Sacred Chrism.
In some parishes the elect participate in the washing of the feet and are not
dismissed until after the washing. By this time, the elect are familiar with the dismissal
and reflection on the Word that follows. The children who are elect join with the adults
on this day for the dismissal. With a guide provided in advance, the elect are capable of
facilitating their own discussion. However, as in all situations, be advised of safe
environment issues for children.
Good Friday
Gathering in the quiet church that is bare except for spots of red gives the children a
solemn feeling. The children participate in the Liturgy of Word and the Veneration of the
Cross.
Holy Saturday
Before the celebration of the sacraments on Holy Saturday, the children gather with the
adults who are members of the elect for the celebration of the Preparation Rites on Holy
Saturday. These short, simple, yet meaningful rituals are an excellent way to begin this
holy day when the Church advises the elect “should refrain from their usual activities,
spend their time in prayer and reflection, and, as far as they can, observe a fast” (185.1).
A model for celebrating the preparation rites is given in the Rite paragraphs 187–
192. Other details to keep in mind:

• Appropriate music is vital to the preparation rites, so include a parish musician, if


possible, in the planning and execution. You will need songbooks or worship aids.

• The environment should be spare, with a little greenery and white candles.
Consider having the cross used for veneration enthroned in the space. This helps to
make a good visual connection between Good Friday and the approaching Vigil.

• Invite godparents, sponsors, companions, friends, and family members to


participate in the preparations.

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• At the conclusion of each preparation session, remind participants of the discipline
of fasting. Provide materials and suggestions that children can use to help them keep
the day one of quiet reflection and prayer. I often suggest that families take a walk in
the park or sit by the small lake in our local park.

• Offer a simple soup and bread lunch at the end of each preparation session.

Some parishes like to end with a brief walk-through, not a rehearsal, of what will
happen at the Vigil. However, do this some other time. It’s too much to do the
preparation rites and a walk-through and the Vigil in one day. Encourage everyone to
take a nap before coming to church. Being rested makes a big difference.

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Summary
After a forty-day Lenten retreat, the children reach the high point of their journey of
Christian initiation and are united with Christ in the Sacraments of Baptism,
Confirmation, and Eucharist. The three scrutinies have served to complete the
conversion of the elect and the Presentation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer have
provided enlightenment. By celebrating the Lenten rites with the elect, their parents, and
godparents, the community has also played an important role in praying for, supporting,
guiding, and walking with them toward the font of life.
At the Easter Vigil, the children are incorporated into the Paschal Mystery through
the waters of Baptism, configured to be more like Christ by the anointing with Sacred
Chrism, and then finally one with the Lord at the Table of the Eucharist. From this night
forward they are fully initiated disciples of Jesus Christ sent forth in mission for the life
of the world.

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Chapter 6

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United with Christ: The Sacraments of Initiation

Samuel was a tall, athletic eighth grader, but he looked very small and timid as he
knelt in the water with Fr. Richard standing over him. Samuel’s godparents were on
either side of the font, stretching their arms so they could touch him. Fr. Richard
pronounced, “Samuel Garza, I baptize you in the name of the Father . . . and of the
Son . . . and of the Holy Spirit.” As Samuel climbed the steps out of the font, he seemed
to soar out of the water, strong and new.

In order to bring out the paschal character of baptism, celebration of the


sacraments of initiation should preferably take place at the Easter Vigil or on a
Sunday, the day that the Church devotes to the remembrance of Christ’s
resurrection.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 304

he celebration of the sacraments of initiation is the third step in the Christian


T initiation of children (305). The reception of the sacraments is the pinnacle of the
children’s entire journey. They are created anew and united with Christ in the life-giving
waters of Baptism. They are anointed with Sacred Chrism and configured to be more
like Christ in Confirmation. Finally, they come to the Table of Lord to be nourished by
the Body and Blood of Christ and celebrate their unity with the Christian community. By
this glorious sacramental celebration, the children are fully incorporated into the Paschal
Mystery. They are given the gift of eternal life in its fullest expression — in the
Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
The Church is clear that the children are to receive all three sacraments of initiation,
preferably at the Easter Vigil (304, 305, 207, 215, 217).1 Confirmation is not to be
delayed, “unless some serious reason stands in the way” (215). And to be clear: fitting in
or being like other children in the religious education program or Catholic school is not a
serious reason. In other words, the unity of the sacraments of initiation is more important
than everyone in a class or in a parish being on the same schedule for reception of

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Confirmation and Eucharist. Furthermore, the Church emphasizes the importance of
maintaining the unity of the Baptism and Confirmation:

The conjunction of the two celebrations signifies the unity of the paschal
mystery, the close link between the mission of the Son and the outpouring of the
Holy Spirit, and the connection between the two sacraments through which the
Son and the Holy Spirit come with the Father to those who are baptized.
—Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 215

It is not a question of whether the children are old enough to understand Confirmation. If
they are of catechetical age, and given the proper catechesis, then they are old enough to
understand Baptism and Confirmation — together. If they can understand Baptism, they
can understand Confirmation and Eucharist. The Paschal Mystery is celebrated in its
fullness.
This may raise the question of why baptized children in the parish religious
education program or Catholic school have to participate in sacramental preparation
programs, sometimes in addition to regular religious education, and wait until an older age
to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. The reason is these children were baptized as
infants according to the Rite of Baptism for Children. Thus, the route they follow for
Christian initiation is for Confirmation to be delayed and celebrated by the bishop,
according to each bishop’s diocesan guidelines. Eucharist is delayed until the age of
reason. Think of this as a different track or a different pathway of initiation compared to
those who are baptized when they are of the age of reason. The Church has two ancient
traditions, two ways of initiating children. Point out that participating in the initiation
process is not any easier or less of a commitment than Confirmation and Eucharist
preparation for the baptized Catholic children.
The unity of Baptism and Confirmation also has to do with mission. As paragraph
215 attests, the mission of the Son and Spirit are connected. The Sacrament of
Confirmation strengthens the new disciples for their role in the mission in the Church.
Every disciple is called to mission, regardless of age. These youngsters are stronger and
better suited for service to others having been anointed with Chrism in Confirmation.
These young neophytes live out their mission in the homes, schools, teams, and in all the
places where they play and live and love.
Finally, the newly baptized, newly confirmed children come to the Eucharistic table
as “the culminating point in the Christian initiation” (217). This is the first time “the
children will participate in the liturgy of the eucharist” (305). Now, they receive the Body
and Blood of Christ and with the entire community they “are given a foretaste of the
eternal banquet” (217).

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The children’s reception of the sacraments at the Easter Vigil is much like the
adults’. However, some adaptations need to be made to accommodate the young
candidates. In this next section, we will walk through the celebration of the sacrament at
the Vigil using Part I as the foundation and include adaptations from Part II, chapter 1,
paragraphs 304–327.

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Celebrating Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil
Ask the children and their families to come early to church on Holy Saturday so they can
find their seats. For this night, have them wear simple, easy-to-change clothing and bring
a change of dry clothes to wear after Baptism. When they arrive, show them where they
can store their change of clothes and where they will change.
Service of Light
When the parish gathers outside for the lighting of the Easter fire and the temperature is
chilly, have the children wear warm coats.
The elect, along with their parents, godparents, companions, friends, family, and the
rest of the community, gather around the new fire. Be sure the children have a close-up,
clear view of the fire. As the Paschal candle leads the community into church, guide the
children with the parents and godparents to follow closely behind it. The closer the
children are to the action, the easier it is for them to stay engaged. If they get caught
behind some tall adults, it’s hard for them to see that they are following the light of
Christ.
Liturgy of the Word
By this time, the children should have learned how to listen well to the Word of God.
Nonetheless, some preparatory catechesis prior to the Vigil will also help. Find out which
readings will be proclaimed at the Vigil and prepare the children and families during a
final preparation and rehearsal session with families before the Vigil.
Celebration of Baptism
After the children have listened to the great stories of salvation in the Liturgy of the
Word, the elect are called forward to be baptized. Typically, they are called by name and
either stand in place or come forward with their parents and godparents.
Part II indicates that “the children with their parents or guardian and godparents”
come forward for Baptism (310). It’s important to include the parents in the ritual and
not leave them in the pew while their child is being baptized. Some parishes are inclined
to have only the godparents come forward as indicated in the adult rite (219). Others are
worried about space and having too many people crowding the font. This is a valid
concern as the ritual text mentions that people should be positioned “around the font in
such a way as not to block the view of the congregation” (219). However, having parents
stay in the pews is not the answer. As has been previously mentioned, it is very
important for parents to be with their children during the rites to present them for
Baptism because they have primarily been with them on the journey.

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When they are asked to respond to the questions put to them during the profession
of faith, encourage the children to respond loudly and with enthusiasm. Children tend to
be slightly overwhelmed by this point and they can feel sheepish. But advance
preparation can help them to respond strongly. Use a microphone as the assembly’s
ability to hear the children is crucial. Even though the children and adults may be
responding to the questions in unison, the sound of a child’s voice renouncing Satan is
really powerful (314, 224).
Parents and godparents should help their children into and out of the font. It’s a
compelling image to see a child walk into the font holding the hand of a parent or
godparent. The Rite of Baptism in Part II indicates that “either or both godparents touch
the child” (317, 226) during immersion. Or if your parish baptizes by pouring, the
godparents place the right hand on the child’s shoulder (317, 226).
Likewise, it’s just as compelling to see the child come out of the water and be
eagerly swooped into the arms of a parent or godparent who is standing close by with a
large white towel. The newly baptized, wrapped in their towels, wait with their parents
and godparents nearby while others are being baptized.
Next, the children receive a white garment from their godparents, although they put
on the dry robe after they change clothes. It is much more visually effectual to have the
children don white robes. Like adults, who most often receive a white robe, children
ought to be clothed in white as a sign of their new life. Involving the parish liturgy
committee and parishioners who sew in the making of white robes is a way to involve
others in the ministry of initiation.
After receiving the white garment, the newly baptized are presented with a lighted
candle. The godparents give the neophytes a candle that has been lit from the Easter
candle. After the presentation of the light of Christ, the children may go to an appropriate
location to change into dry clothes while the baptized candidates for Confirmation and
the assembly renew their baptismal promises (312 and 322). They then return after the
sprinkling to celebrate Confirmation with the other candidates. Or, they may wait until
they have been confirmed with their Catholic companions before they change.
Celebration of Confirmation

Since children who have reached the use of reason are considered, for purposes
of Christian initiation, to be adults (canon 852.1). . . . They should receive the
sacraments of baptism, confirmation and eucharist at the Easter Vigil with older
catechumens.
National Statutes, 18

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Not only should the pastor confirm a child who has reached the age of reason, but the
“presbyter who has this faculty must use it for those in whose favor the faculty was
granted.”2 This goes back to the previous discussion about the importance of maintaining
the unity of the sacraments of initiation. Furthermore, it points to the fact that pastors
and other priests who officially offer pastoral care have the faculty “by the law itself” to
confirm a person of catechetical age under his pastoral care immediately after he baptizes
that person. If you have any doubts or questions about whether priests confirm children
of catechetical age, study the ritual text, as well as the National Statutes, and consult with
your diocesan office of worship. Also, note that at the back of the ritual text in appendix
3 are pertinent canons from the Code of Canon Law.

Sponsors continue to support and accompany the newly baptized as they are confirmed. PHOTO © ANTONIO PÉREZ

Before Confirmation begins, “baptized children of the catechetical group” (308)


who have served as companions and “are to be confirmed . . . join the newly baptized
children to receive the sacrament” (322). Baptized Catholic children who have been

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companions in the initiation process — children who have already had their First
Communion — may be confirmed at the Vigil. However, the baptized candidates for
Confirmation are to renew their baptismal promises with the assembly prior to being
confirmed. The ritual text articulates a vision whereby baptized Catholic children
complete their initiation at the same celebration as the elect are also initiated (256, 304,
308, 322). This can happen at a time other than the Vigil, too. This is a viable option,
and the pastor must request permission in writing to the bishop prior to the Easter Vigil to
confirm a baptized Catholic. Only a diocesan bishop may give this permission.
The Rite of Confirmation begins with the celebrant inviting the assembly to pray in
silence. The godparents of the newly baptized and the sponsors for the previously
baptized keep a supportive hand on the right shoulder of each candidate. Then the
presider lays hands on the candidates and anoints them with the Sacred Chrism. The
children should be prepared in advance to give the proper responses during the anointing.
If the newly baptized children and adults have gone to change into dry clothes,
make sure they return to the assembly before the Prayer of the Faithful. This is “the first
time the newly baptized children take part in them. Then, the Liturgy of the Eucharist
begins. Some of the children also take part in the procession to the altar with the gifts”
(327, 241).
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Celebrating the Eucharist is the culmination of the entire initiation process. The newly
baptized children will “receive the body that was given for us and the blood that was
shed,” and “the neophytes are strengthened in the gifts they have already received and
are given a foretaste of the eternal banquet” (217). In Part II, the Rite calls for the
celebrant to highlight the “preeminence of the eucharist, which is the climax of their
initiation and the center of the whole Christian life” (329). The Rite also notes that “the
newly baptized children, together with their godparents, parents, and catechists, receive
communion under both kinds” (329). In addition, previously baptized children who have
served as companions on the journey may come forward “to receive communion for the
first time” (329).

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Newly baptized children may participate in the offering of gifts. PHOTO BY DAVID KAMBA

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Celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation outside the Easter
Vigil
The Rite allows for the sacraments of initiation to be celebrated at a time other than the
Easter Vigil (304, 306, 208). Although celebrating the sacraments of initiation at the Vigil
is the norm, celebrating outside the Vigil may happen occasionally with children per the
reasoning given in paragraph 256. Namely, that the celebration of the sacraments “must
also be consistent with the program of catechetical instruction they are receiving, since
the candidates should, if possible, come to the sacraments of initiation at the time that
their baptized companions are to receive confirmation or eucharist” (256). There is a bit
of tension here as earlier in this same paragraph we were told that the sacraments of
initiation should be celebrated at the Easter Vigil. To summarize paragraphs 256, 304,
306, and 308, we are given two options:

1. The baptized Catholic companions celebrate the Sacraments of Confirmation and


Eucharist at the Vigil with the unbaptized children, who are receiving the three
sacraments of initiation. However, the pastor must request permission from the
bishop to confirm baptized Catholic children.

2. The unbaptized children celebrate the three sacraments of initiation when their
baptized companions receive the sacraments. Often, baptized Catholic children
receive Confirmation and Eucharist in the Easter season.

The Easter Vigil is — without question — the preferred time for celebration of the
sacraments of initiation (8, 23, 206, 304). Nonetheless, paragraphs 304–327, which
describe the “Third Step: Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation,” give the
impression that the unbaptized children’s initiation is at a time other than the Vigil. First,
we are told to look at paragraph 256 and consider the timing of the catechetical
instruction of the baptized. Then, the “Outline of the Rite” given in Part II prior to
paragraph 309 is different from the “Outline of the Rite” given for the Easter Vigil in
Part I, prior to paragraph 218. Also, paragraph 309 describes the unbaptized and the
baptized candidates gathering and then “Mass begins,” which suggests that the
celebration is not at the Vigil. Furthermore, wording such as “When baptism is celebrated
at the Easter Vigil,” or “But at the Easter Vigil” also suggests that the given paragraphs
describe the celebration outside the Vigil (311).
Having options is noteworthy because they offer initiation ministers the flexibility
that may benefit families as well as the parish. The Church clearly emphasizes the
importance of unbaptized children celebrating the sacraments with their baptized peers.

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This celebration is the culmination of a process that includes catechesis for these
children. This makes good sense in that if the children have journeyed together and been
formed in faith together, then they should celebrate the sacraments together.

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Summary
By the power of the Holy Spirit, children are united with Christ in the sacraments of
initiation at the Easter Vigil. However, the journey does not end. The children will
continue to deepen their grasp of the Paschal Mystery throughout the fourth and final
Period of Mystagogy — and beyond. During mystagogy the children not only reflect
upon their experience of the Sacraments, but they also learn how to be faithful disciples
who are now full members of the Body of Christ.

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Chapter 7

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Encounters with Christ: Period of Postbaptismal
Catechesis or Mystagogy

Upon reflecting on her Baptism by immersion, fourteen-year-old Lucy said, “I knew


Father was going to pour water on my head, but I thought it would be just once. The
water kept coming and coming and I couldn’t catch my breath. It was kinda scary and
it was kinda cold.”

A period of postbaptismal catechesis or mystagogy should be provided to assist


the young neophytes and their companions who have completed their Christian
initiation. This period can be arranged by an adaptation of the guidelines given
for adults (nos. 244–251).
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, no. 330

he Period of Mystagogy is the only one of the four periods upon which Part II,
T chapter 1, comments. In addition, according to National Statutes, 23, “the program
for the neophytes should extend until the anniversary of Christian initiation” — in other
words, for a whole year. That means it’s important for the young neophytes, and yet, it
often gets the least attention. Because the Easter Time period of initiation occurs in April
and May, it coincides with First Communions, Confirmations, graduations, Mother’s
Day, spring break, softball season, baseball season, spring soccer, and a myriad of other
family activities. It tends to get lost among other special events.
Another reason that it becomes an afterthought is that many in initiation ministry are
not sure how to conduct mystagogy. They also secretly assume neophytes and their
families won’t come back for sessions. Everyone is burnt out. So, the Period of
Mystagogy is often overshadowed by the business of Easter springtime. This need not be
the case. Paragraph 330 tells us that mystagogy is postbaptismal catechesis. Mystagogy
comes from a Greek word for “mysteries.” In the Christian context, the mysteries are the
sacraments of initiation. The sacraments are our most holy, most sacred mysteries. The

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Period of Mystagogy or Postbaptismal Catechesis is a time to understand the Great
Mystery into which the children have been initiated. Postbaptismal catechesis is how we
refer to the unpacking of the sacramental mysteries.
The next sentence in paragraph 330 goes on to say that we should follow guidelines
given in Part I to understand how to arrange this postbaptismal catechesis. Yet, before
turning to Part I, there is one final noteworthy point found in paragraph 330:
“companions who have completed their Christian initiation” are also to be provided with
postbaptismal catechesis. This is consistent with the Rite’s emphasis on the faith
community and particularly the emphasis on children’s peer companionship. The role of
the community is continually highlighted.
Indeed, this opening description of postbaptismal catechesis in Part I includes a time
for the community and the neophytes (the newly baptized) to deepen “their grasp of the
paschal mystery.” This happens through:

• meditation on the Gospel,

• sharing in the Eucharist, and

• doing works of charity (244).

In addition, the next several paragraphs clarify postbaptismal catechesis by


emphasizing these key points:

• The postbaptismal catechesis is based on their experience of the sacraments.


(Note: The neophytes’ “experience” of the sacraments is mentioned three times in
paragraphs 245 and 247.)

• The setting for mystagogy is Masses of the Easter season.

This is an overall picture of what mystagogy with young neophytes, their families,
and companions looks like. First and foremost in mystagogy is the Eucharist. It is vital
for the entire parish to promote a vibrant Period of Mystagogy by celebrating the
Eucharist well. The most important way the young neophytes deepen their understanding
of the Paschal Mystery is to participate in Eucharist. They are finally one with us in the
breaking of the bread. Good mystagogy happens when we “give them thoughtful friendly
help” (244) as they share the Body and Blood of Christ with the entire community of the
faithful.
One easy way to support the neophytes is to give them and their godparents a
special place to sit in front of church throughout the Easter season. Ask the children (and

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the adult neophytes) to wear their gloriously white baptismal garments throughout this
season. The symbolism of the white garments not only speaks to the neophytes
themselves of their new life in Christ, but also “has an impact on the experience of the
community” (246). In our parish, the neophytes in the white garments speak in an
especially effective way to those who did not attend the Easter Vigil. Parishioners wonder
and ask about the people in white sitting at the front of the church. And it gives the
neophytes a chance to wear the white garments more than once! For those who worry
about neophytes not coming back, having the neophytes sitting together encourages Mass
attendance and continued community-building. Sometimes after all the rituals, attention,
and the intensity of Holy Week and the Vigil, neophytes feel a bit lost when things quiet
down after Easter. Sitting together in the front pews for a few weeks gives them an
added security blanket. Then, when Pentecost arrives and they no longer wear their
white robes, they blend right in with the community of the faithful.1
Another important factor in the Eucharistic celebrations of Easter is the homilies.
These mystagogical homilies are crucial in helping the neophytes deepen their grasp of
the Mystery into which they have been incorporated. Work with your homilist and share
the thoughts and experiences of the neophytes with him. Invite him to join you for the
mystagogical reflections on the Vigil. Or if he cannot attend these reflection sessions, tell
him what is shared there. In this way, he can include the neophytes’ experiences and help
both them and the assembly interpret the Scriptures in light of the Easter mysteries. Even
if the children are too young to understand all the nuances of mystagogical preaching, the
parents, godparents, and the rest of the faithful will benefit.
Reflecting upon the experience of the Vigil is an essential part of helping the
neophytes deepen their grasp of the Paschal Mystery. The child and adult neophytes,
their families, godparents, companions, and all those involved in the Vigil should
participate in a mystagogical reflection on the Vigil and the celebration of the sacraments
of initiation. The Vigil is such liturgically rich fare for mystagogical reflection that it
usually requires more than one session to unpack the meaning of the Service of Light,
the Liturgy of the Word, and the celebrations of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
A general outline of mystagogical sessions for the Easter season follows. These six
sessions are short in duration, so you can invite those involved in initiation and members
of your community to participate:

• Mystagogical reflection on the Easter Vigil (see appendix 3)

• Meditation on Gospel of Year A, Continuation or follow-up on mystagogical


reflection on Easter Vigil

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• Meditation on Gospel, Eucharist and Mission

• Meditation on Gospel, Good Shepherd Sunday

• Neophyte Mass with the Bishop

• Pentecost lunch or dinner with parish

Ultimately, for children and for adults, mystagogy is about living the Christian life.
And, Eucharist is at the center. As baptized Christians, the young neophytes are now
united with Christ in his mission and ministry. The young Christians will come back week
after week to be nourished by the Bread of Life and strengthened by the Cup of
Salvation so they can live as disciples of Jesus Christ for the life of the world.
Although it is important that the neophytes come back for sessions that will help
them better understand the sacraments, mystagogy is really centered on participation in
the Eucharist that sends them, and us, forth in mission. Thus, we can judge the success
of mystagogy and the effectiveness of the entire initiation process by how well the
neophytes live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we can judge ourselves by how
well we live as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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Summary
Mystagogy is primarily about Eucharist and mission, about sharing in the life of Christ by
participating in the Eucharist and engaging in the mission of the Church in all the ways
that are appropriate for children. As fully initiated members of Church the children
continue their ongoing, lifelong formation. And, like all Christians, they continue to
answer Jesus’ call to ongoing conversion.

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Appendix 1

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Adaptations for Baptized Children
Chapter 4 of Part II of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is about those who
were baptized, but uncatechized. The following pastoral guidelines concern adults and
children of catechetical age who were baptized as infants either as Roman Catholics or as
members of another Christian community but did not receive further catechetical
formation nor, consequently, the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
Notice that paragraph 400 refers to both those baptized as Roman Catholics and
those baptized in other Christian communities. It may be appropriate for children who
were baptized Catholic, but “did not receive further catechetical formation nor,
consequently, the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist” (400) to follow a
catechumenate-like process, but discernment is very important. Consider the background
and religious history of the child and the family, as well as the age of the child when
deciding whether this is the best pathway to initiation. The question revolves around the
interpretation of “further catechetical formation.”
The Church is saying that if the child has been baptized in the Roman Catholic
Church but never or rarely attended Mass and received no formation in faith, that child,
after reaching catechetical age, would most likely follow a plan similar to the
catechumenate. It is fairly easy to discern when the child has had no catechetical
formation.
Discernment is not as easy when the amount of formation is not as clear. Often the
baptized Catholic child and the family have attended Mass occasionally, and have had
some catechetical formation — even if not in a formal religious education class. This is
when wise pastoral discernment is necessary, and clear communication is vital.
Remember that liturgy is formative. If the family has been attending Mass,
regardless of how often, then they have been practicing their faith, albeit irregularly. Even
though formation may not have occurred in a formal catechetical setting, the child has
received some formation by participating in the liturgy. If one or both of the parents are
baptized Catholic and culturally Catholic, then they have likely passed along some
elements of the faith. Talking with the child and parents about their faith journey, their
prayer life, and their relationship with God and the Church will help determine whether a
catechumenate-like experience is the best option for this baptized Catholic child.
In some instances, the best option is for the Catholic child to receive appropriate
sacramental catechesis that prepares her or him for the Sacraments of Penance and
Eucharist, and possibly Confirmation. After adequate sacramental catechesis, and
assuming the child is participating in religious education and Sunday worship, the child

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would receive the Sacraments of Penance, Eucharist, and Confirmation in accord with
diocesan guidelines.
On the other hand, if it has been discerned that the baptized Catholic child needs a
more catechumenate-like process, then follow the guidelines given in chapter 4 of Part II.

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Guiding principles for the formation of baptized but
uncatechized children
Most important, the entire process of formation and “conversion is based on the baptism
they have already received, the effects of which they must develop” (400). Thus, each
period of formation must be adapted in such a way that recognizes the Baptism of the
child. For example, an uncatechized child will need to develop a friendship with Jesus
Christ and hear the Good News in the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate,
just as an unbaptized child would. Yet, catechists must be careful to acknowledge that
the baptized child is already united with Christ; the child just needs to get to know him
better through the Scripture stories and precatechesis associated with precatechumenate.
The liturgical rites that mark each period of formation may be appropriate for
baptized but uncatechized children. Indeed, paragraph 405 indicates that the “period of
preparation is made holy by means of liturgical celebrations.” However, the rites must be
adapted according to the guidelines given in chapter 4, and correct language must be
used. For instance, in the first major ritual, a baptized child is welcomed as a candidate
for Confirmation and Eucharist (if they are baptized Catholic), or as a candidate for
reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church. We usually call those already
baptized “candidates.” In other words, they are not catechumens and they are not
entering the Period of the Catechumenate. They are undergoing catechumenate-like
formation.
During the period of the catechumenate-like formation, a baptized child would most
likely not be dismissed during Mass, like a child catechumen, although some parishes do
dismiss baptized candidates. The reasons for dismissal are (1) their formation needs are
like those of catechumens so the candidates benefit from dismissal, and (2) the
catechumens and candidates stay together, forming a community. Other aspects of the of
the child’s formation, however, would be similar to “the plan of catechesis (that)
corresponds to the one laid down for catechumens (see 75.1)” (402). Likewise, the
involvement of parents and sponsors might be similar to that of child catechumens,
depending upon the family’s background and religious history and the parents’ church
affiliation.
Moreover, the child candidates may also have a “final phase” of preparation that
“should as a rule coincide with Lent” (408). This final phase of formation may begin
with the Rite of Calling Candidates to Continuing Conversion. Then, during Lent the
children would participate in a penitential rite that helps them prepare “for the celebration
of the sacrament of penance” (408). The penitential rite given in the chapter 1 of Part II

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could be followed, especially if there are also child catechumens. Or, the penitential rite
given in Part I could be followed (nos. 459–472).
The culmination of “their entire formation will normally be at the Easter Vigil”
(409), although some parishes prefer to have baptized candidates received into the
Church at another time to preserve the focus on candidates receiving Baptism (National
Statutes, 33). When a child is received into the full communion of the Catholic Church,
he makes a profession of faith and receives the Sacraments of Confirmation and
Eucharist (409). For baptized Catholic children, the priest must obtain explicit permission
from the bishop to confirm.

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Guiding principles for receiving baptized, catechized children
into the full communion of the Catholic Church
Children who are baptized, catechized Christians asking to become Catholic follow the
guidelines given in chapter 5 of Part II of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Its
opening paragraph states, “The rite is so arranged that no greater burden than necessary
(see Acts 15:28) is required for the establishment of communion and unity” (473).
Baptized children who have been actively practicing Christians do not need
catechumenate-like formation. They simply need “to receive both doctrinal and spiritual
preparation, adapted to individual requirements,” and then they are received into full
communion (477).
Discernment is needed in order to determine what type of doctrinal and spiritual
preparation is needed for each child. This discernment happens by talking with the
children, parents, and sponsors about the child’s religious history, formation, and
participation in the Christian Church. These child candidates will likely benefit from
inclusion in the religious education or youth ministry program. Or, they may already be
attending Catholic school. Often, one or both parents may be becoming Catholic and also
involved in the initiation process. The Rite not only allows these children to participate in
the preparation rites, but it also allows for baptized but uncatechized adults (see 478).
Discern whether these rites are appropriate for someone who is already a practicing
Christian.
Similar to baptized Catholic children who receive the Sacrament of Penance before
First Communion, a baptized candidate “according to his or her own conscience, should
make a confession of sins” before being “received into full communion” (482).
Preparation for the Sacrament of Penance would, of course, be part of the candidates’
doctrinal and spiritual formation.
Depending upon the age of the candidates, some regular sacramental catechesis of
the parish may be appropriate for baptized candidates. On the other hand, an eighth-
grade candidate, for example, would not be included with second graders preparing for
First Communion. Once again, individual discernment is key in determining the most
appropriate pathway for each child.
When the children are ready to be received into the full communion of the Catholic
Church, the rite of reception given in chapter 5 should be followed with appropriate
adaptations made for them (nos. 487–498).

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Appendix 2

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How to Prepare and Lead Child Catechumenate
Catechesis
In this appendix you will learn how to: prepare for and lead catechumenate catechesis
with children, lead the dismissal, and prepare for and lead the extended session. There
are three parts to catechumenate catechesis:

1. Celebrate the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday. Children participate in Liturgy of


Word on Sunday (81, 83, 83.2) and are kindly dismissed (75.3, 83.2). If the parish
does not dismiss catechumens after the Liturgy of the Word, go to number 3.

2. Dismissal Session. Children gather with a dismissal catechist “to share their joy
and spiritual experiences” (67.A) and to reflect upon the meaning of God’s Word.
Instructions on how to prepare for and lead a dismissal session follow.

3. Extended catechesis. After the dismissal session children regather for catechesis
that flows from the Word of God (75.1). These catechetical sessions happen
immediately after the Sunday Liturgy of Word, or at another time during the week. If
your parish does not dismiss catechumens after the Liturgy of the Word, then begin
this extended catechesis with a proclamation of the Word from the respective Sunday
readings.

a. Intergenerational model. Catechumens gather immediately after Mass (or


at another time during the week) with parents, siblings, sponsors, and
companions for extended catechesis. Adult catechumens may or may not be
part of these sessions.

b. Religious education inclusion model. Catechumens go to religious


education class with their same-age peers (companions) after the dismissal
session.

c. A combination of models “a” and “b.” Some children might go a


religious education class while others attend the intergenerational session. Make
this determination based on the circumstances of each child catechumen.

d. Children’s catechumenate. Catechumens meet with their catechists, and


perhaps some companions, for extended catechesis.

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e. Catholic school model. Catechumens receive their catechesis primarily
through the Catholic school. Thus, after the dismissal session they may go
home, regathering at school.

f. Youth ministry model. Adolescent catechumens may participate in model


“a” or their catechesis may take place primarily within the youth ministry.

4. Extended catechesis ends with one of the minor rites of the catechumenate (90–
103) or another type of closing prayer.

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Part 1: How to Prepare for Child Catechumenate Catechesis
Personal Preparation

1. Find the Lectionary readings for the Sunday or weekday Mass on which to base
catechesis at usccb.org/readings. Or, use a resource such as At Home with the Word
(Liturgy Training Publications) that contains both the Sunday readings and a
commentary on them.

2. Pray. Before studying the Scriptures, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and
openness. Pray for all catechumens, and your group in particular.

3. Read and sit silently with the Word of God.

4. Read the readings again. Jot down words, images, phrases that stand out. Write
down any feelings that well up within you.

5. Read one or two commentaries on the readings. The commentaries provide


historical and critical background written by Scripture scholars. These backgrounds
offer interpretations of the text and apply God’s Word to real life. This important
information will deepen an understanding of the readings. Because so many
commentaries are readily available, including online versions, consult a trusted and
mainstream source. The classic Catholic standard bearer is The New Jerome Biblical
Commentary. Many catechetical publishers also have commentaries online as part of
their catechetical and Lectionary-based resources. These are helpful, especially later
when framing your questions and input for the children.

6. Identify the main message, or messages, of the readings. Ask, “What is God
saying to me in these readings?” Note doctrinal topics or themes that emerge from
the readings. Later, this list will help with discerning what catechetical topic is best for
the extended session.

Preparation for the Dismissal Session

1. Pray for each of the catechumens and their families.

2. Read the readings again with the children in mind. What would children notice in
the readings? What characters, images, or descriptions of setting might stir their
imaginations? What might be too difficult or complicated for them to grasp?

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3. Consult a Lectionary-based catechetical resource that is designed to help children
understand the readings. These materials offer a commentary on the readings as well
as questions and dialogue starters for discussions with young catechumens. They can
be found online for free at many of the major catechetical publishers’ websites. Some
recommended Lectionary-based resources for dismissal sessions are

a. Lectionary Resources by RCL Benziger found at rclblectionary.com;

b. Pflaum Gospel Weeklies, a comprehensive Lectionary-based catechetical


program by Pflaum Publishing Group, a division of Bayard, Inc., found at
pflaumweeklies.com; and

c. Celebrating the Lectionary by Liturgy Training Publications.

All three of these Lectionary-based catechetical resources can help with dismissal
session preparation. However, note that they are not designed primarily for
dismissal sessions. Use them for gathering child-friendly information on the
Lectionary readings and child-friendly questions for your discussion.

Other materials such as Young Apprentices by RCL Benziger and Friends on the
Way by TeamRCIA.com are designed specifically for RCIA dismissal sessions.
They give you the entire dismissal session and the extended catechetical session
that follows. Sessions for every Sunday of the liturgical year are included in both
of these resources.

4. Make a list of the questions and topics from the readings that come to mind in
light of the catechumens. Come back to this list when you design the catechetical
session. For now, taking notes will help you determine the focus of the dismissal
session.

5. Determine the flow of the dismissal session. Look at the outline in part 2 that
follows and decide how you will lead each segment. Being well-prepared will help
you respond to the questions the children may ask and to adapt to the direction they
may take the discussion.

Preparation for the Extended Catechetical Session

1. Return to the lists of questions, issues, and topics that emerged during your
reflection on Scripture readings. Consider the liturgical season and the formation
needs of the catechumens and their families. Also, consider what you have learned

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from studying the commentaries on the readings. Prayerfully discern what
catechetical theme or topic is best suited to the catechumens you serve. For example,
in the sample session that follows we use the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year
C. A doctrinal theme that emerges from these readings, which include the Gospel of
the wedding at Cana, is the Sacrament of Marriage. Other doctrinal themes that
emerge are Mary the Blessed Mother, and Jesus’ miracles.

2. Design the extended catechetical session based upon the catechumenal model that
is used in your parish. Design one based on an intergenerational initiation model that
includes parents and sponsors. Or, design one that fits with the children’s
catechumenate model. Consult a variety of catechetical resources, including the
recommendations listed previously in number 3 for Lectionary-based catechesis.
Some of these aforementioned resources, such as Young Apprentices, have the
extended catechetical session already designed for you. (Refer to part 3 for a sample
model.)

Preparation for Other Types of Formation


Prayer, reading, reflection, and preparation may lead to some other type of formational
experience besides catechesis. Paragraphs 75.2, 75.3, and 75.4 tell us that community,
liturgical rites, and apostolic works also form catechumens in the faith. The catechumens
might benefit from other experiences apart from a catechetical session, such as visiting a
patron saint’s local shrine, or working at a thrift store or shelter, or making Valentine
cards for parish seniors, or attending an Advent penitential service.

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Part 2: How to Lead a Dismissal Session
The “suitable catechesis” described in paragraph 75.1 is “accommodated to the liturgical
year, and solidly supported by celebrations of the word.” Indeed, formation grounded in
the Word of God is paramount in catechumenate catechesis. One way to help
catechumens better understand God’s Word and apply it to their lives is to “break open”
the Word of God with them when they are dismissed from the Liturgy of Word at Mass.
A typical dismissal session includes these components:

• Liturgy of the Word

• Dismissal

• Gathering and opening prayer

• Set context and ask initial question

• Proclamation of the Word

• Silence

• Children’s response

• Brief input on the Scriptures

• Get to the heart of the Good News: ask the deeper question

• Children’s response

• Wrap up: So what? What will you do differently?

• Closing prayer or ritual

Here is the detailed outline with examples included.


Liturgy of the Word
After the homily the presider calls the catechumens to come forward with their catechist.
(In this book, the term catechist is used to refer to the one who leads the dismissal
session. See the description of an initiation catechist given in paragraph 16.) Also, the
gathering of the catechumens that follows the Liturgy of the Word has a connection to
the worshipping assembly. While the faithful are doing the work of liturgy, the

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catechumens are doing the work of catechumens — deepening their understanding of
God’s Word that it might prepare them for the full participation in the Eucharist.
If there are both adult and child catechumens to be dismissed, there are usually two
catechists, and the groups meet separately.

Dismissal
The presider dismisses the catechumens using one of the formulas in paragraph 67 or
using similar words (see also 276). Typically, the catechist receives the Lectionary and
leads the catechumens out of the worship space. Often, an appropriate song is sung
during the dismissal. Maintain a sense of reverence and decorum as you leave the
worship space with the child catechumens until you arrive at the catechumeneon, the
room where catechumens meet.
Gathering and Opening Prayer
Prepare the room in advance so that it is reminiscent of the worship space; the liturgical
colors are correct and there is a place to enthrone the Lectionary. Have a candle ready to
light, if permissible. Arrange comfortable chairs in a circle.
As you enter the catechumeneon, reverently enthrone the Lectionary. Light the
candle. Establish a ritual to this gathering so the children know what is expected and take
their places quietly. Begin with the Sign of the Cross. Offer a simple opening prayer that
reflects the readings of the day. Here is an example for the Second Sunday in Ordinary
Time, Year C.

Let us pray.
Loving God,
Your Son Jesus worked many miracles.
Help us to believe in his power and to follow him.
We ask this in his name,
who lives and reigns forever and ever.
Amen.
Set Context and Ask Initial Question
Set up the discussion to help the children recall the Liturgy of the Word and prepare them
to listen again to the proclamation of the Word. Remember that it’s hard for children to
remember what they just heard in church. So, set the stage for them to listen again to the
Gospel.
Asking children open-ended questions such as “What did you hear at Mass?” or
“What struck you about the readings?” is ineffective. Most children cannot remember
and may not have been paying attention. Leading the children by asking pointed

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questions prior to the reproclamation help them to focus on the point you want to make.
At the same time, be flexible and well-prepared for children who may want to take the
conversation in a different way. Try something like the following before proclaiming the
story of the wedding at Cana:
“Today we heard the story of Jesus solving a problem. Listen again to story and
tell me what the problem was and what Jesus did to solve it. Who was with Jesus and
who asked him to help?”
Proclamation of the Word
Use the Lectionary (or perhaps the children’s Lectionary if the adult group has the
standard Lectionary) to proclaim the readings.

Silence
Allow for a significant time of silence. This teaches children to enter into silence.
Teaching silence is important and it gives children time to reflect on the questions you
have just given them.
Children’s Response
Invite responses to the initial question. Affirm the children’s responses while remaining
attentive to what each child is saying. You may need to adapt the input piece or the next
question, depending on what the children say.
Brief Input on the Scriptures
Provide brief, child-friendly exegesis, or scholarly interpretation of the Bible, based upon
the commentaries you studied. Reframe the critical interpretation in a way that children
can understand. Help them to see the historical context of the reading as well as spiritual
meaning of the reading. Help them to see what God is saying to them personally, to the
Church, and to the world. Connect the exegesis with the initial responses the children
gave. And, when time and attention spans allow, bring in one or more of the other
readings. You might provide input such as this:

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“You’re right! Jesus did fix a problem at a wedding. In fact, this was the first
miracle that Jesus performed. And, as Lucy pointed out, it was his mother
Mary who asked him to fix the problem. This story is important for many
reasons. Number one: it is a sign. The Gospel according to John tells lots of
stories that are signs that give us clues about who Jesus is. This sign points to
Jesus’ power and glory. Number two: the story takes place at a wedding. This
tells us that this wedding is a holy event because Jesus is present. Today, we
call a wedding, or the marriage between a man and a woman, a sacrament — a
sign of God’s presence. Who remembers what was said about a wedding in the
First Reading? (Read the last line of the Isaiah reading). The prophet Isaiah is
talking about God’s love and promises to Israel when he talks about a
marriage. And finally, this story is important because of Mary’s role in it. Mary
asked Jesus to help the wedding party when they ran out of wine. Jesus listened
to his mother! She asked Jesus to do something and he did it! We ask Mary for
her help in asking Jesus to answer our prayers.”
Get to the Heart of the Good News: Ask the Deeper Question
Although you will have this question prepared, tailor it to fit with the initial responses of
the children. Ask questions that require thought and reflection. Some examples are

• What does this story tell us about Jesus?

• How does the story show Jesus’ glory?

• What does the story tell us about Jesus’ and Mary’s relationship?

• Jesus’ disciples were at the wedding, too. How did they react to Jesus’ miracle?
How would you react if you were there?

Children’s Response
Allow time for the children to respond to your deeper question. Ask further questions, if
needed.
Wrap up: So what? What difference does this story make for you? How will you
act differently?
Be deliberate and direct in asking the last question. You are leading children to a lived
response. You are helping them to see how Jesus and the Gospel message make a
difference in their lives.

• So what is the message of this story for you? (Responses: to believe in Jesus’
power; that Jesus can do anything; to obey my mom.)

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• How does the story call you to act any differently? (Responses: It tells me to ask
Jesus for help when I have a problem; I will trust Jesus to help me. I will believe in
Jesus’ power.)

Closing Prayer or Ritual


Close with a blessing of the catechumens per paragraphs 96 and 97. Or, close with a
spontaneous prayer that references the thoughts and ideas of the children.

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Part 3: How to Prepare and Design an Extended Catechetical
Session
After the dismissal session comes further catechesis. This extended catechesis may
follow immediately after the dismissal or it may come later in the week, depending upon
which catechumenal model is being used in your parish. Here are a few examples of how
extended catechesis works with various catechumenal models.

1. Intergenerational Model. Adult and child catechumens, parents, sponsors, and


companions meet immediately after Mass for the extended session. Or, the group
meets later in the week.

2. Religious Education Inclusion Model. This assumes that your dismissal session
and religious education both take place on Sunday morning. After the dismissal, the
child catechumens go to their respective religious education class with their baptized
peers. In this instance, the extended catechesis that flows from the dismissal is
dependent upon the classroom catechist making the connections for the catechumens
and works well if your religious education program is Lectionary based. Then, the
catechumens and the baptized children are receiving catechesis based on the
Lectionary reading.

3. Children’s Catechumenate Model. After the dismissal session the child


catechumens take a short break and then regroup for the extended catechesis. They
may meet in the same space or move to a different space for catechesis. In this
model, parents may meet separately for adult formation (or attend the parish’s coffee
and donuts meeting) or they may meet with adult catechumens, if that group is
convening.

4. Catholic School Plus Model. If the catechumens are students in the Catholic
school, their extended catechesis may happen primarily in the school. Thus, they may
go home after the dismissal session or they may participate in one of the extended
sessions previously described.

5. Youth Ministry Model. Like children receiving catechesis through the Catholic
school, adolescent catechumens may be receiving catechesis primarily in the youth
ministry setting. Thus, they may go home after the dismissal or they may participate
in one of the intergenerational sessions previously described, particularly if their
families are undergoing the catechumenate process.

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Extended Catechesis that Flows from Liturgy of the Word
To illustrate how the extended catechesis follows from the dismissal, here is an
Intergenerational Initiation Model session that flows from the dismissal session previously
described for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. This example occurs on
Sunday morning immediately after Mass, but it could also take place at another time:

• Gathering (5 minutes)

• Transition from the Dismissal Session to the Extended Catechetical Session (5


minutes)

• Proclamation of the Word (2 minutes)

• Silence (2 minutes)

• Connect Word to Doctrine (2 minutes)

• Doctrinal Instruction (30–40 minutes)

• Call Forth a Response (5 minutes)

• Closing Prayer or Ritual (5 minutes)

Gathering
After the dismissal session, the children take a break. They can get a snack, and meet
parents, sponsors, companions, and other family members who have been at Mass. As
many parishes offer coffee and donuts after Sunday Mass, it’s a good opportunity for
everyone to connect there and then meet again in the catechumeneon or in another place
that accommodates the larger group. Prepare the space accordingly for the gathering.
Move the enthroned Lectionary from the dismissal session to where you will be meeting,
or, have a similarly reverent enthronement in place. Add other items to support what you
will be discussing in the session. For example, if you plan to talk about Jesus’ command
to fill the six stone jars with water, you may want to include a large stone jar near your
enthroned Lectionary.
Transition from the Dismissal to the Catechetical Session
Welcome everyone, especially parents, sponsors, companions and others who have not
participated in the dismissal session. Adult catechumens may also be joining the group.
Prepare the group for the catechetical session by clearly naming the topic for the session
and how it connects with the dismissal session. Note the insights that came from the

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children. Including an icebreaker in the segment helps the groups to come together
comfortably. Here’s an example welcome script:

“Welcome everyone, as we gather on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (or


as we gather during this Second Week in Ordinary Time). In the Gospel for this
week we heard the story of Jesus’ first miracle. Who can tell us where this
miracle happened and why it was important?” (Encourage children to respond
and share briefly what was discussed in the dismissal session.)
“Yes, Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding. It’s important to note that
Jesus’ presence at the wedding of Cana is a sign that Jesus is present at every
wedding. The Church believes that Jesus is present in every marriage. That is
why we call marriage a sacrament. Marriage is a sign of God’s love. Think of
people you know who are married. Now, name a married person or a married
couple you know that is a sign of God’s love. How do they show God’s love? In
just a moment, I would like you to move into groups of four and tell the story in
your small group.”

This initial sharing and icebreaker can be done in family groupings, in parent-child pairs,
or in other small groupings. Give groups enough time to discuss, and then bring the
whole group back together. Invite groups to share their discussions with the larger group.
Then, tie these discussions together with the proclamation of the Gospel:

“As you can tell from the stories, marriage is a sign of God’s love present in
the world today. Today, we are going to talk about the Sacrament of Marriage.
Let’s listen again to the story of Jesus present at the wedding at Cana.”
Proclamation of the Word
Proclaim the Word of God again to highlight the connection to the Liturgy of the Word
and to help the participants remember what God said in a particular reading. Usually, the
Gospel is proclaimed here, but also use one of the other readings as the basis for the
catechesis.
Silence
Take time to let the Word of God settle in the hearts and minds of the participants.
Practicing silence is also a good way to teach the importance of silence as a time when
God speaks to us.
Connecting Word to Doctrine
Offer further comments on the reading or ask a question that connects the proclamation
of the Word to the doctrinal topic chosen for the week.

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“We heard at the beginning of the story that Mary, Jesus, and his disciples
were all invited to the wedding. The wedding was a celebration of the
community. This is also true of the Sacrament of Marriage. It is a celebration
of the community. Let’s talk more about the Sacrament of Marriage.”

Doctrinal Instruction
This is the teaching segment of your session. Depending upon the composition of your
group, have them form age-appropriate small groups. For example, one catechist teaches
young children, another catechist teaches older children, and a catechist or facilitator
leads the adults in the group. Sometimes the large group may stay together, and in those
instances, you may teach using a video clip or role-playing. Then, the large group breaks
into family groupings to discuss the learnings. Be creative in how you present the
teachings of the Church. Consult a variety of catechetical resources for effective methods
on teaching the doctrinal content.
For this session on marriage, break into age-appropriate groups and cover the
following points, which come from the Catechism1:

• Marriage is a covenant.

• Marriage is a sacrament.

• Marriage signifies the union of Christ and the Church.

• Marriage is based on the free consent of a woman and a man.

• Marriage is indissoluble.

• Other teachings on marriage as time allows.

• A skit on a wedding may be done with the children’s group. Use the resource
Catholic Update by Liguori Publications for some of the input with the adult group.

Calling Forth a Response


Good catechesis calls for a response in faith. Good catechesis helps us see how the
teachings of the Church make a difference in our lives. As a final step in the catechetical
process, ask the participants the “So what?” question. What difference does this teaching
make in my life? This step can be done in a small group setting or in a large group
setting.

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“Let’s wrap up our session by remembering the person or persons you named
earlier today. What does that person or couple teach you about Jesus’ love that
you can imitate in your own life?”

Give an example of the type of response you are looking for and then allow time for
sharing in the small groups or the large group.
Closing Prayer or Ritual
Close with the blessing of catechumens based on paragraph 97C. In advance, explain to
parents and sponsors that they will lay hands on their child’s head after you have laid
hands on them in prayer.

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Appendix 3

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Models for the Liturgical Rites
The liturgical rites of the initiation process are peak moments. The major rites serve as
doorways and transition rituals that culminate one period of formation and usher the
children into the next period of formation. Thus, it is crucial to prepare the children, their
parents, sponsors, and companions to celebrate the rites. Afterward, a mystagogical
reflection will help participants make the most of those peak moments and unpack the
meaning of the rites they’d just experienced.
These models provide a general outline of how to prepare for one of the liturgical
rites. Use them as templates for any of the liturgical rites (Rite of Acceptance, Rite of
Sending/Election, Scrutinies, Presentations, Sacraments). A detailed sample session of
the preparation session for the Rite of Election and Rite of Sending and mystagogy is
provided, which may be adapted to fit your specific needs.

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Personal Preparation for a Liturgical Rite
1. Study the rite. Carefully read all the paragraphs in the ritual text that correspond to
the rite. First, read the ritual in Part I and then the adaptation for children in Part II.
Make note of the rite’s liturgical structure, the symbols, gestures, and movements.
Prayerfully read the prayers of the rite, for they provide you with insight into its
theology.

2. Identify the Lectionary readings for the rite. The rites are celebrated within a
Liturgy of the Word and often as part of Sunday Mass. Find out if the readings of the
day will be used or if the readings given in the ritual text will be used. The rite should
be celebrated on a day when the Lectionary readings and liturgical cycle are
conducive to the celebration of the rite. Help the children tune into the readings as
part of their liturgical preparation.

3. Reflect upon the main symbols or elements of the rite in context of your group.
Decide which of the main symbols or elements of the rite to focus on. Also, keep in
mind that the Lectionary readings and rite should be connected.
For example, the three main ritual elements of the Rite of Acceptance into the
Order of Catechumens are cross, community, Word. Signing the children with the
Sign of the Cross is a major element of this rite. Thus, helping children tune into the
meaning of the cross is one way to help them prepare for this rite.
For the Rite of Sending and Election, the preparation could focus on the
significance of signing the Book of the Elect and on the testimony given by parents
and godparents.
For the Scrutinies, the preparation should focus on the images of water, light,
and life found in the Gospel readings.

4. Design the session by choosing the readings and elements of the rite according to
your group’s needs. Consider not only the children but also their parents, sponsors,
and companions.

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Part 1: How to Prepare Children, Parents, and Sponsors for
the Liturgical Rites
Preparation Session for the Rite of Election and Rite of Sending

• Gather materials and prepare the environment

• Welcome and introductions

• Opening prayer with proclamation of the Word

• Reflection on element(s) of the rite

• Child, parent, godparent, sponsor discussion based on the element of rite

• Large group response

• Wrap-up and closing prayer

Gather Materials and Prepare the Environment

• Lectionary

• Book of the Elect. The signing of the book and the testimony of members of the
community (especially the parents and godparents) are the two major ritual elements
in Rite of Sending and Rite of Election.

• Music. Prepare with your parish musician in advance or download necessary


music. Have songbooks or song sheets, if necessary.

• Paper and pencils

• Enthrone the Lectionary in a setting with the proper liturgical colors. Then on a
smaller, less prominent table to the side, lay the Book of Elect, closed rather than
open, since the children’s names are not yet recorded there.

Welcome and Introductions


Explain the purpose of the session is to prepare for the Rite of Election. The Rite of
Sending is the celebration of the parish sending the catechumens for Election. Although
you may want to remind the participants about the meaning of election, they should
already have some familiarity with this notion as it would have been explained during the

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discernment process. You might use a diagram or a picture of a doorway to illustrate how
the rite is a threshold for the children to move into a new period of formation. Or,
demonstrate walking through a doorway.

Opening Prayer with Proclamation of the Word

Opening song
Open with the song that will be used for the opening of the rite itself. Download the song
in advance or ask a parish musician to assist with music. Make song sheets or hymnals
available.

Opening prayer
Let us pray.
Loving God,
you have called these children to begin their final preparation for the sacraments..
Help and guide them, their parents, their godparents and sponsors.
We ask this in Jesus’ name
who lives and reigns with you and Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Amen.

Proclamation of the Word


Since the Rite of Sending and Rite of Election are often celebrated on the First Sunday of
Lent, use Matthew 4:1–11, which is the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A.
However, if you choose to celebrate the rites on a different day you may choose to
proclaim a reading that will be used during the Rite of Sending. End the proclamation
with a few minutes of silence.

Reflection on an Element of the Rite


Write your own script or use one like this:
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert where he stayed for forty days and nights.
Your final period of preparation for the sacraments begins in the season of Lent, which
is also forty days and forty nights.
This period of final preparation begins with Rite of Election, when you will sign
your name in the Book of the Elect (pick up the Book of the Elect). Think about what it
means when you sign your name (pause). Think about when you write your name on
your homework or on a test. You are saying, “I promise that this is my work. This is
from me. It reflects what I know.”
I invite you to spend a few minutes with your parents and godparents talking
about what it means to sign your name. What kind of promise are you making when you

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do this? Parents and godparents, I ask you to respond to those questions as well. Find
a place to have a conversation and write your responses on the sheet provided
(distribute paper and pencils).

Child, Parent, Godparent, Sponsor Discussion based on Element of the Rite


This is an important personal conversation that needs to be done in small groups of
parents, godparents, sponsors, and their children. Use the insights and thoughts that arise
from these conversations to prepare parents, godparents, and sponsors in giving
testimony at the Rite of Sending. Although the Rite of Sending calls for the godparents
and members of the assembly to provide affirmation of the catechumens’ readiness
(112), paragraph 283 also calls for parents to attest to their children’s readiness. It is
appropriate for baptized parents to give testimony as to their children’s readiness. You
may also give these responses to the presider to help with his preparation for the rite,
including preparation of his homily.
Reproduce the following questions on a handout that parents/godparents/sponsors
can take with them when they talk with their children. The adult will record the child’s
responses so that he or she would be prepared to speak publicly during the rite. An
option for children who may find difficulty expressing themselves verbally is to have
them draw their responses to the questions, so you might have writing and drawing
materials available.

• What does it mean when you sign your name to homework or a test or a project of
yours?

• How is signing your name like a promise?

• Being elected by God means that you are chosen for eternal life. You don’t have to
campaign for this election or do anything other than say “yes” to God. Are you
ready to say “yes” to God and to receive the gift of eternal life in Baptism,
Confirmation, and Eucharist? Why do you think you are ready? Why do you want to
be baptized?

Large Group Response


Invite children, parents, and sponsors to share some of the responses with the large
group.
Wrap-up and Closing Prayer
Provide necessary details and directions for the Rite of Sending and Rite of Election
itself. Close the session with prayer and the Sign of Peace. If time permits you may

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conduct a walk-through of the rite with parents and sponsors (including a rehearsal with a
hand-held microphone). Or, rehearse with them at another time. You don’t have to
rehearse with the children.

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Part 2: Reflection: How to Break Open the Meaning of the
Rites after the Celebration
The reflection after the rite is usually a two-step process if you dismiss the catechumens
from Mass. The first step is immediately afterward, catechumens break open the rite and
the Word during their dismissal session. The second step happens once Mass has ended.
Parents, godparents, sponsors, companions, and family meet for a large group reflection
on the rite. This second part of the mystagogical reflection might be held right after
Mass, or it could be held at another time later in the week. It is important to include
parents, godparents, sponsors, and companions to participate in the mystagogical
reflection.
If you do not dismiss catechumens from Mass, then have all come together to break
open the meaning of the rite immediately after Mass or at another time.
Step One: Reflection with Catechumens after Dismissal from Mass

• Gathering and opening prayer

• Initial response to rite. Name your experience. What stood out for you?

• Children’s response

• Deeper response to the rite. What did it mean?

• Children’s response

• Proclamation of the Word

• Initial question

• Children’s response

• Brief input on the Scriptures

• Deeper question

• Children’s response

• Wrap-up: So what? What will you do differently?

• Closing prayer

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Gathering and Opening Prayer
Lead the children into the catechumeneon and enthrone the Lectionary. Encourage the
children to maintain a reverent attitude and remain quiet. Once all have settled in place,
light the candle. Open with a simple prayer like this one:

Let us pray.
Almighty and loving God,
We have heard your call and we want to say, “yes.”
Be with us now as we gather in your name,
for you live and reign forever and ever.
Amen.

Initial Response to Rite — Name your experience. What stood out for you?
Open the discussion with a script like this one:
The ritual or the ceremony we just celebrated was a big step toward Baptism,
Confirmation, and Eucharist! Let’s talk about what happened. I would like each of you
to say one thing that you thought was important. Or, just share what you thought the
best part was.
Children’s Response
Let the children talk freely about what they thought was significant or memorable.
However, be aware that this may be overwhelming for children who are introverted. It’s
best not to press children to speak if they prefer to keep quiet, so be patient and always
be inviting.
If there are few responses, ask more directed questions about specific parts of the
rite and how they felt at particular moments.

Deeper Response to the Rite — What did it mean?


Ask the children to respond to the initial question. Help them name the meaning of each
element of the rite. Here are some examples:

• Catechist: “Soraya, you said your hand was shaking when you signed the Book of
the Elect. It’s natural to feel nervous when something important is about to happen.
Why were you nervous?”

Soraya: (possible response) “I felt nervous because everyone was watching me and it
felt like I was signing my life away.”

Catechist: “Yes, you’re right, Soraya. It is like you are signing your life to God. You
are saying that you trust in God and God’s gift of eternal life.”

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• Catechist: “Charlie, you felt embarrassed when people were talking about you. Tell
us about that.”

Charlie: (possible response) “There were so many people I didn’t even know staring
at me.”

Catechist: “Our community has watched you growing in faith for so many months
that we are excited for you to soon receive the sacraments. You are a witness to
people in our parish that you don’t even know. But, they know you and they care
about you!”

• Catechist: “Keyshaun, you mentioned that you almost forgot how to spell your
name. Why?”

Keyshaun: “I kept thinking about what a big deal this was and I got distracted.”

Catechist: “It is a big deal. God has elected you for Baptism. But God knows your
name, no matter how you spell it.”

Children’s Response
As the examples indicate, the questions from you and responses from the children are a
dialogue. If the children don’t respond much, then wait until the large group reflection to
ask deeper questions. Sometimes having more time to process the rite and having their
parents with them give children more confidence to talk about what the rite meant to
them.
Proclamation of the Word
You may or may not have time to break open the Word after reflecting on the rite. If you
have a small group of children or if the children are introverted and need more time to
process the ritual, break open the Word. Since you will be unpacking the rite with the
parents and sponsors, it’s fine to move on to the readings heard at Mass.
On the other hand, if you have a larger group of children and they are more
extroverted, you may spend more time on the rite and have very little time to reflect
upon the Word. Be prepared to break open the Word, but be flexible if children want to
talk about other elements of the rite.
Initial Question
Invite a response to the proclamation of Matthew 4:1–11 with an initial question like this:
What happened to Jesus in the desert?
Children’s Response

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Affirm the children’s responses while remaining attentive to what each child is saying.
You may need to adapt the input piece or the next question, depending on what the
children say.

Brief Input on the Scriptures


After children respond, follow up with very brief input on the reading.
Deeper Question
Although you will have this question prepared, tailor it to fit with the initial responses of
the children. Ask questions that require thought and reflection, such as How is the period
of Lent we are about to enter kind of like being in the desert? Temptations can be
invitations to sin. What kinds of things are tempting for you?

Children’s Response
Allow time for the children to respond to your deeper question. Ask further questions, if
needed.
Wrap-up: So what? What will you do differently?
Be deliberate and direct in asking the last question. You are leading children to a lived
response. Challenge the children with a question such as Now that you are ready to be
baptized, what do you need to do in this period of Lent to complete your preparation
for Baptism?
Closing Prayer
After the children have responded, close with a simple prayer. Begin with the Sign of the
Cross.

In the name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray.
Jesus,
You were led by the Spirit into the desert.
Lead us during this coming Lenten season.
We pray this in your name, for you live and reign with God the Father in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Escort the children to meet their parents and sponsors. The reflection on the rite
continues with the larger group, either immediately afterward or later in the week.

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Step Two: Reflection with Parents, Godparents, Sponsors, Companions, and
Families
If you have reflected with the child catechumens immediately after Mass, then this is the
second step in the mystagogical reflection. If you do not dismiss catechumens at Mass,
then adapt this session to accommodate the children who have not yet had an initial
reflection on the rite.
The following is an example of a reflection session of both the Rite of Sending and
the Rite of Election.
Participants include: adults and children, newly elect, (candidates for full
communion if they also went to the cathedral), parents, godparents, parish sponsors,
companions, family members, music minister, RCIA team members. Materials include:

• Book of the Elect and podium or table to enthrone the Book of the Elect

• cloth for the enthronement

• large candles

• an outline of the Rite of Sending and Rite of Election and a script to use as you
guide group through the reflection

• music for music minister or another song leader to use during reflection and copies
of the gathering song

Prepare the space in advance to reflect the rite just celebrated. Include the
processional cross or make a cross part of the enthronement. Arrange the chairs in a
circle around the enthronement. The setup should be suited more to a comfortable
gathering than a classroom session, so don’t set up tables. Provide hospitality.

• Welcome and Opening Prayer

• Guided Reflection on the Rite

• Initial Response to Rite. What did you experience?

• Response from Catechumens, Parents, Sponsors, and Others

• Deeper Response to the Rite. What did it mean?

• Response from Catechumens, Parents, Sponsors, and Others

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• Going Forth. What difference does it make?

• Closing Prayer

Welcome and Opening Prayer


Begin with the opening song from the Rite of Sending or the Rite of Election. This helps
to set the tone and recalls the celebration. Warmly welcome everyone and explain that
the purpose of the reflection is to remember the rites and talk about the meaning they
hold.
Welcome! We rejoice with you on this important step and we gather now to reflect more
deeply on the meaning of our celebration. We are going to first think back and
remember the celebration. I invite you to close your eyes and let your mind go back to
the rite we just celebrated. This is called a guided meditation. Then, we will talk about
the meaning of the ritual.
Guided Reflection on the Rite
It is helpful to include music during the meditation. Invite your parish musician or cantor
to help if you are not comfortable singing. Another option is to play instrumental music at
a low volume in the background. It is ideal to include acclamations from the rite itself as
part of the meditation.
The following sample meditation is a slow and deliberate walk through of both the
Rite of Sending and the Rite of Election. Adapt this script as needed. Pause when
appropriate for emphasis and to allow for silence.
I invite you to close your eyes and take a deep breath. Let your mind take you
back to our celebration. Exhale slowly. Invite God into your heart. Take another deep
breath. Exhale slowly.
Let your mind go back to when we gathered at church for the Rite of Sending.
Remember how we met with your parents and godparents. Parishioners walked by and
smiled as you waited to walk in with Father. Then, we processed in together and you
took your places in the pews.
(Sing a refrain of the opening song.)
We listened to the Word of God and then each of you was called by name. You
came forward with your parents, godparents, and sponsors. Remember how you were
feeling as you stood in front of our community (pause).
Father asked the community to provide testimony that you were ready for the
sacraments. You listened as your parents and godparents told our parish how God was
working in your life and calling you to the sacraments. (Recall detail that was said
about each child if possible.)

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After the testimony, Father invited you to sign the Book of the Elect. (Sing the
acclamation sung during the signing of the book.) In your mind’s eye, imagine yourself
signing the Book. Remember how you felt.
Then, Father called you forward once again and we prayed that, “you might share
with others the joy you have found in Jesus.”
And, finally we were dismissed. Soon after, we went to the cathedral. Remember
walking into the cathedral. We stood and sang. We watched the bishop processing
toward the altar.
Once again, we listened to the Word of God.
You heard your name called and came forward with your godparent. You stood
before the bishop and he declared you to be members of the elect. (pause).
Finally, the Church prayed just for you. (Recite the names of the newly elect).
Now, bring your mind back to this room, this time and place. When you are ready,
open your eyes.
Initial Response to the Rite — What did you experience?
The first step of the unpacking is to ask the children to name their experience. Have
them talk about what was most striking or most important. Use language that is age
appropriate. Here are some examples of how to elicit the children’s initial response:

• What was the best part of the Rite of Sending or the Rite of Election?

• What do you most remember about the Rite of Sending or the Rite of Election?

• For you, what was the most important part of the Rite of Sending or the Rite of
Election?

If your elect are younger children and need more directed questions, use these more
specific questions to elicit their initial response:

• How did you feel when you first heard your name called?

• How did you feel when your parents and godparents were talking to the people in
church about God calling you to the sacraments?

Children will often respond by simply saying “good” or “happy.” Ask them to be
specific, so follow up with:

• What made you feel happy? What made you feel good?

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(Child may say something like, “It made me feel happy that everybody was smiling
at me”; or “I felt good because God wants me to be baptized.”)

• How did you feel when you were signing the Book of the Elect?

• What were you feeling when you heard your name called and you walked up to the
bishop?

Leading participants to name concrete moments of the rite allows them to see the
theological meaning of a specific element of the ritual. Here is another way you could call
for the naming of their initial experience:

Parents, sponsors, and friends, I invite you now to name the one part of the rite
that stood out most strongly for you. And, tell us how you felt at that moment.
Children, you are welcome to name that moment for you out loud again, too.

Response from Catechumens, Parents, Godparents, Sponsors, Companions, and


Others
The following are possible specific and concise responses:

• I really felt our family was affirmed and accepted when I heard Keyshaun’s
catechist speak about his readiness.

• When I saw how big Charlie had written his name in the book, it made me cry.

• Soraya wrote her name so slowly and carefully that it made me think about what
a solemn promise she is making.

Deeper Response to the Rite — What did it mean?


After participants have named their initial experience, lead them to see the theological
significance of what they named. Sometimes it’s better to ask the follow-up question
right after they make their statements, especially if the statement is very broad and
vague. This is the time to help the children discover meaning in the ritual. In this step, the
catechist asks the child to think deeper about what God is saying in the sign, symbol, or
gesture. Parents and godparents are also encouraged to participate in this step. The
parents and godparents learn from the children and the children learn from the adults,
too. Here are some examples of how you might guide a child to see meaning in the ritual:

• Child says: “I felt so nervous when I when I was signing the Book. I was afraid I
would mess up; my hand was shaking!”

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Follow up with: “Being nervous is a very common feeling when we do something
important. Why do you think you felt nervous? Why do you think signing the Book
was so important? What did it mean?”

You are leading the child to understand that signing her name in the Book of the Elect
is a sign that God is adding her name to the list of the chosen ones. The signing is
also like a pledge or a promise.

• Child says: “The coolest part was having all those people in the cathedral. I
didn’t know so many people would be there.”

Follow up with: “What does it say to you that so many people were at the church?”

You are leading him to see that he is part of the larger, universal Church.

• Child says: “My favorite part was having my picture taken with the bishop.”

Follow up with: “Your election to the sacraments is so important that the bishop
presides over election. He gives voice to God’s election of you!”

Without demeaning the child’s response, help him realize that election is not about the
bishop. Children, and adults, are often intrigued by the bishop, but help them see that
election is God’s work. The bishop also points to the apostolic nature of the universal
Church. Help the child see the connection between the bishop and the larger Church.

Responses from the Catechumens, Parents, Godparents, Sponsors, Companions,


and Others
Like the questions and responses in the dismissal session, this is fluid dialogue. Let the
conversation flow, but keep it directed in a way to help participants see the meanings in
the rite. Ask additional questions that get at theological elements not touched upon in the
naming of the experience. For example, “Why was it important for people of our parish
other than your godparents to affirm the children’s readiness for the
sacraments?” (112)
Going Forth — So what? What difference does it make?
As you wrap up the reflection, always call forth a response from the children. The
mystagogical reflection is not just an exercise designed to make the participant feel good
or feel special, it deepens our understanding of God’s call and our response. Thus,
conclude with final questions such as

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• What difference does it make that your name is now forever in the Book of the
Elect?

• Now that you have been elected and deemed ready for the sacraments, what will
you do?

• Before you receive the sacraments at Easter how will you act differently over the
next six weeks of Lent?

Closing Prayer
Conclude by singing the sending song from the Rite of Sending. Have it downloaded
beforehand on your mobile device and prepare song sheets so everyone can join in
singing. It’s attention to details such as singing a song from the rite and having song
sheets ready that make a huge difference in your initiation ministry. It also speaks to the
significance of the rites and of liturgical catechesis when you attend to important details
like music. Or, close by praying the Glory Be or the prayer below.

In the name + of the Father . . .


Let us pray.
Lord Jesus,
You are the way to eternal life.
Thank you for calling these catechumens into the sacramental life of the Church.
We ask this in your name for you live and reign with God the Father in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.

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Appendix 4

165
Sample Questions for Parents, Sponsors, and
Godparents
To prepare for the Rite of Election, help the children, parents, and godparents to discern
the children’s readiness to receive the sacraments of initiation. These questions can be
adapted to the particular needs and circumstances of the child and the family. Use them
as printed handouts.

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Discernment Questions for Rite of Election
Discussion starters for parents, sponsors, and godparents and their children.

• Why do you want to be baptized? (Include Confirmation and Eucharist, if


appropriate). What does it mean to you? What difference do you think it will make?

• How has the Bible helped you to grow in faith? What stories are meaningful to
you?

• How do you talk to God? How do you pray? When do you pray?

• How is Jesus Christ your friend? How do you help or serve others as Jesus calls us
to do in your everyday life?

• How has preparing for the sacraments made a difference in your life?

• What will you do differently after you are baptized?

• What do you like about our parish or about the people in our parish?

Questions for parents, sponsors, and godparents to answer for themselves.

• How would you describe your child’s desire for the sacraments of initiation?

• What are some signs your child is ready for the sacraments of initiation?

• How has this process made a difference in your child’s life? In your family’s life?

• How has the Word of God affected your child and her or his relationship with
God?

• How would you describe your child’s prayer life? Your family’s prayer life?

• How has your family’s relationship with the parish changed? Deepened?

• In what ways is your child a follower of Jesus Christ? How does she or he try to be
a follower of Jesus Christ?

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Discussion Questions for Walk & Talk
Use the answers to these questions to form the testimony that parents and godparents
will give during the Rite of Sending or Rite of Election.

• Name one or more signs you see in your child’s life that she or he has a true desire
for the sacraments.

Question to discuss with child: Why do you want to be baptized? Why do you
want to receive the Eucharist (or Holy Communion)?

• How has the Word of God influenced your child?

Question to discuss with child: What are your favorite Bible stories? What are
your favorite stories about Jesus? What does the story mean to you?

• How has your child tried to be a follower of Jesus?

Question to discuss with child: How have you tried to be a follower of Jesus at
school? at home? with your friends and teammates? Give an example or tell the
story.

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Appendix 5

169
Periods and Steps in the Rite of
Christian Initiation of Adults

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. At what age is parental permission required for initiation?


Parental permission is required for children of catechetical age to be initiated.1 At what
age, then, is an adolescent no longer a child of catechetical age? John M. Huels points
out that “the law gives no upper age limit on those who are considered children of
catechetical age” (John M. Huels, The Catechumenate and the Law: A Pastoral and
Canonical Commentary for the Church in the United States [Chicago: Liturgy Training
Publications, 1994], 25).
The reason that fourteen years is often given as the upper age limit for participating
in Christian initiation accommodated to children of catechetical age is that canon 863
states, “The baptism of adults, at least of those who have completed their fourteenth
year, is to be deferred to the diocesan bishop.”
Nonetheless, adolescents who are fourteen years old are still dependent on their
parents or guardians. Canon 97 §1 recognizes that those under eighteen years of age are
minors. Pastoral ministers should seek parental permission for anyone who is under the
age of eighteen.
Moreover, adolescents who are fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years old are not well
served by being with adults in the catechumenate. At the same time, they are likely too
old for the children’s catechumenate. Thus, special adaptations must be made for
adolescents. Their same-age companions can assist them throughout the initiation
process, and some of the catechesis for the Sacrament of Confirmation may be
appropriate for teen catechumens.2

2. Can a parent compel a child of catechetical age to go through the initiation


process and be baptized?
A child of catechetical age who has the use of reason is considered an adult for purposes
of initiation.3 Canon 865 §1 states, “For an adult to be baptized, the person must have
manifested the intention to receive baptism.” If a child does not want to join the Church,
it would seem that the necessary intention is not present for Baptism.

3. Can a child with special needs go through the catechumenal process?

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As with all children, discernment with the parents and initiation minister is important. A
child who is capable of forming a personal faith should be helped to do so according to
his or her age and capacity. The method of catechesis, the participation in various rites,
and the occasion for celebrating the sacraments of initiation should be decided according
to the needs and sensitivities of the child and family.
Children with special needs who have not attained the use of reason, no matter what
their age, are considered children for purposes of initiation and are baptized, at the
request of the parents, with the Rite of Baptism for Children.

When we allow children to enter into all of the sacraments of initiation, we are sharing the core of our faith, the
Paschal Mystery, with them. PHOTO BY KAREN CALLAWAY

4. Why don’t we just baptize the children and let them catch up with their
classmates and receive the sacraments when they do?
First among the reasons we initiate children of catechetical age the way we do is the
Paschal Mystery: the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Paschal
Mystery is the core of our faith as Christians. If a child is old enough to grasp even the
smallest part of this saving mystery, we want to share it with them. And, the best way to
share it is for them to enter into it through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and
Eucharist.
We celebrate the full outpouring of God’s grace in the sacraments of initiation.
Through these sacraments the Holy Spirit incorporates the children into Christ, who is
priest, prophet, and king. Catching up with Catholic peers is not a sufficient reason to
delay the Sacrament of Confirmation. Regarding the reception of Baptism and
Confirmation, paragraph 215 of the Rite states (remember that for purposes of initiation,
“adult” means anyone who has reached the age of reason):

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Adults are not to be baptized without receiving confirmation immediately
afterward, unless some serious reason stands in the way. The conjunction of the
two celebrations signifies the unity of the paschal mystery, the close link between
the mission of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the connection
between the two sacraments through which the Son and the Holy Spirit come
with the Father to those who are baptized.

Similarly, the Code of Canon Law highlights the importance of the unity of the
sacraments of initiation in canon 842 §2, which states, “The sacraments of baptism,
confirmation, and the Most Holy Eucharist are interrelated in such a way that they are
required for full Christian initiation,” and in canon 866: “Unless there is a grave reason to
the contrary, an adult who is baptized is to be confirmed immediately after baptism and is
to participate in the eucharistic celebration also by receiving communion.”
There is no law or rule in the Church that states that all children have to receive
sacraments in the same way or at the same time. Indeed, the Church has two traditions.
Those baptized as infants with the Rite of Baptism for Children celebrate Confirmation
and Eucharist when they reach the age of reason. Those baptized when they have the
use of reason follow the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, receiving the three
sacraments of initiation in the same celebration.
The following is a list of useful references that pertain to the unity of the sacraments
of initiation with children of catechetical age from the Rite of Christian Initiation of
Adults: paragraphs 14, 215, 304, 305, 308, 323, and 329; from the National Statutes for
the Catechumenate: 14, 18, and 19; from the Code of Canon Law: canons 842, 852,
866, 883, and 885.

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Baptism
1. What if the Catholic Church does not recognize as valid the baptism of someone
seeking to be received into the Catholic Church?
If the Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of the baptism of the child who has
come seeking membership, that person is treated canonically as a catechumen. Care must
be taken to explain the situation to the child’s family and to deal with it pastorally. If the
child is well catechized in the Christian faith, an abbreviated catechumenate may be
appropriate. If a festive celebration of Baptism would be a source of discord to the
family, a simpler celebration might be considered.

2. How does one prove that he or she was baptized?


The usual way to prove that one is baptized is by the presentation of a certificate or letter
from the community at which the Baptism took place. In the absence of such proof, the
testimony of a parent or other person who was present at the event may suffice, or even
the testimony of the person if they were old enough to remember and can recall the
event sufficiently. Other evidence such as photos, a record in a family Bible, or an
inscription in a gift or card given at the time may serve. As a last resort, the person may
need to be baptized conditionally in a private setting.

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Confirmation
1. Who is to be confirmed when baptized and received into the Church?
Adults and children who have reached catechetical age are to be confirmed at the same
liturgy at which they are baptized.4 The Confirmation of a child of catechetical age is not
to be delayed so that the child can be confirmed with his or her class. When the time
comes, such children can certainly participate in the catechesis for Confirmation with
their classmates. In some dioceses, the bishops recognize and bless these children at the
parish celebration of Confirmation.
When baptized candidates are received into the full communion of the Roman
Catholic Church they are to be confirmed at the time of their profession of faith and
reception. Their Confirmation is not to be deferred.5

2. Who has the responsibility to confirm?


The diocesan bishop is the ordinary minister of the sacraments of initiation for adults.
However, any priest, having the proper faculties, baptizes someone of catechetical age or
older, or receives someone into the full communion of the Catholic Church, by law has
the responsibility to confirm this person.6
Priests who do not exercise a pastoral office but participate in a catechumenate
require a mandate from the diocesan bishop if they are to baptize; they do not require
any additional mandate or authorization in order to confirm but have the faculty to
confirm from the law, as do priests who baptize in the exercise of the pastoral office.7

3. Is it permissible at one celebration for one priest to baptize and another to
confirm?
No. The faculty to confirm is only granted to the one who baptizes. If there are a large
number to be confirmed, the presiding minister may invite other priests to assist him in
the anointing according the norms prescribed in RCIA, 14.

4. Can a priest confirm a baptized Catholic?


A priest who wishes to confirm a baptized Catholic outside of the norms of the RCIA
must explicitly request this faculty from the diocesan bishop.8 The only exception is in
the case of a baptized Catholic who, through no fault of their own, has been instructed in
a non-Catholic religion or in the case of the readmission to communion of a baptized
Catholic who has been an apostate from the faith.9

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5. If candidates who are received into full communion have already been confirmed
in the community where they were baptized, should they still be confirmed?
The Roman Catholic Church accepts the Confirmation of only the Orthodox Church and
the Old Catholic Church. All others need to be confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church.
If there is doubt, pastoral ministers should consult with their chancery.

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Reception into Full Communion
1. How are baptized children below the age of reason received into the full
communion of the Catholic Church?
Nothing is required of children validly baptized and below the age of reason when they
are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church at the time one or both
parents is received or at another time at the request of the Catholic parent. Their original
Baptism, however, ought to be carefully recorded into the baptismal register with a note
of their becoming Catholic through their parents’ initiation or request. It is presumed that
they would be confirmed and would receive Eucharist along with the other children of
the parish at the customary times.

2. Are baptized but uncatechized candidates for reception into the full communion
of the Roman Catholic Church obligated to celebrate the Sacrament of
Reconciliation prior to their profession of faith?
RCIA, 482, states, “If the profession of faith and reception into the full communion takes
place within Mass, the candidate, according to his or her own conscience, should make a
confession of sins beforehand, first informing the confessor that he or she is about to be
received into full communion.”

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Recording the Sacraments
1. Where are the names of catechumens recorded after the Rite of Acceptance into
the Order of Catechumens is celebrated?
Because the catechumens are joined to the Church and are part of the household of
Christ,10 their status is taken seriously. Their names should be recorded in the parish
register of catechumens, along with the names of the sponsors and the minister and the
date and place of the celebration.11

2. Where are the names of the neophytes recorded after the sacraments of initiation
are celebrated?
Their names are recorded in the parish baptismal register. Notations are recorded in the
Confirmation register, and also in the Communion register.

3. Where are the names of the baptized Christians who enter into the full
communion of the Roman Catholic Church recorded?
The name of the person received into full communion with the Catholic Church by
means of a profession of faith is to be recorded in the parish register under the date of
profession together with the date and place of the Baptism of the party, along with the
other information required for the baptismal register. If the parish maintains a profession
of faith register, the name of the person is also recorded in it.
Information is also recorded in the Confirmation and Communion registers.

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GLOSSARY

Adult For the purpose of sacramental initiation, a person who has reached the age of
reason (also called the age of discretion or catechetical age), usually regarded to be seven
years of age, is an adult. A person who has reached that age is to be initiated into the
Church according to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and receive the three
sacraments of initiation together, although the catechesis should be adapted to the
individual’s needs. Before this age, the person is considered an infant and is baptized
using the Rite of Baptism for Children.

Apostles’ Creed The ancient baptismal statement of the Church’s faith. The questions
used in the celebration of Baptism correspond to the statements of the Apostles’ Creed.

Blessing Any prayer that praises and thanks God. In particular, blessing describes
those prayers in which God is praised because of some person or object, and thus the
individual or object is seen to have become specially dedicated or sanctified because of
the prayer of faith.

Book of the Elect A book into which the names of those catechumens who have been
chosen, or elected, for initiation at the next Easter Vigil, are written at or before the Rite
of Election.

Candidate In its broadest definition, the term refers to anyone preparing to receive a
sacrament. In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the term is used as a general
designation for adults who are expressing an interest in the Catholic faith, whether
baptized or not. In common usage, candidate is used for a baptized person preparing for
reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church; an unbaptized person inquiring
about preparing for Christian initiation is called an inquirer.

Catechesis Instruction and spiritual formation in the faith, teachings, and traditions of


the Church.

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Catechetical age Usually considered to be about seven years of age; also called the
age of reason or the age of discretion. For the purpose of Christian initiation, a person
who has reached catechetical age is considered an adult and is to be initiated into the
Church according to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Catechumen An unbaptized person who has declared his or her intention to prepare
for the sacraments of initiation and has been accepted into the Order of Catechumens.
Catechumens, though not yet fully initiated, are joined to the Church and are considered
part of the household of Christ.

Catechumenate The second of four periods in the process of Christian initiation as


described in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The period begins with the Rite of
Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. It is a period of nurturing and growth of the
catechumens’ faith and conversion to God in Christ. Sometimes the term catechumenate
is used to refer to the entire initiation process.

Celebrant The presiding minister at worship.

Child For the purposes of Christian initiation, one who has not yet reached the age of
discernment (age of reason, presumed to be about seven years of age) and therefore
cannot profess personal faith.

Chrism One of the three holy oils. It is consecrated by the bishop at the Chrism Mass
and used at the Baptism of infants, at Confirmation, at the ordination of priests and
bishops, and at the dedication of churches and altars. Chrism is scented, usually with
balsam. It is stored in the ambry and is often labeled SC, for “Sacred Chrism.”

Companion In the Christian initiation process with children of catechetical age, a


baptized child of an age similar to the child catechumen who takes part in the catechetical
group and accompanies the catechumen in the rites.

Confirmation The sacrament that continues the initiation process begun in Baptism


and marks the sealing of the Holy Spirit. It is administered through an anointing with
chrism on the forehead with the words, “N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit,”
preceded by the imposition of hands.

Dismissal The final, formal invitation by the deacon or, in his absence, the priest for
the assembly to go forth from the liturgical celebration. The word can also refer to the
dismissal of the catechumens after the homily at Mass.

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Easter Vigil The liturgy celebrated during the night before Easter Sunday; it begins
after nightfall and ends before daybreak on Sunday. While the Church keeps watch this
night, a fire is lighted, Scriptures are read that tell the story of salvation, the elect receive
the Easter sacraments, and all present renew their baptismal promises.

Elect Catechumens who have been formally called, or elected, by the Church for
Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist at the next Easter Vigil.

Ephphetha Rite A rite of opening the ears and the mouth, associated with the
celebration of Baptism. The rite, which has its origin in Mark 7:31– 37, Jesus’ healing of
a deaf man, prays that the one being baptized may hear and profess the faith. It may be
performed with the elect as part of their preparation on Holy Saturday for initiation at the
Easter Vigil or as part of the Rite of Baptism for Children.

Evangelization The continuing mission of the Church to spread the Gospel of Jesus


Christ to all people. The Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate includes the
invitation, the welcoming, the witness, the sharing of faith, and the proclamation of the
Gospel to inquirers.

Exorcism A prayer or command given to cast out the presence of the devil. The Rite
of Baptism for Children contains a prayer of exorcism; the Rite of Christian Initiation
of Adults contains prayers of exorcism as part of the rites belonging to the Period of the
Catechumenate and as part of the Scrutinies. There is a Rite of Exorcism for use in the
case of possession; it may be used only with the express permission of a bishop and only
by mandated priest-exorcists.

Faculty A right granted to enable a person to do something, usually referring to a right


granted to a priest or deacon by law or by the bishop.

Godparents Members of the Christian community, chosen for their good example and
their close relationship to the one being baptized, who are present at the celebration of
Baptism and provide guidance and assistance to the one baptized afterward.

Holy Saturday The Saturday within the Sacred Paschal Triduum. It is a day marked
by meditation, prayer, and fasting in anticipation of the Resurrection of the Lord. Several
Preparation Rites for the elect who will be receiving the sacraments of initiation at the
Vigil are proper to this day.

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Immersion A method of Baptism in which the candidate is submerged either entirely
or partially in the baptismal water.

Infusion A method of Baptism in which the baptismal water is poured over the head of
the candidate.

Inquirer An unbaptized adult who is in the very first stage of the process of Christian
initiation.

Inquiry Another name given to the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate the


first period or stage in the process of Christian initiation.

Initiation The process by which a person enters the faith life of the Church — from
the catechumenate through the normally continuous celebration of the entrance rites of
Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.

Laying on of hands A gesture of blessing or invocation recorded in the New


Testament in conjunction with prayer (for example, Acts 13:3; 2 Timothy 1:6). The
gesture is performed by extending both hands forward with the palms turned downward.
Depending on the circumstances, the hands may be placed on the person’s head or
stretched out over a group of people or over an object.

Minor rites: Rites during the catechumenate, which include the Rite of Exorcism, Rite
of Blessing, and Rite of Anointing.

Mystagogy The postbaptismal catechesis given to the newly baptized during Easter


Time, wherein the neophyte and the local Church share the meaning of the initiatory
mysteries and experience.

National Statutes for the Catechumenate A document issued by the United States
Bishops in 1986, and confirmed by the Apostolic See in 1988, constituting particular law
for the implementation of the RCIA in the United States.

Neophyte One who is recently initiated. It comes from the word meaning “new plant”
or “twig, a new sprout on a branch.” After the Period of Mystagogy the new Catholic is
no longer called neophyte.

Oil of Catechumens The oil, blessed by the bishop at the Chrism Mass (or for
pastoral reasons by the priest before the anointing) to be used in the anointing of the

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catechumens during the process of initiation.

Order of Catechumens The canonical group to which an unbaptized adult who is


preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation belongs after celebrating the Rite of
Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens.

Paschal Mystery The saving mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and Resurrection. It is


the mystery that is celebrated and made present in every liturgy, and the mystery that
every Christian is to imitate and be united with in everyday life.

Penance The sacrament by which the baptized, through the mercy of God, receive
pardon for their sins and reconciliation with the Church. This sacrament is most
commonly celebrated by the private confession of sin and expression of sorrow by a
penitent to a confessor, who then offers absolution. It is also commonly called confession
or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Postbaptismal catechesis Mystagogical catechesis, instruction given to the newly


baptized, or neophytes, to help them deepen their understanding of the faith primarily
through reflection on the sacraments they celebrated at Easter.

Precatechumenate A period of indeterminate length that precedes acceptance into the


Order of Catechumens. In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, this time is called
the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate; it is also referred to as inquiry.

Preparation Rites Various rites that can be celebrated with the elect on Holy Saturday
in proximate preparation for the celebration of the sacraments of initiation at the Easter
Vigil that evening.

Presentations Rites whereby the Church entrusts the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, the
ancient texts that express the heart of the Church’s faith, to the elect.

Purification and Enlightenment The period of final preparation for unbaptized adults


journeying toward for initiation in the Catholic Church. It is a time of intense spiritual
preparation marked by the celebration of the Scrutinies and the Presentations. It usually
coincides with Lent.

RCIA Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the official rite of the Roman Catholic
Church for initiation of adults and children of catechetical age and the reception of
baptized candidates.

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Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic
Church The liturgical rite for receiving into the full communion of the Catholic Church
an adult who was validly baptized in a non-Catholic Christian community.

Register of Catechumens The book in which the names of those unbaptized adults


who have been accepted as catechumens is recorded. The names of the sponsors and the
minister and the date and place of the celebration of the Rite of Acceptance into the
Order of Catechumens should also be recorded. Each parish should have a Register of
Catechumens.

Renunciation of Sin The ritual questioning that precedes the Profession of Faith made
at Baptism or in the renewal of Baptism. There are two alternate forms of the formula
for the renunciation of sin, each of which consists of three questions that center on the
rejection of Satan and his works.

Rite of Baptism for Children The ritual book that gives the rites for the Baptism of
children who have not yet attained the age of discretion (the age of reason), presumed to
be about age seven.

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) The ritual book, part of the Roman
Ritual, that gives the norms, directives, and ritual celebrations for initiating unbaptized
adults and children who have reached catechetical age into Christ and incorporating them
into the Church. The RCIA prescribes a sequence of periods and rites by which
candidates transition from one stage to another, which culminate in the celebration of the
sacraments of initiation, usually at the Easter Vigil.

Rite of Election The second step for unbaptized adults preparing for the sacraments of
initiation, also called the Enrollment of Names. The rite closes the Period of the
Catechumenate and marks the beginning of the Period of Purification and Enlightenment,
which usually corresponds to Lent. With this rite the Church makes its election, or
choice, of the catechumens to receive the sacraments. The Rite of Election normally
takes place on or near the First Sunday of Lent.

Sacraments of Christian initiation The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and


Eucharist. All three sacraments are necessary to be fully initiated into the Church. Adults,
including children of catechetical age, receive the three sacraments in one liturgy when
being initiated into the Church.

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Sacred Paschal Triduum The three-day celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ
that is the high point and center of the entire liturgical year. The Paschal Triduum begins
with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, solemnly remembers
Christ’s death on Good Friday, reaches its zenith at the Easter Vigil with the Baptism of
the elect into the mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection, and concludes with
Evening Prayer of Easter Sunday.

Scrutiny A rite of self-searching and repentance intended to heal whatever is weak or


sinful in the hearts of the elect, and to strengthen all that is good, in preparation for their
reception of the Easter sacraments. The Scrutinies are exorcisms by which the elect are
delivered from the power of Satan and protected against temptation. Usually three rites
of Scrutiny are celebrated.

Sending of the Catechumens for Election An optional rite that may be celebrated
before the catechumens take part in the Rite of Election. The rite, which usually takes
place at Mass, expresses the parish community’s approval and support of the
catechumens’ election by the bishop.

Sponsor In the Christian initiation of adults, one who accompanies a person seeking
admission as a catechumen. The sponsor is someone who knows the candidate and is
able to witness to the candidate’s moral character, faith, and intention. He or she
accompanies the candidate at the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and
continues to accompany and support the person through the Period of the
Catechumenate. In the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation with those who
were baptized in infancy, the sponsor presents a person being confirmed to the minister
of the sacrament. After the celebration of the sacrament, the sponsor helps the individual
live in accord with his or her baptismal promises.

White garment The clothing, often similar to an alb, which is given to someone


immediately after Baptism. This garment is a sign that the newly baptized person has put
on new life in Christ. It is used in the Baptism of both adults and children.

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NOTES

Chapter 1
1. R. Senseman, V. Tufano, D. Williamson, Guide for Celebrating® Christian
Initiation with Children (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2017), 7–8.
2. Roberta M. Gilbert, MD, Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of
Thinking About Human Interactions (New York: John Wiley & Sons), viii–ix.
3. Mark 10:14.
Chapter 2
1. Donna Steffen, introduction to Discerning Disciples (Chicago: Liturgy
Training Publications, 2004), xi.
2. Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World),
(Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1975).
3. 1 John 4:8.
4. Code of Canon Law, canon 874 §1, 5°.
Chapter 3
1. John Paul II, Catechesi tradendae (On Catechesis in Our Time), (Libreria
Editrice Vaticana, 1979), no.5; General Directory for Catechesis, (Libreria
Editrice Vaticana, 1997), no. 98.
2. Austin Flannery, OP, ed., Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy) (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014), no. 7.
3. General Introduction to the Lectionary (2nd ed.), no. 3.
Chapter 4
1. Rita Ferrone, Forum Essays: On the Rite of Election (Chicago: Liturgy
Training Publications, 1994), 57.
Chapter 5
1. Code of Canon Law , canon 1252.
Chapter 6

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1. See also National Statutes, 14, 18, 19.
2. Code of Canon Law, canon 885 §2.
Chapter 7
1. Rita Burns Senseman, Victoria M. Tufano, and D. Todd Williamson, Guide
for Celebrating® Christian Initiation with Children (Chicago: Liturgy Training
Publications, 2017), 96.
Appendix 2
1. Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 1660–1664).
Frequently Asked Questions
1. RCIA, 252, 254.
2. National Statutes, 19.
3. Code of Canon Law, canon 852 §1.
4. National Statutes, 14, and canon 866.
5. National Statutes, 32, 35.
6. National Statutes, 11.
7. National Statutes, 12.
8. Code of Canon Law, canon 884 §1.
9. National Statutes, 28, 29.
10. RCIA, 47.
11. RCIA, 46.

188
Nihil Obstat
Very Reverend Daniel A. Smilanic, JCD
Vicar for Canonical Services
Archdiocese of Chicago
May 18, 2017

Imprimatur
Very Reverend Ronald A. Hicks
Vicar General
Archdiocese of Chicago
May 18, 2017

The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are declarations that the material is free from doctrinal
or moral error, and thus is granted permission to publish in accordance with c. 827. No
legal responsibility is assumed by the grant of this permission. No implication is contained
herein that those who have granted the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur agree with the
content, opinions, or statements expressed.

Texts contained in this work derived whole or in part from liturgical texts copyrighted by
the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) have been published here
with the confirmation of the Committee on Divine Worship, United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops. No other texts in this work have been formally reviewed or approved
by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Excerpts from the English translation of Rite of Baptism for Children © 1969,
International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL); excerpts from
the English translation of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults © 1985, ICEL. All rights
reserved.

GUIDE TO ADAPTING THE RCIA FOR CHILDREN © 2017 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy
Training Publications, 3949 South Racine Avenue, Chicago, IL 60609; 800-933-1800;
fax 800-933-7094; e-mail orders@ltp.org; website www.LTP.org. All rights reserved.

189
This book was edited by Michaela I. Tudela. Víctor R. Pérez was the production editor,
Juan Alberto Castillo was the designer, and Luis Leal was the production artist.

Cover design and illustrations by Juan Alberto Castillo.

epub ISBN 978-1-61833-236-3


mobi ISBN 978-1-61833-237-0

EACICE
v1.0.0

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191
Contents
Becoming Catholic

Chapter 1: A Special Circumstance: Initiation of Children

Chapter 2: Getting to Know Jesus Christ: Evangelization, Precatechumenate, and the Rite of Acceptance

Chapter 3: Becoming a Follower of Jesus Christ: Period of the Catechumenate

Chapter 4: God’s Work in the Child’s Life: The Rite of Election and the Rite of Sending

Chapter 5: A Lenten Retreat: Period of Purification and Enlightenment

Chapter 6: United with Christ: The Sacraments of Initiation

Chapter 7: Encounters with Christ: Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3

Appendix 4

Appendix 5

Frequently Asked Questions

Glossary

Notes

Copyright

Cover

Title Page

Table of Contents

Start of Content

192
Index
Becoming Catholic 4
Chapter 1: A Special Circumstance: Initiation of Children 8
Chapter 2: Getting to Know Jesus Christ: Evangelization,
32
Precatechumenate, and the Rite of Acceptance
Chapter 3: Becoming a Follower of Jesus Christ: Period of the
54
Catechumenate
Chapter 4: God’s Work in the Child’s Life: The Rite of Election and
70
the Rite of Sending
Chapter 5: A Lenten Retreat: Period of Purification and
85
Enlightenment
Chapter 6: United with Christ: The Sacraments of Initiation 102
Chapter 7: Encounters with Christ: Period of Postbaptismal
114
Catechesis or Mystagogy
Appendix 1 120
Appendix 2 127
Appendix 3 146
Appendix 4 165
Appendix 5 169
Frequently Asked Questions 172
Glossary 180
Notes 187
Copyright 189

193