Monday, January 24, 2011

RCIA Sunday Dismissals

One of the traditions of the RCIA is that catechumens be dismissed from the Sunday assembly following the Liturgy of the Word. In my experience there has been a mixed response from the participants to these dismissals. Some people feel nourished by the Liturgy of the Eucharist (even though they do not receive the Eucharist). Other people feel isolated and excluded by the dismissals. In either case personal feelings run high and it is difficult to explain this adequately in such circumstances.

However, apart from the tradition, there are good reasons to continue these dismissals. At the end of their direct RCIA experience there remains a great need for these new Catholics to continue to grow and to reflect on their faith journey. The problem is that unfortunately there are few opportunities for adult faith formation. Consequently all members of the assembly (not just the new ones) need to be provided with better tools so that they can be nourished in their faith by the Liturgy of the Word - which is the primary place where faith formation is regularly offered in the life of the Church.

So how could RCIA dismissal provide these tools. Obviously we want to provide participants tools so that they can continue to find spiritual direction and growth in the Liturgy of the Word. Now, we are all supposed to find this in the Liturgy but it seems to me that our ability to do this is more or less assumed and as a result many of the faithful do not have a sense of being nourished or fed by the Word of God. Might this be one of the reasons why people have a tendency to abandon regular attendance at Mass?

Teaching RCIA participants the ancient practice of Lectio Divina might be one way of providing participants a way of being fed by the Word of God. Lectio has a number of steps, but these steps involve two basic movements. People first need to get into a mindset that they can (and should) read Scripture prayerfully - with a belief that the Word is speaking to each of them in a special way. Such a mindset is difficult to attain because we have been conditioned to read very differently than this. As well, people need to believe that the Word of God requires a response - our lives ought to be changed in some way or another by our Sunday encounter with the Word. People with these two attitudes toward the Word will have a better chance of finding the weekly Liturgy of the Word an occasion of blessing and growth.

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