SASKATOON — A workshop in Saskatoon June 5 - 6 gave practical insights into how to make liturgy an encounter with Jesus Christ for those journeying through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Celebrating the rites of the RCIA in a way that brings conversion and forms disciples was the challenge presented by speakers Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal of TeamRCIA.com, who led discussion, provided strategies and modelled liturgies for participants from across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.
The event was organized by the Western Conference for the Catechumenate, which was founded in 1990 to provide information and enrichment to parishes about the RCIA, the process by which unbaptized adults are brought into the Catholic Church.
The RCIA path of faith formation includes a parish-centred process of inquiry, conversion and catechesis grounded in conversion and the Paschal Mystery, marked along the way by rites, liturgical blessings and scrutinies. These celebrations include the Rite of Acceptance, in which inquirers become catechumens who are on the path to baptism; the Rite of Election, for catechumens entering into a final period of purification and enlightenment before they receive the Rites of Initiation — baptism, confirmation and eucharist — usually celebrated at the Easter Vigil. These rites are then followed by a period of mystagogy, a time of reflection and a deepening faith, all leading to lifelong discipleship.
The workshop began with a session on evangelization, presenting suggestions for inquiry discernment, in which RCIA team members listen carefully to each inquirer who approaches the parish in order to develop an individualized plan of formation.
Wagner explained that this way of “honouring God’s varied forms of grace,” includes meeting with inquirers individually to ask where they have been, where they are now and where they want to get to — determining why they are approaching the church for answers or belonging. Hopes and expectations are further clarified with other questions — Where do I want to get to? How am I going to get there? How will I know I have arrived? — which will shape the journey that follows.
Wagner and Macalintal concretely demonstrated how insights gleaned from such discernment could be incorporated into the rites. They led participants through an adapted Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens in which an inquirer’s personal conversion journey, hopes and longings were echoed in the prayers of the celebration. The next day they also modelled a celebration of the Word with a blessing of a catechumen and an adapted scrutiny.
Participants experienced the words and actions of each rite, followed by a “mystagogical reflection” led by the workshop facilitators, drawing out how the particular liturgical celebration embodied an encounter with Jesus Christ, what the rite revealed about faith, and how it called forth conversion.
Mystagogical catechesis begins with the rite itself as an encounter with God, followed by a recollection of the event’s symbols, actions and words. This is followed by reflection. Reflection leads to catechesis, exploring what Scripture and tradition teaches, what can be learned from the symbols, actions and words of the rite. Participants are invited to make connections to their life and relationships and to the world. The process ultimately leads to a point of conversion: “how it challenges, confronts, affirms; why it matters,” said Wagner. “How will I live differently now?”
Mystagogy is scripturally based, takes place within a liturgical setting, and has as its goal the formation of Christian disciples. It is an encounter with Christ that “enables us to live what we celebrate,” he said.
During the workshop, Wagner and Macalintal also provided insights into how to read a rite — understanding its purpose, its structure and its symbols — and how to prepare a liturgy grounded in key principles (such as “the theme of every liturgy is the Paschal Mystery”) and four liturgical arts: word, music, movement and environment.