A DIFFERENT KIND OF
[This article first appeared in Christian Initiation 35 (April/May 1999), p. 8]
"Hi, I'm Emily."
"I guess we'll be working together."
The annual Spring Fling on the church grounds drew hundreds of parishioners, families, friends, and neighbors. Almost everyone volunteered to spend an hour behind a food stand or game for kids, doling out refreshments and prizes. Volunteers often served with people they hadn't yet met, even though they all worshiped at the same church. The pastor, Fr. Smith, always guaranteed a perfect spring day, and somehow he delivered, year after year. The bright sun and the light breeze created the perfect atmosphere for a much anticipated event which raised friends as well as funds.
Chip and Emily divided up the responsibilities for their hour-long commitment. Chip would barbecue the hot dogs; Emily would wrap them in buns and foil.
"I've seen you at church," said Emily.
"Yeah, I've been coming here for a few years," Chip explained. My wife and I had our kids baptized here, so I finally decided I should join too."
"Oh!" Emily exclaimed. "You're a catechumen! I was one last year."
"Not exactly," said Chip. "I'm a candidate. I was baptized twenty-five years ago at Faith Lutheran."
"Well, it's about the same thing."
"Yes and no."
"Wait a minute," said Emily, furrowing her brow. "Are you part of the group being dismissed on Sundays?"
"No. I talked it over with Debra," Chip replied, recalling his many conversations with the director of the catechumenate. "Since I've been attending church all my life I wanted to stay with my family at Sunday mass, even though I'm not receiving communion. Since I'm a candidate, the team gave me a choice."
"The team let the candidates choose last year, too," recalled Emily, "but they all wanted to be dismissed."
"Debra told me that's usually how it goes. Some candidates in this year's group feel that way. They prefer to study the scriptures with the catechumens, rather than to stay in church where they don't receive communion. But I feel like I belong in church with my family. After all, I'm a baptized Christian."
Just then Debra walked up. "Well, I see you two have met."
"Hot dog?" asked Chip.
"Sure," she replied.
"Quite a coincidence," said Emily. "Who would have guessed one of last year's catechumens would get assigned to serve hot dogs with one of this year's candidates?"
"Last year you didn't volunteer for this at all, Emily," said Debra. "Remember?"
"Of course I remember," she replied, a little embarrassed. "I really wanted to, but I just didn't feel part of the community. Now I realize there's no better way to feel part than to volunteer." Turning to Chip, she said with admiration, "Being new hasn't stopped you." "No," he admitted, "but remember, I'm not exactly new. I've been around for a few years. I'm just now deciding to be received into the Catholic church."
"I'll bet you can hardly wait for next Easter," gushed Emily. "And it's almost a whole year away!"
"Actually, I won't have to wait that long," said Chip. "We're talking about having the ceremony sooner."
"Sooner?" asked Emily. "I thought everyone was received at Easter."
"Not necessarily," Debra explained. "The rite of reception can take place at any time of year. But baptism of adults should really happen at Easter. That's why you were baptized then last year, Emily."
She was still confused. "But what about the scrutinies? Aren't those supposed to come up during Lent?" Emily asked.
"Yes," said Debra, "but candidates are already baptized, remember? At the scrutinies they pray for the elect."
"I'm anxious to make my profession of faith," Chip said, "and the team has been really great getting me ready. My kids are excited too."
"It just seems like you're missing out on so much," said Emily.
"Not at all," said Chip. "I've been part of the body of Christ all my life. I haven't missed out at all."
"Candidates can receive a very different kind of welcome," said Debra, swallowing her hot dog. "It's a little like introducing yourself at the Spring Fling. It's a different kind of introduction. You're not starting from scratch. In some ways, you already know a lot about each other."