Q: In a recent blog post you were asked a question about the rite of acceptance. The correspondent stated “We have a catechumen who travels every weekend for his job and it is hard to get this scheduled. He is faithful to meetings and has been coming for over 6 months.” The tone of this question suggests that the catechumen is regularly attending “teaching/knowledge” sessions but is not attending Mass, or perhaps not attend Mass in the parish where she/he is participating in the catechumenate journey.
My question is how valid is the catechumenate period for a participant if they attend so called “catechetical sessions” focusing on teaching/knowledge but are not attending Sunday Mass consistently? Surely, this would not fulfil the requirements to move to the second step in the Christian initiation process – the Rite of Election or Enrollment of Names. Should their journey to initation at the forthcoming Easter Vigil therefore be deferred until regular Sunday Mass attendance is committed to?
A: Actually RCIA 81 lists attendance at Sunday mass as only one of three ways that catechumens may fulfill RCIA 75/3. “These celebrations of the word are: first, celebrations held specially for the catechumens; second, participation in the liturgy of the word at the Sunday Mass; third, celebrations held in connection with catechetical instruction.” The RCIA was designed for people who may be so unfamiliar with the Catholic mass that they’d need some prep time before getting into it. So they could gather just for a word service, or they may have a word service as part of a catechetical session. Neither of those two suggestions need take place on a Sunday.
However, you raise a valid point. A catechumen who is not available to worship with the local community on Sundays should be asked about future plans. In fact, a good question for every catechumen is “How do you typically spend your Sundays?” Implied in that is, “Is it realistic for you to commit to weekly Sunday mass?” If not, then that raises pastoral concerns.