Okay, I wasn’t aware of that. Thank you for the explanation. But I wouldn’t describe that as “continuing the Mass.” I would describe it as doing something else instead. Bible study is certainly an important activity, and not only for catechumens, but to place that activity on an equal footing with the celebration of Holy Mass strikes me as the kind of thing I would expect to hear from a Calvinist, not from a Catholic.
It is NOT Bible study. It is praying with and reflecting on the Word. Admittedly, there may be some element of instruction to it. Depending on the background of the catechumens involved, there may be questions like “who is this Moses they keep talking about” and you have to explain something about him for people to understand the reading. But you’re much more likely to be talking about words or phrases that stood out in the readings (a prelude to lectio divina) and answering questions about the challenges in living out the day’s gospel.
Perhaps it makes more sense if you look at the old names used for the parts of the Mass. Today we have the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. These were once called the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful.
When catechumens are dismissed, they reflect on their encounter with Christ speaking to them. This prepares them to encounter Christ in the Eucharist. It is about receiving Christ into their hearts. In that way it is like continuing the Mass in a way appropriate to their unbaptized state.
To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister… but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes… He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. SC 7
The dismissal is an ancient tradition. A version of it is still used in Eastern churches, when the priest goes through the door in the Iconostasis, away from the people present. Everyone except the ministers is excluded from the celebration of the Eucharist. In our modern Catholic Church, all the baptized are recognized as priests who offer themselves with Christ. We are all ministers who need to be included. The catechumens, the unbaptized, are excluded from being present.
Your final sentence seems to be in conflict with @SuscipeMeDomine’s post #37, where he states that “Visitors are always welcome.” Are unbaptized visitors welcome to remain present all the way through to “Ite, missa est,” or aren’t they?
In he modern world, visitors are always welcome. In earlier ages, they were not. Bells would signal when the unbaptized were to be ushered out.
The usual model for this was the temple in Jerusalem. There was a courtyard for the Gentiles that ‘surrounded’ the courtyard of the Jews, that contained an area for the priestss within which was the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest entered. This created a sense of reverence that many miss today.
Few people would want to adopt that pattern again. We are all God’s children, worthy of respect and love. Implementing that is more important than creating divisions imo.
So when you wrote “The catechumens, the unbaptized, are excluded from being present,” you were referring to “earlier ages”, not to “the modern world.” Thank you for that clarification.
The nub of my complaint about the “dismissal” procedure is precisely the contrast between the welcome extended to the unbaptized visitor as long as he remains just that, a visitor, and the abrupt switch to shunning him as an unwelcome intruder the moment he displays an interest in converting to the Catholic Church.
Catechumens are in a different category from visitors. Catechumens have gone through the Rite of Acceptance which means they are part of the Church. That’s different from someone, baptized or not, who is NOT part of the Church. There’s a specific “program” (I don’t really like that word) for catechumens, so that’s what they should be doing.
You’re still saying that after I took the time to tell you specifically what the Church says about catechumens:
We definitely have different definitions of shunning.
Yes, I am. Allow me to explain why. Imagine the following hypothetical dialogue in the middle of Mass, immediately following the end of the homily.
BartholomewB (stands up and begins to recite): I believe in God the Fa—
(Feels tap on shoulder, turns round to see who it is. Recognizes the Catechist.)
Catechist: Come along, Bart. It’s time for us to continue the Mass in another location.
BartholomewB: You mean praying with and reflecting on the Word? Thank you for your kind invitation, but on the whole I think I’d rather stay where I am. Being present at the Eucharist is more important to me. It’s what I come to Mass for, in fact.
As I said, this dialogue is purely hypothetical. Until I started reading this thread a few hours ago, I had never heard about catechumens being “dismissed” halfway through Mass. I’m glad to say that never happened to me, and I never knew until now that it sometimes happens to other people. But let me ask you this. If that dialogue were to take place during Mass, how would it continue? What would be the catechist’s reply?
The dialog would never occur during Mass because it’s not part of the Mass. Instead what would happen is that just before the Creed, the priest would stand up and ask that the catechumens come forward with their catechist. They come forward and he offers a blessing, then says something like this dismissal from RCIA 69:
The catechist, holding the book of gospels, then leads them to the place where they meet to reflect further.
This is exactly how it is done at the Cathedral in the city where we occasionally attend. It is beautiful.
Well, to repeat what I said in an earlier post, I’m deeply grateful to the priest who handled my conversion for sparing me from that unnecessary annoyance. In fact he must have spared all his catechumens from it, since I never witnessed any procedure of the kind you describe. Thank you, Father H! I always knew you were a good priest!
Thank you all for the encouraging words! First class went well, and everyone was welcoming (although I am by far the youngest in the class and did get some odd looks upon entering). Next week we will be covering the Mass, then will begin attending together each week before class. I am enjoying learning about Catholicism, and excited to learn even more!
As a former non-believer who also just started RCIA, I started going to mass weeks before my RCIA classes began. I enjoyed mass very much every time. I can assure you that no one is looking at you or judging you during mass, and that everyone I have been around has been very kind to me. I actually asked my priest why it is a good thing for someone in RCIA to go to mass, and he said it teaches you about the teachings of scripture and the Church as a whole. Plus, it throws you into the real world of the faith. I hope you have a wonderful experience in your classes!
You may genuflect or bow, but it is not required if you are not Catholic. Be at ease.
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