RCIA and Dismissed of Catecumen Question

Hello, I am guessing everything will be explained to me in the future so I should not need to ask this. But my curiosity got the better of me. In this post Japhy mentioned that at her or his parish the Catecumen will be dismissed to an adjacent room to be Catechised during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

I am supporting a friend and attending RCIA with them. Should I go with them even though I do not need to? Is it permitted for me to go with them and is it appropriate if it is permitted? I will probably attend multiple Sunday Masses so I would not be violating my Sunday Obligation. But would it be wrong of me to do this. Would God be offended that I do not stay for the Liturgy and am not assigned as a Catechism instructor? Would it be wrong for me to not support my friend? The friend has social issues at times and is afraid of crowds at times. Usually though at Mass, the friend is alright.

Maybe I’m just silly in even wondering.

First, thank you for starting a new thread!

Second, you would have to attend another Mass (fully) to fulfill your Sunday obligation.

Third, you would have to ask your pastor if it’s okay for you to go with the catechumens during dismissal. If you are “supporting” your friend, do you mean you are his sponsor? If so, it seems like a decent idea for you to attend these catechism sessions with him.

Good answers Japhy. Hmm, I’ll I would be supporting in terms of being a buddy as well as a sponsor. The friend is not always comfortable in social situations so I act as a safety as well.

The RCIA class at the parish i attend last one hour, with a break after the first half hour. During this time the Mass concludes and Sponsors along with family and friends whom have been let out of the recent Mass are free to meet at the class room and join the initiates. That being said, I would imagine your parish would be similar, otherwise attending another Mass would seem to be your only solution.

In my parish, you would be welcome to join them or not, it is up to the sponsors. It seems that your friend would appreciate it, especially at first, and I can’t see how that would offend God. The key is just to make sure your are making your Sunday Obligation at some other Mass which it sounds like you are planning on doing.

PART I:

Those are some excellent questions. I am a graduate student in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Obviously, I speak for neither CUA nor the Catholic Church; but, I have spent quite some time studying the various issues and subjects involved in the question(s) you ask. Although I am a graduate student of theology, I cannot offer an “expert” opinion. But, allow me to toss my two cents into the mix.

I praise your desire to accompany your friend along her road into the Catholic Church. Both theologically and psychologically speaking, entrance into the Church isn’t something someone can accomplish on his or her own. This is one of the reason’s the Church involves sponsors in the process of initiation into the Church. The faith needs to be handed on and received. In the early Church, the relationship between the Christian community – and, in particular, a person’s sponsor for baptism and confirmation – and the individual seeking initiation into the Church was much richer and more personal and involved than that relationship tends to be today. So, I think your insights and instincts in this regard are quite well placed.

Now, just how should someone accompany another on his or her journey into the Church? Everyone’s journey is both personal and communal. Our celebration of Lent began in the early Church as a means to accompany catechumens on their path into the Church. The Church understood that each one of the catechumens would have to keep the Great Fast of Lent for him or herself, but the Church also understood that the fast is easier to maintain if one does not have to do it alone or in isolation from others. Thus, Lent became an important means of accompanying catechumens on their final steps into the Church and encouraging them as they prepared to enter the Christian family. Even still, the Church – both then as well as now – understood that perhaps the best way to accompany someone on their journey into the Church was to pray diligently for them. And, the greatest prayer a Catholic can offer is that of the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.

As the fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. So, I would encourage you to take with great seriousness the power of that prayer. As I am sure you know, baptized Catholics are obliged under canon law to attend weekly Sunday Mass as well as Mass on Holy Days of Obligation. Of course, well catechized Catholics understand that it is much more a privileged opportunity to be able to attend Mass rather than a burdensome obligation, but that is a different topic. Thus, I would encourage you to be sure to fulfill your Sunday obligation and to strive to do so with joy. (Even if you do decide to participate in the catecheses for the catechumens, you should still fulfill your Sunday obligation. In effect, you might attend an earlier Mass and then attend Mass and the catechesis with your friend later.)

Now, you ask about the fittingness of your participation in the catechumen’s catechesis. On the one hand, you could benefit from the catechesis yourself. Although I am a graduate student in theology, I always jump at the opportunity to attend talks and presentations at my parish. Those things are always great re-freshers; and, very often, there is something to be learned. I am sure your friend would appreciate your show of support as well. Yet, from a different perspective, your attendance and participation might be misunderstood. Allow me to explain.

As a baptized – and, I presume, confirmed – Catholic, you have already received and been initiated into the mysteries of faith that are just now being explained and unfolded to your friend. Your friend is undergoing a very beautiful stage in the process of initiation. During the catecheses, your friend is receiving an understanding of the faith. The faith is being handed on to her. You may know that our English verb “to hand on” is related to the Latin verb “tradere,” which is related to our English word “tradition.” In other words, through these catecheses she is receiving the tradition of faith, which reaches its high point and zenith in the sacraments and liturgy of the Church. For you, that tradition continues to be handed on, but in a different manner. At Sunday Mass, you quite literally receive the fullness of tradition in the Eucharist. Thus, your attendance at Mass – where you can pray for your friend – is very important.

Moreover, since you are a baptized (and, again, I presume confirmed) Catholic, you have received an indelible character, which will be impressed upon your friend when she enters the Church and receives the sacraments of initiation. In a real sense, then, you are very different from your friend. And, while your senses might tell you otherwise, the two of you would be undergoing very different experiences at the catechesis. And, it ought to be remembered that you are not merely hearing a presentation, but receiving a catechesis. Given your state of life in the Christian family, the catechesis is not proportioned to you in the way that it is proportioned to your friend. You have already received the mysteries of faith; your friend begins now at a different point in the Christian life.

I believe these are important points to keep in mind. And, if you do decide to attend the catecheses with your friend, you might do well to search for a way to explain them to her. In the absence of these considerations, the catecheses might come to be seen as a mere hurdle or something of little significance on the road to initiation into the Church. But, rather, the period of the catechumenate is a very important moment of prayer and spiritual discernment. I believe we should do whatever we can to keep this phase intact and to give it the dignity and respect that is due to it.

Finally, I would invite you to consider with a spiritual heart some of the images you could encounter if you decided to let your friend attend the catechesis alone. First of all, you mention that she might experience some anxiety. Yet, that experience of anxiety could be instructive. It could prompt her to realize her deeper desire to be united with you at Mass and in the family of the Church. The experience might even lead her to think about the incompleteness of a life lived outside of the Church. Of course, I do not mean to suggest that you would manipulate this experience so as to use it against your friend; rather, I am simply suggesting a spiritual outlook that could accompany what you think might result from your friend’s attending the catechesis alone.

PART II

The second image is one for you to consider. While you remain at Mass and your friend attends the catechesis, you might experience a degree of sadness at your friend’s absence. And, that absence might remind you – in a spiritual way – of the need to respond to your baptismal vocation, which includes an invitation to the apostolate and to the task of evangelization. In other words, you might think of all those other people who are absent from the community of the Church and you might remember to pray for them.

Lastly, imagine the joy you will experience when your friend enters the Church at Easter. At this time, you may be wishing you and your friend could attend the whole Mass together and be enriched by your common reception of the Eucharist. The Mass is the celebration of the wedding feast of the lamb, which we will enjoy unendingly in heaven. Thus, in the light of faith, your desire to be together at Mass becomes a desire to be united in truth and spirit in the great heavenly banquet. The experience you now have of absence and separation might be a sad or dark one. But, in a very real and literal way, you will finally be brought together in the darkness of the night of Easter. On that night, you will be brought together again in the radiant joy and celebration of the Easter Vigil. The night and darkness of Easter will become a wellspring of joy for you and your friend as the two of you will be able, at long last, to enter into the full mystery of our paschal faith in the liturgy of Easter. The radiant joy of Christ will penetrate that dark night and become clearly apparent to you in a special and unique way: You will stand at the foot of the altar on which will be offered the Lamb of God, the source and summit of our faith. And, you will be able to look upon one another and call one another “friend” and “sister” in the most real and meaningful sense. And, this joyful experience will be all the more apparent to you because of the separations you have had to endure during the previous Sundays.

Well, those are my two cents. I apologize for the length and wordiness of my comment. But, I hope I have stumbled upon something worth the while.

God bless you and your friend!

Bravo gradtheologian!

As long as you meet your Mass obligation at another weekend Mass. There is nothing wrong with attending the session if your catechumen would like you to attend with them.

Keep in mind that the dismissal is supposed to be for catechumens (those who have never been validly baptized). If your friend is a candidate (validly baptized in another Christian community), your friend should not be dismissed.

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