Saturday, January 06, 2007

RCIA ... and a surprise

The two day RCIA event (well really one day. I slept pretty much through day one!) was a little wearisome for me ... mainly because I was jet-lagged and very sleepy, and partly because, I've lead RCIA in a parish for about five years, and was involved in some fashion for another 3-4 years prior to that, and there was nothing really that was very new. A couple of ideas intrigued me -- this constant reminder that the baptized candidates and (unbaptized) catechumens have a different status that really needs to be acknowledged throughout the process, such as by having separate catechetical tracks for each group, and separate rites, including separate times for initiation. (The baptized should not be initiated during the Easter Vigil. Yeah, it's in the National Statutes on the Catechumenate. And yeah, it's pretty much ignored in most places. Well, most places don't really get the RCIA at all, but that's a separate can of worms.) The combined rites should be avoided. My first (and continuing) institict was: "Get real!" In small parishes without hordes of staff and large budgets, separate catechetical tracks are very difficult to achieve. And this is the first time I've heard the suggestion that the goal should be to avoid the combined rites. Why are they there in the first place?

This particular set of folks seems very concerned about respecting the difference between catechumens and baptized candidates -- which is certianly a worthy goal, but it seems to border on the obsessive. The Rite itself, of course, emerged in the missionary context of Africa, where catechumens from non-Christian backgrounds were the pastoral norm. This is hardly the case in the United States, and it's rare (especially in the South) to find catechumens who are completely new to Christianity. Yes, they are ontologically different, and this should be respected. But, subjectively, the differences between catechumens and (uncatechized) candidates are rarely that great. Separate catechetical tracks? When one has just one or two (if that many) catechumens? Yeah right ...

Anyway, these are just theoretical considerations. I won't have anything to do with the RCIA in any pastoral setting for quite a while. That was perhaps the most frustrating part of the workshop -- I realized just how intensely I miss ministry. And boy, this Lent and Easter are going to be so different!

Just before lunch, as I was struggling to stay awake in a workshop, someone came and sat down next to the empty seat next to me. "Is this seat free?" "Oh yeah ... " I look up. Oh, it's Corey G. COREY! What the frig are you doing here?! Surprised is not the word! I thought it was a jet-lag induced hallucination. Well, Corey and I had been chatting on AIM the previous evening. "Are you back in DC yet? Where will you be Friday?" I told him, and never suspected for a moment that he wasn't back home in SC over break. Turns out he was in DC, at the end of his break (he'll be heading back to UCLA this weekend), and in fact the hostel he was staying at was around the corner. So, we went out and grabbed a bite and then spent an hour and a half wandering around the alleys of the "Historic Takoma Park" neighborhood, catching up. This totally made my day!

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