ASK THE LITURGIST (41) – Catecumenal Rites

– Enrico Finotti

What catechumenal rites can be assumed in the initiation of children already baptized?

It is necessary to distinguish clearly between the real Catechumens, who have not yet been baptized, from the already baptized children who still lack the catechesis of Christian initiation. These are not properly catechumens, but faithful in every respect, as they have been regenerated in baptism. It is equally true that they lack the basic catechesis, which they must undertake as soon as they acquire use of reason. The distinction is appropriately expressed by the General Directory for Catechesis which states: “It is necessary, however, to premise that between the catechists and catechumens and between post-baptismal catechesis and pre-baptismal catechesis, which are given to them respectively, there is a fundamental difference. It comes from the sacraments of initiation received from the first, which ‘have already been introduced into the Church and made children of God by means of baptism.’” (CONGREGAZIONE PER IL CLERO, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, vol. 16°, n. 866-872.)

Therefore we can say that the children already baptized are ontologically faithful Christians, but psychologically still catechumens, as they lack the basic formation of the faith that they carry already imprinted in the baptismal character as an infused theological virtue. Furthermore, their sacramental initiation is not yet complete, lacking the two sacraments that fully integrate it: confirmation and the Eucharist. Therefore, even on the sacramental level, already baptized children approach the catechumens in some way. It is therefore necessary to be able to discern between the catechumenal rites (the exclusive ones addressed to the true catechumens) and those that by analogy can be employed in the post-baptismal initiation of children. We can exclude exorcisms because with baptism children have already become the temple of God and children of God, free from the power of the devil. Also the rite of the ephpheta as an opening to supernatural grace must be excluded since they are already in grace. Instead the Deliveries of the Creed, of the Pater, of the Gospels can be adapted to their catechetical itinerary as they are gradually introduced to the knowledge of the truths of the faith, enabled to Christian prayer and to the evangelical moral life. This possibility is already foreseen by the ritual of Christian initiation of adults: “To signify God’s action in this work of preparation, appropriately some rites proper to the catechumenate can be used that respond to the condition and spiritual usefulness of these adults as the deliveries of the Symbol, of the Prayer of the Lord (our Father) or even of the Gospels” (RCIA n. 302).

Substantially the children already baptized that must receive the basic organic catechesis and the Deliveries do nothing but make explicit that gradual education to the contents of the faith that they are carrying out both to complete their sacramental initiation through confirmation and the Eucharist, but also to deepen that grace which they have already received in holy baptism. As Lent is the suitable time for the catechumenal rites of adults, so laudably it can be the appropriate time also for liturgical preparation through the Deliveries to the children of Christian initiation: “The time of catechesis is opportunely inserted in the liturgical year, especially the last part, which usually will coincide with Lent ….” (RCIA n. 303).

Furthermore, for newcomers, the Easter season is the time of mystagogy, so for children it is the most opportune time to complete their sacramental initiation, receiving in it the first Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation.

The analogy between Catechumenate and post-baptismal catechesis is well expressed by the General Directory of Catechesis: “… the conception of the baptismal catechumenate, as a formative process and a true school of faith, offers post-baptismal catechesis a dynamic and some qualifying notes: the intensity and the integrity of the training; its gradual character, with defined stages; its link with rituals, symbols and signs, especially biblical and liturgical; his constant reference to the Christian community … Post-baptismal catechesis, without having to mimetically reproduce the configuration of the baptismal catechumenate, and acknowledging to the catechists their reality as baptized, will do well to draw inspiration from this ‘school preparatory to the Christian life,’ letting themselves be fertilized by its main characteristic elements.” (CONGREGAZIONE PER IL CLERO, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, vol. 16°, n. 866-872.

(From Il mio e il vostro sacrificio. Il liturgista risponde, 2018©Chorabooks. Translated by Aurelio Porfiri. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved)

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