Think back to when you began a new job, how did you feel after the first day? Hopefully there was a lot of excitement beginning a new adventure, but I imagine there were some moments of anxiety as well. What helped you get through this new period in your life?
- A manual of standard operating procedures?
- The on-line help button on the computer?
- Or was it people who helped guide you through the newness of the tasks and culture to help you find success?
My bet is that it was people who made the difference between finding your way successfully in the new job or having a very difficult time. The Church helps neophytes (those who are new to the faith) after the rites of initiation have been bestowed on the catechumens to help them settle in to their new faith. Although the candidates for full communion in the Catholic Church (those who were baptized in other Christian denominations) also are blessed to walk with the local parish community in the period of mystagogy, the Church has discovered that the unbaptized will need even a bit more TLC as they form their lives into a Catholic environment. Father Paul Turner outlines a blending of pastoral care and liturgical celebrations to make the neophytes feel right at home. At the end of today’s post is a short video on neophytes and mystagogy by Father Greg Friedman, OFM and an article by Sr. Miriam Malone, SNJM, on Six Steps to Effective Mystagogy.
Pastoral Care: What are the needs of those who have come into the Church and how best can the pastoral team and the community respond to these needs is the focal point by which Father Turner lays the foundation for excellent mystagogical moments. By connecting the period of mystagogy with pastoral care brings the Church’s teachings into the realm of the parish’s mission of building an active network of caring for others. This can only happen if someone on the pastoral leadership team will ask significant questions and the parish community will respond to the answers within the resources it has available:
- Do you feel like you belong?
- Are we what you expected?
- Now that you have received the sacraments, what do you notice?
- Have you found that having received the sacraments has given you new strength to fight old battles?
- What are your hopes and dreams for our parish community?
The most important person during this period is the godparent or sponsor working closely with the RCIA team and the pastor. Asking your godparents/sponsors to check up on the neophytes throughout their first year is the first step in helping guarantee a smooth transition.
The Liturgy: During this period help the neophyte learn to blend the prayer of the Church with her/his new life in Christ, especially in developing good habits of keeping God close by throughout the week and not just on Sunday mornings. There are significant moments throughout this year:
- Easter: Easter, the springtime season of new life, is the day par excellence for celebrating the new life in Christ.
- Easter Octave: The first week of Easter is a special week of prayer for the newly baptized. Encourage the newly baptized to be present for daily Mass sometime that week with an opportunity to process what they experienced at the Easter Vigil.
- The Sundays of Easter: The RCIA (247) encourages the neophytes to attend the Sunday Masses of the Easter season together. The readings of Year A are especially appropriate for them. If your group has been meeting on Sundays to break open of the Word, this would be a natural extension of their sessions. Now they can reflect on the readings in the light of the mysteries they have celebrated.
- Pentecost: The RCIA (249) suggests that a celebration be held near Pentecost Sunday for the neophytes. Perhaps invite some members of different parish organizations to be present to speak about their groups and invite the neophytes to try one on for size.
- The Anniversary: The RCIA (250) proposes that the neophytes be brought together on the anniversary of their baptism “to give thanks to God, to share with one another their spiritual experiences, and to renew their commitment.” This could happen at a time independent from Easter, or you may invite them to take part in the celebration of the Easter Vigil. They may wish to help with prayer and reflection on the morning of Holy Saturday. They may wish to provide a reception for the new members after the Vigil.
Father Paul Turner is a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri.