Walking the Rite Way 2019

sharing thoughts, ideas and resources for the journey

As part of the rebuilding of the site the blog posts are being reposted. Because of a change in the format the original author is given at the end of the post as well as the original post date. The author is also included in the Tags. Some elements, such as images, have been lost and other, such as links, may not all work  bear with us as we rebuild.

The road that leads to the glory of Easter

Reflection on the liturgy can be seen as the third stage of liturgical catechesis:

  • Preparation to participate in the liturgy
  • Participation in the liturgy
  • Reflection on our participation in the liturgy.

It can be a key catechetical moment but like all such moments we do not ask others that which we have not asked of ourselves. So before we can ask the elect to reflect on their experience we must first reflect for ourselves. This is not to provide a stock of right answers but so we know what it means to answer the question.This week’s posting is a reflection on celebrating the Rite of Election by network members. Reflecting on what we do is a key part of the guidelines of the Network and so it seems appropriate to offer this space. What follows is not the story of one Rite of Election but a snapshot from around the country which will grow over the coming week. 


I am always struck by that moment when Catechumens and Godparents and then Candidates and Sponsors stand up. In part because at these moments you see the people the liturgy is about. They are not isolated people but nor do they have the solidarity of standing in a large group. The answers of Godparents and Sponsors this year to those questions which go to the heart of the Rite were clear and certain. And then the sign of friendship and support seems to have a warmth and depth that speaks of a journey walked together.


The numbers of people is what makes the most stirring impression. Assuming that people are truly meaning what the Rite would have them mean – or even that they are attempting this – it is amazing and encouraging and challenging to see so many people coming to make a public profession of ‘new’ faith.

In the case of this diocese it is sad that the response to the numbers has been to abandon a principal symbolic action (the calling out or their names and the signing of their names by the elect) and to obscure the significance of the presentation of their names by combining it with the welcome of candidates for reception/completion of initiation and obscuring the presentation of (both sets of) names with a handshake with auxiliary bishops. The gesture of welcome is a genuine one, and well received by the elect and candidates, but it lacks the personal punch and commitment of the symbol of the declaration and handing over of the name


When I saw primroses flowering in the woods on Saturday, I thought of the wonder of creation and how these tiny flowers were being propelled into our world much earlier than usual. But don’t we always have primroses in Lent and isn’t creation just adapting and keeping in time, so all the concerns about it being an early Rite of Election this year melted into the sunlight.

Creation cropped up again when proclaimed in the Scriptures, a story that reflects a disastrous choice, and so I turned to the Rite and saw just how many choices have to be made, that enable the Godparents, Catechists, Sponsors, clergy, local community and the catechumens to be able to affirm that these in our midst are ready to go forward and become the ‘elect’.

It’s worth having a renewed look at the rite: being able to remember ‘the lengthy period of formation … of minds and hearts’#118, the ‘conversion in mind and action and to have developed a sufficient acquaintance with Christian teaching as well as a spirit of faith and charity’ #120, for that will need to sustain the elect during the period of purification and enlightenment.

They also have the experience of having shared the rite with their fellow catechumens, and candidates from throughout the diocese in a ceremony whose symbolism tells of the worldwide Church. I thought what a wonderful liturgical gesture: to have the elect (and candidates) walk down the side aisles of the cathedral, and when called, walk forward towards the Bishop, who in turn walked to greet each one. So there was a continual flow of movement as the Bishop greeted first on the right and then crossed to the other side; the person then turned and walked up the central aisle with their Godparent (Sponsor), through the womb (or heart) of the church. Whether by design or accident, it was rich in symbolism. Congratulations also to our Bishop who individually greeted around 37 catechumens and 130 candidates.

And finally I return to primroses: for as I saw the radiance on some of the faces of those presented to the Bishop, I fleetingly thought of the primroses radiant in the Lenten sunshine.


At St Barnabas’ Cathedral in Nottingham, Bishop Malcolm welcomed the 125 candidates and catechumens who gathered for election. Our theme this year was ‘Give as a gift – receive as a gift’, based on Matthew 10:8. The sight of the candidates, catechumens and their sponsors processing into the cathedral behind the Book of the Elect was an awesome sight and profoundly moving. In advance, candidates and catechumens had been sent a scroll and invited to write down a passage from scripture which had touched them in some way. These were gathered in as they entered the Cathedral and after signing the Book of the Elect they were invited to take away a scroll as a gift. The word of God alive and active and a gift received and shared. We’re only aware of one person who received their own scroll back!

In his homily, Bishop Malcolm spoke of the temptations around us, highlighting the temptation to individualism and the commitment of the candidates and catechumens to life as community. He spoke of the way faith was shared and spread in this part of the world, referring to St Bede and reminding us that our faith is received as a gift and is a gift to be given and shared. Each of the elect received a prayer card with the prayer the Diocese of Nottingham is using to focus on how we hand on our faith, and the front of the card showed an image of The English Cross, a cross carved from a dead tree by local artist, Rev Jean Lamb.


At the Rite of Election this year one young woman arrived on her own to be presented to the Bishop as a candidate. She was very nervous and did not have her request for admission form with her. We were able to provide her with a new form and she was befriended by a member of another parish who sat with her and accompanied her to meet the Bishop. How she had been sent forth from her parish on her own I do not know but thank God for the kind stranger who is now a friend. Both women were very moved by the experience and saw God very much at work in their meeting and participation in the Rite of Election.

11/02/08

The Word of God – blessing and task

A little late this week 3 members write from an international conference in Chile.

Martin writes

The International Forum on Adult Religious Education holds a consultation every two years. The theme of this year’s consultation is The Word of God: blessing and task for catechesis todayand it is being held in Santiago, Chile over this last week. The invitation to attends goes to Bishops’ Conferences around the world and It is a privilege to be part of a small group from England and Wales.

The Forum is 20 years old this year and it began as an initiative from England and Wales. The first meeting was organised by Paddy Purnell, Anne McDowell and Margaret Foley and held at St Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill. Each meeting takes a similar format: reflection and discussion on a theme, generally inspired by a Church document or initiative, and country sharing. What can be fascinating is the interplay between the familiar and the unknown — the similarities and difficulties we hold in common and differences that can be beyond our experience.

Two highlights for me have hearing about the meeting of Latin American bishops – CELAM – at Aparaceido in Brazil last year. Their reflections on catechesis, the need for bishops and their agencies to have an examination of conscience as to where they have failed to be the Church and the importance of the catechumenal model for all catechesis.

On Sunday morning we visited local parishes to look at family catechesis. We met families from the parish who spoke to us about their involvement. What was moving was the sense that the parish and the catechesis was responsibility of the community and that the involvement in family catechesis had strengthened relationships.

Paula writes

It has been a real privilege to take part in this international consultation. Throughout the process there have been opportunities to hear from countries around the world about the joys and challenges of adult religious education and also our hopes for this ministry in the future.

For me the most striking experience was the visit to a local parish for Sunday Eucharist and sharing with parish catechists. The welcome and hospitality was overwhelming and humbling at the same time. We were welcomed into two local parishes and met those involved in family catechesis. The parish and community structures are very different to those in the UK and the numbers of catechists quite astonishing. Catechists undertake formation provided by the archdiocese, and this is a serious undertaking for the catechists and the whole family of the catechist. Married couples are catechists together and as one man commented, although this interfered with his football team it was important for him and his wife to undertake this ministry together. The ministry of catechesis is described with great enthusiasm and commitment as a lifelong ministry in the parish community, catechists are called to live their lives as witnesses to the Word of God that they share. This was not undertaken lightly, and in the people we met, it was clear that their lives, in mind heart and action was shot through with the Word of God.

A last thing that struck me was the role of the godparent. In family catechesis, all families need a father in those instances where a woman may be widowed or divorced and Godfather becomes the father in the family. In our own situation in the RCIA and RCIC in England and Wales, maybe there is something to be learned from this idea.

Linda writes

A key moving experience for the group was the visit to the Sanctuary of Fr Alberto Hurtado.

Fr Hurtado was canonized by Pope Benedict in 2005 and is the third saint for Chile. Born in 1901 he died of cancer at the age of 51 in 1952.

His ministry as a priest focussed much on the young and the poor. The dvd clip we saw showed a warm and ever-present smile.

The Sanctuary includes a museum reflecting his life and work, a beautiful garden including a wall where people’s prayer petitions and thanksgiving for prayer are placed and a chapel where the saint’s tomb forms the altar. It is a place of grate peace which celebrates the life Fr Hurtado and which offers the opportunity for reflection and prayer.

15/01/08

Welcome

Welcome to Walking the Rite Way, the blog for the RCIA Network. You will find here over the coming weeks: practical ideas and resources, reflections of scripture, the lectionary and the liturgical seasons, comment pieces on how we do the rite. As RCIA touches on so many aspects of the Church’s life the writers also have a broad remit.

We aim to have new piece posted on Monday every week. There is already a team of writers with their fingers poised over the keyboard ready to write but if you are a member of the Network and would like to contribute please contact Martin Foster.

One of the good things about a blog is that it allows you an opportunity to comment on what you have read, to join in the conversation – please do so. The writers are not a group of experts but people who are exploring the ‘Rite way’ and sharing what they find.

A few gentle guidelines for participating:

  • Think of your contribution as one you might make in your RCIA group.
  • Listen to what other people are saying.
  • If you disagree do so with courtesy.
  • Try to be brief and to the point.

The blog is setup so that the first comment you make is moderated — this is a way of avoiding spam.

Welcome to the journey.

Martin Foster

29/11/07