Candidates and Catechumens:
What happens after Inquiry?
So now you have gone through the Rite of Inquiry as part of your Rite of Christian Initiation journey, and you have a new “title”. You are no longer an Inquirer, you are either a Candidate or a Catechumen. Each has its own meaning, and a particular path for you to get to the Easter Vigil, where you will be accepted fully into the Church. Let’s look at each term and understand it a bit better.
What is a Catechumen?
So what exactly does Catechumen mean? By the definition, it has two different types of meanings.
- A convert to Christianity receiving training in doctrine and discipline before baptism.
For most RCIA programs, this is the name given to all those who are not baptized. All other people going through the process who have been baptized, even into other faiths, are called Candidates. However, Catechumen can mean something else.
- One receiving instruction in the basic doctrines in Christianity before communicant membership in a church
This meaning gives the name Catechumen a bit more of an ambiguous meaning in this context, to be sure. In fact, by this meaning and definition it would mean that all who are in RCIA would be Catechumens, not just those needing baptism. While I’ve been called somewhat of a traditionalist, I really like having all those in the process during this period be called Catechumens, because I believe it helps unify the group to the common cause.
However, I also understand why the definitions are different, so for the sake of this article, we will use the two terms of Candidates and Catechumens.
From Inquirer to Candidate
Speaking of Candidates, the term Candidate in the church applies to all those who were baptized, including those baptized in other denominations as a Christian into the Trinity, but have not been confirmed or received First Communion. Trinity means Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three entities are the different aspects of God.
Candidates can even be adults who were baptized Catholic, but for whatever reason did not get confirmed or receive First Communion. Some of those families are those who were divorced, and the child did not stay with the church because he or she lived with the parent that did not want to go to church. Or the child could have decided that he or she did not want to go through the process. Whatever the reason is, we can only welcome them back into the church.
Some of the Candidates may be from other denominations, and may have been active within their denomination, but for whatever reason decided they wanted to become Catholic.
However they come to this point, either needing baptism or already from an established church, the journey continues for both Candidate and Catechumen.
Next Phase of the Journey
For Candidates and Catechumens, this time after the Rite of Inquiry becomes a new and exciting time. While they did attend the mass for the Rite of Inquiry, they may not have attended mass before, as they were not required. Or, if they did, they may not be aware of how the mass flows.
However, mass now is something that both Candidate and Catechumen will do each week. For example, the parish I attend has their RCIA classes on Sunday mornings, usually. Because we have multiple Mass times, the class will attend the mass after the class, so they can participate and get an understanding of how the mass flows.
The Candidates and Catechumens can sit anywhere in the pews, and the sponsors are encouraged to attend with them. I usually attend an early mass, one that I feel comfortable in and enjoy the people, the music, and the mass, so I did not attend with my sponsor too much last year. However, that did not diminish our relationship through the journey. It’s an understanding and getting to know that we talked about in picking a sponsor that matters.
So in attending the mass, the Candidates and Catechumens are able to get an idea of the mass. They get to see and hear:
- Entrance procession
- Act of Contrition
- Gloria (If the season is right)
- Introductory Prayers
- First Reading
- Responsorial Psalms
- Second Reading
- Gospel Reading
After the Homily, the Candidates and Catechumens will be called up to the front of the church, and then process out to do faith sharing on the readings.
What exactly is faith sharing?
Faith sharing is when the group gathers to discuss the readings that he or she just heard and tell the group what his or her interpretation of those readings are. It can be as simple as a one-word feeling that the overall readings may have given him or her, or it can be a rather detailed interpretation. Each is okay, and each should not be judged by anyone hearing the sharing.
It is also important to know how to proper faith sharing. This is not where you impose your opinion upon the group, or where you try to convince others that this is what is the rule or the law. That is the beauty of faith sharing. Faith sharing is a very personal and unique experience, and when done in a manner that allows all to share and be comfortable sharing, can give everyone growth potential.
How To Properly Do Faith Sharing
Here are some guidelines for proper faith sharing.
- Silence is a vital part of faith sharing. A short reflection time should precede any group sharing. Silence between sharing might also occur.
- Share your own personal experiences as they relate to your faith, relationship with God and the gospel. Sharings should be brief responses, 2-3 minutes.
- The faith sharing time is not a time for group therapy or problem solving. It is also not a time to focus on personal problems unrelated to the faith sharing questions.
- Listening attentively to the sharing of others is a very important part of the process. Do not respond to the person who has shared Do not discuss what they have shared Do not interrupt or cross talk while the sharing is taking place
- The entire group is responsible for faith sharing – not just the few who share more easily. Each person has their unique story to contribute and no story is better than another.
- Usually each person responds only once to each question so that others have an opportunity to share. At most, there should be two responses per question.
- Faith sharing is not a time for analyzing the scripture or for trying to figure out what Jesus is saying to the world. It is a time for sharing specific, personal experiences of how God has touched you – what do you hear the scripture saying to you.
- Faith sharing is confidential allowing each person to share honestly.
- Rather than respond to another’s sharing, simply reflect on it and then share for yourself. It may seem similar but each sharing will bring something unique.
- Each person is encouraged to share on the level where they feel comfortable and no one is forced to share on any questions.
- Faith sharing is meant to stimulate action – a response in our own daily lives – either through our own reflection or in our listening to others in the group.
It is also important to use the proper language when faith sharing. It is a difficult thing to do, because we are all taught not to speak from the “I” point of view, but to soften it by saying “you”. In faith sharing, we use “I” language, describing how “I” feel about this reading, and how “I” interpret that particular passage.
The Journey Continues
Remember that the journey does continue. This is the bulk of the journey, and where I grew to understand the Word and group settings. I know that I really immersed in this process, and I encourage you to do as well.
Did I miss something that you feel should be part of this? Please feel free to leave a comment below.
And remember… the journey does not end when you accept Jesus into your life, it begins. So Go Live Your Faith Today!