First Step: Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens
41. The rite that is called the rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens is of the utmost importance. Assembling publicly for the first time, the candidates who have completed the period of the precatechumenate declare their intention to the Church and the Church in turn, carrying out its apostolic mission, accepts them as persons who intend to become its members. God showers his grace on the candidates, since the celebration manifests their desire publicly and marks their reception and first consecration by the Church.
42. The prerequisite for making this first step is that the beginnings of the spiritual life and the fundamentals of Christian teaching have taken root in the candidates. Thus there must be evidence of the first faith that was conceived during the period of evangelization and precatechumenate and of an initial conversion and intention to change their lives and to enter into a relationship with God in Christ. Consequently, there must also be evidence of the first stirrings of repentance, a start to the practice of calling upon God in prayer, a sense of the Church, and some experience of the company and spirit of Christians through contact with a priest or with members of the community. The candidates should also be instructed about the celebration of the liturgical rite of acceptance.
43. Before the rite is celebrated, therefore, sufficient and necessary time, as required in each case, should be set aside to evaluate and, if necessary, to purify the candidates’ motives and dispositions. With the help of the sponsors…, catechists and deacons, pastors have the responsibility for judging the outward indications of such dispositions. Because of the effect of baptism once validly received…., it is the duty of pastors to see to it that no baptized person seeks for any reason whatever to be baptized a second time.
44. The rite will take place on specified days during the year…that are suited to local conditions. The rite consists in the reception of the candidates, the celebration of the word of God, and the dismissal of the candidates; celebration of the eucharist may follow. By decision of the conference of bishops, the following may be incorporated into this rite: a first exorcism and renunciation of false worship…., the giving of a new name…., and additional rites signifying reception into the community….
45. It is desirable that the entire Christian community or some part of it, consisting of friends and acquaintances, catechists and priests, take an active part in the celebration. The presiding celebrant is a priest or a deacon. The sponsors should also attend in order to present to the Church the candidates they have brought.
46. After the celebration of the rite of acceptance, the names of the catechumens are to be duly inscribed in the register of catechumens, along with the names of the sponsors and the minister and the date and place of the celebration.
47. From this time on the Church embraces the catechumens as its own with a mother’s love and concern. Joined to the Church, the catechumens are now part of the household of Christ, since the Church nourishes them with the word of God and sustains them by means of liturgical celebrations. The catechumens should be eager, then, to take part in celebrations of the word of God and to receive blessings and other sacramentals. When two catechumens marry or when a catechumen marries an unbaptized person, the appropriate rite is used. One who dies during the catechumenate receives a Christian burial.
RECEIVING THE CANDIDATES
48. The candidates, their sponsors, and a group of the faithful gather outside the church (or inside at the entrance or elsewhere) or at some other site suitable for this rite. As the priest or deacon, wearing an alb or surplice, a stole, and, if desired, a cope of festive color, goes to meet them, the assembly of the faithful may sing a psalm or an appropriate song.
49. The celebrant greets the candidates in a friendly manner. He speaks to them, their sponsors, and all present, pointing out the joy and happiness of the Church. He may also recall for the sponsors and friends the particular experience and religious response by which the candidates, following their own spiritual path, have come to this first step. Then he invites the sponsors and candidates to come forward. As they are taking their places before the celebrant, an appropriate song may be sung, for example, Psalm 63:1-8.
50. Unless the candidates are already known to all present, the celebrant asks for or calls out their given names. The candidates answer one by one, even if, because of a large number, the question is asked only once….
The celebrant asks: What is your name?
Celebrant: What do you ask of God’s Church?
Celebrant: What does faith offer you?
Candidate: Eternal life….
CANDIDATES’ FIRST ACCEPTANCE OF THE GOSPEL
52. The celebrant addresses the candidates, adapting one of the following formularies or similar words to the answers received in the opening dialogue.
A. God gives light to everyone who comes into this world; though unseen, he reveals himself through the works of his hand, so that all people may learn to give thanks to their Creator. You have followed God’s light and the way of the Gospel now lies open before you. Set your feet firmly on that path and acknowledge the living God, who truly speaks to everyone. Walk in the light of Christ and learn to trust in his wisdom. Commit your lives daily to his care, so that you may come to believe in him with all your heart. This is the way of faith along with Christ will lead you in love toward eternal life. Are you prepared to begin this journey today under the guidance of Christ?
Candidates: I am….
53. Then the celebrant turns to the sponsors and the assembly and asks them in these or similar words: Sponsors, you now present these candidates to us; are you, and all who are gathered with us, ready to help these candidates find and follow Christ?
All: We are.
With hands joined, the celebrant says: Father of mercy, we thank you for these your servants. You have sought and summoned them in many ways and they have turned to seek you. You have called them today and they have answered in our presence: we praise you, Lord, and we bless you.
All sing or say: We praise you, Lord, and we bless you.
54. Next the cross is traced on the forehead of the candidates (or, at the discretion of the diocesan bishop, in front of the forehead for candidates in whose culture the act of touching may not seem proper…); at the discretion of the celebrant the signing of one, several, or all of the senses may follow. The celebrant alone says the formularies accompanying each signing.
55. …. If there are only a few candidates, the celebrant invites them and their sponsors in these or similar words: Come forward now with your sponsors to receive the sign of your new way of life as catechumens.
With their sponsors, the candidates come one by one to the celebrant; with his thumb he traces a cross on the forehead…. The celebrant says: N., receive the cross on your forehead. It is Christ himself who now strengthens you with this sign of his love. Learn to know and follow him.
All sing or say the following or another suitable acclamation: Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
56. The signing [of the other senses] is carried out by the catechists or the sponsors…. The signing of each sense may be followed by an acclamation in praise of Christ, for example, “Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!”
While the ears are being signed, the celebrant says: Receive the sign of the cross on your ears, that you may hear the voice of the Lord.
While the eyes are being signed: Receive the sign of the cross on your eyes, that you may see the glory of God.
While the lips are being signed: Receive the sign of the cross on your lips, that you may respond to the word of God.
While the breast is being signed: Receive the sign of the cross over your heart, that Christ may dwell there by faith. While the shoulders are being signed: Receive the sign of the cross on your shoulders, that you may bear the gentle yoke of Christ.
While the hands are being signed: Receive the sign of the cross on your hands, that Christ may be known in the work which you do.
While the feet are being signed: Receive the sign of the cross on your feet, that you may walk in the way of Christ.
Without touching them, the celebrant alone makes the sign of the cross over all the candidates at once…, saying: I sign you with the sign of eternal life in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
57. The celebrant concludes the signing of the forehead (and senses) with…the following prayer….
Let us pray.
Almighty God, by the cross and resurrection of your Son you have given life to your people. Your servants have received the sign of the cross: make them living proof of its saving power and help them to persevere in the footsteps of Christ. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
60. The celebrant next invites the catechumens and their sponsors to enter the church (or the place where the liturgy of the word will be celebrated). He uses the following or similar words, accompanying them with some gesture of invitation: N. and N., come into the church, to share with us at the table of God’s word.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
61. After the catechumens have reached their places, the celebrant speaks to them briefly, helping them to understand the dignity of God’s word, which is proclaimed and heard in the church. The Lectionary for Mass or the Bible is carried in procession and placed with honor on the lectern, where it may be incensed. Celebration of the liturgy of the word follows.
62. The readings may be chosen from any of the readings in the Lectionary for Mass that are suited to the new catechumens or the following may be used:… Genesis 12:1-4a… Psalm 33:4-5, 12-13, 18-19, 20 and 22 [with the refrain] Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own…. John 1:41, 7b… John 1:35-42.
63. A homily follows the readings.
[PRESENTATION OF A BIBLE]
64. [A book containing the Gospels may be given to the catechumens by the celebrant; a cross may also be given….]
INTERCESSIONS FOR THE CATECHUMENS
65. Then the sponsors and the whole congregation join in the following or a similar formulary of intercession for the catechumens….
Celebrant: These catechumens, who are our brothers and sisters, have already traveled a long road. We rejoice with them in the gentle guidance of God who has brought them to this day. Let us pray that they may press onwards, until they come to share fully in our way of life.
Assisting Minister: That God our Father may reveal his Christ to them more and more with every passing day, let us pray to the Lord:
All: Lord, hear our prayer.
That they may undertake with generous hearts and souls whatever God may ask of us, let us pray to the Lord:…
That they may have our sincere and unfailing support every step of the way, let us pray to the Lord:….
That they may find in our community compelling signs of unity and generous love, let us pray to the Lord:….
That their hearts and ours may become more responsive to the needs of others, let us pray to the Lord:…
That in due time they may be found worthy to receive the baptism of new birth and renewal in the Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord….
PRAYER OVER THE CATECHUMENS
66. After the intercessions, the celebrant, with hands outstretched over the catechumens, says….
Let us pray. [God of our forebears and] God of all creation, we ask you to look favorably on your servants N. and N.; make them fervent in spirit, joyful in hope, and always ready to serve your name. Lead them, Lord, to the baptism of new birth, so that, living a fruitful life in the company of your faithful, they may receive the eternal reward you promise. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.
67….B As an optional formulary for dismissing the catechumens, the celebrant may use these or similar words: My dear friends, this community now sends you forth to reflect more deeply upon the word of God which you have shared with us today. Be assured of our loving support and prayers for you. We look forward to the day when you will share fully in the Lord’s Table….