Rita Burns Senseman
The RCIA includes a collection of simple but powerful rituals that, when done well, add tremendous depth and reverence to the period of the catechumenate. Although they are called “minor rites,” don’t let the name fool you. These rituals will have a major impact on your children.
You can find all of the minor rites in the RCIA at paragraphs 81-105. There are four kinds of minor rites:
You can celebrate the Word of God as part of your catechetical sessions. The RCIA gives you a sample outline to follow:
Try to sing an opening song if possible. If you’re not a singer, invite one of the other team members or one of the parish musicians to lead a song. If you can’t find someone, trying singing something really simple, like an Alleluia or a Taize chant. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Ask the children to help out.
Ideally, the psalm would also be sung, like at Mass. It’s not a requirement, but see if you can make it musical if at all possible.
Don’t let the word “homily” intimidate you. The homily can be just a brief reflection on what you most liked about the reading and why you liked it.
For the conclusion, the RCIA offers several options, which we’ll discuss below. However, you don’t have to do any of those. You can simply conclude with a sign of the cross if you like.
Here’s a tip. Don’t just read the ritual, and don’t do everything sitting down. Think of yourself as a presider. Practice your presiding skills in advance in front of a mirror. Your body language, posture, and gestures will communicate much more than the words you speak.
If possible, when you preside use the ritual edition (leather or cloth bound) of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults instead of your ratty, old paperback edition.
You can conclude your celebration of the word of God with a minor exorcism. “Exorcism,” in this context, simply means prayer for strength. It’s not about expelling demons. You don’t even need to use the word “exorcism” if you don’t want to.
If you turn to paragraph 94 of the RCIA, you will see 11 Prayers of Exorcism, labeled A-K. Take some time to read through them. The first few are clearly for catechumens who have little or no relationship with Jesus. As your child catechumens grow in faith, the later prayers might be more appropriate for them.
Once you have picked one of the prayers, you would simply pray it as the conclusion to your celebration of the word. If it is appropriate in your situation, you and the parents and sponsors could lay hands on the catechumens during the prayer.
Friends on the Way: Children’s Catechumenate Resource has everything you need need to feel confident you are teaching the faith of the Church.
A blessings functions ritually the same way the minor exorcism does. Turn to paragraph 97 and read through the blessings you will find there. Choose the one you want to use, and pray it as a conclusion to the word celebration. Or, you could also pray the blessing by itself as a way to conclude a catechetical session.
When you pray the blessing, stretch out your hands over the catechumens, and invite the parents and sponsors to do the same. If you like, you can also lay hands individually on each of the catechumens.
You can also conclude your celebration of the word with an anointing. However, a priest or deacon has to be available to do the actual anointing. The oil you would use is the Oil of Catechumens, which was blessed by your bishop at the Chrism Mass. If you don’t know where the oil is, don’t worry. The priest or deacon will know. Turn to paragraph 102 to see the prayers that accompany the anointing.
Believe me; ending a session with a well-prepared minor rite improves your session tenfold!
Rita Burns Senseman is the pastoral associate and director of religious education at St. Benedict Parish in Terre Haute, Indiana. She has written numerous articles and books on various aspects of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, including A Child's Journey: The Christian Initiation of Children.