Isn’t it inhospitable to dismiss catechumens from Mass?
Everyone is dismissed from Mass. When we are dismissed depends upon which order of the church we belong to.
In the early church, there were several orders of participants in the liturgy who were dismissed, all at different times: catechumens, energoumens (those possessed by demons), penitents, and the baptized priesthood.
Today, the dismissal of the catechumens can seem inhospitable if we use language that suggests that they are being kicked out or that they are not ready (or worthy) to remain for the eucharist. If, instead, we use the language of the RCIA and say that the catechumens are being dismissed to “share their joy and spiritual experiences” and to “reflect more deeply up the word of God” (RCIA 67), then the purpose of their dismissal becomes much clearer.
We could also use the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and teach the catechumens and the parish that the dismissal is part of the catechumens’ initiation “into the mystery of salvation and the practice of the evangelical virtues” and that they are being “introduced into the life of faith, liturgy, and charity of the People of God by successive sacred rites” (1248). In other words, the ritual dismissal is a key part of their formation and conversion process.
Wouldn’t it benefit the baptized candidates to be dismissed?
Many baptized candidates would definitely benefit from sharing their spiritual experiences and reflecting more deeply on the word. But we have to consider the much greater benefit of helping them understand the dignity of their baptism. The candidates are already members of the baptized priesthood and are already full participants in “the life of faith, liturgy, and charity of the People of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1248).
The candidates will grow stronger in their faith if we help them understand their role as members of the order of the faithful who participate in the prayers of the faithful at Mass, including the Creed, the intercessions, and the eucharistic prayer. Even though they cannot yet share in communion, all those in the baptized priesthood share in offering the sacrifice of the Mass.
If you want to gather the candidates together to reflect on the liturgy, you can gather them after their dismissal at the end of Mass.
What if dismissal breaks up families with young children?
If being dismissed from Mass presents a serious hardship, the rite allows for catechumens to remain “for serious reasons.” If they do remain, the presider still acknowledges their presence and instructs them they cannot take part as the baptized do (see RCIA 67 C).
Is the catechumenate team member missing Mass if they leave with the catechumens?
This is a question that you should seek guidance on from your diocesan office. In some places, the member of the community that leaves with the catechumens is considered to have met their Sunday obligation. In other places, the community member is required to return for another (full) Mass.
If you recruit enough parishioners to help with this ministry, the burden won’t be too great. Ideally, a parishioner might lead the reflection process after dismissal once a month or less.
Also, once you have some “senior” catechumens in your group, one of them could be trained to lead the reflection process.
And finally, if necessary, you could forgo the reflection on occasion, and the catechumens could either return home or wait until the end of the liturgy for the rest of the community to be dismissed.
What questions do you have about the dismissal? What questions are you hearing from your pastor, your RCIA team, or others in your congregation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.