Catechesis and the RCIA: Mystagogy

This is the final post in a series on the theological connections between the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and catechesis in the Catholic Church. Previous posts  gave an overview of the series,  explored the characteristics of the RCIA, and  addressed the precatechumenate, the catechumentate, and the Period of Purification and Enlightenment.

Theological Underpinnings

The final period of the RCIA, which begins immediately after the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, is the Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy. The activities undertaken by the neophytes during this period include “deepening their grasp of the paschal mystery and in making it a part of their lives through meditation on the gospel, sharing in the eucharist [sic], and doing works of charity.” (no. 244) The neophytes are also encouraged to reflect on their initiation experience , through which “they derive a new perception of the faith, of the Church, and of the world.” (no 245) While it is suggested that a suitable celebration be used to close this period near Pentecost (no. 248), in many ways this period never ends since its activities continue for the life of the neophyte.

Practical Application

If the activities of this period sound familiar, they should! These works are what all Christians are called to in response to their baptism, what is expected of us as disciples of Christ. Unfortunately we do not always do a good on incorporating them into our catechetical programs in a systematic way.

For instance, we are missing a huge opportunity when we fail to connect the teachings and doctrines of the Church to the Sacraments of Initiation. All that we learn and do in our lives as Christians is a response to our baptism. How can we remind the faithful of this fact?

There is also a tendency to disconnect our works of charity and our catechesis. How often do we engage in service projects without taking time to explore the Church’s teachings on justice or charity? How many times to we offer participants a chance to reflect on their charitable works in such a way as to connect them to the larger Christian story? While doing the Works of Mercy is good, we risk reducing them to “nice things we do” if we do not connect them to the Gospel and the larger framework of the Church’s life.

The Period of Mystagogy reminds us that the work of catechesis is never truly complete, but is a life-long process of integrating our faith with our lives.

Other posts in this series:

  1. Catechesis and the RCIA: Mystagogy (March 7, 2012)
  2. Catechesis and the RCIA: Purification and Enlightenment (February 6, 2012)
  3. Catechesis and the RCIA: The Catechumenate (January 18, 2012)
  4. Catechesis and the RCIA: The Precatechumenate (January 4, 2012)
  5. Catechesis and the RCIA: Characteristics (November 22, 2011)
  6. Catechesis and the RCIA: Introduction (November 14, 2011)