Friday, November 9, 2007

Back to the Present

This coming Sunday, November 11, I will experience my first step in the RCIA process -- the Rite of Acceptance.

As described in a document posted online,


The Candidates and their sponsors gather at the entrance of the church.



Dear friends, the Church joyfully welcomes today those who will be received into the order of catechumens. In the months to come they will prepare for their initiation into the Christian faith by baptism, confirmation, and eucharist.

Opening Dialogue

The celebrant calls out the name of each candidate (list of names printed for the Celebrant here)




What do you ask of God’s Church?




What does faith offer you?


Eternal life.


This is eternal life: to know the one true God and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent. Christ has been raised from the dead and appointed by God as the Lord of life and ruler of all things, seen and unseen.

If, then you wish to become his disciples and members of his church, you must be guided to the fullness of the truth that he has revealed to us. You must learn to make the mind of Christ Jesus your own. Your must strive to pattern your life on the teachings of the Gospel and so to love the Lord your God and your neighbor. For this was Christ’s command and he was its perfect example.

Is each of you ready to accept these teachings of the Gospel?


I am.

Affirmation by the Sponsors and the Assembly


Sponsors, you now present these candidates to us; are you, and all who are gathered here with us, ready to help these candidates find and follow Christ?


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.


We praise you, Lord, and we bless you.



Next the cross is traced on the forehead of the candidates at the discretion of the celebrant the signing of one, several, or all of the sense may follow. The celebrant alone says the formularies accompanying each signing.


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 saying the following words:


N., receive the cross on your forehead. It is Christ himself who now strengthens you with this sign of his love. Learn to know him and follow him.


Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ


The signing 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!”

Receive the sign of the cross on your ears, that you may hear the voice of the Lord.

Receive the sign of the cross on your eyes, that you may see the glory of God.

Receive the sign of the cross on your lips, that you may respond to the word of God.

Receive the sign of the cross over your heart, that Christ may dwell there by faith.

Receive the sign of the cross on your shoulders, that you may bear the gentle yoke of Christ.

Receive the sign of the cross on your hands, that Christ may be known in the work which you do.

Receive the sign of the cross on your feet, that you may walk in the way of Christ.

Then the celebrant makes the sign of the cross over all together 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.



Concluding Prayer


Let us pray.

Lord, we have signed these catechumens with the sign of Christ’s cross. Protect them by its power, so that, faithful to the grace which has begun in them, they may keep your commandments and come to the glory of rebirth in baptism.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Catechumens may be seated as you share with us at the table of God’s word.




Presentation of a Bible

After homily celebrant calls Catechumens forward. Bless the bibles, team will help as you present a bible to each candidate saying: “Receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.



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.


That God our Father may reveal this Christ to them more and more with every passing day, let us pray to the Lord:

R. Lord hear our prayer.


That they may undertake with generous hearts and souls whatever God may ask of them, let us pray to the Lord.

R. Lord hear our prayer.


That they may have our sincere and unfailing support every step of the way, let us pray to the Lord.

R. Lord hear our prayer.


That they may find in our community compelling signs of unity and generous love, let us pray to the Lord.

R. Lord hear our prayer.


That their hearts and ours may become more responsive to the needs of others, let us pray to the Lord.

R. Lord hear our prayer.


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.

R. Lord hear our prayer.

Prayer over the Catechumens

After the intercessions, the celebrant, with hands ourstreched over the catechumens, says the following prayer.

Almighty God, source of all creation, you have made us in your image.

Welcome with love those who come before you today.

They have listened among us to the word of Christ; by its power renew them and by your grace refashion them, so that in time they may assume the full likeness of Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen

Dismissal of the Catechumens

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 in the Lord’s Table.

A team member will lead the Catechumen’s out to study the scripture.

I remember when I first heard about this Rite. My dear friend explained it to me; she was being accepted as a Catechumen in the Church. At the time, I thought, how wonderful that the Church celebrates the intentions of those on the way to conversion in such a beautiful and special way!! The Rite really makes present the import of Jesus' words at Matthew 7:7, 8:

7 Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. 8 For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. -- Douay-Rheims Bible

It will be a glorious day :-)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sacred Service

1 Consequently I entreat YOU by the compassions of God, brothers, to present YOUR bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with YOUR power of reason. -- Romans 12:1, NWT

If study was the foundation of my Witness life, service was the framework. Devout Jehovah's Witnesses believe that they should spend every available moment talking to others about the "good news". For a Witness, the good news is that God is going to, very soon, destroy the wicked and establish an earthly paradise for righteous mankind.

Because this destruction is believed to be imminent, and because all those who are not Jehovah's Witnesses are believed to be in danger of destruction, sincere Witnesses have a tremendous sense of urgency in their ministry. And I was a sincere Witness.

Witnesses keep track of the amount of time that they spend in their ministry. The time that is recorded is reported to their local congregation, with those numbers being accumulated and sent to the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact, it is the reporting of such time spent that determines if a person is "counted" as being an active Witness (also called a "publisher"). The Witnesses take great pride in their way of identifying "Witnesses". They are quick to point out that the numbers they report each year represent those who have actually participated in the ministry.

The very idea of "counting time" strikes most Christians as odd. Who ever heard of "punching a time clock" for God?

I had always accompanied my parents in the door-to-door ministry. After I was baptized, I spent every summer as what was then called a "vacation pioneer". This meant that I spent at least 75 hours per month knocking on doors and returning for further discussions with people who showed interest. I was very serious about this ministry, and my parents fully supported my participation in it. I got a lot of positive reinforcement from others in the congregation. I was the "poster girl" for Witness teenagers.

While I cheerfully accepted the responsibility of delivering this "life-or-death" message to my neighbors, I was passing on most of the activities that would otherwise have occupied my summers. But I was very serious about my service, and didn't dwell on the fact that my school friends were at the swimming pool working on their suntans.

Only one thing bothered me about my sacred service -- the narrowness of it. I desired to be of help to others, and I was told (by my parents, by the congregation, and by the organization) that the best possible way to do this was to visit my neighbors in their homes and teach them the "truth" from the Bible. While I could see the value of applying the Bible's moral laws to one's life, I had a nagging sense that I should be doing more to help people in a concrete way. Not all of my school friends were working on their tans during the summer -- some of them went with local churches on "missions" -- they distributed donated food and clothing, or they helped to build houses, or they assisted in the establishment of schools in poverty-stricken places.

Every time I read the book of James, or the 25th chapter of Matthew, or considered the miracles of Jesus providing loaves and fishes to feed the crowds, my conscience bothered me. What was I doing to help people REALLY? I was doing everything the Watchtower instructed me to do, and more, but I wasn't doing any of these things.

And furthermore, if I had been doing any of these things, they would not have "counted" as sacred service in the congregation.

My point is not that Jehovah's Witnesses are stingy or fail to help their neighbors. I know many Witnesses who are kind, helpful, and generous to others in a material way. What I am saying is that the ethos of their community does not encourage this behavior. Helping others in a physical or material way is not acknowledged. It doesn't "count" as sacred service; time spent in this way is not reported. So I guess what I am saying is that Witnesses who are kind and generous are so IN SPITE of their religion, not because of it.

It bothered me that works like those of Dorcas (Acts 3) were going virtually unnoticed in the congregation, while individuals who made a show of going from door-to-door (while actually accomplishing very little) would receive praise and privileges in the congregation.

But, like my questions about history, these doubts and concerns remained unspoken. I did not even bring them to God in prayer. I believed that there must be something wrong with me if I didn't understand how the congregation worked.

My "power of reason" was invested in my "sacred service", but my heart was, over time, being left behind. The problem, I was certain, had to be with me. I was not "good enough", I needed to try harder, study more, spend more time in "service". I wasn't sure what was missing, but I was determined to find it.

Next: If You Are Looking for Answers