Questions and Answers

RCIA

Liturgical Seasons

Mass

Special Circumstances


RCIA

May a divorced or remarried person be accepted into the Order of Catechumens? What about a person married to someone who has been divorced?

If the pastor and RCIA Team discern that the person is sincere in her/his desire to be initiated into the Catholic faith, and have seen the beginnings of conversion in the person's life, then it is possible to accept them into the Order of Catechumens. The person must be told and understand that he/she may have to spend a significant amount of time in the Order of Catechumens since he/she will need to pursue resolution of the marriage situation through the annulment process along with the usual study and reflection process. A catechumen still in need of resolution of a marriage situation may not be called to the Rite of Election.

Is it necessary that baptized, uncatechized adults preparing for Confirmation and Eucharist celebrate the Rites preceding their reception into full Communion?

Article #401 in the RCIA instructs that the preparation of these Candidates requires considerable time. They will need full and suitable catechesis, familiarity with and practice in living the Christian way of life, time to establish patterns of prayer and worship, and understanding and cooperation with the notion that all of the baptized are called to be on mission. [See RCIA #75]
There is a need to make a distinction between uncatechized baptized Catholics and uncatechized baptized Christians of another Tradition when making a decision which rites are proper. Only those rites that would be appropriate to an individual would be celebrated for that individual. Therefore:

  • The Rite of Welcome would be appropriate for all since they are all beginning this journey together. This rite would be celebrated when a group of candidates are ready and the rite may be repeated as necessary in the course of the year
  • Presentation of the Book of the Gospels…only to those who are not familiar with the Word of God…have never read the bible…have no relationship with Christ
  • Celebrations of the Word…all candidates should be present at the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday…but they are not ordinarily dismissed [all the baptized have an obligation to worship]. Catholic candidates are not dismissed. Christian candidates may be dismissed only if they choose to be dismissed. Perhaps some reflection on the Word and the celebration could happen after the Mass. Another option would be to begin the extended catechetical session with the Liturgy of the Word and time for reflection
  • Presentation of the Creed…either before or after an intense study of the articles of the Creed would be appropriate for all with the directive to memorize this prayer
  • Presentation of the Our Father…only for those who are not familiar with this prayer, have never prayed the Our Father
  • The Rite of Calling the Candidates to Continuing Conversion…this optional rite is meant for communities where there are no catechumens. The rite is celebrated at the parish with the pastor as presider. [A pastor has responsibility for all the baptized in his parish]
  • If there are catechumens and candidates the combined Rite of Election and Rite of Calling the Candidates to Continuing Conversion is celebrated at the Cathedral
  • The Penitential Rite…is an optional rite
  • Lent…is spent in reflective preparation for the reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation…it might be well to have all the candidates receive this sacrament more than once during the period of Lent
  • Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church is a rite for Christians...not for Catholics. At the Easter vigil all the candidates [Catholic and Christian] profess their faith with the community. In addition the Christian candidates only make a declarative profession and are received into full communion
  • Rite of Confirmation…all candidates [Catholic and Christian] are now confirmed by the presider

When only some of the Candidates will be celebrating one of the Rites the other candidates are present as members of the assembly praying for and supporting these Candidates.

Are there any changes in the Rite of Confirmation?

The new translation of the Rite of Confirmation is at the present time going through the review process and is scheduled to be considered at the next Bishops' meeting. For the foreseeable future the present Rite is to be used. The only changes a parish need concern itself with are the changes to the Mass texts prescribed by Roman Missal 3rd edition. This means that the present Guide for the Preparation of the Confirmation Liturgy is the proper guide to use.

The USCCB Committee on Divine Worship is presently working on the revision of the Rite of Confirmation. However, the new (interim) Roman Pontifical has been published and will be used by the Bishops at Confirmation until the Revised Rite is officially completed and approved. There are minor changes in the words used by the Bishop during the renewal of baptismal vows. The response of the confirmands is still the same. There is no need to print in a program all of these questions used by the bishop…the confirmands should be listening to the questions and then making their response. The only other change is the response” And with your spirit”….which confirmands and congregation have been using for a year now. For the sake of parishes preparing for the celebration of Confirmation a copy of the rite can be downloaded here.

Who from the RCIA group should be part of the dismissal from Mass?

The RCIA #73 states: Ordinarily when catechumens are present in the assembly of the faithful during the Mass they should be kindly dismissed before the liturgy of the Eucharist begins. They must await their baptism, which will join them to God’s priestly people and empower them to participate in the celebration of the Eucharist.  Therefore, catechumens should be part of the dismissal rite.

Baptized candidates from another Christian tradition are already members of the Church [though not in full communion] and children of God. Their baptism gives them the right to be present at the celebration of the Eucharist but they may not receive Holy Communion until they have been received into full communion with the Church. When these candidates are truly uncatechized they may choose to be dismissed with the catechumens, however, they must be continuously reminded of the fact that they are not catechumens.

Baptized Catholic candidates are never dismissed. By their baptism they have a responsibility to be with the community for the celebration of the Eucharist.

Is it proper for catechumens and candidates to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday?

Receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday would not be proper for catechumens.

However, because they are baptized, it would be proper for the candidates to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday.

At the Easter Vigil may the pastor confirm Baptized Catholics completing their initiation through the RCIA process?

The pastor has the faculty to administer the sacrament of confirmation at the Easter Vigil to baptized Catholics who, although baptized earlier, have not been reared in the Catholic Church, on the occasion of their reconciliation with the Catholic Church provided that such individuals have participated in the catechesis of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or its diocesan-approved equivalent. (Canon 883.2)

In the Archdiocese of Detroit, the pastor has the faculty to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation during the Easter Vigil to any persons who were baptized Catholic and raised Catholic but had left the practice of the faith and are now returning to the faith.  The faculty is limited to the Easter Vigil and may be used only for those who have been part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or an Archdiocesan approved equivalent.

However, the pastor does not have the faculty to confirm those baptized Catholics who have been “faithful” but for some reason or other have not been confirmed.  If the priest wishes to confirm these adults he would need to request a special faculty.  The ordinary way for these persons to receive the sacrament of Confirmation in the Archdiocese of Detroit would be at the Cathedral on the Feast of Pentecost or Christ the King.

Liturgial Seasons

Who can impose ashes?

The ordinary minister for the blessing of ashes is a priest or deacon. Others may assist with the imposition of ashes where there is genuine need, especially for the sick and shut-ins.

What are the formulas to be used?

"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." Or "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you will return."

Is it permissible for people to self-impose ashes on Ash Wednesday?

No.

Ashes are meant to be received, not taken and self-imposed. The Ceremonial for Bishops in its explanation of Ash Wednesday states:

On the Wednesday before the First Sunday of Lent the faithful, by receiving ashes, enter upon the season appointed for spiritual purification. This sign of penance, biblical in origin and preserved among the customs of the Church until our own day, expresses the human condition as affected by sin. In this sign we outwardly profess our guilt before God and thereby, prompted by the hope that the Lord is kind and compassionate, patient and abounding in mercy, express our desire for inward conversion. This sign is also the beginning of the journey of conversion that will reach its goal in the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation during the days leading to Easter.[#253 Ceremonial of Bishops]

The blessing and imposition of ashes should take place either in the Mass or outside of the Mass. In the latter case, it is to be part of a liturgy of the word and conclude with the prayer of the faithful, Blessing and Dismissal. [Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts, #21]

The explanation in the Ceremonial of Bishops continues with directives for the Bishop himself to receive the ashes from another minister, concelebrant or deacon.

Is it proper to empty baptismal fonts during Lent?

Removing the holy water from the baptismal font during Lent is an innovation based on custom not liturgical law. The practice shows a lack of understanding of the season of Lent.

“Through its twofold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes both the catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery.  Catechumens are led to the sacraments of initiation by means of the rite of election, the scrutinies, and catechesis.  The faithful, listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises.” [Ceremonial of Bishops, #249]

For both catechumens and the faithful it is important to keep in the forefront of their mind the importance of the waters of baptism.  Catechumens passing by the baptismal font are led to yearn for the day when they will be claimed as God’s children and join the family of God.  The faithful passing by the baptismal waters are led to reflect on how they have been unfaithful to their baptismal promises and use the time of Lent to repent so that they are ready to renew those promises at the Easter Vigil. The waters in the baptismal font serve as a constant reminder to both groups.

There is no document that addresses this issue directly since it is the innovation of someone’s imagination.  The only time that emptying the baptismal font is addressed is in the Ordo.  In the directives for Holy Thursday the Ordo says: Holy water may be removed from all fonts. They are refilled with the water blessed at the Easter Vigil.

May the Stations of the Cross be prayed during Eucharistic Adoration? May the Stations be ended with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament?

Benediction is part of the Order for Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist. This order of prayer is part of the Church's official liturgy. It is no longer permitted for benediction to be added to end any other service or devotion. The USCCB has a more complete explanation on their website.

In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults there is reference to sponsors and to godparents. What is the difference?

The sponsor is a person from the community who comes to know the catechumen well, who accompanies the catechumen on the faith journey, and who testifies publicly in liturgical ceremonies to the catechumen’s moral character, faith and intention – that is, to the catechumen’s readiness to advance to each new step in the process. The community chooses and assigns the sponsor. A sponsor may also be the catechumen’s godparent; however, at the time of baptism, a different person can be chosen as godparent.

An individual’s godparent establishes a spiritual relationship with the catechumen that lasts forever. In the year that the catechumen will be baptized, the godparent journeys with him or her usually from the First Sunday of Lent through the entire Lenten season to the Easter Vigil and initiation, then continues through Mystagogy and post-baptismal catechesis. The catechumen chooses the godparent.

[From the Handbook for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Archdiocese of Detroit, 2006, p. 12]

Mass

May the celebration of a parish's patronal feast be transferred to Sunday when the feast occurs during the week?

A parish patron's or title's feast day and the parish church's anniversary of dedication are celebrated as solemnities in the parish. The anniversary of the church's dedication and the solemnity of the patron or title of a church may be transferred to all Masses of a Sunday if:

  • the Sunday is in Ordinary Time
  • and the anniversary of dedication is of a particular church
  • or the solemnity is of the principal patron of a specific place or of the title of a particular church.

It may not be transferred if:

  • the transfer would be to a Sunday of Advent, Lent, or the Easter season,
  • or to a Sunday on which any solemnity of the Lord, of Mary, or of the saints listed in the General Calendar, is celebrated.
  • or if the celebration involves the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral church or the patron of a region or nation or a secondary patron.

How many intentions may there be for any particular Mass?

Canon 948 states that ordinarily there may be no more than one offering (intention) for one Mass. However, in 1991 the Congregation for the Clergy issued a decree …Collective Intentions…which permitted the practice of taking more than one offering for a single Mass. (See the full document here)

The principle rules governing this practice are:

  • The donors must be informed and agree to combine their offerings with others in a single Mass
  • The time and place for the celebration of the Mass are to be made public
  • Masses for collective intentions may not be celebrated by a priest more than twice a week
  • If the total amount of the offerings given for a collective intention exceeds the amount of the usual offering the excess is to be given to the Ordinary for the purposes he has specified.

How do I get a certificate to be a parish lector and/or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion?

It is the pastor of the parish, either himself or through his delegate (Coordinator of ministries), who calls a person to the ministry of lector and/or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. After preparation and formation have been given, the pastor/coordinator of ministries…discerns with the candidate readiness to provide this ministry for the community. A letter to that effect naming the candidate(s) is sent to the Office for Christian Worship. The Office will prepare the certificates and forward them to the parish.

May the priest baptize an infant at the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist?

Yes. The Rite of Baptism for Children, Introduction, Part III #9 states:

To bring out the paschal character of baptism, it is recommended that the sacrament be celebrated during the Easter Vigil or on Sunday, when the Church commemorates the Lord’s resurrection. On Sunday, baptism may be celebrated even during Mass, so that the entire community may be present and the relationship between baptism and eucharist may be clearly seen; but this should not be done too often.

Further clarifications were sent by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1973 that state:

As often as baptism takes place during Sunday Mass, the Mass for that Sunday or on Sundays in the Christmas season and in ordinary time the Mass for the baptism of children is used. This can be found on p. 973 of the Roman Missal, third typical edition.

Is it proper to bring gifts for the poor during the Presentation of the Gifts? Where should they be placed?

It is important to remember that the gifts brought up are of two different kinds. First and foremost there are the gifts for the sacrifice…the bread and the wine…. These gifts, presented by the entire assembly, are the gifts to be transformed into the body and blood of Christ. They are received by the priest and deacon {or other servers} and placed on the altar by the priest or deacon. Secondly, there are those gifts meant to be used for the ministries of the community. These gifts which can be monetary and other gifts for the poor {food, clothing, etc.} may be brought in the procession and, given their purpose, they are to put in a suitable place away from the Eucharistic table [GIRM #73] but not in the sanctuary. Nothing should be placed on the sanctuary that would obstruct the sight line of the people to the altar of sacrifice or impede the movement of the ministers on the sanctuary in the course of the celebration.

Where should the manger be placed in church during the Christmas Season?

If the manger is set up in the church, it must not be placed in the sanctuary area. A place should be chosen that is suitable for prayer and devotion and is easily accessible by the faithful. {Book of Blessings, p. 583} Nothing on the sanctuary area should distract the people from the action of transformation taking place on the altar. The manger, to which children can be brought to see and touch, is a profound way for parents to catechize them.

Are the rules for fasting and abstinence different during Lent than they are during the rest of the liturgical year?

In their Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence the U.S. bishops state:

10. Beginning with the powerful lesson of Ash Wednesday, Lent has retained its ancient appeal to the penitential spirit of our people. It has also acquired elements of popular piety which we bishops would wish to encourage.

11. Accordingly, while appealing for greater development of the understanding of the Lenten liturgy, as that of Advent, we hope that the observance of Lent as the principal season of penance in the Christian year will be intensified. This is the more desirable because of new insights into the central place in Christian faith of those Easter mysteries for the understanding and enjoyment of which Lent is the ancient penitential preparation.

12. Wherefore, we ask, urgently and prayerfully, that we, as people of God, make of the entire Lenten Season a period of special penitential observance. Following the instructions of the Holy See, we declare that the obligation both to fast and to abstain from meat, an obligation observed under a more strict formality by our fathers in the faith, still binds on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season and on that Friday called "Good" because on that day Christ suffered in the flesh and died for our sins.

13. In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul's Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice.

14. For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting. In the light of grave human needs which weigh on the Christian conscience in all seasons, we urge, particularly during Lent, generosity to local, national, and world programs of sharing of all things needed to translate our duty to penance into a means of implementing the right of the poor to their part in our abundance. We also recommend spiritual studies, beginning with the Scriptures as well as the traditional Lenten Devotions (sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary), and all the self-denial summed up in the Christian concept of "mortification."

15. Let us witness to our love and imitation of Christ, by special solicitude for the sick, the poor, the underprivileged, the imprisoned, the bedridden, the discouraged, the stranger, the lonely, and persons of other color, nationalities, or backgrounds than our own. A catalogue of not merely suggested but required good works under these headings is provided by Our Blessed Lord Himself in His description of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:34-40). This salutary word of the Lord is necessary for all the year, but should be heeded with double care during Lent.

May infants be baptized during Lent?

According to the Rite of Baptism # 9 “To bring out the paschal character of baptism, it is recommended that the sacrament be celebrated during the Easter Vigil or on Sunday, when the Church commemorates the Lord’s resurrection. On Sunday, baptism may be celebrated even during Mass, so that the entire community may be present and the necessary relationship between baptism and Eucharist may be clearly seen...”

Although baptism of infants is not strictly forbidden during Lent something may be lost from the celebration, particularly when it takes place at Mass, since it is the scripture of the day that must be used for proclamation and for the homily. In addition, the Circular Letter states that “it is not fitting that Baptisms and Confirmations be celebrated” on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord through Holy Thursday. {#27}

Lent is that season of the Liturgical Year when parishes spend much time preparing the elect for their initiation at the Easter Vigil by helping them become aware of how God wishes to cleanse them from all sin they have committed. It is also the time for preparing the faithful for their reconciliation so that all can come ready for the renewal of their baptismal commitment at the Easter celebration. Lent then, is the time to prepare for baptism and the renewal of baptism not necessarily to celebrate baptism.

Of course, in case of necessity, infants may be baptized during Lent, but it is more suitable that infant baptism be deferred until Easter.

May an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion give blessings during the Communion procession?

There has been much discussion among liturgists, theologians and canonists about interrupting the Communion procession to give blessings to children, non- Catholics, and even Catholics not prepared to receive Holy Communion. In a private letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship, November 2008 the following observations were given:

  • “this matter is presently under the attentive study of the Congregation” so “ for the present, this Dicastery wishes to limit itself to the following observations”
  • The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and to all at the conclusion of the Mass
  • Lay people, within the context of the Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings
  • these blessings are the competence of the priest
  • Laying on of hands is to be explicitly discouraged since this gesture has its own sacramental significance which is inappropriate during the Communion procession
  • The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio #84 “forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry”. To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.
  • the Church’s discipline has already made clear those non-Catholics and those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing.

Can a person receive the consecrated host and then dip it in the chalice to receive the consecrated wine?

What you describe is a practice known as self- intinction. Self-intinction is strictly forbidden. At the Last Supper the invitation that Christ gave to the Apostles and gives to us at the celebration of the Eucharist is: “Take and eat. This is my body.” “Take and drink. This is my blood poured out for you…” The Eucharist we receive is truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. It is no longer bread and wine. In receiving it by eating and drinking we are called to become the Body of Christ pouring out ourselves for others.

Is the Funeral Mass allowed during the Octave of Christmas?

Yes, the funeral Mass may be celebrated during the Octave of Christmas. The funeral Mass is not permitted on solemnities of obligation, on Holy Thursday and the Easter Triduum, and on the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter Season.

Special Circumstances

May the body of the deceased lie in state in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the parish?

In his pastoral letter, Blessed Are They Who Mourn, Cardinal Maida encouraged parishes to arrange for the body of a deceased person to lie in state in the church proper or in the gathering space immediately prior to the Funeral Liturgy. Families took advantage of this privilege enabling family members who were not able to be at the wake to have time to view the body, pray for the deceased and be there for the mourning family.
However, it is important to read carefully this section of the pastoral letter….The proper place for the body to lie in state is the church proper…or the gathering area.There was no intent in the letter to encourage parishes to use the Blessed Sacrament Chapel for this purpose. In fact, when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle in the church proper Cardinal Maida cautioned pastors that it might not be proper to have the body lie in state in the church because of the potential of a lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. The gathering area would be a more appropriate place in this case.
It is important to remember that the purpose of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is to provide a suitable place for private prayer and devotion to honor our Lord in the Eucharist. A sense of quiet awe should fill the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Nothing should detract from this purpose.
When the body of the deceased lies in state in the church proper it is most appropriate that the body be placed near the baptismal font. The faith journey of the deceased began in baptism. “In the act receiving the body, the members of the community acknowledge the deceased as one of their own, as one who was welcomed in baptism and who held a place in the assembly”…and at this funeral liturgy the community asks that the deceased have a share in the heavenly banquet promised to all who have been baptized in Christ.

We have children in our school/religious education process who have been baptized in other Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite. Is there anything we need to be aware of when preparing them for First Communion or Confirmation?

These children are under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of that particular Eastern Church. They should be prepared for and receive their First Communion at that Eastern Rite church. If the parents wish them to be prepared and receive Communion with their peers in the Catholic school or religious education process the pastor/or parents should request special permission from the Bishop of the Eastern Rite Church.

Most Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite confirm children at their baptism. A child who is confirmed may not be confirmed a second time. It is also not proper for them to be in the line of peers to request a blessing from the bishop. Only those to be confirmed belong in this line.

Rather, when the peers of the child are being prepared for Confirmation the already confirmed child should be made aware of the fact that because he/she is already confirmed he/she is a full member of the Catholic Church. As such, he/she may be called upon to exercise a liturgical ministry at the celebration of the confirmation of the other peers. The ministry to which the child is called will depend on the gifts he/she possesses.

How does a parish record the Reception into Full Communion?

Baptized Christians, who are received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church, are confirmed and receive Communion at the same celebration. This includes children of catechetical age. A notation about the Reception into Full Communion is made in the Baptismal register. The information about the original baptism is recorded as usual; then in the notations column the date and minister of The Reception into Full Communion is made. Confirmation is recorded in the Confirmation register.