Sunday, April 19, 2015

Notes from the Liturgical Catechesis and the New Evangelization Conference Part 6 - William Keimig

Here is the 6th and final installment of my notes from the Liturgical Catechesis conference at the Liturgical Institute at University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein. This is from the talk by William Keimig, St. Mary's of Piscataway, Clinton, MD

"The RCIA Process: The Church's Measure for Liturgical Catechesis"

Common Errors
  • Diabolica division between liturgists and catechists 
  • Liturgy is "used" becoming the servant of catechesis
  • Liturgy does not determine your catechetical emphasis
  • No Rite book nearby means no exploration of the liturgy
  • Thinking that people have sufficiently-sticking conversations through teaching only: no vision that prayer and liturgy are the glue of conversion; they stick you to God.
People outside the church think our liturgical practice is just weird. They can't imagine that is the way we show love to God.

Liturgy models utterance- Love longs to share itself
Liturgy models sacrifice - Love longs not to count the cost
Liturgy models surrender - Love longs to trust absolutely
Liturgy models dialogue - Love longs to speak to the beloved

All of these elements need to be present in our catechesis:
Lex orandi - Liturgical
Lex credendi - Catechetical
Lex vivendi - Pastoral

Catechecal component
Introduces worship - Gives a first exposure to sacred space
Incarnates worship - Explains signs, gestures and beauty
Informs worship - offers a compelling vision into the myster
Inculturates worship - Bestows orthodoxy, authenticated by Mother Church
Invites worship - Points all doctrine to the Story and tot the love that never ends (see Catechesii Tradendae 23)

We need to understand liturgy well enough that we become able to mentor others into loving the liturgy. We need to know why liturgy is an authentic need and why the liturgy is the center and soul of the striving for perfection. Cf. Fr. Cyprian Vagaggini, OSB. Liturgy is relational- not mechanical. To strive for perfection means you want to experience the love beyond all telling and total intimacy. That is what is being offered in the liturgy, along with the means to attain it.

Pastoral formation (fellowship of the group and their hospitality, witnessing and sharing of opinion) and catechetical formation are ABOUT Christ but only the liturgy OFFERS Christ.

READ Aidan Kavanaugh OSB: "A Rite of Passage" the experience of how a catchumen was prepared in the early church.

Lectionary-based Catechesis
During the period of Purification and Enlightenment there should be no more doctrine but a spiritual preparation for the sacraments. Mystagogy teaches from the rites.

*Lectionary-based catechesis is just wrong except in early Lent and Mystagogy. It assumes a mystagogical framework. For a full explanation, see his article in Appendix IV of The RCIA Catechist's Manual (Liturgical Training Publications)

Teaching a doctrinal point through the liturgy. 
Example: Purgatory. We offer every Mass for the departed souls and they are present at every Mass. That takes teaching about it from sterile doctrine to a lived reality.

Benefits of catechumenal catechesis that is authentically liturgical:
  • Fosters more genuine and deep conversions to God and His calling on individual lives
  • Allows for more frequent and more full appropriation of grace
  • More fully expressive of the Church nature 
  • Fosters docility to the ancient ways of the Church
  • Mitigates polemic tendencies regarding the teachings of the Church
  • Helps the parish community grow in its communal and liturgical life
  • Helps people to grasp the liturgical life of the Church in a daily pragmatic way
  • Creates a greater diversity of ministries for differing gifts and abilities of parishioners
  • Assists in vocational awareness due to the regular focus on saints who have lived fully their vocations
  • The ordered nature and paschal focus of the liturgical year implies and demands systemic catechesis
  • Provides more diverse means of approach for children; in better accord with the learning types of children
  • Gives people a chance to experience the priest's liturgical ministry more frequently and in a less-distant setting
  • Because the liturgical year forms the context of parish life, people become that much more integrated into parish life
  • Helps catechesis accord with the adult learning model better than more didactic and academic forms of teaching
  • Demands more people (sponsors, godparents, team) to be more liturgically aware and in tune with the cycles of the Church's life
Dangers of a parish that lacks a liturgically centered vision of the RCIA process
  • The catechumenate is viewed as unnecessarily effort-intensive, or it becomes "canned"
  • Doctrine is explained without reference to Jesus. His simple call is lost in the details
  • Not expecting serious progress; or not having patience with how Jesus woos a soul
  • Liturgical rites become celebrations of community entirely, not encounters with Christ
  • The trust given to catechists and leaders never translates into trusting Jesus
  • Forgiveness explained poorly can result in seeing Jesus' mercy as weakness or lenience
Questions to discuss in a parish setting to improve
  • How do we prepare RCIA participants and the parish for the major liturgical rites?
  • How do we reflect on these rites after they take place?
  • How often and how well do we make available the various minor rites
  • If we dismiss the catechumens from Sunday Mass, how often do we do so? If not, how can we change things to offer this opportunity?
  • What takes place at Breaking Open the Word (Reflection on the Word?) is it just another teaching session, or perhaps just a sharing of opinions?
  • What happens during Lent? Is Lent a time for interior reflection or primarily catechetical instruction?
  • Do we celebrate all of the Scrutinies, the Presentations, and the preparation Rites on Holy Saturday?
  • What is our Easter Vigil like? How many parishioners attend? Do the elect and the candidates feel welcomed and at home by their experience of the parish at the Vigil?
  • Are sponsors and godparents deeply involved before and after the Easter Vigil? What sort of formation do they receive?
What should a parish see in its neophytes over time that gives evidence as to whether the RCIA process has been successful?
  • Do your neophytes really feel they have a need for the Mass?
  • Do your neophytes really have a desire for Jesus that is restless for more?
  • Do your neophytes really desire to help others get to Heaven?
  • Do your neophytes really have thankful hearts?
  • Do your neophytes really need God in daily life?
  • Do your neophytes really desire to sin less each day? 
Other suggestions
  • Use guided meditations on prayers, ritual texts, Scripture, Eucharistic prayers, the Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, the Communion Rite, litanies, Lord/s prayer, other well-known prayers
  • Tour the church, sacristy, diocesan cathedral, local monasteries or retreat houses, local shrines, other Catholic churches, an Eastern Rite Catholic church, a Catholic cemetery
  • Use different prayer forms - Adoration, Liturgy of the Word, Silent prayer alone - indoors, outdoors, in small groups, in a chapel - Explain and offer Masses for different intentions, explain and pray Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Stations of the Cross, Stations of Light, the Angelus, the Regina Caeli, a litany, pray by laying on hands, pray a novena for a specific intention, pray in Latin, Sing psalms, Sing hymns, sing common Mass setttings, personal silent meditation on Scripture, an event in Church history, a saint's life or writings, a prayer text, a hymn text, a poem with suitable themes.
  • Other creative elements: walk through the Mass,through the Bible or a specific Gospel, through a missalette, through one of the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning or Evening Prayer, for instance), walk though Examination of Conscience, demonstrate how to go to Confession, how to receive Communion, how to offer a thanksgiving prayer after Communion, explain and hold a Passover Seder, explain Catholic objects, vessels, sacramentals, statues, medals, devotional items; do a virtual or video tour of Catholic places, watch a video of a major Catholic event watch a movie on a biblical story, the life of a saint, a Catholic theme.
An exercise in liturgical catechesis:
Take 5 common doctrines, and come up with (in a single sentence for each) an ear-catching proclamation of how each doctrine connects to the sacred liturgy. Do not limit this to articulating connections to the Mass only, but also the broader liturgical reality that the Church understands.

Previous Posts in this series
Part 1 - James Pauley keynote
Part 2 - Fr. Douglas Martis
Part 3 - Petroc Willey
Part 4 - James Pauley
Part 5 - Jim Beckman


  1. "Diabolical division between liturgists and catechists" Can't say I've experienced this...what is it?

    1. Perhaps overstated, but in many parishes staff work in their own silos and there is little cooperation between these areas, except grudgingly when it's time for Confirmation liturgies and such. I think he's saying that there are too many cases where there is "territory," possessiveness and lack of cooperation. I have experienced that.

    2. RCIA can be a battleground in that area. It either gets "owned" by the liturgy folks, or by the catechetical ones... and there is failure to see that the expertise of both is needed.

  2. The Rites of RCIA are so important to the entire parish. I've seen RCIA revitalize a parish. Where I work now, we do not do any of the rites and I feel like I am cheating people; but I can't do them by myself. The reason we don't is that "parishioners aren't interested" which of course, I say, how can they be interested if we don't try to interest them. The Rites are beautiful, liturgy can be a foretaste of heaven when done intentionally and reverently. Sadly, it often is done in a very perfunctory manner that serves no one well.

  3. I so agree, Diana. When we just go through the minimal motions of initiation, people are robbed of the richness they could experience - and not just those being initiated. The entire parish loses.