I said I would write a bit more about our period of Mystagogy in the parish. I recently heard a statistic that, on average, 70% of the people who are received into the Church at Easter in a particular diocese (I won’t say which one, but I imagine they are all more or less the same) LAPSE!! Working all the time with people are preparing for the sacraments of initiation, this struck me as so SAD… These people must have been committed enough to go through a period of preparation (I’m aware that in some parishes it is shorter and less thorough than in others), there must have been some original conviction or experience that spurred them to make contact with their parish in the first place. So what happens?!?
This is clearly a complex area, and it would be fascinating if there were some research done, so that parishes can increase their chances of RCIA “Success”!
However, I would suggest that one small contributing factor to people persevering in their new Faith could be, firstly, the period of Mystagogy, and secondly, ongoing formation following on from this.
The period of Mystagogy runs from Easter to Pentecost (hence the image above of the powerful moment of Pentecost). In the early Church, it was a time when the bishop would explain to the neophytes (new Catholics) the meaning of the mysteries or sacraments into which they had just been initiated. These mysteries were considered so sacred that they were not revealed to the recipients until they had been initiated.
On Monday we had our first session of Mystagogia in the parish with the new Catholics. There was a real sense of joy – this group has been meeting together weekly for almost a year and a half so there’s now a great sense of community among the neophytes, sponsors and catechists. One of the purposes of the Mystagogia is to lead the new Catholics to reflect deeply on their experiences of the Easter Vigil, their reception of the sacraments, and their ‘new life’ as a Catholic. Another element we are focussing on in these few weeks are the essential elements which will sustain their new Catholic life from now on. Each week, they are discussing a different element with their Sponsor: e.g. formation – how will I continue my formation and learning of the Faith? prayer – what ‘plan of life’ will I commit to including daily prayer, confession, spiritual direction? and service and apostolate – how can I offer my talents in service to the Church and how can I engage in the apostolate?
It sounds like a lot… But I think this is another example of how the RCIA is a microcosm of our Catholic life. We have to make concrete, practical and realistic goals and decisions for ourselves in these areas to help us stay faithful and ensure that we continue to grow and move forward in our spiritual life.
Maybe – just maybe – if we help new Catholics make practical decisions in these areas, and if they have faithful and loving Sponsors to encourage them and help keep them on track, there would be fewer new Catholics so tragically lapsing after receiving the sacraments of their salvation?