Extending hands to bless catechumens (sp?)greenspun.com : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread
This may sound like an odd question, but how are you supposed to extend your hands to bless the catechumens during Mass?
I usually sit in the back, and from my vantage point, such as it is, it looks like a nazi party meeting (single arm straight up and out), which makes me very uncomfortable, and others as well with whom I've spoken. I see some people extending both hands out, which looks a lot more like what the priest does. Any suggestions?
-- GT (email@example.com), March 13, 2002
I hear you. I can just see one of these "Church of Christ" guys taking a picture of this part of a mass and putting their own caption under it.....
I don't know there probably is some official blessing on the practice, but it sure seems like a 60's-ism to me. If they scrapped it tomorrow, you wouldn't see my keyboard short out from the tears that fell on it, that's for sure.
-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), March 13, 2002.
GT, you spelled catechumen the proper way, but since they are being scrutinized, they are now referred to as "elect". As an adult catechist, and constantly referring to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, I can assure you that the extension of hands while praying over the elect is not improper. It is not stated that the parishioners should or should not follow suit as the celebrant extends his hands. It is not a 60's hippy-ism. The action of extending hands is likened to laying hands upon someone in a physical way. Since an entire congregation cannot offer such an action, the gesture is that of extending their prayers in a faithful expression of support. You can call to mind, that onother occassions, the congregation extends a hand while offering communal prayer. It can also be said, that during scrutinies, an elect's sponsor is instructed (by the Rite) to lay their hand upon the shoulder of their seeker. Since we all can't lay that hand upon the elect, a showing of the best support we can offer from our pews should not worry anyone. But, if it makes you feel uneasy, there is nothing wrong in not doing so. Personally, I have been involved in initiation for three years now. I still only bend my elbow, in a sort of wave off my waist.
-- Melissa (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 13, 2002.
Well, we are "invited" to, if you catch my drift, Melissa, and almost everyone complies--it just really does look as if at any moment someone is going to shout (you know what). Maybe that is just in the churches I've attented. I was doing something like what you've described, or just not doing it at all.
How recently has this been a part of the Mass? I know that at some Masses (maybe due to time of Mass, maybe some other reason), you don't have baptisms, RCIA, etc.
-- GT (email@example.com), March 13, 2002.
I've thought that the extending of hands looked very weird the first time I saw it; that wasn't until I moved into a Franciscan-run diocese in the SE USA, from a Jesuit-run diocese in the NE. I attributed it to a regional thing, since I do now live in the Bible Belt and there is a considerable influence, esp when you start talking to people. (A little too liberal interpretation of Newman, almost reaching lite Calvinsim, probably because of the abundance of Southern Baptists in my area. The priests are well informed and decently conservative, but after being a catechist for 4 years, most congregants are a bit more liberal and don't recognize why.) Consider where you're located and the history of the order in charge of the diocese.
RCIA has always been part of the Mass--the elect are dismissed after the Liturgy of the Word, which extends back probably to the 3rd century. Of course, it wasn't called RCIA. From the earliest foundations of the Early Christian Church, those who were not fully part of the Church were not even allowed to be in the church building during the Mass. Later, those wishing to become part of the Church could come and hear the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word, but then would have to leave because they were not to witness the miracle of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Involvement in the Mass is supposed to help the elect become more involved and develop a sense of community. Same with baptisms--have the parish recognize the new life it is jointly responsible for, with the parents, in raising the child in the faith. Each parish does this differently and at different times. My parish up North called them forwards for a blessing after the homily; in my current parish, you just see them leave with their sponsors after the homily, nothing said about them except at the Easter Vigil and when they give their witness talks.
The bottom line is that each parish treats RCIA and baptisms during Mass differently. Same with extending hands during the blessing of the elect (and my parish also extends hands on Mother's and Father's Day), which is also a very old tradition in the Church.
Sorry this response got so long! :o)
-- Niki (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 13, 2002.
Hi, Niki. Hey -- neat e-mail address! I was just reading, a day or two ago, about a saint who was exiled to Samothrace. You must be of Greek heritage, right? I know that Nicholas and related names are favorites in Greece.
I wanted to let you know that your history is partially "off" in this paragraph that you wrote:
"RCIA has always been part of the Mass -- the elect are dismissed after the Liturgy of the Word, which extends back probably to the 3rd century. Of course, it wasn't called RCIA. From the earliest foundations of the Early Christian Church, those who were not fully part of the Church were not even allowed to be in the church building during the Mass. Later, those wishing to become part of the Church could come and hear the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word, but then would have to leave because they were not to witness the miracle of the Liturgy of the Eucharist."
I was born in 1951, and kids at my Catholic school attended daily Mass right from first grade (about 1957) onward. So I am aware of the fact that, in the old rite of the Mass celebrated before the end of Vatican II (1965), there was a division between the "Mass of the Catechumens" (through the sermon) and the "Mass of the Faithful" (afterward). Historically, this corresponded to the departure from Church by the unbaptized, as you mentioned. However, I think that you don't realize that there was no such departure of people when I was a kid. The unbaptized remained in Church throughout the Mass, and I think that such had been the practice for many centuries. (Somehow the old practice of the unbaptized departing had faded away.)
The other thing is that you were not quite right to say is that there has always been an RCIA (or equivalent). Rather, the fathers (bishops) of Vatican II called for the re-institution of the ancient practice of the catechumenate, which had disappeared. The result, subsequent to 1965, was the Vatican's creation of the RCIA. When I was a kid, there were no organized classes of instruction and no formal rite of Christian initiation (no scrutinies, elect, mystagogia, etc.). Adults who wanted to become Catholics simply studied on their own and in private sessions with Catholic priests until they were deemed ready to be baptized -- and baptisms normally did not occur on the Easter Vigil. The re-institution of multiple baptisms on Holy Saturday night (in the 1970s, I believe) was again part of the post-Vatican-II return to ancient Christian practices that had fallen into disuse.
OK, now many you picked up something new from me, but I want you to know that I got something new from you. [I learn something new here every day.]
Actually, I have never been involved in the RCIA (which has never been a visible thing where I have been a parishioner). And, just by chance, I have never attended Mass at which catechumens/elect were visibly present. Therefore, I have never seen -- nor even heard of, before today -- the extension of hands mentioned by GT, Melissa, and you!
God bless you.
-- (email@example.com), March 13, 2002.