What to do with the 3 conversion stories: Jn: 4:5-42; Jn 9:1-41; Jn 11: 1-45 ?

When there are catechumens who are candidates for baptism at the Great Vigil of Easter, it is appropriate in any year with the consent of the Bishop to use the Sunday lectionary for Year A during Lent and the Great Fifty Days of Easter. (BoS 2018, p. 136)

These three conversion stories — The Samaritan Woman at the Well; The Man Born Blind; The Raising of Lazarus — are long. But the RCIA, The BoS and other liturgical instruction texts dictate or recommend that they be used if a faith community has catechumens preparing for baptism. There is good reason for this. They are all powerful conversion stories. They all deal with major themes of baptism: water, sight, new life.

Using them in Year A is easy, for obvious reasons. These are the gospel passages for the 3rd, 4th & 5th Sundays of Lent, respectfully. But not so for Years B and C. Many pastors ignore this dictum for “pastoral reasons.” They say that the faithful would miss the richness and variety of the other Lenten pericope. I suspect many of the faithful would not even notice the difference. If they did, would they could raise some questions? “We heard these passages last year; why again this year?” If the people are that aware of the “sameness” from year to year, then they are probably already clued into the significance of having catechumens among them.

But what are catechists supposed to do with these pericopes? They are long stories that do not lend themselves to lectio. I have seen several suggestions:

  • Reflect upon the entire story as story. Read it through and then talk about images it brings forth; who you most identify with in the story and why; what do you think is going on in this story, etc.
  • Take a short section of the story for lectio.
  • Assign different roles in each story and read it as narrative. (I have jokingly referred to this as “practice” for reading the Passion narrative for Palm Sunday or Good Friday.) The catechumenate participants at Trinity Cathedral read the Passion narrative at one of the Palm Sunday main services. Depending upon the number of catechumens, candidates and sponsors, the team members may also read parts.
  • Let people use art work (poetry, sketching, music, etc) to tell the story in their own words.
  • Preach on each story.
  • Other?

I don’t know. All of these, or a mixture, are possibilities. We have tried all of these, except the art work suggestion. Using this option would depend upon the “artistic” capabilities of the participants. The retreat exercise of creating your own creed would be good preparation for this approach. At Trinity Cathedral we have a retreat on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday during which we focus on the Apostle’s Creed.

I don’t mean this quick conclusion to be a cop-out. I simply put these forward as different possibilities. If you have other suggestions, please let us know. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend following the recommendation of those who have spent so much time with the RCIA and its various denominational variations.

About Jerry

Catechumenate ministry is my passion. I have been involved in the catechumenate since 1980 in both the Roman Catholic and Episcopal branches of the Church. I am a "progressive," ecumenical Christian who is realistic enough to know that the Church has never been "One"; is often not "Holy"; strives to be "Catholic" and is "Apostolic" only when members respect the Tradition rather than the latest customs. I have been fortunate to be able to focus on various elements of philosophy, theology and Christian history during my studies. I am able to bring them all to bear in catechumenate ministry.
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