Years ago, when I was a deacon and doing ministry in Ahmednagar, I was asked to do an adult baptism. To my great horror, the only rite available was the rite of infant baptism. With my kaccha Marathi, I had to somehow go through the sacrament, trying to make adjustments.
Very few people - and that includes, strangely, also priests - know that there is a Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults. It is this rite that should be used for adult baptisms. The infant baptism rite is meant for the infant who cannot answer for himself or herself. The adult can very well answer for himself/herself.
You might wonder why this RCIA is not called Rite of Baptism of Adults. There is a good reason: it is because, once anyone is given baptism, s/he has a right also to Confirmation and the Eucharist. The infant cannot be given these conveniently, so they are postponed. But there is absolutely no reason for postponing these sacraments for the adult. So the RCIA involves baptism, confirmation and eucharist all in one beautiful rite.
Dreadfully, some parish priests even make the catechumens make their confession BEFORE BAPTISM. This is, as I have said, simply dreadful. There is no sacrament of confession before baptism; and baptism is the washing away of all sins, the complete cleansing of our hearts.... The sacrament of reconciliation should be given neither before nor immediately after adult baptism. It is certainly needed, but later; it is not to be given during the rite or immediately after. To do such things betrays the most distressing incomprehension of the rite of baptism, a complete devaluation of baptism, an absolute failure to understand what baptism is about.
Jessica D'Souza, who used to be in our parish, and is now in Canada, helps in her parish preparing adults for Christian Initiation. I have asked her to share something with us about the process. It would be wonderful to hear about these experiences.
Samuel, Saul and David
2 days ago