"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people in order that you might proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9)
A neophyte is a person who is newly baptized. Through the Sacraments of Initiation they are made part of the royal priesthood of Christ and are called to proclaim, with all the baptized, the mighty acts of God.
The period of time after the neophytes receive the Sacraments of Initiation is called the Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis, or mystagogy. "This period of postbaptismal catechesis is of great significance for both the neophytes and the rest of the faithful. Through it the neophytes, with the help of their godparents, should experience a full and joyful welcome into the community and enter into closer ties with the other faithful. The faithful, in turn, should derive from it a renewal of inspiration and of outlook" (RCIA, 236). In other words, this is a time when the neophytes are shown what it is to be a member of this chosen race and royal priesthood. The neophyte is no longer looking in, waiting for the day they can join in the sacramental life of the Church, rather, they are now fully able to join with all the Church in the fullness of the life of the Church. The power and spirit of this period is derived from the personal experiences of the liturgy that the neophytes now have and in their connection to the community. Neophytes are formed and grow by participating in the Mass with other Catholics.
The Neophyte Mass is one of the ways we embrace and live out this understanding of the importance of liturgy and community. This year the Mass will be on April 22 at Saint Michael's Cathedral Basilica. Cardinal Collins, as chief pastor of the Church in Toronto, celebrates the Mass. It is a way to show the connectedness of the whole Church in Toronto, and to welcome, in a special way, the neophytes into our part of the Church.
As they continue their journey in the faith, and as the whole Church journeys with them, we need to remember to pray for all neophytes and all those who share their faith with them.
At the Easter Vigil, as the celebrant holds his hands over those to be confirmed and prays a prayer asking God the Father to send the Holy Spirit onto those who are being confirmed. The end of the prayer is worth remembering and praying often, for the neophytes and for all of us:
"Give them a spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and own in your presence."
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy for the Office of Formation for Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Toronto.