For "Just One Person"
by Joyce Stolberg
How special is "just one person?" God has called each catechumen or candidate by name, and the Church has honored this call at the Rites of Election and Recognition/Call to Continuing Conversion. We are now progressing through the Scrutinies during the middle of Lent and preparing for the awesome Sacraments of Initiation conferred during or near the Easter Vigil at the end of March. Some of you leaders are managing multiple sacramental preparation processes for many within a dynamic parish structure.
How often have you heard it said --- or perhaps said it yourself: I don't want to ________ for just one person? Fill in the blank. Perhaps you have heard someone say that they don't want to run an RCIA process "for just one person" or heat up the baptismal pool for "just one catechumen" (pouring water over the head will do). Perhaps someone hasn't wanted to plan a distinct First Communion celebration for a single youngster with special needs, or advance a daughter's Communion prior to a mother's deployment. Note: the RCIA process unfolds better within a group, but isn't that one person important enough for you to design a flexible solution to the dilemma? You can plan individual pedagogy for a single person or incorporate that person into the RCIA process of another parish in your deanery or cluster. In our military town, we have accelerated baptismal preparation for catechumens facing scheduled deployments and postponed First Communion for a child who desired to wait for her father's return. In decades past, predominance of the Combined Rite brought the whole RCIA group through the sacraments at the Easter Vigil: today, according to the direction of the Bishop of your diocese, the rites for catechumens and candidates may likely be separated. Each sacramental rite should bear the weight of the mystery that is being celebrated, even when a small number or even one person is involved.
Has your parish staff ever grumbled about needing to reallocate space to meet the needs of one physically impaired individual? (Understandably, every parish that blooms with life will have normal conflicts when scheduling the use of space.) Have you been willing to tutor, or find a tutor for someone who is mentally challenged, or an ASL signer for a deaf person? Was a single catechumen perhaps recently prevented from meeting your Bishop because there was no ramp access to the sanctuary area and the Cathedra? After all, only one person might need it! Has someone ever been barred from accessing a diocesan meeting because it was held upstairs in an old non-adapted building, and the moderator did not want to move the set-up downstairs "just for one person." Christ knows the pain of those who are different in any way.
When recruiting potential sponsors, at least in our parish, we ask them to be present for didactic sessions every week, and to attend a specific Mass with the catechumens and candidates. This is a significant commitment but it bears wonderful fruit. Responses I have heard include, "I don't want to do all that for just one person." Married couples direct all their love and energy for nine months into preparing for the arrival of one precious tiny person. Should we not do even a little to incubate spiritual life? Sponsoring requires one to concentrate some energies on traveling the journey of faith with a single person, usually for about nine months. Watching new life germinate, then burst forth in that person is a stunning experience. Those who do it are renewed in their faith themselves.
Now, is it really one person? That person likely has or (if a young adult) will have a family --- spouse and children, perhaps, and possibly parents, in-laws, and maybe even grandparents. That "one person" with whom the volunteer sponsor initiates a catechetical relationship could lead up to four generations of a family plus future grandchildren toward the Catholic Church. What if it is only one single adult? Perhaps a single young adult will be called to the priesthood or religious life, and influence thousands of others in his or her lifetime. That person could become a saint or a Pope! How important is that particular person in God's eyes, even aside from anything he or she might accomplish in the future?
Both theologians and mystics tell me that if I or one of us were the only person in the world, and stood in need of redemption, Jesus Christ himself would have made his entire agonizing sacrifice on Calvary just for me or for that one person. This is a point on which I often meditate, especially during Lent. Jesus would have done it for me if I were the only person in the world. Because Jesus would have made his total sacrifice on Calvary just for me, I must leave no stone unturned in my effort to make available the pathway to sacramental grace whereby Jesus' sacrifice is applied to one other person.