The word “neophyte” is unfamiliar to
most Catholics. It is used to describe the
newly baptized who celebrated the Sacraments
of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.
The word “neophyte” is drawn from
botanical imagery—describing a plant that
has just been introduced into the area. On
May 5, I celebrated the Mass for Neophytes
at the Cathedral of St. Helena.
The excitement in the air was palpable.
Lindy Miller, one of the newly baptized,
spoke for so many when he wrote,
“Baptism was personally exciting and fulfilling,
allowing me to partake of a tradition
that goes back 2,000 years… At the
tender age of 66, I never thought I’d have
such an experience of joy and awe... I feel
like a child again.”
The first stage of RCIA, beginning
with the Rite of Election, helped our catechumens
realize that the seeds of faith
were planted in their hearts through the
mysterious initiative of God.
Connie Smith wrote, “I am very
thankful that God continued to call and
invite me many times over the years to
come home. My prayer is that this light
will help me to forever surrender to God’s
The first step in RCIA recognized and
gave thanks to God for the persons who inspired
baptismal faith in their hearts—most
frequently husbands, wives, coworkers,
friends and relatives who were instruments
of God’s amazing grace.
Tim Taylor wrote, “It turns out that
after meeting my fiancée and going to
Mass on a regular basis that that was
enough motivation to be baptized. Being
baptized finally gave me a sense of belonging
and allowed me to grow with my fiancée
in a religious aspect, as well.”
The RCIA included a time of purification
and enlightenment for those preparing for
They asked for
God’s help in healing anything and everything
that was unsettling their souls and instilling
doubt in their hearts. The time of
purification serves as a powerful reminder
that all of us are sinners, and all need God’s
Mary Bryggman wrote, “I feel like a
whole new person. Baptism wiped away
Original Sin, and made me realize how
much better it felt with God than without.”
In the 17th century, Father Jean Pierre de
Caussade wrote, “You can make the root
below the soil flourish and you can make
fruitful the darkness in which you keep me.”
The time of purification helps all of us
remember that discipleship necessarily involves
a share in the suffering and cross of
Christ. More importantly, it reminds us that
Easter always follows Good Friday.
The Easter Vigil in all of our parishes
was marked by the lighting of the fire, the
singing of sweet hallelujahs and the joy of
Nine-year-old Christian Zehr shared, “I
felt excited because it meant I could finally
receive Jesus’ body in the Eucharist, and I
got to wear a white robe… After I was baptized
I felt proud that I had received my
first holy Communion… And people were
The newly baptized and those received
into the Church experienced firsthand that
Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
Megan O’Leary shared her thoughts
that “becoming a Catholic is like being
given a really great flashlight—even
though everything else in the world is dark,
I got a little bit of light to walk by now.”
The season of mystagogia, following
the Easter Vigil, is the time to deepen and
to live the mysteries of faith.
It is the time when the whole Christian
community, parish and diocese alike, express
deep bonds of faith with the newly
baptized, along with our sincere desire to
help all those who were received into the
Church at Easter.
Sam Bryggman said succinctly, “The
thing that has hit me through my baptism
experience is the importance of community.
With community comes hope, and the
knowledge that you always have support.
You know that there are people who care
about you and are willing to help. This is
the place where people can put aside their
differences and love each other.”
Mystagogia is a time for the newly baptized
to make new connections between
sacrament and service, faith and forgiveness,
prayer and compassion, love of God
and love of neighbor.
It is also the time for the newly baptized
and those who professed their faith at
Easter to take their rightful place in the assembly
As their own faith grows and develops,
they will, in due season, become new sowers
of the seed. They will help the Church
awaken in others the experience of living
with Christ and growing in the Church, a
community that rests on the shoulders of
At the Mass of Neophytes, we gathered
in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, grateful
for the bountiful harvest standing before us
as a sign of the Church’s eternal springtime.
How happy the people the Lord has
chosen to be his own!
Published in The Montana Catholic Online, Volume 29, No. 4, April 19, 2013.