"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:19-20).
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process, established for the universal Church, for individuals to become Catholic and receive the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. This initiation process also involves a parish community experiencing a renewal in faith as it prepares and welcomes new members into the Church.
The Rite speaks of conversion as a “spiritual journey.” Centered on fostering a deep relationship with Jesus and the Church he founded, this journey takes place through distinct stages over a period of time suitable to bring about a thorough catechesis, significant experience of the parish community, and commitment to the liturgical and moral life of the Catholic faithful.
The RCIA process is a restoration of the ancient catechumenate, arising within the first three centuries following the era of the apostles. It was the early Church’s way of Christianizing the pagan Roman Empire. The Second Vatican Council called for the restoration and use of this venerable and powerful method of initiation for the worldwide Church (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 64).
– On the Journey Series: RCIA Leader's Manual, "Items for Bulletins," p. 258
RCIA meets every Thursday, from 7:00 - 8:30 PM, in the St. John Bosco Room (the "Youth Room") in the Family Life Center.
The following information about the periods and steps of the RCIA process is taken from the On the Journey Series: RCIA Catechist's Manual ("The Catechumenal Process," p. 18) and the RCIA Leader's Manual ("Items for Bulletins," p. 258-262):
This is a time for inquiry and evangelization, an opportunity for the beginnings of faith. Here the seed is planted through the proclamation of the Gospel and the story of salvation history.
The Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens is for inquirers in the RCIA process who are preparing for their Baptism. They are now ready to publicly declare their intention to continue their journey toward becoming Catholics. At this Rite, they are asked to more fully embrace the Gospel message with the help of God, and are also signed with the Cross to show that they now belong to Christ, the Shepherd of souls. In this Rite, the parish community has the opportunity to more fully participate in and pray for those in the RCIA process. This Rite places these catechumens in a formal relationship with the universal Church. By Church law, the Pope and all bishops are to pray for those who have gone through this Rite.
The Rite of Welcoming is for inquirers who have been previously baptized and are ready to publicly declare their intention to continue their journey toward full communion with the Catholic Church. At this Rite, they are asked if they are ready to listen to the apostles’ instruction, gather with the worshipping community in prayer, and join that community in the love and service of others. They are signed with the Cross to show that they belong to Christ.
This is an extended period for pastoral formation and guidance aimed at training participants in the Christian life; it includes a thoroughly comprehensive catechesis on the truths of Catholic doctrine and moral life.
The Catechumenate contains the following Minor Rites:
- Celebrations of the Word of God
- Minor Exorcisms (for catechumens)
- Anointings (for catechumens)
Across the entire world, Catholic bishops on this first Sunday of Lent will welcome those sent by the parish to gather together with their godparents and sponsors in what is known as the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion.
The Rite of Sending, ordinarily held earlier on the same day, offers the parish community an opportunity to acknowledge the spiritual progress the catechumens and candidates have made, express approval of their election or recognition, and send them forth to our bishop with assurance of the parish’s care and support. To send a catechumen or candidate to the bishop means that a parish has discerned that the person is ready to enter the Catholic Church.
In Sacred Scripture, the Book of Revelation makes reference to a “Book of Life,” in which are written the names of those who have chosen to follow the Lord Jesus and be baptized. Those who are already baptized, as Catholics or in other denominations, had our names written in the Book of Life at our Baptism. In this Rite, those preparing for Baptism are invited to come forward and sign a book, which we call the “Book of the Elect,” as a sign of their desire to be numbered among the chosen of God.
The Rite of Election marks a key moment. For the catechumens this Rite signifies that they have been called by Christ and attests to the reality that only those mystically claimed by Christ will enter Heaven. St. John writes, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15). Throughout the RCIA process, catechumens should have become increasingly involved with the parish community. The community, with godparents representing the parish, will wholeheartedly acclaim the participants’ readiness. It is appropriate for the bishop to recognize them because he is the sign of unity of the particular Church, and it is the parish community’s responsibility to bring those in RCIA into the fullness of the life of the Church.
The godparents give public testimony about the catechumens. The godparents’ role is very significant; they represent the community and are asked during this Rite to make serious statements about the catechumens. The decision of an RCIA participant to go through this Rite means that the judgment and decision-making (of both the catechumen and the parish) about whether to enter the Catholic Church has ended. From this point forward, they are no longer catechumens but are called the “elect.” They have been chosen to enter into the final period of preparation for initiation, and called by the bishop, their shepherd, to the holy mysteries to be celebrated that Easter.
The Call to Continuing Converstion is for all who have been baptized, the reality of being chosen and claimed by Christ took place at their Baptism. This is true for the baptized candidates as well. Therefore the Rite of Election is inappropriate for them; they are already among the elect in Christ. Instead, the candidates are “called to continuing conversion,” and thus their intention to be fully initiated and share in the Eucharist is recognized. This Rite also takes place before the bishop, normally as part of the same liturgical event as the Rite of Election for those who are unbaptized.
With their sponsors standing in support of them, the candidates are addresses by the bishop: “Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.” (RCIA 454) Together with the elect, the candidates are thereby moved by this Rite into a period of intense spiritual preparation.
Coinciding with Lent, this period consists more in interior reflection than in instruction. It is intended to enlighten the minds and hearts of participants with a deep knowledge of Christ the Savior.
The period of Purification and Enlightenment contains the following Minor Rites:
- Penitential Rite (for candidates)
- Scrutinies (for catechumens)
- Presentation of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer
- Preparation Rites
This is the liturgical rite, usually integrated into the Easter Vigil, by which the elect are initiated through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, and the candidates receive whatever sacraments of initiation that they have yet to receive.
All who were baptized and received into full communion are called neophytes in this period, until the anniversary of their initiation next Easter. The final period of regular weekly formation extends through the Easter season, the seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost. This post-baptismal catechesis is called mystagogy.
Mystagogy is a time for deepening the Christian experience, especially in appreciation for the sacramental life, for spiritual growth, and for entering more fully into the life and unity of the Catholic community. The neophytes now share with Christ, and his Body in the parish community, the intimate communion of the Eucharist. Now they have access to all the means of sanctification. We as a parish community pledge to help them grow and mature in the Christian life and to develop a genuine Catholic world view.
The following diagram illustrates the flow of the process (click the image for a larger view):
On the Journey Series: RCIA Catechist's Manual, "Introduction to Christian Initiation," p. 18
As you can see, the RCIA team at Blessed Mother utilizes the On the Journey Series, published by the Association for Catechumenal Ministry, for guidance in structuring the content for each RCIA session.
The catechetical materials included in this series have received the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur, which are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. Each lesson is also solidly grounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Sacred Scripture.
For more information about the materials in this series, see Association of Catechumenal Ministry: Publications.
RCIA will meet on the following dates in 2012-2013:
Much more can be said about the RCIA process and you may still have several questions about it. The following articles should be very helpful:
If you have any questions about Catholicism or about becoming Catholic, please call Nicholas Hardesty, the Director of Religious Education, at 683-8444, ext. 26. You can also .