“The rite of Christian initiation…is designed for adults who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts. By God’s help they will be strengthened spiritually during their preparation and at the proper time will receive the sacraments fruitfully” (RCIA 1).
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a special Rite of the Church for individuals who desire to become Catholic and receive the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. It is a rite that not only involves those seeking to enter into the Church, but those members of the parish community who provide instruction, witness, and sponsorship to them. In fact, the rite involves the entire parish community, by inviting the community to participate in the renewal of their own faith, as they accompany those entering into the Church on their spiritual journey towards sacramental initiation.
The purpose of the RCIA is to deepen ones relationship with God, especially as it pertains to Jesus and his Church. This is accomplished as the participants journey through four unique periods in the rite that allow them to delve into catechesis, experience the life of the parish community and it apostolic mission, and participate in the liturgical life of the Church.
The RCIA is designed to assist youth and adults who:
- have never been baptized, and wish to be baptized in the Catholic Church;
- have been baptized in another Christian tradition (Lutheran, Episcopalian, etc.) and wish to become Catholic;
- were baptized Catholic, but have not received First Eucharist and/or Confirmation
Initiation of the unbaptized and baptized Christians takes place at St. Richard Church during the Easter Vigil. Initiation of baptized Catholics generally takes place on the feast of Penticost (i.e., May or June) at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter & Paul.
As noted above, the RCIA is composed of four periods:
THE PRE-CATECHUMENATE (or period of Inquiry)
“This is a time…for inquiry and introduction to Gospel values, an opportunity for the beginnings of faith” (RCIA).
During this period, candidates are provided with an opportunity to begin developing a spiritual life that will eventually lead them to desire to change their lives and enter into a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Candidates learn how to recognize God’s presence in their lives so that they may cooperate with God’s grace. It is a time for sharing our stories and our faith. Candidates will have the opportunity to cultivate a prayer life. They will be invited to explore their thoughts, experiences, and impressions of God and the Church so that any questions that they may have can be fully addressed. Those having gone through this stage and desiring to proceed toward reception into the Church will take part in the Rite of Acceptance which marks the beginning of the next period.
“The catechumenate is an extended period during which the candidates are given suitable pastoral formation and guidance, aimed at training them in the Christian life. In this way, the dispositions manifested at their acceptance into the catechumenate are brought to maturity” (RCIA 75).
Inquirers receive an official status in the Church and are now referred to as catechumens (those moving toward Baptism) and candidates (those already Baptized but coming into full communion with the Church). During this period they receive catecheis (i.e., instruction and formation) that will help them come to know the teachings of the Church in which they desire to participate. They will learn to turn to God more readily and how to bear witness to the faith in their daily living. They will have an opportunity to engage in the apostolic mission of the Church and grow familiar with the liturgy of the Church. All of the formation and instruction presented during this period is designed to enlighten the faith of the candidate, direct their hearts towards God, foster participation in the liturgy of the Church, and inspire them to live their lives in harmony with God’s will.
This period of the RCIA will last approximately one year. On the first Sunday of Lent (February or March), the catechumens and candidates who are ready to move towards full initiation participate in the Rite of Election where the catechumens (i.e., unbaptized) receive a new status and are referred to as the Elect. This rite marks the beginning of the third period: Purification and Enlightenment.
PURIFICATION & ENLIGHTENMENT
“The period of purification and enlightenment, which the rite of election begins, customarily coincides with Lent” (RCIA 138). “This is a period of more intense spiritual preparation, consisting more in interior reflection than in catechetical instruction…This period is intended as well to enlighten the minds and hearts of the elect with a deeper knowledge of Christ the Savior” (RCIA 139).
This time is marked by prayer, relfection, and retreat, which lasts for the six weeks of Lent. It leads up to the Easter Vigil – the most solemn Mass the Church celebrates. It is during the Easter Vigil that the Elect receive Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, and the candidates are received into full communion with their reception of Confirmation and Eucharist. Once full initiated, the Elect receive yet another new status and are referred to as Neophytes (i.e., those new to the faith). They then enter the final period of the RCIA
The final period of the RCIA is known as Mystagogy – a Greek word meaning mystery. Having been fully initiated, the newest members of the Church are “introduced into a fuller and more effective understadning of mysteries through the Gospel message they have learned and above all through their experience of the sacraments they have received” (RCIA 245).
This period also provides ample opportunity for the newly inititated to engage in works of charity and discern how they can bring their gifts of time and talent to bear in the parish community and universal Church. The period informally ends at the feast of Pentecost (May or June). However, opportunities to meet monthly following Pentecost will be made available, leading up to the new initiated’s one-year anniversary of being received into the Church at which time the neophytes will “be brought together in order to give thanks to God, to share with one another their spiritual experiences, and to renew their commitment” (RCIA 250).
If you or someone you know is interested in the Catholic faith, there is no time like the present to begin your inquiry in the faith. Please contact Deacon Whartenby for more information @ 215-637-3525, Extension 12