The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the way of initiating people into the Catholic Christian community. As Jesus once called the disciples to a new life, He will also call many others. If you are drawn to the Catholic faith, we at St. Philip The Apostle welcome you and hope to make this journey an easier one for you. Below is an outline and explanation of the way one would journey together with us in becoming a member of the Catholic Church.
The new life in Christ is a gradual process, one that involves four steps: pre-catechumenate, catechumenate, Lenten purification and mystagogia. Along the way are key rites: acceptance, election and initiation.
RCIA typically begins when a person calls the parish office and says, “I want to be baptized or I want to know more about the Catholic Church.” With such an occurrence is the beginning of the process of initiation, also referred to as the period of evangelization, the pre-catechumenate and the inquiry period.
Rite Of Acceptance: After the initial conversion to Jesus Christ by the inquirers has taken place, they celebrate the first major liturgical ritual of the initiation process, the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. During this rite, which is usually celebrated during Sunday Mass, the candidates for initiation are publicly welcomed for the first time.
This second stage of the initiation process is the extended period of time of formal training in the Christian way of life. There are two groups, the catechumens that are unbaptized and those who are baptized, either in a Catholic or Protestant, but not fully initiated into the Church.
At this stage, there is learning about the sacred Scriptures and the doctrines of the Church. Attendance at weekly Mass is made to hear the Word of God. In many parishes, the catechumens and candidates (those in the period of the catechumenate who are already baptized) are dismissed after the homily. That is, they are invited to leave the main body of the Church and meet with a catechist to discuss the Scriptures they heard proclaimed at Mass.
When they have experienced a true conversion to the Christian way of life (which the Church says is at least one year for the unbaptized), they celebrate the second major ritual in the process of initiation.
Rite Of Election:
The second major ritual of the RCIA usually occurs on the First Sunday of Lent. The catechumens have been elected by God to receive the sacraments of initiation. The Church gives voice to God’s election and calls each one of the catechumens by name to sign the Book of the Elect.
Period Of Purification
This final period of preparation is one of intense, spiritual recollection that usually coincides with Lent. It is a period of purification and enlightenment. It is a time for reflection and prayer more than teaching. The candidates, now called the elect, purify their minds and hearts by celebrating several rituals. The three purifying rituals, known as the Scrutinies, strengthen the elect and help to complete their conversion. The Presentation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer enlighten the minds of the elect in the final weeks of their preparation for the sacraments.
Lent ends when the sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter begins, at sunset Thursday of Holy Week. Finally, some preparatory rites on Holy Saturday morning serve as the elect’s immediate preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation, which will be celebrated that night at the Easter Vigil.
Sacrament Of Initiation: At the Easter Vigil after sunset on Holy Saturday, the elect and possibly some previously baptized candidates celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism (for the unbaptized), Confirmation and Eucharist.
Period Of Mystagogy
After the Easter celebration the process of initiation continues during the Eastertide period of mystagogia (Greek word signifying a deepening understanding of the mysteries of our faith). During the Easter season, the neophytes (newly initiated) gather each week to deepen their understanding of the paschal mystery. The Church uses the period of mystagogy to help the neophytes understand and live out their new lives as part of the Body of Christ.