The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.) names the process by which interested persons gradually become members of the Catholic Church.
The R.C.I.A. is primarily a journey of faith:
From the awareness of a ‘stirring of faith and curiosity within one’s heart,
- through the influence or example of a spouse or another friend,
- through all those stages of ‘asking and seeking’,
- through beginning involvement with Christian/Catholic people,
- through hearing the Gospel proclaimed and by faithful reflection and prayer on this Word of God,
- through study and discussion about the Catholic experience,
- through doubts and hesitations,
- through involvement in the works of charity and justice with those already committed to the Catholic way of life,
- through discernment of God’s call for you as an individual,
- through the steps of commitment, through the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) to a life of faith, love, and justice lived in communion with Catholics worldwide.
Celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation
The Sacraments of Initiation are celebrated at the Easter Vigil, an extended night-watch of prayer, singing and hearing the Word of God.
Through the waters of baptism, a person passes into the new life of grace and becomes a member of the Body of Christ.
Anointing with special holy oil called Chrism seals the initiation by the power of the Holy Spirit and participation at the Table of the Lord in the Eucharist marks full membership in the church.
Period of Mystagogy
The Period of Mystagogy lasts from Easter Sunday until the completion of the Easter season, fifty days later on Pentecost Sunday and completes the initiation process. Here at St. Francis Xavier we continue meeting for a few weeks after Easter so those who have just shared in the Sacraments of Initiation may, during this period of Easter joy, reflect on what they have just gone through and look to the future as to how they can now share in the mission of Christ who came to bring salvation and life to the whole world. This period of time reminds the whole church that life in Christ constantly calls all of us to grow and to look for new ways to live the life of grace, personally and together.
How long does it take?
The Rite of Christian Initiation is not a program, as such.
It is the church’s way of sensitively ministering to those seeking membership. For that reason, some people will need more time than others to prepare for the lifetime commitment of membership in the Catholic Church. The usual length of preparation here at St. Francis Xavier for those not baptized (technically called Catechumens) is from early fall to mid/late spring. The time period for those already baptized and who seek full communion in the Catholic church (technically called Candidates) is usually the same.
It seems reasonable that catechumens or candidates experience the Catholic faith, teachings, and liturgy for a period of time in order to make an informed decision. The process of spiritual renewal and catechesis should not be hasty, especially for those not accustomed to the fasts and feasts and Sundays and seasons the way Catholics observe them.
The best time for the Sacraments of Initiation or the Rite of Reception into full communion is the Easter Vigil. Lent prepares catechumens, candidates and the whole community for Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. The celebration of the Easter Vigil dramatically points to the wellspring of the church’s life: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.