The RCIA Process
A breakdown of the stages of the process
The process of becoming a Catholic takes place in various “stages” and involves certain ceremonies called “rites” or rituals. Some of these rites take place at the Sunday liturgies when the community gathers to worship.
Evangelization and Pre-Catechumenate
This is a period when those interested in the Catholic Church have an opportunity for inquiry and introduction to gospel values, a time of unhurried reflection and discovery, whereby a person begins to search out God’s call to enter more fully into the life of the Church.
Acceptance into the Catechumenate
The Rite of Acceptance marks the beginning of the catechumenate. In this stage, an inquirer is now called either a catechumen (a previously unbaptized person who is seeking membership in the Catholic Church ) or a candidate (a person who was baptized in another Christian tradition. The Catechumenate is a time for nurturing and growth of faith and conversion to God.
The Rite of Election
Usually celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent, The Rite of Election is the Church’s formal affirmation of the catechumen’s readiness for the sacraments of initiation. The elect, on their part, express their desire to be initiated.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment
This period of time, usually during Lent, is a time of immediate preparation for the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. This is also a period of purification for the parish community as well. We are all called to reform our lives according to the demands of the gospel. At the conclusion of this stage, the catechumens and the candidates are initiated into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil. For the catechumen, this means the reception of all three sacraments of initiation–Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. For the candidates, it means full reception into the Church through Eucharist and/or Confirmation.
Period of Mystagogy
The word mystagogy comes from the Greek and means “entering into the mystery.” This is the period of time after the Easter Vigil when the newly initiated are invited to fully participate with the faithful in the Sunday Eucharistic Liturgy. It is a time for further instruction and growth in and application of the mysteries of the faith. The newly initiated are encouraged to continue reading and studying scripture and are introduced to the opportunities for Christian service.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is a process that affects the entire life of the Church. Not only the catechumens, but all members of the parish community are called to reflect on how they will experience Christ’s life through these new members.
Throughout the entire process, the community is called upon to affirm, confirm and renew its own faith, to communicate its support to those making the journey toward full membership. And as we journey with them, we are all reminded that growth in our own faith is ongoing and lifelong.
“Jesus said, ‘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.'” -Matthew 28:19