For Adults – Rite of Christian Initiation
Adults who are interested in learning more about the Roman Catholic Church are invited to participate in a process known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA. It is a process that may extend from a few months to a number of years. It is a faith-journey where people come together to ask questions, to learn about the church and it teachings, to share in the activities of the church community, to share their own story and to discern whether or not God seems to be calling them to join the community. Becoming part of an RCIA group does not mean that a person must become a member of the community. The journey is different for each person and each person will discern what is right for them.
Being involved in RCIA entails regular sessions of coming together with others who are inquiring about the church, sharing in the activities of the community, worshipping with the community and, in general, learning to live as a disciple through “doing.” The members of the community are invited to pray for the RCIA people, to welcome them, to share with them and to be an example of how the followers of Jesus try to live out the gospel. There are a number of simple ceremonies that involve both the community and those who are in the process and there are different steps that may be taken as a person feels that they are being called to this faith.
The RCIA is a process during which individual adults determine what God is inviting them to do with their lives. The title of the process is The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Adults who think they are being called into a closer relationship with God and, possibly, the Catholic Church, spend time together in prayer, discussion and discernment for a period of time. A good way of envisioning the process is as a journey. In fact, we are all on a life journey and God is active in our lives in wonderful ways. There is no particular time when we must make decisions and, in fact, there is no particular decision that must be made. Participants sincerely place themselves in a state of being open to the will of God in their lives and set out together. Does this sound like Abram?
This is the beginning phase of the journey. When people first express an interest in learning more about the Catholic Faith, they are welcomed into a time of sharing their own stories, raising questions, learning about parish life, experiencing a change in their own lives and desires and strengthening of faith. This time can be as short or as long as the individual needs it to be. Usually this time is shared with others on the same type of journey and other people who are already baptized, called sponsors, may be invited to accompany individuals on this journey.
Individuals who think they are being called to a deeper faith and possibly be baptized, enter into a time of continued conversion and greater study about the Catholic tradition. This is a time when unbaptized individuals are accepted into the Order of Catechumens and baptized Catholics who have not received either Eucharist, Confirmation or both are welcomed into a time of preparation for the completion of the Sacraments of Initiation.
Once again, there is no set time frame.
During this phase of growth, the catechumens join the community at worship and learn more about the Liturgy of the Word, the life of the community, prayer, worship and the living out of the gospel in our daily lives. There are several special moments when the worshipping community prays for and acknowledges the catechumens. Jesus formed communities of disciples and that is what we are striving to become. We need one another to really follow the Lord. This will be discussed in our gatherings.
There is a Rite of Acceptance Into the Order of Catechumens that marks the beginning of this phase. It is a simple rite (ceremony) that takes place during Mass. For those who are already Baptized, there is a Rite of Welcome. The exact prayer service is determined by the baptismal state of the members of the group.
The third phase of the RCIA is called the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. The usual liturgical time for this period is Lent. Unbaptized catechumens who feel called to the sacraments of initiation at Easter are received as “Elect” in the Rite of Election or Enrollment of Names. Candidates who are preparing for Confirmation and/or Eucharist as well as those who are preparing for Reception into the Full Communion with the Catholic Church experience the Rite of the Call to Continuing Conversion.
The purpose of this time is to have a period of reflection and preparation for the sacraments. It is a time to ask that our weaknesses be eliminated and our good qualities enhanced through God’s grace. The content of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are studied as well as the sacraments that will be received. The Creed and The Lord’s Prayer are presented to the elect either during lent or as part of the liturgy of Holy Saturday. In many parishes, the elect participate in three scrutinies celebrated at the Sunday Masses. Whenever possible, the elect participate in a Lenten retreat, even if it needs to be short.
These events take place on Holy Saturday evening at the Easter Vigil Eucharistic Celebration. Those who have been previously baptized in another christian church make a profession of faith in the Catholic Church. Those who are baptized catholics and had not completed their sacraments of initiation receive Confirmation and/or Eucharist. The elect, who have never been baptized, receive Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.
During this period of time, the newly baptized and catechized are called “neophytes.” The neophytes are encouraged to become involved in the activities of the parish and to worship with the community on a regular basis. Whenever possible, the regular meetings of the RCIA group continues. In addition, there is a special gathering at the cathedral so that all of the neophytes of the archdiocese can celebrate eucharist with the bishop. Obviously, the bishop cannot be in all of the parishes on Holy Saturday and the elect need to receive their sacraments in the communities who are nurturing them. The bishop delegates his power to confirm to the pastors so that the elect can receive their sacraments in their home parishes.