As we heard last Sunday, the RCIA or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is for anyone seeking to become Catholic. It is also for someone who may have been baptized as Catholic, but never was formally catechized and did not get confirmed in that baptism.
A little history is in order. Before 1973, con- verts were taught in the rectory by the priest to be baptized whenever. We called it Instructions. The difference between the RCIA and Instructions is that in the newer form, there is emphasis on formation and transformation, not just information, the whole com- munity (bishop, pastor, catechist, sponsors, assembly) is involved, it is centered around the liturgical year with the rites of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The RCIA is based on how adults learn – the process of growth with a renewed emphasis on ritual celebrations throughout the process.
There are Four Stages of the RCIA.
Stage One: The Pre-catechumenate
This is called the Period of Inquiry. It is a time for the candidates to “come and see.” There is no obligation, no pressure. (we are not a cult) If a person decides to go ahead with the process, they formally declare it during the Rite of Catechumens. Non- baptized persons become catechumens. Baptized persons become candidates.
Stage Two: The Catechumenate
This is the time of formal study and preparation for baptism. In a lot of ways, it is simi- lar to a period of engagement. We formally recognize the catechumens and candidates to be seeking the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) In some places in the world, this stage could last for years. Catechumens are given certain rights in the Church. They can get married in the Church, they can be buried from the Church. This stage ends with the Rite of Election. This differs from the Rite of Catechumens in that it is now the community choosing the candidates for the Sacraments, not the other way around. The Rite of Election normally happens around the First Sun- day of Lent.
Stage Three: The Period of Purification and Enlightenment
This stage is during the season of Lent, and it is a time of more intense preparation for Sacraments of Initiation. There is a more concentrated feeling to the process. During this period there are various rituals such as the Scrutinies: A type of purification during the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent. The elect (as they are now called) are presented with the Nicene Creed and the Our Father. The Period of Purification and Enlightenment ends with the Sacraments of Initi- ation: Baptism, Confirmation Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. If you have never seen this at the Vigil, it is extremely moving and wondrous.
Stage Four: The Mystagogia
But we are not quite finished with the RCIA. After Easter there is the time of Post Baptismal Reflection and Study, called the Mystagogia. Formally, this is from Eastertime to Pentecost. Informally, it extends into our heavenly home. Whenever we have a powerful experience like this we need to reflect on experiences afterwards, and this time affords us that opportunity.
If you know anyone who may be interested, drop me or anyone on the RCIA team a line, and we will make the invitation. As I said, there is no pressure.