July 18, 2022
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA): Part 6 of 9
This article is part of a series. If you haven’t read the previous parts in the series, it would be helpful to do that before continuing on, as they are most informative if read in order. The entire series can be seen in the box on the page.
So, a catechumen is ready to move on. What happens next?
In an ordinary circumstance, a catechumen ready to be initiated enters into a final period of spiritual preparation, what the Rite calls the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. Ordinarily, the Church desires this coincide with our celebration of Lent and these beloved people become our icons…they lead us into deep spiritual preparation. They are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. We are preparing to renew those baptismal promises and welcome them to the Lord’s table for the first time. They are now, according to the Bishop who declares this to be the case during the Rite of Election, and changes their name from catechumen to Elect, ready to receive the Easter sacraments after this final preparation. As a community, we now hand on to them the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed. Among us, they celebrate the Scrutinies, where we pray for them that the Lord will strengthen all that is right and good and heal all that is broken, thus preparing them to receive the graces of baptism.
What about those folks who are already baptized Christians? What happens to them along the way?
The Church intends that we accompany them individually as well, seeing that their formation builds upon the Christian life they’ve already lived. For some, there has not been much Christian life, if any at all and their preparation looks a lot like someone who has not been baptized. For others, their Christian lives are well-developed and they just need to embrace Catholic perspectives on Scripture, worship, and Catholic teaching, including individual and social morality. As you can see, this means one size does not fit all. We walk along with them until they are ready to assent to join the Catholics, to join us, intentionally, on the pilgrim journey. When they are ready, the Church insists that we place no undue burden on them, and initiate them through the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist during an appropriate Sunday Mass.