June 10, 2022
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA): Part 2 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.
What is Inquiry/or an Inquirer?
Everyone who may be interested in this process, perhaps asking questions or looking for experiences, those seekers who have not made any decisions yet, are called Inquirers. This part of the journey spelled out in the RCIA, is called the Period of Inquiry or the Period of Evangelization/Precatechumenate. It’s here that we answer questions, tell stories, build relationships and proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. It’s here where we wait, we pray for and with Inquirers and we welcome them into our homes and hearts, always proclaiming the love God has for each of them. That’s it. For their part, Inquirers follow their heads and hearts, deciding if this is where God is calling them to follow Jesus.
This is also where we figure out, with the Inquirer, what they already bring to the journey of faith: baptism in another Christian denomination, practice in other faith traditions that are not Christian, previous marriages, a long practice in another Christian Church, stories about Catholicism that they need to explore, current marriages, children, extended families, lots of time already among us worshiping and serving…all the elements God has placed in their lives that they bring to this moment. We give thanks and praise to God and we individualize their journeys based on all of these elements. All the while, we explore who Jesus is, what he teaches, and what it means to follow him as Lord. Always, it’s about an encounter with Jesus. Always.
What happens next? Does Inquiry go on forever?
Since initiation is a gradual process with ritual celebrations the whole community can share, we welcome the Inquirer just as the Church welcomes a child presented for baptism: with great joy! “The Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross.” Rite of Baptism
If after some time and some deliberate reflection, an individual wishes to continue the journey to become a Catholic Christian, the RCIA gives us two threshold celebrations. The unbaptized person ritually celebrates this formal decision to follow Jesus as a Roman Catholic in a celebration within the Mass called the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. A catechumen is the name given to someone who has never been baptized who has declared their intention to prepare for and receive the sacraments of initiation. And now, they have a formal relationship with “Mother” Church, who will nourish and guide them along the way… through each of us in the local parish.
For those baptized in other Christian denominations, the Church offers a threshold ritual called the Rite of Welcoming the Candidates. In this, the Church recognizes their baptismal relationship with Jesus Christ and welcomes them to continue their journey of faith among Catholic Christians, learning the way in which we follow Jesus, practicing many of our practices and intentionally preparing to encounter Jesus in the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
And for those still seeking, the door is always open! The coffee’s on…or tea if you wish. You can stay around as long as you want. Come and go. Invite a friend. Start over. Start the first time. We are always here, just as God is always ready to welcome you!