February 21, 2021
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, the Father of all
Let’s start with terms! RCIA or The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults refers to the process by which adults who wish to become Catholic enter the Church. Those who are interested, perhaps asking questions, learning more but haven’t made a decision, these folks are called Inquirers and this is known as the period of inquiry or the precatechumenate. There is no formal commitment yet, but rather an opened ended time of evangelization and conversion.
If, after due reflection and a journey of faith, those adults who wish to go forward formally enter a process that will lead to entry into the Catholic Church by way of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and Eucharist). This stage is marked by the celebration of the Rite of Acceptance into the order of catechumens. A catechumen is someone who is unbaptized and who has formally declared their desire to become one with the Church by way of the Easter sacraments (baptism, confirmation and Eucharist) in the Catholic Church and has been accepted into the Order of the Catechumens. This period of formation is more formalized and includes regular catechesis grounded in the lectionary (the scriptures read on Sunday), the liturgical seasons and the life of the community of faith as well as rites connected with catechetical formation. Often there is another group of people who journey with the catechumens and these are the candidates, those who are already baptized in another faith tradition and who now seek full communion with the Catholic Church through confirmation and Eucharist.
The final stage of the RCIA is a shorter, more intense period that begins with start of the Lenten season immediately before the Easter Season in which the catechumens and candidates will be finally received into the Church. This final stage is marked by the Rite of Election and is celebrated in the presence of the Bishop. Following this Rite, the Elect formally begin the period of purification and enlightenment, an intense time of preparation that will lead to the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.
Critical to this journey of faith is the fact that the RCIA is a process and NOT a program! It is about the gradual growth in relationship with God and the ongoing process of conversion to which we are all called to heed. What marks the Christian journey is the centrality of the Paschal Mystery (the life, death and resurrection of Christ and our life therein) and the grace of Christ in the life of the Christian community through the Spirit. The journey to the font for adults is never a private one. Rather it is a journey marked by relationships, sometimes family ones, sometimes those of friendship, but always there are communal relationships since the rites of the RCIA are public ritual celebrations of the faith journey of the catechumens and candidates in the midst of the believing celebrating community.
Next week – the role of the community as witness in word and action!