Becoming Catholic – An Overview of the RCIA
Faithful to the commissioning of Jesus Christ to His first Apostles to “go out and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19), the Catholic Church welcomes new adult members through a faith formation process called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or R.C.I.A. The RCIA is a journey of faith through which new adult members come to know Jesus Christ and the faith, tradition, and rituals which He has passed down to us. This journey of faith is a gradual process of conversion, through which a person’s first stirring of faith and God’s presence in one’s life is transformed into a life lived in true faith, love, and justice, lived in communion with other Catholics throughout the world and most fully realized in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The RCIA is marked by several ceremonial stages and periods of learning through which a person becomes a full member of the Catholic Church. The timing of each stage varies according to the spiritual readiness of the individual person, so a person may take as much time as he or she needs in the initiation process before entering into full initiation in the Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist.
Who can begin the RCIA journey?
Anyone who is open to strengthening or re-discovering their faith and desires to know more deeply about God and His Church is open to undergoing the RCIA process. Typically, the RCIA model applies to the following individuals:
· Unbaptized: Those individuals 16 years of age and older who have never been baptized, and who sincerely seek to convert their lives over to God are known as “catechumens.”
· Baptized in another Christian Church: Those who have been baptized in another Christian denomination and who desire to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church are called “candidates.”
· Baptized but uncatechized Catholic Adults: Those who have already been baptized in the Catholic Church, but who wish to complete their initiation in the Catholic Church, are prepared to celebrate the sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist. These individuals are also considered “candidates.”
The 5 Stages of the RCIA:
1. Period of Pre-catechumenate or Inquiry – this stage marks a time when the individual first expresses interest in becoming Catholic and becomes acquainted with the Catholic Church and some of its teachings with the help of the parish community. The end of this stage is marked by the Rite of Acceptance, during which the inquirer publicly expresses their desire to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church and the parish community affirms their desire to follow God’s call.
2. Period of Catechumenate – this stage marks an extended period which can last a year or more, and is a time of formation and deeper reflection upon the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Catholic Church and how they are lived out in one’s daily life. The end of this stage is marked by the Rite of Election, during which the names of the catechumens are enrolled in the diocese and the catechumens publicly request Baptism and declare their desire to make a deeper commitment to Christ and His Church in the presence of the Bishop.
3. Period of Purification and Enlightenment – this stage coincides with the liturgical season of Lent and is a time of intense spiritual preparation before receiving the sacraments of initiation. This period is marked by various purification rituals called Scrutinies, which take place during the 3rd, 4th, and 5th weeks of Lent, during which the Elect are invited to reflect more deeply upon their own sinfulness and their desire for salvation in communion with the rest of the Church community.
4. Reception of the Sacraments of the Initiation – having been thoroughly prepared and immersed in the life of the Catholic faith, the individual receives the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.
5. Period of Mystagogy – this is a lifelong period for every Catholic during which the individual, especially the newly initiated Catholic, discovers how one is called to live out their Christian vocation through participation in the liturgy, various acts of charity, and apostolic service in the Church.
For those interested in beginning the RCIA journey, please contact Katy Lover, the Pastoral Care Minister & RCIA Coordinator of St. Andrew Avellino Parish, at: 718-359-5276.