RCIA: A Spiritual Journey of Faith
What is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults? The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a formal program of catechetical instruction and liturgies whereby adults, those unbaptized and those baptized in other Christian denominations, are formally admitted into the Church and receive the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism (for those not already baptized) Confirmation and Eucharist.
During RCIA, individuals follow a spiritual journey of ‘steps’ accomplished through defined periods punctuated with liturgical rites. The first period is that of inquiry (precatechumenate) where inquirers learn about the faith and what the Church teaches.
If the individual wishes to continue into the next phase there is the Rite of Acceptance into the order of catechumens where inquirers are formally introduced to the parish community. The unbaptized are now called catechumens; those already baptized are called candidates. This Rite of Acceptance begins the period of the catechumenate during which the catechumens and candidates receive further instruction and faith sharing.
The Rite of Election is the last liturgical ceremony before the Easter Vigil. At this rite, upon the testimony of sponsors and catechists, and the catechumens’ affirmation of their intention to join the Church, the Church makes its ‘election’ of the catechumens to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. In the presence of the bishop they inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect at the cathedral as a pledge of fidelity. Now the catechumens are called ‘the elect’ and begin a period of purification and enlightenment—the final, intense preparation for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation. The candidates, those already baptized, are acknowledged and presented to the bishop and the congregation.
On the next five Sundays of Lent, three scrutinies (rites for self-searching and repentance) and the presentations of The Creed and The Lord’s Prayer take place. This period concludes with the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.
After the Easter Vigil, the newly baptized and confirmed members of the Church are called neophytes and they enter the period of post baptismal catechesis or mystagogy.
The neophytes grow in their understanding of the mysteries of the faith and strengthen their bonding with the rest of the faithful. They should enter
more fully into the life and unity of the Church. This period ends at Pentecost.
RCIA is a spiritually moving process beneficial to the whole parish community. If one wishes to gain a better understanding of the Catholic faith there is no better way than to get involved in the parish RCIA program as a catechist, a sponsor, or just to journey with those seeking to join the community of believers. This is the time to invite those who may be interested in exploring Catholicism to seek out a parish that has an RCIA program.
By BOB FOLEY
Photo: Bishop Gerard Bergie witnesses a catechumen, with his sponsor by his side, signing the Book of Elect on the First Sunday of Lent at the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria. After the signing, the catechumens are called the elect
Published on The Vineyard paper, April 2016