RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults)
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WHAT IS THE RITE OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION OF ADULTS (RCIA)?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the norm for initiation into the Catholic Church.
For the Unbaptized, the RCIA gradually uncovers the story of God’s salvation for all; the mystery of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection; and the workings of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the beliefs, sacramental life and spiritual practices of the Catholic Church. Within the setting of a parish community and in accordance with the Church’s liturgical year, “this process of formation includes four stages as well as rituals which mark these stages” (National Directory for Catechesis, 35).
For Baptized Christians who seek full communion with the Catholic Church, the RCIA includes rites and pastoral practice. (RCIA Part II: sections 4 and 5).
For Baptized Catholics who have received no other faith formation and have not received the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist, the RCIA mentions pastoral practices to become a fully initiated Catholic (RCIA 400-415).
The following outlines the periods (stages) and steps (rituals) for the order of Christian Initiation of Unbaptized Adults.
PERIOD OF EVANGELIZATION AND PRECATECHUMENATE
A time of no fixed duration or structure, for inquiry and introduction to Gospel values, an opportunity for the beginnings of faith.
FIRST STEP: THE RITE OF ACCEPTANCE INTO THE ORDER OF CATECHUMENS
The liturgical rite, usually celebrated during Advent, marking the beginning of the catechumenate proper, as the candidates express and the Church accepts their intention to respond to God's call to follow the way of Christ.
PERIOD OF THE CATECHUMENATE
The time, in duration corresponding to the progress of the individual, for the nurturing and growth of the catechumens' faith and conversion to God; celebration of the word and prayers of exorcism and blessing are meant to assist the process.
SECOND STEP: ELECTION OR ENROLLMENT OF NAMES
This is the liturgical rite, usually celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent, by which the Church formally ratifies the catechumen's readiness for the sacraments of initiation and the catechumen, now the elect, express the will to receive these sacraments.
PERIOD OF PURIFICATION AND ENLIGHTENMENT
The time, immediately preceding the elects' initiation, usually the Lenten season preceding the Easter Vigil; it is a time of reflection, intensely centered on conversion, marked by celebration of the scrutinys and presentations and of the preparation rites on Holy Saturday.
THIRD STEP: CELEBRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION
The liturgical rite, usually integrated into the Easter Vigil, by which the elect are initiated through baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist.
PERIOD OF POSTBAPTISMAL CATECHESIS OR MYSTOGOGY
The time, usually the Easter season, following the celebration of the initiation, during which the newly initiated experience being fully a part of the Christian community by means of pertinent catechesis and particularly by participation with all the faithful in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration.