The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
The RCIA is the Church’s way to initiate new members. Its goal is to foster and deepen one’s conversion in the Community of the Church to Jesus Christ and the Kingdom he proclaimed. The process is divided into five stages:
Period of Evangelization-During this time, the basic gospel message is proclaimed and inquirers are able to reflect on their lives in light of the message of Christianity. It is also a time for questions, finding out more about the church and the value of faith.
Period of the Catechumenate-Those who profess their faith in Christ Jesus and sincerely desire to enter the Catholic Church move to the next phase as “Catechcumens” (candidates for initiation). During this period much of the catechesis or teaching takes place. With the help of a sponsor and members of the parish, the catechumens experience the church as a community of the faithful. They examine the community’s spirit, its work, its prayer, its creed, and its mission. During this time, the initial conversion of candidates is deepened.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment-At the beginning of Lent, the church gathers all those who are judged ready for initiation. This is the Rite of Election. They are to make final preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter. During Lent the community helps the Candidates strengthen all that is good and remove all that is harmful or sinful in their lives.
Sacraments of Initiation-Ordinarily the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are celebrated at the Easter Vigil liturgy. Christians who are already baptized may be formally received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church at this liturgy. They are not re-baptized. The whole Catholic assembly solemnly renews their baptismal vows at this celebration.
Period of Mystagogia-A period of 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost completes the initiation process. This 50 day festive season of the Church is a time for new members and the community at large to penetrate the deeper meaning of Easter Sacraments which they have experienced. It is a special time for new members to find a place in the community and begin thinking about how they will share in the mission of the Church through Christian service.