After the Second Vatican Council, the Church restored the order of the Catechumenate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This program outlines the steps for the formation of catechumens, bringing their conversion to the faith to a greater maturity. It also helps them respond more deeply to God's gracious initiative in their lives and prepares them for union with the Church community.
The RCIA process is designed to form them into the fullness of the Christian life and to become disciples of Jesus, their teacher. This includes an initiation into the mystery of salvation, the practice of faith, hope, and love, and other virtues in a succession of liturgical rites.
Persons baptized into another Christian church and now seeking full communion with the Catholic Church are also welcomed to participate along with catechumens in the RCIA in the process of learning about the Catholic faith and being formed in that faith. They bring to the process of preparation their prior experience of Christian life and prayer.
For a baptized Christian, reception into full communion with the Catholic Church involves reception of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and then a Profession of Faith followed by the celebration of Confirmation and the Eucharist.
Visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site for more information:
Questions & Answers About RCIA
THE FOUR STAGES OF RCIA:
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- The first is the Period of Inquiry which may last from several weeks to many months. During this stages candidates are invited to ask questions about the Church, share their own faith stories, and decide whether they wish to continue.
- Those who do continue celebrate the Rite of Becoming Catechumenate. This is a more intense period of instruction and introduction to liturgy, faith life, and service.
- The Rite of Election, which normally takes places on the first Sunday of Lent, marks the transition between the Catechumenate and the third stage, Enlightenment and Purification. This stage covers the season of Lent and includes special liturgical ceremonies at the Lenten Masses, as well as more intense prepration through prayer and study. It climaxes at the Easter Vigil with the Sacraments of Initiation-Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.
- The final stage of RCIA is the post-baptismal catechesis (Mystagogia). This stage lasting from Easter to Pentecost focuses on the mysteries (mystagogia) of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection and helps the newly baptized to develope and deeper understanding of their faith. They now share fully in the Eucharist and are asked to live the gospel in their daily lives and to perform works of service for others.