The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is primarily a journey of faith. The RCIA journey begins with the Period of Inquiry during which an orientation and a presentation on how scripture and tradition work together in the teachings of the Church.
At the end of the Period of Inquiry the RCIA participants transition into the Period of Catechumenate and Candidacy with the Rite of Acceptance and Rite of Welcome. This is the longest of the periods. During this time the catechumens, candidates, and their sponsors gather with the Catholic community on Sundays for the first part of the Mass, during which we hear the Scriptures, respond to them, and reflect on the meaning of God’s Word personally and as a community through the homily. After the homily, catechumens and candidates are dismissed to continue reflecting on the Word of God proclaimed in the Sunday assembly.
Lent brings with it a rapid succession of rites that take the catechumens and candidates up to the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass. On the first Sunday of Lent the parish approves the catechumens and candidates participation through the Rite of Sending. They travel that afternoon to the chair (in Latin: cathedra) of the bishop in Springfield for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. In this ceremony the Church formally endorses the catechumens’ and candidates’ readiness for the sacraments of initiation. Through the Rite of Election the designation for the unbaptized changes from Catechumens to Elect while the Candidates remain Candidates and propels all of them into the Period of Purification and Enlightenment.
The centerpieces of this period of preparation are the celebration of the Penitential Rite and the Scrutinies. The Penitential Rite, which occurs on the second Sunday of Lent, is for the baptized. The Scrutinies, which occur on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent, is for the un-baptized. There is no ceremony on the sixth Sunday of Lent, Palm-Passion Sunday, in order to reserve the focus on the Passion of Jesus Christ.
The Rites of Initiation are celebrated at the Easter Vigil. Those who are not baptized will be baptized. All will receive Holy Communion and are confirmed. Anointing with holy oil called Chrism seals the initiation by the power of the Holy Spirit and participation at the Table of the Lord in the Eucharist marks full membership in the church and into the Period of Mystagogy.
The group continues to meet in person for 8 weeks after Easter, until Pentecost for the Period of Mystagogy. Those who have just shared in the sacraments of initiation are now called Neophytes and, during this period, they reflect on what they have just gone through and look to the future as to how they can now share in the mission of Christ who came to bring salvation and life to the whole world. This period of time reminds the whole church that life in Christ constantly calls us to grow and to look for new ways to live the life of grace, personally and together.
Anyone who is thinking about becoming a Roman Catholic Christian or who would simply like more information can contact Deanna Harlan, Pastoral Associate for Adult Faith Formation at (618) 654-2339 x217 for more information.