The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (often abbreviated RCIA) is the process through which interested adults and older children are gradually introduced to the Roman Catholic faith and way of life, and received into the full sacramental life of the church through Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.
To understand what Catholic RCIA is all about, it is important to understand that it is an adult journey of change, growth and conversion. It is the journey by which we join the Catholic Church, deepen our faith in Christ, and live the Christian way of life and prayer.
The process involves a journey through the liturgical year. It is an "apprenticeship" in the Christian life and involves four separate phases:
The pre-Catechumenate has no fixed duration and is the least formal and structured of all the phases. The main purpose is to give the inquirer an opportunity to question and explore many different aspects of the Catholic faith, while introducing some of the Gospel values. Within this phase, the beginnings of Christian faith start to become evident.
This is by far the longest and most formal part of the process. During this phase the catechumen participates with the whole Catholic community in their Sunday celebrations. The catechumen participates by sharing in the Liturgy of the Word. Through prayer, learning and coming to know other Catholic Christians, catechumens discover the love and power of God in their lives and in the church. This phase offers not only intellectual and faith formation, but also growth in prayers, Christian service and Parish life. The focus is on conversion of heart, through prayer and good works, but also of conversion of the mind, in which we start to see through the eyes of God, to think, perceive and act as Christ calls us to in our lives. During this time, catechumens receive anointings, participate in prayers of exorcism and blessings, which assists this conversion. The Scriptures are central to the catechumenate stage of formation.
This phase takes place during Lent, and is marked by 3 community celebrations known as Scrutinies. During this period, the elect and the parish community together focus on conversion, scrutinize their lives in light of the gospel and celebrate the presentations of the Creed and Lord's Prayer. These scrutinies coincide with the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sunday's of Lent, and they ask God for healing and forgiveness of the elect.
Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The elect are fully incorporated into Christ and the Church by Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. The elect become full members of the Body of Christ, the Church. From this time until the end of the period of mystagogy, they are known as neophytes, "newly born."
This is an important period of reflection by the newly initiated with their parish community. The formation and teaching continues during this time, in order to help the neophytes become incorporated into the full life of the Christian community. They are assisted to discern their gifts and are integrated more deeply into the life, worship and mission of the parish.
It is important to note that the fourth stage may be the end or final stage of the RCIA process, but it is only the first stage of the rest of their lives as a fully active and participating member of the Catholic Church and its' mission.
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