RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults)
What is RCIA?—RCIA is the process by which adults become full members of the Catholic community. It restores the ancient catechumenate—the process by which persons became Christians in the early church by praying and studying with the community. After their Lenten retreat, they were initiated into the community at the Easter Vigil. Like the ancient catechumenate, RCIA takes place within the community, emphasizing the community as the initiating body. The contemporary catechumenate is an extended process of conversion, faith formation and transformation. Rather than a "program of instruction", it is a multi-dimensional process which includes immersion in the Word of God, worship, community, and service.
Who participates in RCIA?—Primarily the process is for unbaptized adults who want to know more about the Catholic faith. If an adult is unbaptized, the process usually takes at least a year, and the catechumenate celebrates all three of the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. The process is also for baptized Christians who wish to become Catholics. In this case the time for the process is variable, depending upon the candidates' readiness. Candidates are not re-baptized. They make a profession of faith and celebrate Confirmation and First Eucharist. RCIA is also for adults who may have been baptized Catholic but have not celebrated Confirmation or First Eucharist. There are 4-periods in the process, which correspond to a person's growth in faith and entry into the life of the catholic community. Movement from one period to another is marked by liturgical celebrations (Rites) in which the whole community participates:
- Pre-Catechumenate (Inquiry)—This period provides Inquirers opportunities to reflect on their experience of God and to ask questions. The community in turn shares with them the good news of Jesus Christ.
- Catechumenate—This period begins with the Rite of Acceptance. It is a substantial period of formation in the Christian life. Members deepen their conversion by embracing the community's way of life; by participation in worship; by catechesis based on the Word of God; and by sharing in the Church's mission.
- Purification & Enlightenment—This period coincides with the season of Lent and is a time of intensive preparation for the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil. Through liturgies and reflection, the whole community joins the candidates in focusing on the transformation of the whole person to the way of Christ.
- Mystagogy (Savor the Mysteries)—During the Easter season the newly initiated (Neophytes) continue to meet weekly to savor the experience of the Easter sacraments, reflect on their meaning for their lives and embrace their share of the Church's mission in the world.
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