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The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Links to paragraphs on this page:
Preparation: Awakening, Growth and Formation
Into the Catacombs
Purification and Enlightenment
Easter Fire
How Long Does It Take


The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (often abbreviated RCIA) is the process through which interested adults and children over the age of reason, currently seven are gradually introduced to the Roman Catholic way of life. This communual proceess involves a number of carefully planned stages, puncuated by litugical rites to aid and assist the potential inquirer (convert) toward the final rite at the Easter vigil, at which time they will become full members of the Roman catholic community. 

The RCIA process was introduced as a result of the second vatican council, where a return to the ancient practice of Christian initiation was viewed as the proper form for the modern world. Prior to Vatican II, Christian initiation had evolved from the ancient practice in the form of individual private instruction with a priest. Although the ancient private process has its meerits, the council wanted to reintroduce the community aspect of the initiation process, as well as the liturgical journey, much like the larger journey of faith within the Catholic Christian tradition.

Awakening to Christ and seeking out the Church through the RCIA comes about in a variety of ways. The first step for some is a sense that “something is missing” — a sense, perhaps provoked by some crisis, that there is more to life than what they now have or a better way to live than how they now live. For many others, the journey begins because of a relationship with a Catholic — a close friend or a potential spouse. Still others are drawn by seeing the example of a Catholic life well lived. Whatever the reason for the awakening and decision to seek, the RCIA process is the first step on a lifelong journey of intellectual, emotional and spiritual conversion.

RCIA is an ongoing, lifelong process of personal spiritual growth as well as a social process in which we strengthen and draw strength from others. The RCIA recognizes both the ongoing quality and the communal nature of conversion, providing an intellectual and spiritual framework and a faith community in which an individual’s conversion experience can be understood and supported. Caring for people in the midst of this life-changing experience is the goal of the RCIA ministry.

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Preparation: Awakening, Growth and Formation

The full RCIA process consists of four periods of awakening, growth and formation marked by celebration of three major rites involving the whole St. Jude’s community.

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During the first period of the journey, the inquiry period, seekers ask hard questions about Christianity and receive truthful, life-sharing answers from Catholic Christians. The informal discussions during the inquiry period help the seekers link their personal life stories to the Good News as witnessed and lived by the Roman Catholic community.

As each inquirer desires to continue the conversion journey within our faith community, he or she is invited to experience the first major rite of the RCIA process, the Rite of Acceptance. At a Sunday Mass, inquirers enter the second period of the journey, the catechumenate, by being marked with the sign of the cross on the ears, eyes, lips, heart, shoulders, hands and feet — a symbol of both the joys and the costs of Christian discipleship.

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Into the Catacombs

The word catechumenate means “time of serious study” and inquirers who become catechumens — those who have not been baptized — or candidates — baptized Christians who have not been confirmed as Roman Catholics — join us at Sunday Mass during the Liturgy of the Word, after which they move to the hall to continue reflecting on the Scriptures “ to break open the word”. Our catechumens and candidates do not travel alone during this period. Sponsors are chosen from the parish community to act as spiritual companions, providing personal support, sharing experience of Christian life and helping make the catechumens and candidates feel “at home” with Catholic religious practice.

The catechumenate period ends when a catechumen or candidate is ready to begin the third period of the journey, the period of purification and enlightenment, which coincides with Advent each year. On the first Sunday of Advent, catechumens travel to the Cathedral to celebrate the second major rite of the RCIA process, the Rite of Election, while candidates receive the Call to Continuing Conversion.

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Purification and Enlightenment

The period of purification and enlightenment is a time of final preparation for initiation. The period is one of prayer, fasting and reflection for both catechumens, now known as the Elect, and candidates. During this period, the Elect experience scrutinies and exorcisms, special rites which seal their break with evil in preparation for baptism.

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Easter Fire!

The candidates and the Elect are initiated through the third and consummating rite of the RCIA process, the Sacraments of Initiation, at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. On that night, when light drives out darkness, joyful sounds fill the silence, and we proclaim and renew our resurrection hope, the Elect culminate their long journey to initiation in the waters of Baptism — then, with the candidates, the newly baptized are sealed with the oil of Confirmation and share the bread and wine of the Eucharist as full members of the Roman Catholic community.

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Initiation begins the fourth period of the RCIA journey, the mystagogia, which means “leading into the mysteries”. The newly initiated meet weekly between Easter and Pentecost to explore and confirm the Easter experience. From Pentecost until the following Easter, mystagogia continues with intermittent meetings. Mystagogia is the final stage of the RCIA process, but it is in turn the beginning of a pilgrimage of lifelong, continuous conversion in full communion with the Roman Catholic community of Christians.

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How long does it take?

  • “The Rite of Christian Initiation is not a program.
  • It is the church’s way of ministering sensitively to those who seek membership. For that reason some people will need more time than others to prepare for the lifetime commitment that comes with membership in the Catholic Church. The usual length of preparation is from one to two years. For those already baptized and who seek full communion in the Catholic Church, the time may also vary.
  • It seems reasonable that catechumens or candidates experience the yearly calendar of Catholic practice at least one time around in order to make an informed decision.
  • The process of spiritual renewal and catechesis should not be hasty, especially for those not accustomed to the fasts and feasts and Sundays and seasons the way Catholics observe them.
  • One of the best time for the sacraments of initiation or the Rite of reception into full communion is the Easter Vigil. Lent prepares catechumens, candidates and the whole community for baptism,, confirmation and Eucharist. The celebration of the Easter Vigil dramatically points to the wellspring of the church’s life: ”The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Interested in RCIA, contact Fr Allan to arrange a meeting at frallan@catholic.org

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