And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), also known as Journey in Faith, is the process by which a person enters into full communion with the Catholic Church. This process is for Catechumens (the unbaptized) and Candidates (those baptized Christians from another faith tradition and those baptized Catholics who have not received all of the Sacraments of Initiation).
It is marked by different stages, with each stage having a special Rite associated with it. The Stages are:
Inquiry: the initial period before you decide to enter the Catholic Church. You’re asking questions and checking it out, but aren’t yet ready to commit. In the inquiry stage, you’re just finding out about Jesus, Christianity, and the Catholic Church. Your main task here is to explore and develop your faith enough so you can make an informed initial decision about entering the Catholic Church. The final decision won’t come for a long time, when you actually enter the Church at Easter and receive the sacraments of initiation.
Catechumenate: those who decide to enter the Church and are being trained for a life in Christ are called Catechumens, an ancient name from the early Church. In this stage, you’re developing your faith and are being “catechized” — learning catechism, or the basic points about Catholic faith and life. In the Catechumenate, your faith has begun to develop. Now you need to learn and grow more. You focus on catechesis in this stage: learning about the faith, how to live as a Christian, and developing your interior life. Your job now is to come into closer contact with the Living God and learn more about the Catholic Faith.
Purification and preparation: The Church will help you focus and intensify your faith as you prepare to commit your life to Christ and be received into the Church at Easter. You’ll go through a beautiful series of Gospel-based meditations during Lent, which is the time frame of this period. This period of purification and enlightenment is the final stage before receiving the Easter sacraments of initiation into the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. (Those already baptized with a valid baptism in another Christian church aren’t baptized again.) This stage of intense reflection calls you to deeper conversion in preparation for your renewal at Easter. This is what the season of Lent is for, but it has a special intensity for you as you’re entering the Church and receiving the sacraments of initiation. The Church uses three profound and beautiful passages from the Gospel of John to focus this preparation effort.
Initiation itself, the culmination of the whole process! You’re received into the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass, where you’ll receive the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. (If you’ve already been baptized, you won’t be baptized again.)
Mystagogy: after reception into the Church at Easter, this period lets you reflect and learn more about the mysteries of the Mass and the Sacraments that you now participate in fully. This period during the Easter Season is for continued reflection on the sacraments you have received at Easter, especially the Eucharist. Specific catechesis on the Mass, the Sacraments, and especially the Eucharist are the focus of this stage. The Mass and the Eucharist are the “source and summit” of the Christian life in the Catholic Church, and this period is designed to help you understand, appreciate, and live more deeply this center of Catholicism.
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