Sometimes, even to the seasoned Catholic, becoming a member of the Church can seem a little overwhelming. It raises a lot of questions. Here at Cathedral the RCIA process is gearing up to kick off on October 17th.
Let’s start with some fundamentals – that are centered in Christ – for beginning and developing a life of faith here at Cathedral and the larger Roman Catholic Church. Everything else builds on these fundamentals!
Where do you begin? Well, you just begin from where you are now! Many adults follow a process known as the RCIA – the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
The RCIA process has several distinct stages. These stages are a good model of faith development in themselves for even cradle Catholics.
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.
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.
Purification and preparation: The Church will help you focus and intensify your faith as you prepare you to commit your life to Christ and be received into the Church at Easter. If you’re following the RCIA process, you’ll go through a beautiful series of Gospel-based meditations during Lent, which is the time frame of this period.
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.
It is all centered on laying a strong foundation because your Faith will be the foundation of your entire life.
I know, sometimes it seems like it takes a long time. But…Don’t rush it! Go slowly!
Stage 1: Just Looking
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.
Stage 2: Learning about the Faith
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.
Stage 3: Getting ready for rebirth!
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 this year as you’re entering the Church and receiving the sacraments of initiation.
Stage 4: Reflecting on the mysteries of the Mass
This stage of mystagogy during Easter 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.
Deacon Scott Keen serves the Cathedral Parish by leading the Rite of Christian Initiations of Adults process.