THE RCIA PROCESS
What is the Rite of Christian Initiation? The Rite of Christian Initiation is based on the principle that the process of conversion proceeds gradually, in stages. Progress from one stage to the next is marked by a liturgical celebration in the midst of the parish community. The experience and needs of each individual differs, and so the length of time may vary for each person, yet there are certain similarities in the process everyone will experience.
THE STAGES OF RCIA
Pre-catechumenate: The first stage is called the period of inquiry (or the pre-catechumenate). This is when the individual first expresses an interest in becoming a Catholic. With the help of the parish community, the individual explores his or her relationship with Christ and how that relationship might be enriched and deepened by joining this Christian community. There is no liturgical rite to mark the beginning of this stage.
Catechumenate: The second stage is called the catechumenate and, for the unbaptized listed above, who are now called “catechumens,” lasts for one year or more. For the baptized but uncatechized (not yet educated in the faith), the period should be a similar length. The Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens (for catechumens) and the Rite of Welcoming (for candidates) mark the beginning of this stage. Catechesis is based in Scripture and proclaimed in the midst of the worshiping community. This is also a time for the catechumen or candidate to learn how to live as a Catholic Christian through their faith journey and the support of their parish community. This period ends when the catechumens and candidates express their desire to receive the sacraments of initiation and the parish community acknowledges their readiness. The catechumen then becomes an “elect,” which is marked by the Rite of Election during the next stage.
Purification and Enlightenment: The third stage is the period of purification and enlightenment. It coincides with the liturgical season of Lent. During this time, the elect (catechumens) and the candidates enter into a period of intense preparation and prayer which includes the three public celebrations of the scrutinies (for catechumens) and is marked by the presentations of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. The Rite of Election (for catechumens) and the Call to Continuing Conversion (for candidates) are celebrated at the beginning of this stage. This period ends with the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. (Note: only the elect are baptized. All receive the sacrament of Confirmation and welcomed at the Eucharistic table.
Mystagogy: The fourth stage is the period of post baptismal catechesis or mystagogy. The newly initiated explore their experience of being fully initiated through participation with all the faithful at Sunday Eucharist and through appropriate catechesis. The period formally lasts through the Easter season and may be marked by a parish celebration on or near Pentecost. On a more informal level, mystagogy is a lifelong process, one in which all Christians are engaged, as we all work to deepen our sense of what it means to live the Christian life.
I’M INTERESTED. WHAT SHOULD MY FIRST STEP BE?
Contact Laura Marlo, 636-346-7983 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Laura Teague at 636-458-0381 or email@example.com. They can discuss with you the specifics of the initiation process at Holy Infant Parish. Know the prayers of a half-million Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are with you as you complete your journey. Best wishes!
Sessions are held on Wednesday evenings 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Rosario Hall. We meet weekly, with a few exceptions and finish three weeks after Easter.