The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process through which interested adults and older children are gradually introduced to the Roman Catholic faith and way of life. Children who were not baptized as infants are also initiated through an adapted process of this rite, referred to as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children (RCIC).
Christian Initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism, which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation, which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist, which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s body and blood for his transformation in Christ.
Prior to formally beginning the RCIA process, an individual comes to some knowledge of Jesus Christ, considers his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and usually is attracted in some way to the Catholic Church.
Spiritual advice should be provided by the parish in the form of guidance and support.
After conversation with an advisor or spiritual guide, the person or inquirer may decide to continue the process and become a baptized member of the Catholic Church.
The local parish assembly affirms his or her wish and the inquirer then becomes a “catechumen.”
The period of the catechumenate varies, it depends on how the person is growing in faith, what questions and obstacles they encounter and how God leads them on this faith journey.
When the catechumen and the parish team working with him or her believes the person is ready to make a faith commitment to Jesus in the Catholic Church, the next step is the request for baptism and the celebration of the rite of election.
On the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens and their sponsors gather at the cathedral church and the catechumens publicly request baptism. Their names then are recorded and now are called “the elect.”
The days of Lent are the final period of purification and enlightenment leading up to the celebration of initiation at the Easter Vigil. This Lenten season is a period of preparation, marked by prayer, study and spiritual direction, with special prayers for them by the parish community.
The third formal step is the celebration of the sacraments of initiation that takes place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday night when the catechumen receives the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy Eucharist. Now the person is a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church.
After the person is initiated at the vigil, another period of formation and education continues in the period of the post baptismal catechesis, which is called “mystagogy.”
This period continues until Pentecost. This is a time of reflection on their experiences at the Easter Vigil and they continue to learn more about the Scriptures, the sacraments and teachings of the Catholic Church. It’s a time to reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the Church’s mission.