Learning our Faith - The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
Learning Our Faith – The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
Have you been worshiping at any of the area Catholic parishes, but never officially took the step to become Catholic?
Have you been away from the church and have now returned, but want to know more?
Have you been Catholic all your life, but never celebrated all of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist)?
Have you joined us from a different religious background and would now like to find out more about the Catholic Church?
If any of the above questions apply to you, we would love to help you in your journey! Or if you know of anyone who would answer YES to any of the above questions, perhaps you should extend an invitation to them to participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Classes are usually held at 7:00pm on Tuesday evenings starting in late September and going through Easter. Other arrangements can be made depending upon need. Please contact Fr. Joe Spolny for more information.
A note from Vikki Zangara, member of 2009-2010 RCIA
Frequently Asked Questions
RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is a class for people who would like to know more about the Roman Catholic faith. It is also for those who desire to be received in full communion to the Catholic Church. This includes Catechumens and Candidates. Catechumens are people who have never been baptized by any Christian Church. Candidates are individuals who have been baptized in any Christian Church (including Roman Catholics) but have not been confirmed in the Catholic Church.
For anyone who wishes to become a Catholic Christian, the RCIA process includes several steps (periods) that lead to your initiation into our “Catholic Christian” community
None of us would deny that there are many longings within our own hearts and that from time to time some may even be fulfilled. But very often, despite all our efforts and life's good fortune, we still feel disconnected. We continue to search for life's true meaning. We struggle with loneliness. We want to feel that we belong. Our need for acceptance and friendship can be enormous. So we look around and begin to explore. We find ourselves making acquaintances. We talk with them and little by little we begin to reveal who we are. After a while, an acquaintance becomes our friend and then we know exactly with whom we want to spend our time. This natural and common human experience provides the setting for the first step of the RCIA process.
During the inquiry period, the parishioners of the Catholic family share their own faith stories as they listen to the journeys, questions and hopes of those who have come to inquire about the Church. Through this exchange, the church shares it's life story - it's traditions, people and history. This sharing and exchange of personal experiences leads the inquirer to discover similarities between his or her own story and and the story of Jesus and the Church. This first step of the RCIA is a time of unhurried reflection and discovery. Each inquirer is a unique individual must journey at his or her own pace.
All of us know that personal relationships don't just happen. They usually grow out of informal and casual encounters. Maybe it's the warm smile or the way our friend really listens that draws us together. Whatever it is, we find that we want to spend a lot of time with that person in order to share more about ourselves, and because we just plain feel better being around that person. A good example of this type of relationship becomes very apparent in the lives of a man and a woman who find attractive qualities in each other and begin dating. Their desire to know each other leads them to spend much time together. The day may come when their love leads them to tell others of their deepening commitment by announcing their engagement.
In a similar way, in the RCIA process, we may say that inquirers begin to discern in the Catholic tradition an experience of faith that is attractive and personally meaningful. When this happens, they begin to desire to belong formally to the family of Catholic believers. At this point members of the RCIA team discern with the inquirers their readiness to enter the second step of the RCIA process in which they become catechumens.
The word "catechumen" comes from biblical Greek and literally means "one who sounds out something". The second step of the RCIA process is known as the Catechumenate. The purpose of this catechumenate period is to give the inquirer, who makes a decision to journey through to Christian Initiation, a thoroughly supportive and encouraging environment. An inquirer becomes a catechumen through a formal Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumenate . During this ceremony, celebrated during a mass with the parish community, the catechumen is given a special blessing.
The Catechumenate flows from the love of the parish family as it ministers to those who are choosing membership in the Church. The parish brings many resources together to create an ongoing process that will assist the catechumen every step of the way.
As this step begins, the parish offers specific encouragement and witness to the inquirers through the assistance of individual Catholics called sponsors. A sponsor becomes a companion to an individual inquirer. The sponsor personally encourages the inquirer in every way possible. He or she prays for and with the inquirer, invites and accompanies the individual to parish celebrations and shares personal stories of what it means to be a Catholic.
The catechumenate is a spirit Journey of catechumens moving toward specific goals, accompanied by sponsors, catechists, a pastoral team and the parish community. The entire experience is designed to lead catechumens to discover their unique Christian vocation while they deepen their spiritual lives both personally and within the community. In the catechumenate, participants gather to explore the directions in which their faith journeys are leading them. Through spiritual counseling and instruction provided by the parish team, catechumens are guided in their quest for a deeper experience of faith and community within the Catholic Church. Essential to process is the catechumens' participation in various forms of community worship and active commitment to works of Christian charity and service.
This period of adult formation involves many members of the parish family all supporting one another. In fact, the parish may discover the ongoing presentation and celebration of the catechumenate has become a major focus of enthusiasm and vitality for the whole parish community.
Catholics believe that the Spirit invites a particular person to respond to God's call. How the Spirit chooses to lead those who are journeying is always unique to each person. A time will come, however, when the pastoral team and the catechumen together will discover the Holy Spirit is indeed leading the catechumen to the life-giving waters of Baptism or profession of faith for those already baptized.Whenever any of us open our hearts fully to another person, we become vulnerable. At the same time, however, we also become intimately lovable. Only through many encounters of patient sharing and gentle forgiving can a human relationship continue over a lifetime. And just as an engaged couple learns to accept, affirm and forgive one another, so do the persons journeying in the RCIA look to the Church to help them deepen their commitments and purify their hearts.
The third step of the RCIA is a time for spiritual purification and enlightenment. It spans the season of Lent and culminates at the Easter Vigil when those to be initiated are baptized, confirmed and share in the Eucharist for the first time. Lent is an especially appropriate time for this final step of reflection and examination of one's motivation. The season of Lent is like a spiritual retreat calling all of us to a renewal of heart and recommitment to our baptismal promises. Once again we pledge ourselves to a gospel way of living, to discipleship of Jesus Christ and to witnessing his message to all whom we meet.
Lent literally means "lengthening of days," or the "coming of spring time." How deeply the hearts of contemporary men and women long for a springtime of new hope and possibility amidst the world's many disappointments and broken promises. And each of us knows of our own inner brokenness and of places in our hearts that need conversion and healing.
Year after year the Church wisely offers a specific time for purifying our inmost desires-a time for journeying from darkness to light. Just as light and new life return to the earth every springtime, so during Lent does the Christian family return to its original vision of life and rebirth through prayer, fasting, almsgiving-all with special attention to the word of God.
Parishioners begin their journey through Lent to Easter by receiving ashes rubbed on their foreheads in the sign of a cross-a reminder of the cross we are all called to live and embrace. Once again the parish enters its season of repentance, renewal and recommitment to spread the gospel message to a world that needs to hear the hopeful, healing Word of God.
On the First Sunday of Lent parish and diocesan community confirm the catechumen's readiness for initiation. In a ceremony called Rite of Sending, the pastor sends the catechumens to the bishop for formal recognition. At the Rite of Election, the bishop blesses the catechumens and candidates. Then, in the name of all the People of God, he calls them by name and invites them to proceed to the Easter sacraments of initiation. From this moment on those chosen to be initiated are called the elect. Their names are written in the Book of the Elect. With prayer and support from the entire congregation, the elect now begin the last and most intensive weeks of their journey to Baptism.
On the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent, the RCIA offers special rites called scrutinies during Sunday Masses. In each scrutiny the community prays that the elect be enlightened and purified and any evil influences within their hearts will be removed by the grace of God as the gospel stories promise.
The Gospels proclaimed on these three Sundays tell of dramatic events reminding both the elect and all of us that the journey from sin and death to everlasting life is the promise of Jesus Christ and the vocation of every Christian. In the Gospel of the Third Sunday, Jesus meets the woman at the well. Like this woman who in the presence of Jesus faced all of the falsehood about herself, the elect and all the faithful are reminded that they must never put too much trust in themselves or in their own fragile abilities.
In the Gospel of the Fourth Sunday, Jesus heals the man born blind. Like this man, the elect and each of us are challenged to open our eyes and to begin to see with our hearts.The Gospel of the Fifth Sunday announces the ultimate promise of Jesus Christ as Savior. Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the tomb. The message is clear. Whatever entombs any one of us, wherever we are spiritually dead, that's exactly where Jesus calls us forth to new freedom through our dying and rising with him on the day of our Baptism.
During the time of their engagement a couple reassures one another that the loving commitment they offer is unconditional and freely given. With the joyous encouragement of their relatives and friends, they approach the celebration of their wedding day. For those who journey through the RCIA, their time of celebration begins at Easter, the culmination of Holy Week.
Holy Week, the most sacred week of the Christian year, commences with Palm Sunday (also called Passion Sunday), recalling Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Soon the festive mood turns solemn as the Gospel account of Jesus' passion and death is read. On this day all of us must ask ourselves why we sometimes abandon Jesus as did his first and most intimate disciples.
The final days of preparation for Christian initiation are celebrated during the last three days of Week, called the Triduum from the Latin word for "three days". On Holy Thursday the elect are reminded of their call to a life of Christian charity and service as they remember Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.
On Good Friday the elect together with the congregation meditate on the self-sacrificing love of Jesus whose heart and body were broken so that ours might be made whole.
Holy Saturday becomes for the elect, their sponsors and Catholic friends a day of prayerful waiting, anticipation, fasting and thanksgiving.
Finally, on Saturday evening, the congregation gathers in darkness and the Vigil of Easter begins. A flame pierces the darkness as a large ceremonial candle, symbol of Christ, is carried in procession into the church. The presider and the faithful sing of "Christ, the light of the World". And Old and New Testament passages are read which recount the sacred stories of salvation. Now the journey of the elect to the fullness of Christian initiation is completed. Following a litany of praise to the saints and a solemn blessing of the Baptismal water, the pastor invites those to be baptized to come forward. With a sponsor’s hand placed on his or her shoulder each of the elect enters and emerges from the water, a sign of dying to self and rebirth in Jesus Christ. Immediately, the newly baptized is clothed in a white garment and receives a lighted candle-images of the radiance of new life and faith.
Next the pastor confirms the newly received and baptized Christians by laying his hands on each person and anointing each of them with chrism oil. He prays with the community that they will be sealed with the Holy Spirit who is both our helper and guide.
Now at last, the newly initiated are invited to remain with the faithful to share in the Lord's Supper. Now for the first time they may approach the table of the Lord and receive the body and blood of Christ. Surrounded by their Catholic sisters and brothers, they have journeyed to their true home.
Those who wish to enter the Catholic Church but are already baptized in another denomination may also complete their journey at Easter time. They too are formally welcomed into full membership in the Catholic Church and receive sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
Persons who are already baptized as Catholic and who participated in the RCIA process to gain a new awareness of their faith join with the parish community in renewing Baptismal promises and celebrating Easter Eucharist.
The celebration of a couple's love on the day of their wedding leads naturally to many days of personal rejoicing as they begin to live together as husband and wife. The days of their honeymoon give them time to look back in appreciation for all that brought them together and to experience and reflect on their first days of married love. Similarly in the RCIA the newly initiated begin to experience the blessings of their first days and weeks as fully initiated Catholics. Like a newly married couple, they continue to need the support of relatives and friends as they journey onward and begin discern their own call to be sent in Jesus' name to witness to the Gospel.
The seven weeks of Easter time from Easter Sunday to Pentecost form the fourth and final step in the RCIA process. This step is titled mystagogy. The name comes the Greek and refers to the profound and joyous "mystery" of living life fully aware that Jesus is Lord. The newly initiated are called neophytes (from the Greek for "new believers").
During the days of Easter time new Catholics are invited to share the joys of their Easter faith with the parish family. The new Catholics are encouraged to continue to meet with their sponsors to discuss the joy and emotions they now experience as fully-initiated members of the Catholic church.