“Is R.C.I.A. for Already-Active Christians?”
Baptized Christians of another denomination who attempt to live in a way congruent with the teachings of Christ and who pray and have actively participated in the worship and life of a Christian community, need not participate in the full R.C.I.A process, but do benefit from parts of the process. They may need a clearer understanding of Catholic beliefs, the experience of participating in the Catholic Church’s liturgical life over an appropriate period of time, and increased familiarity with the Catholic community before making a lasting commitment to the Catholic Church. When the time is right, such people may be received into the Catholic Church at any time of the year.
The unbaptized and the baptized who have not received formation in the practice of the faith usually do participate in the full R.C.I.A. process.
“What is the Catechumenate?”
For those who participate in the full RCIA process, it begins with a period of Inquiry, a time of reflection on one’s own life in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. During this period the inquirer also asks questions about the Catholic Church and prayerfully discerns whether or not God is calling him/her to join the Catholic Church as the specific denomination within which to live his/her faith. If the person decides to pursue the process of becoming Catholic, he or she enters the catechumenate at the next convenient opportunity. Unbaptized persons in the catechumenate are called catechumens. Baptized persons in the catechumenate are called candidates. The purpose of the catechumenate is to provide a structure for the proclamation of the gospel; catechesis, (the passing on of the teachings of the church); public and private prayer; spiritual direction; the observance of the feasts, fasts, Sundays and seasons of the church calendar; direct contact with members of the parish community and participation in the work of the church for justice and peace. Normally, catechumens conclude the catechumenate and celebrate Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist at Easter, though not always the first Easter after they begin the process. Candidates conclude the catechumenate and are received into the Catholic Church through a Profession of Faith, Confirmation, and Eucharist at Easter or at another suitable time during the church year. After the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist), the individual’s formal process of spiritual formation in the R.C.I.A. continues for a period of time to help the new Catholic become fully incorporated into the life of the Catholic Christian community.
“What is an Ongoing R.C.I.A.?”
Ideally, the R.C.I.A. process is “ongoing” in a Catholic parish. “Ongoing” means that, throughout the liturgical year, there are opportunities for individuals to inquire about the Catholic Church. It also means that there are several opportunities throughout the liturgical year for individuals to begin the catechumenate; and, for those who are already baptized, it means that there are several opportunities throughout the liturgical year for individuals to be received into the Catholic Church. This ideal is difficult to obtain, but the growing number of persons who seek to become Catholic challenges us to continue to strive toward it.
-Adapted from “How Does a Person Become a Catholic”, Liturgy Training Publications.