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Principles, Phases, Facilitators, Programme, Catechetical Documents, Catechisms and Catechetical Links

The Second Vatican Council recommended that the Church renew its way of receiving Adult Candidates.  A revised rite called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) was approved by Pope Paul VI in 1972 and has become the norm for the Church.  RCIA is a process of conversion that emphasizes formation in doctrine, liturgy, Church life, and service.  The Church community is involved in welcoming, instructing, helping and praying for Candidates.  RCIA is a learning and loving process in which conversion of the heart brings you to Jesus Christ. 

Principles, Phases, Facilitators, Programme, Catechetical Documents, Catechisms and Catechetical Links

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RCIA Purpose

Code of Canon Law

Can. 788 §1 Those who have expressed the wish to embrace faith in Christ, and who have completed the period of their preliminary catechumenate, are to be admitted to the catechumenate proper in a liturgical ceremony; and their names are to be inscribed in the book which is kept for this purpose. §2 By formation and their first steps in christian living, catechumens are to be initiated into the mysteries of salvation, and introduced into the life of faith, liturgy and charity of the people of God, as well as into the apostolate. §3 It is the responsibility of the Episcopal Conference to establish norms concerning the arrangement of the catechumenate, determining what should be done by catechumens and what should be their prerogatives.

Can. 789 By means of appropriate formation, neophytes are to be led to a deeper knowledge of the Gospel truths, and to the fulfilment of the duties undertaken in baptism. They are also to be imbued with a sincere love of Christ and his Church. 

RCIA Principles

1. The RCIA is first and foremost a faith journey process. RCIA is for and about people whose faith journey cannot be programmed because programs as such do not cause conversion; only God brings about conversion.

2. The RCIA is a community event. The initiation of adults is about the Christian community initiating new members into itself, and therefore it must take place in community It is never a private process. The RCIA sees the Church as community, as us, and it also sees us as the primary ministers of the RCIA.

3. The RCIA ministry is basically one of witness and hospitality. The document is particularly strong in this respect when it says: "...the Initiation of adults is the concern and business of all the baptized" (RCIA, #41). Although the RCIA involves many parishioners in various ministries (sponsors, catechists, prayers, spiritual advisors, etc.) everyone in the parish community is responsible for ministering to the prospective converts by the witness of their lives and the openness of their attitudes.

4.  The RCIA is ongoing and multi-dimensional. The process of conversion takes time. For this reason there is nothing instant about RCIA. The commitment to gospel values and perspectives is a personal journey which is never accomplished by an educational program alone. Doctrinal instruction as well as spiritual formation is included in the RCIA.

5. The RCIA restores the baptismal focus of Lent, and reinstates the Easter Vigil as the honored time of initiation. This means that the whole initiation process centers on the candidates’ gradual incorporation into the Paschal Mystery — the mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. The sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist celebrate in one symbolic action, one’s initiation into that mystery.

6.  The RCIA is a step-by-step journey highlighted with corresponding rituals. The document sees the process of initiation divided into four basic steps. Between each of the steps, the community celebrates a special ritual which brings closure to the preceding period and moves the candidates into the next step. 

RCIA Phases

RCIA is divided into four continuous phases that correspond to the candidate’s progress in Christian formation

Phase 1: The first is the Period of Inquiry that may lasts from several weeks to many months.  During this stage candidates are invited to ask questions about the Church, share their own faith stories, and decide whether they wish to continue.  When the inquirers are ready to proceed to the next phase, the catechumenate, a ritual called the "Rite of Entrance to the Catechumenate" takes place, during the Sunday Mass, so that the community can welcome the inquirers to the second step of their journey of faith.

Phase 2: The Rite of Becoming Catechumenate phase follows and is a more intense period of instruction and introduction to liturgy, faith-life and service.  Sponsors from the parish community join the process to serve as guides, companions and models of faith for them. Sponsors commit themselves to being a vital link between the catechumens and the community.  Sponsors present the candidates to the Church and also represent the Church to the candidate throughout the RCIA process. This step is often the longest period in the RCIA, lasting from a few months to a few years, determined by the needs of the catechumen, and by the community The catechumens are invited to worship with the community they are dismissed after the Liturgy of the Word with their catechists to ponder the Scripture readings they have just heard. When the catechumens are ready to respond totally to God’s call to faith through the Sacraments of Initiation, the RCIA provides a ritual, the Rite of Election, to mark this step in the conversion process. This Rite takes place on the first Sunday of Lent. The ritual provides an opportunity for the catechumens to officially request entrance to the Church through the Easter Sacraments of Initiation, and for the community to respond to that request by saying, "We confirm God’s call to faith in your life, and will welcome you into the Church this Easter."

Phase 3: Enlightenment and Purification is the third stage.  Beginning with the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens enter into their "40-day retreat" to focus on deepening their awareness of God’s grace through prayer. During this time the Church also celebrates other rituals with the catechumens, called "Scrutinies." These are prayers of healing prayed by the community (on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent) that the catechumens will have the strength to withstand evil, and remain pure and free from sin as they journey toward initiation and growth in faith. While we minister to the catechumens, they provide a visible reminder to each of us of the meaning and purpose of Lent, and minister to us through their presence. Finally the night of the Easter Vigil arrives — at which the Sacraments of Initiation are celebrated and the catechumens are made one with the Body of Christ called Church. The community says, “Now you belong, for you have been born again of water and spirit. Come, you are welcome at the Table of the Lord."

Phase 4: The concluding part of the journey to faith is called the "Mystagogia", which comes from the word, mystery. In the early Church it was the time when the community explained the mystery of the sacraments the catechumens had experienced. Today, this step is seen more as time for the newly initiated and the community to move forward together toward a closer relationship with each other and toward a deeper understanding of God’s Word, of the sacraments, and of everyday Christian life. The RCIA place this step during the Easter Season (the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost) and focus on the mysteries of Christ’s death and resurrection. In reality, this step in the journey continues for the rest of the Christian’s life along with the entire community of the faithful as we strive to live the Gospel our daily lives and perform works of service for others.   

Catechetical Documents

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (1987). Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. [click here]

General Directory for Catechesis (1997). His Holiness Pope John Paul II, on 11 August 1997, approved this present General Directory for Catechesis and authorized its publication.  [click here

Adult Catechesis in the Christian Community : Some Principles and Guidelines (1990). In composing this document, the contributions of all the members of the International Council for Catechesis were utilized, but the actual organization of the material and the writing of the text were the work of the Secretary General, who was assisted in this task by various experts.  [click here]

Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II on Catechesis in Our Times (1979). [click here]

Catechisms

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) [click here] - approved on 25 June 1992 and published on 11 October 1992 by virtue of the Apostolic Authority of Pope John Paul II, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium and is declared by Pope John Paul II it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2005) [click here- an accessible and comprehensive summary of the Catechism in the form of a dialogue between a catechist and a listener.

Catechism of the Council of Trent (or Roman Catechism or Catechism of St Pius V) (1566) [click here] or [click here] - issued by by order of Pope Pius V in 1566 as a work sanctioned by the authority of the Council, from which pastors and all others on whom the duty of imparting instruction devolves, may be able to seek and find reliable matter for the edification of the faithful; that, as there is one Lord, one faith, there may also be one standard and prescribed form of propounding the dogmas of faith, and instructing Christians in all the duties of piety.

Catechetical Instructions of St Thomas Aquinas (1273) [click here] or [click here] - used generally throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as manuals and text-books for priests and teachers of religion. 

Catechism of St Pius X (1904) [click here] - a simple, plain, brief, popular catechism for uniform use throughout the whole world and directed to the layman.

Catechetical Lectures of St Cyril of Jerusalem (386) [click here] - a very early catechism.

Catechizing the Uninstructed by St Augustine of Hippo (400) [click here] -

Baltimore Catechism - Baltimore Catechism Complete 1891 [click here] and Baltimore Catechism Basic 1885 [click here] - a catechism of Christian doctrine, prepared and enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore, the de facto standard Catholic school text in the United States from 1885 to 1960. 

Catechetical Links

Catholic Answers [click here]

Catholic Biblical Apologetics [click here

Coming Home Network International [click here].

Defenders Of The Catholic Faith [click here].