Whether you are someone who is just beginning to consider the bigger questions in life, been away from the Church for a while or simply keen to find out more about the Catholic faith – this page is for you!
The Catholic Church has, through the RCIA programme, an wonderful avenue by which anyone with questions about the Catholic faith, or anyone wishing to enter the Catholic Church, can participate in a period of discernment and formation – through prayer and catechesis – to enable them to make their own individual journey of faith, with the support of the community of the parish.
The Seed Within
The search for the meaning of life. The search for God. The search for happiness. Whatever we may choose to call it, there is certainly a seed within each human heart which, if planted and properly nurtured, will lead us on a journey of discovery to answer life’s big questions. We call that seed “faith” – it doesn’t matter how young or old you are or if that seed has lain dormant for some time – there is always an opportunity to start or re-awaken the process of growth within each of us!
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”
The RCIA (or “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults”) is a process of Christian formation – based on ancient tradition – offered to those who seek to become Catholic. The initiation of new members is a gradual process, allowing enquirers time to grow in faith and become full participants of the Catholic community. The catechumenal journey or RCIA process is marked by three major liturgical rites (or ceremonies). These rites act as key gateways along the way. Each major rite is preceded and followed by a period of maturing faith. An adapted version is offered to those considering entering the church from another Christian tradition. The process is facilitated by a team of parishioners known as catechists, who journey alongside those inquiring, though the whole community should be involved in supporting them throughout the process of initiation.
The Precatechumenate – Period of Enquiry
This is where a person (or “Inquirer”) would spend as much time as they need considering whether they want to take a more formal step in their faith journey. It maybe that they are beginning to sense the spiritual in their life. It maybe that they are starting to call on God in prayer or that they have had a positive experience of the Catholic community and want to find out more. During this time, an Inquirer should be given space to explore and to begin to respond to these stirrings. This period ends with the Rite of Acceptance, when the person feels ready to begin a more purposeful period of formation and enquiry and declares their desire to become Christian. At this point, they are accepted into the order of the Catechumenate.
The Rite of Acceptance is a rite of passage that takes an inquirer “from outsider to insider,
from solitary individual to a member of a community”
(Kathleen Hughes RSJC)
The Catechumenate – Period of Formation and Catechesis
This second, extended period of formation, is where the person seeking to enter the church is now known as a “Catechumen”. They are given suitable formation and guidance, aimed at training them in the Christian life. Together, a “school of faith” is created, where individuals are given catechesis (teaching) based around the church’s calendar. They are also encouraged to explore prayer and liturgy and to look at the traditions and customs that make up the Christian life. Finally, they are given a taste of apostolic witness, where the community gathers to witness to others through acts of charity or service. This period should last at least a year and should help to enlighten faith and foster understanding – affecting both the head and the heart. This period ends with the Rite of Election, traditionally taking place during the first Sunday of Lent. Again, Catechumens should feel ready to take this step. They will demonstrate a growing maturity in faith, minds and morals that are Christ-like and a more regular practice of faith and charity.
The Elect – Period of Purification and Enlightenment
During this next period, the “Elect”, as they are now known, spend a more intensive time praying and preparing to be received into the church. It is a period to allow for a greater growth in holiness, by dedicating more time to God, by seeking repentance and by developing in virtue. This time of intense spiritual preparation consists more in interior reflection than in religious instruction. During this period, a practice called the “Scrutinies” encourages the Elect to dive deeper into prayerful reflection of scripture and use this to bring about a time of enlightenment and personal renewal during the Lenten season. It is completed with the high point of the Easter Vigil Mass, where the Elect are initiated into the church by way of reception of the sacraments.
The Neophytes – Period of Mystagogy (or Post-Baptismal Catechesis)
This is the period, post-initiation, where the new “Neophytes” – now full members of the church – can grow, alongside the parish community. They deepen their grasp of their faith and of the Gospel message, by sharing in the eucharist and the sacraments, by meditation on holy scripture and by doing works of charity. This period is characterised by a desire to live out the Christian life, with the newly initiated now being united with Christ in his ministry and his mission. The period – in essence – continues throughout ones’ life.
“Out of this experience, which belongs to Christians and increases as it is lived,
we derive a new perception of the faith, of the church and of the world”
(from Rite of Christian Initiation Children, paragraph 245)
Children presented for baptism or seeking baptism between the ages of 7 and 14 are regarded as children of catechetical age. They should be prepared for the sacrament following the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Children (RCIC), which is a part of the RCIA process, specifically formulated to aid children to grow in their faith.
So, if you have questions or feel drawn to finding out more about the RCIA or wish to be initiated into the Church, please contact Sophie, our parish catechetical co-ordinator, in the first instance: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone the parish office.
We thank you for those who are searching.
Walk with them, as they seek answers to their questions.
Help them to open themselves to whatever they are feeling
and to allow you to enter in.