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 stresses formation in doctrine, liturgy, Church life, and service and involves the larger Church community in welcoming, instructing, helping and praying for Candidates.
RCIA has four stages. The first is the Period of Inquiry which may last 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.
Those who do continue celebrate the Rite of Becoming Catechumenate. This is a more intense period of instruction and introduction to liturgy, faith-life, and service.
The Rite of Election, which normally takes place on the First Sunday of Lent, marks the transition between the Catechumenate and the third stage, Enlightenment and Purification. This stage covers the season of Lent and includes special liturgical ceremonies at the Lenten Masses, as well as more intense preparation through prayer and study. It climaxes at the Easter Vigil with the sacraments of Initiation-baptism, confirmation, and the holy Eucharist.
The final stage of RCIA is the Post-baptismal Catechesis (Mystagogia) This stage lasting from Easter to Pentecost focuses on the mysteries (Mystagogia) of Christ’s death and resurrection and helps the newly baptized to develop a deeper understanding of their faith. They now share fully in the Eucharist and are asked to live the Gospel in their daily lives and to perform works of service for others.
RCIA is the process by which non baptized candidates are received into the Catholic Church. Baptized members of other Christian denominations who wish to join the Catholic Church are not baptized again, but are received into the Church through penance, profession of faith, confirmation, and the holy Eucharist. The stages of RCIA may be adapted to meet their needs.
RCIA can also serve as a focus for ongoing conversion for all members of the Catholic Church. As Catholics see new candidates learning the doctrine, they are encouraged to study their faith. As they participate in the liturgical ceremonies welcoming new members, they can renew their own commitment to Christ.
As they see the newly baptized begin ministries of service, they are encouraged to serve more generously. And those who act as sponsors, teachers, and “prayer partners” for the candidates have abundant opportunities for personal growth.