The RCIA Process
Defining the Stages
The RCIA Process involves a number of steps that are meant to guide you on your journey toward becoming a Catholic. Depending on your past, such as your baptismal status, the RCIA process may differ slightly for different people. For those who have not been baptized in an acceptable manner, they will go through the entire RCIA process. For those who have already been baptized in an acceptable manner, you simply must come into "full communion with the Catholic Church." What is an acceptable baptism? I won't go into detail on that here. Instead, I recommend that you consult your local parish priest to see where you stand.
The Full RCIA Process
- Inquiry - In this first stage, you are known as an inquirer. When someone first decides to become a member of the Catholic Church, after a time of reflection, they may decide to enter the RCIA process. From this point on, they become a member of the Catechumenate.
- Rite of Acceptance / Catechumenate - During the second stage, you are known as a Catechumen. This is the primary learning phase of the RCIA process. Often times, many people simply "go through the motions" to complete this phase, but it can be a time of tremendous growth. I encourage you to faithfully spend time in study, prayer, and scriptures.
- Rite of Election - At this stage, you become a part of the elect. At the beginning of Lent, Catechumens ask to be baptized into the Church. From this point, you are entering the final phase before becoming a member of the Catholic Church.
- Sacrament of Initiation - Celebrated at the Easter Vigil, the elect are made formal members of the Church. This is also more commonly known as Confirmation. Most people only associate Confirmation with children, but the Sacrament of Initiation is a part of the RCIA process as well. During this stage, the elect are baptized, confirmed, and then receive the Eucharist for the first time.
- Mystagogy - This final stage is a period of growth. As new members of the Catholic Church, you will strengthen your faith and learn to apply it to your daily life. Often forgotten, this phase is just as important as the earlier phases.
Coming into Full Communion
For those who have already been baptized, they are known as Candidates. As a Candidate, you will go through many of the same periods of growth as the Catechumens. For Candidates, the focus is on teaching the foundations and traditions of the Catholic Church in contrast to other Christian denominations. Like Catechumen, Candidates should spend a great deal of time focusing on their studies, prayer, and learning the scriptures.