The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the way adults come to learn about and experience the Christian life, specifically our Roman Catholic tradition, and become initiated into the life of our Church through the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
The RCIA is not something new. It is a return to the earliest traditions of our Church which took place between the second and the fifth centuries of the Christian era! The RCIA takes place step by step in the midst of the Christian community. The whole community is called to reflect upon the value of their faith, to renew their own conversion, and by their example, to lead those who are searching to be open to the presence of the Spirit in their lives.
The RCIA begins with a period of inquiry and maturing. This is a time for hearing the first preaching of the Gospel and of prayer. The end of this period is marked by the first stage or step which is celebrated by the whole community: The Rite of Becoming A Catechumen.
The second period is called the Catechumenate. This is a time of more intense preaching and teaching of the Gospel, prayer, spiritual direction, catechesis - the handing on the specific Roman Catholic traditions and personal contact with members of the larger Christian community. This period ends with "The Rite of Election" when the catechumens are ready to respond totally to God's call of faith through the sacraments of initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
The third period takes place during Lent. It is a time of purification and enlightenment or illumination for a more profound spiritual preparation. Its focus and conclusion is the Easter Vigil celebration and the sacraments of initiation.The final period takes place during the Easter Season. The newly baptized are able to deepen their experience of the sacraments and of being new members of the Christian community.
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