Spiritual Director: Dn Cliffton Mendonca
Head: Smita Anthony
Assistant Head: Rajesh K V
More than an explanation…it is an inspiration!
As in the early Church, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a spiritually moving gradual process that involves the whole community of the faithful. In the modern world, our faith demands deep commitment. The Church revived the catechumenate—embodied in the RCIA—because believers in the current scenario need careful preparation and caring support as they enter into the mysteries of Christ and the commitment of Christian living. The Universal Church follows this rite (period) of preparation for initiation, so that the initiation sacraments are most efficaciously given and received.
Who are proposed to go through the RCIA?
- Persons of other faiths who desire deeply to accept the Catholic faith and be baptised to live a Catholic life
- Persons of other Christian denominations who desire to follow Catholic teachings in totality and thus become Catholic
- Adult Catholics who have not received the sacrament of Confirmation through the process followed in the parish
What happens during the RCIA?
The RCIA recognises both, the ongoing quality and the communal nature of faith transformation, providing an intellectual and spiritual framework and a faith community in which an individual’s experience can be understood and supported. Caring for people during this life-changing experience is the goal of the RCIA ministry. During this entire process, the catechumens should undergo a change of mind and action, becoming acquainted with the teachings of the faith and acquiring a spirit of charity.
The catechetical components are the truths of the faith, grouped and taught specifically as the purpose of each period:
- Period of the Pre-catechumenate: The Gospel – evangelisation and questions about Jesus
- Period of the Catechumenate: The deposit of faith
- Period of Purification and Enlightenment: An emphasis on faith transformation and celebrating the scrutinies
- Period of Post-baptismal Catechesis: The deeper Christian life, especially as related to the sacrament
Three-fold preparation for the Rite
The Church prepares the candidates to become catechumens and then into elect (RCIA process)
- Role of the community in social, emotional and pastoral support to the catechumens
- Candidates’ personal effort in the preparation for the celebration of these sacraments
In adults, for the valid reception of any sacrament except the Eucharist, it is necessary that they have the intention of receiving it. By the intention, man submits himself to the operation of the sacraments which produce their effects ex opere operato (literally: by the very fact of the action’s being performed) (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, 1913 edition).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) clearly mentions the faith requirement of the recipients of the sacraments:
- Baptism is the sacrament of faith…faith is required for baptism (CCC 1253)
- The sacraments presuppose faith…and are called the sacraments of faith (CCC 1123)
- The condition for efficaciousness of the sacraments is that they are celebrated worthily in faith (CCC 1127)
- Even though the Church affirms that the sacraments act ex opere operato, i.e., by the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all, yet the CCC gives the following condition: Nevertheless, fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them (CCC 1128).
Thus, if one comes to baptism without faith—in other words, they do not believe but go through the ritual anyway—the effect is not achieved.
Purpose of the Catechumenate
The catechumenate emphasises that membership into the Church is not only for individual salvation but also for participation in the saving work of God, in Christ, through the Church. One does not assume this responsibility lightly. The Church, both universal and local, has to take care that those who present themselves for membership understand their missionary responsibility and are properly equipped to fulfil it.
The RCIA journey reaches a high point during the holy Season of Lent. Catechumens become elect (after the Rite of Election), and are then initiated into the Catholic Church by receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist at Easter. Amid much rejoicing, the newly initiated Catholic Christians celebrate fully with the entire Church the new life won through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Shortly thereafter, the neophytes undergo post-baptismal catechesis (Mystagogy), wherein the focus is on a deepening of the neophytes’ understanding and practice of the sacramental life. The rest of the neophyte year is devoted to substantiating, strengthening and deepening their understanding of the faith that will lead to a more committed and mature practice of Christian living.
Candidate’s preparation for the initiation
The candidate’s personal effort in preparing for these sacraments allows the sacraments to bear fruit for them and the community. Liturgically, as the Church prepares itself for celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ through special services, devotions, fasting and penance, the catechumens too benefit immensely from these. The faith-filled liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments will be fruitless without the faith of the catechumens.
Functioning in the parish
Since there is no fear, force or fraud in faith and in the ministry of the Church, it is most important to find out the intention of the candidate. This is the background process to be carried out, taking care of the Church and the candidate’s family dignity, which is done with utmost care and caution.
Apart from helping them enrol in diocesan RCIA centres, the animators, with consultation of the clergy, appoint sponsors for the candidates from their communities. With the help of these sponsors, the animators help the Church to find out if there are any of the ‘F factors’ (fear, force, fraud) in the candidates enrolled.
Throughout this period of nine months, we try to help the enrolled candidates have the faith experience in the community and inculcate the life of the Church so that the Church receives catechumens who have a sincere conviction of faith.
Knowledge of the faith can be acquired from information available everywhere, but an authentic and heart-changing faith experience can be experienced only in and with the community, for we are the body of Christ.
RCIA demands that the whole Church (parish) is aware about the catechumens preparing to be members of the family. As the whole family prepares and waits for a child who is to be born, the family of God is also joyfully involved in preparing and welcoming those to be born anew by water and Spirit. All must share in candidate’s growth in faith: the community at large, relatives and friends, sponsors, godparents, catechists, the bishop or his delegates, priests and deacons.
So, it is just not the responsibility of the RCIA to help build the faith of those who want embrace Catholicism, but the whole community that witnesses and feels the responsibility to incorporate new members in the family.
All neophytes become members of St. Paul’s Guild. At the diocesan level, the guild meets twice a year for faith formation and fellowship – once on the Sunday close to the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (June) and then on January 26, following the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
In our parish, we take the effort to gather all the neophytes once a year at Eastertide, to welcome and introduce the newly baptised.
Ultimately, RCIA’s aim is to foster a personal and communal relationship with Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church; however, the life of faith is meant to be an adventure lived over a lifetime, not something confined to one academic year.