APRIL 7, 2019
5th Sunday in Lent
“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Becoming Catholic through RCIA
Most of us were born into a Catholic family and baptized as infants. So perhaps you’ve never even thought about what the process is to become Catholic for someone who converts later in life. In today’s column, I thought I would give a little explanation of how this works.
The process of becoming Catholic is called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or RCIA. This process includes classes to learn about the faith, and also special rituals to prepare the individual(s) to repent of their sins and welcome Jesus into their life. The process culminates with the reception of the sacraments, usually at the Easter Vigil.
If an individual is not yet baptized, then he would be Baptized, Confirmed, and receive his First Communion. If the individual is already a baptized Christian, then he would make his first Confession, followed by Confirmation and First Communion.
Those who are not yet baptized are called Catechumens as they begin the process of RCIA. RCIA classes usually begin in the Fall. After several months of studying the Catholic faith, and growing in prayer, the Catechumens are sent to the bishop for the Rite of Election. “The celebration of the rite of election, which usually coincides with the opening of Lent, also marks the beginning of the period of final, more intense preparation for the sacraments of initiation, during which the elect will be encouraged to follow Christ with greater generosity” (RCIA, 118). After the Rite of Election, the Catechumens are referred to as the Elect, acknowledging their readiness and sincere desire to become part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
Those who are already baptized as Christians (such as Lutheran or Baptist, etc.) are called Candidates. They are distinguished from the Catechumens in that they are already part of the family of God and the mystical body of Christ through their baptism, even though they are not yet fully united with the Catholic Church.
If you have been at the 10am Mass the last two weekends, and also this weekend, you have witnessed one of the final parts of the RCIA processes, which is the celebration of the Scrutinies. “The scrutinies, which are solemnly celebrated on Sundays and are reinforced by an exorcism, are rites for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose. The scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. These rites, therefore, should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all” (RCIA, 141).
Only the Elect (those not yet baptized) undergo the Scrutinies, since the Candidates area already baptized.
The Easter Vigil is the greatest liturgical celebration of our faith each year, as we celebrate the rising of Christ from the dead. Thus, to show the essential connection between Christ’s resurrection from the dead and his giving us new life, the sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and Communion—are celebrated during the Easter Vigil.
To conclude: Have you ever invited someone to consider becoming Catholic? Especially if you know someone whose spouse is Catholic, I encourage you to reach out to them and invite them to learn more about the Catholic faith.
You are in my daily prayers.
God bless you,