RCIA Stages & Rites
This is a period of general information and inquiry. You might think of this period as a type of “courtship,” as you will learn more about the triune God, the Church, and her teachings. Some foundational topics include the Existence of God; Revelation; God as Trinity; Magisterium, Tradition and Scripture; Creation; Free Will and Sin; Salvation History; the Incarnation; the Church; an Introduction to Grace and Sacraments; and Prayer. Like courtship, there is no commitment at this time; you are just beginning to know more about the Catholic Church. This period concludes with the Rite of Election.
Rite of Acceptance
Those who have completed the period of the Pre Catechumenate and desire to continue in the RCIA Process with a desire to enter the Church gather at Holy Mass to declare publicly their intent. The Church, in carrying out her apostolic mission, accepts them as persons who intend to become her members.
Again calling to mind the courtship analogy, this period is like “going steady” with someone whom you’re serious about. This period runs about four months and covers topics like the Old & New Testaments; the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion); Holy Mass and the Liturgical Year; Mercy & Justice; Morality & Freedom in Christ; and the Sacraments of Service. Continued time and attention will be given to prayer and discernment of God’s call for you to become Roman Catholic. This period ends with the Rite of Sending, and the Rite of Election with the Bishop of the Diocese.
Rites of Sending and Election
The Rite of Sending expresses the parish communities support and approval of the Candidates and sends them to the Bishop for the Rite of Election.
The Rite of Election marks the beginning of the final, more intense preparation for the sacraments of Initiation. The bishop exhorts the Elect to follow Christ with greater generosity. Upon the testimony of the godparents and sponsors and of the Catechumens’ reaffirmation of their intention, the Church judges their state of readiness and decides on their advancement toward the sacraments of Initiation. Thus the Church makes her “election,” that is, the choice and admission of those Catechumens who have the dispositions that make them fit to take part, at the next major celebration, in the sacraments at Easter. This step is called Election because the acceptance made by the Church is founded on the Election by God, in whose name the Church acts.
Purification & Enlightenment
This third period lasts about six weeks and coincides with the liturgical season of Lent. In thinking of the courtship analogy, this period can be likened to the time of engagement, when you’re intending to make full and free commitment to Christ and His Church. Typically, those who are free and ready to enter union with the Church do so at the Easter Vigil. This period helps those preparing for union with the Catholic Church, whether at Easter or at another time, with preparations for the Sacraments of Initiation and Confession, with forming their minds and hearts closer to Christ and His Church, and embracing the the universal call to holiness.
This is the fourth and final period, which lasts for six weeks and concludes at Pentecost. During this time, the Catholic way of life and prayer will be reflected upon and experienced more deeply.