WHAT IS CHRISTIAN INITIATION?
Christian Initiation is the process by which adults and children over 7 years of age become members of the Church, the Body of Christ. The Sacraments of Initiation are BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION and EUCHARIST .
BAPTISM is the first of the Sacraments of Initiation. Through it we become part of Christ’s body, and belong to the People of God. The Sacrament of Baptism
pardons all sin, rescues us from the power of darkness and causes us to share in the dignity of the Children of God. We become a new creation through water and the Holy Spirit.
CONFIRMATION is the sealing of Baptism. In Confirmation, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, so that we might bear witness to Christ in our everyday lives.
At the table of the EUCHARIST, we are fed with the body and blood of Christ in order that we might give witness to the unity of God’s people and share in Christ’s offer of eternal life.
WHAT IS THE RITE OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION OF ADULTS (RCIA)?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process by which adults, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts. By God’s will they are strengthened spiritually during their preparation and, in the fulness of time, they are received into the Church.
HOW DOES THE RITE OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION UNFOLD?
The Rite includes not only the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, but also a number of steps and periods, unfolding over time and as the candidates are ready. These periods and steps unfold in the order described below, although the time frames will vary from person to person because each one is unique, and God works differently in each.
The first period: Inquiry or the Pre-catechumenate At many parishes a person may enter into the inquiry stage at any time of the year. Normally, a person would approach any member of the Pastoral Staff, and then would be introduced to the inquiry team, which is made up of trained members of the parish family. The Inquiry Period may last for as long as necessary. It is a time of exploration and questioning.
The first step: The Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens Once a person has come to know the Person of Jesus Christ, and has reached the point of initial conversion and expresses a desire to become a Christian, they are accepted as catechumens by the Church.
The second period: Catechumenate This period begins with the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and lasts for as long as necessary. It includes catechesis connected to the Sunday readings, as well as an apprenticeship in the Christian way of life as it is lived out in our parish community.
The second step: The Rite of Election Having progressed in faith, the catechumen is accepted into a more intense preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation, and is now called “Elect.”.
The third period: The Period of Purification and Enlightenment This is normally quite a short period. It follows the Rite of Election and ordinarily coincides with the liturgical Season of Lent. Lent is the Church’s time for preparing for the Easter celebration and the Sacraments of Initiation. This time of purification and enlightenment and includes the celebration of several rites– called scrutinies– belonging to this period. The Elect may also be presented with the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
The third step: Christian Initiation Having completed the process of preparation, the person receives the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist– normally celebrated at the Easter Vigil.
The fourth period: Mystagogy
The final period extends through the whole Easter Season and is devoted to reflecting on the experience of the Sacraments of Initiation, and to discovering the meaning of these Sacraments in as the neophytes, or newly-initiated Christians, live their new lives.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE SPONSOR?
Adults who are preparing for Christian Initiation need one sponsor, who may be either male or female. If the adult candidate chooses to have two sponsors, then they must be a male and a female.
The sponsor should be a practicing Catholic who has received all of the Sacraments of Initiation– Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
The role of the sponsor is to represent the entire Catholic Christian community, who support and encourage the candidate, and who are willing to share their lives as witnesses of faith with the candidate.
Most parishes have a group of people trained and willing to serve as sponsors. They may suggest a sponsor from among the parish Initiation Team, or the candidate or catechumen may seek out one with whom he or she feels a bond, and ask this person to be his or her sponsor. The sponsor walks with the catechumen or candidate through all steps and periods of the preparation process. This means that the sponsor comes to Mass with the person, and also takes part in all catechetical sessions.
The sponsor helps the catechumen or candidate in four ways:
1. by serving as a witness and example of living faith;
2. by helping the person to come to know this community of faith,
and its ways and traditions;
3. by sharing parts of their own story of faith with the catechumen/candidate when
this is appropriate;
4. by acting as a representative of
the entire Christian community, who care for and support the catechumen/candidate, when it would not be possible for the whole community to be present at all moments in the journey of faith.
If a different godparent is to be chosen, their role begins with the Rite of Election, and they take part in all rites of the Period of Purification and Enlightenment with the Elect.