How do I become a Catholic?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and Rite of Christian Initiation of Youth (RCIY) are designed for people, 14 years of age and older, who want to explore full membership in the Roman Catholic Church. RCIA/RCIY is a process of spiritual and educational formation through which non-baptized people enter the Catholic Church. It involves a number of steps leading, for many, to Baptism and full communion with the Catholic Church. (Already baptized? See next question.)
The process is open to all persons, regardless of religious background or philosophical persuasion, who genuinely seek, by God’s grace, to live their lives in the distinctive Catholic Christian faith.
What if I’m already baptized in another Christian tradition?
If you already know our Lord Jesus—through baptism, liturgy, Scripture, and community in another Christian tradition—and wish to make your home with the Catholic Christian community, RCIA/RCIY is also for you. The process for entrance into the Catholic Church for people who are already baptized Christians but not Roman Catholics includes making a profession of faith, celebrating Confirmation and receiving Eucharist; they are not baptized again.
To prepare for this reception, these people, now called “candidates,” usually participate in the RCIA formation program to help them understand and experience the specific teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Candidates, however, have already been baptized and committed to Jesus Christ, and many of them have also been active members of other Christian communities. As such, their preparation process may well be shorter than that of the catechumen and will always remain respectful of the baptism that they have already received.
What is “Formation”?
RCIA/RCIY is a journey of formation. “Formation” is a term the Church uses to describe how people who search for God are profoundly changed by their search. You are looking for a relationship with Jesus Christ and, when you find that relationship, you will be completely changed by it. You will want to change your life and lifestyle, slowly but surely, to become more like Jesus. This journey takes a lifetime!
“Formation” means being shaped and transformed through your experience of the RCIA/RCIY process. You will find yourself growing in many different dimensions of your life. These various dimensions include:
Understanding what the Church believes and coming to share that belief.
Experiencing, understanding, and participating in the Mass and other liturgical/worship services.
Learning how to become more like Jesus through living the commandments (Exodus 20) and the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-22).
Growing in ease and ability to pray and experiencing different forms of prayer.
Living within a community and learning to deal with both “the muck and grace” of community life.
Sharing your own experience with other people in your daily (“real”) life.
How long does the RCIA process take?
The RCIA journey takes time. It’s like falling in love, but you will be falling in love with a Real Person, Jesus Christ. You need to take time to discern whether you want to spend a lifetime with Jesus Christ, and be part of His Body, the Church. The way of Jesus is the way of the Cross. The way of Jesus is not for sissies or cowards; the way of Jesus takes an informed conscience, courage, character, and compassion.
The bishops of the Church have recommended that RCIA take adequate time: up to a full year in the Catechumenate (the “apprenticeship” phase). But, ultimately, you and your spiritual advisor will decide when you are ready to move to the next step, culminating in the Sacraments of Initiation and full communion in the Catholic Church.
Am I ready?
In our modern world, we want instant everything. We are impatient with slow response time on computers, people not returning our messages, slow drivers on roadways, and much else. Becoming a Catholic is very similar to falling in love and deciding if you want to marry that person. The rest of your life is a long time! When you discern whether the Catholic way of life is one you want to adopt, you need to ponder long and deeply.
You need to consider your own life and lifestyle, and how becoming a Catholic might re-shape both. You will participate in Catholic life and community, in liturgical gatherings, and in charitable activity. The “teaching” is just a small part of the experience when you explore becoming fully Catholic. So reading a lot of books is not enough. You must live your way into the knowledge of the faith.
And you need to pray. You need to learn how to hear God speaking to you: in Scripture, at Mass, in nature, and in your relationships with others. You need to learn how to listen through the noise of life, for that quiet voice of God speaking deep in your heart.
What are the steps of RCIA/RCIY?
Step 1 – Investigation
During this period, you might come to some knowledge of Jesus Christ and feel attracted to the Catholic Church. For some people, this process involves a long period of searching; for others, it is much shorter. Often, contact with people of faith and a personal faith experience leads people to inquire about membership in the Catholic Church. Call or email Fr. Joachim today, if you are ready to take the next step.
Step 2 – Inquiry
Inquiry is a weekly group at OLPH parish where you can ask questions and learn more about the beliefs, practices and communal life of the Catholic Church. Inquirers meet Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:00 p.m. You can join anytime – and stay as long as you like! There is no commitment to move beyond Inquiry into the formal RCIA/RCIY process.
Step 3 – Catechumenate
After conversation with Fr. Joachim or another spiritual advisor, the “inquirer” may decide to continue the process and enter the Order of Catechumens. During this time the catechumens consider what God is saying to them in the Scriptures, what changes they want to make in their lives to respond to God’s inspiration, and what membership in the Catholic Church involves. When a catechumen and the RCIA/RCIY team believe the person is ready to make a faith commitment to Jesus in the Catholic Church, the next step is to request baptism and celebration of the Rite of Election.
Step 4 – Election
The Rite of Election includes the official enrollment of all those seeking baptism at the coming Easter Vigil, and is usually celebrated by the Archbishop at St. Joseph’s Basilica during Lent. The days of Lent are then the final period of purification and enlightenment leading up to the celebration of initiation at the Easter Vigil. This Lenten season is a period of intense preparation marked by prayer, study, and spiritual direction for the Elect, and special prayers for them by the parish communities.
Step 5 – Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation
The Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, which takes place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday night when the catechumen receives the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Now the person is a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church and will continue to live out his or her response to God as a member of this faith community.
Step 6 – Postbaptismal catechesis
After initiation, the new member enters another period of formation and education, called “mystagogy.” This period continues at least until Pentecost and often longer. During the period of mystagogy the newly baptized members reflect on their experiences at the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Scriptures, the sacraments, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition they reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the Church’s mission and outreach activities.
I am ready!
If you feel called to the Roman Catholic Church and are ready to begin this awesome adventure, contact us today!