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The Four Stages of the RCIA

There are four stages in the Rite of Christian Initiations of Adults, each marked by distinct liturgical rites.

Precatechumenate

Here at St. Raphael the RCIA process begins by attending Inquiry Sessions. During this stage you are seeking information about the process of becoming a Catholic. Everyone brings their own personal story and whatever your background, your life experience is welcome and valued. You will be led to deepen your relationship with God and discover the Catholic faith. We encourage you to ask questions, hear the Gospel, and share your faith with Catholics who are members of this parish community and with other men and women who are also exploring the Catholic faith. Feel free to invite a spouse, a fiancé or another Catholic to come with you to support you and share your faith journey. Inquiry Class meets weekly after 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass.

Catechumenate

When you are ready you will express your desire to accept the Gospel and continue to deepen your faith. The church will formally confirm your desire through the Rite of Acceptance and Welcome. You will begin a stage called the Catechumenate where you will study the Church teachings more formally.

There are two groups.

  • The Catechumens are those who are un-baptized.
  • The Candidates are those who are already baptized either in a Catholic or Protestant Church, but who are not fully initiated.

During this stage, which can last about one year, you will formally study the doctrines of the Church and the sacred scriptures. You will also learn about prayer and the worship life of the Church. You will learn how to live and serve others in apostolic witness and develop your relationship with the Catholic Christian community. You will be assigned a Sponsor who will guide and support you as you explore the Catholic faith. The sponsor is present weekly for class and represents the parish community at the rites which mark progress in the faith journey of their candidate. Everyone in the community is responsible for ministering to the candidates by the witness of their lives and dedication to each other. Class meets weekly after dismissal from 9:30 a.m. Mass.

Purification and Enlightenment

The Catechumenate is then followed by a stage during Lent called Purification and Enlightenment which begins with the Rite of Election on the First Sunday of Lent. Catechumens begin a final preparation for initiation into the Catholic church. It is a time for reflection and prayer as they, now called the Elect, purify their minds and hearts by celebrating several rituals called the Scrutinies during parish liturgies. The Candidates also prepare to receive the Sacraments of First Eucharist and Confirmation. Lent ends when the sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter begins. At the Easter Vigil the Elect celebrate the sacraments. In the early Church, the Easter Vigil was the only liturgy of the year in which people joined the Church because at Easter we celebrate Christ’s victory over death and our sharing in that victory through baptism. The journey during that all-night vigil was a journey from darkness to light, from death to life. This is the journey that new Christians share as they descend and rise from the waters of baptism in which they are reborn.

Mystagogy

During the final stage (the word Mystagogy comes from Greek meaning “interpretation of mystery.”) the new Catholics (called neophytes) deepen their understanding of the paschal mystery and make it a part of their lives. Mystagogy meets weekly after Easter until Pentecost.