THE RITE OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION OF ADULTS (RCIA)
As part of the revision of the Liturgy of the Sacraments which followed the Second Vatican Council an English text of the revised rite for the baptism and reception into full communion with the Catholic Church was published in 1987 after several years of preparation. This Rite is now in common use. Like all the rites relating to the sacraments, RCIA has its roots in the early days of the Christian Church. With the foundation of new churches there was an evident need for a programme of instruction in the faith and such programmes are in evidence into the sixth century. However, as the baptism of infants gradually became the norm, the need for adult preparation was less evident. Vatican II, with its strong missionary awareness, recognised the need to address, once again, the preparation and admission of adults into the Church.
In keeping with the pastoral spirit of the Council, this programme was seen as a journey of faith inspired by the Gospel description of the vocation of the first disciples to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as he made his way towards his death and resurrection. Today, candidates are invited to make this pilgrimage of faith and to do so in clearly defined stages, with each stage marked by its own Rites, till they are able to celebrate the Easter Mysteries in full communion with Christians throughout the world.
The entire parish community is engaged in prayerful support of the candidates with a smaller group of the faithful playing their part in directing the regular meetings and offering personal support as sponsors who pray for and encourage the candidates during the best part of their year of preparation. This will usually begin in the autumn and continue till Pentecost the following year.
Welcoming Rite: At the beginning of the programme, on one of the Sundays of Advent, the Candidates or Catechumens are given a warm welcome and presented with a copy of the Holy Bible in the conviction that the Word of God will hold pride of place in their preparation.
The Rite of Election takes place in the Cathedral, which is the mother church of the Diocese, on the First Sunday of Lent. This gives the bishop the opportunity to meet the candidates and catechumens and invite them to enter their names in the Book of the Elect. During Lent three other services take place in the home parishes of the candidates. These are known traditionally as The Scrutinies. Their original purpose was to allow the Christian communities to recognise those who were preparing for Easter. On each of these occasions the readings from the Lectionary are chosen from the Gospel of Saint John for Liturgical Year A because of their catechetical value. On the third and fifth Sundays respectively the Elect are presented with a copy of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. The prayers on these occasions are concerned with the themes of exorcism, self-searching and repentance. They also serve to strengthen the resolve of the candidates to persevere in their pilgrimage of faith.
Shortly before Easter a Day of Prayer or Recollection is recommended to the Elect.
In the course of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night, the Catechumens and Candidates are received into full communion with the Catholic Church with their reception of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. Those who have already been baptised will receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. After Easter the Programme continues with reflections on the appearances of Jesus after his Resurrection, his Ascension, and the Solemnity of Pentecost. With good reason all concerned gather for a social evening to share the happiness of their experiences.