With one RCIA just completed and another one planned to begin on June 10th, it is good to reflect for a moment on this significant ministry in our parish.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults traces its inspiration right back to the very early Church, to what is called the patristic period. The central insight is that Christian initiation is not a single, sacramental moment or event but a gradual process, the duration of which can be flexible to suit the situation of each adult. It is a not so much a “course” in the Catholic faith as a spiritual journey in response to God’s grace.
Appropriately the destination of this spiritual journey is entry into the Paschal mystery of Christ at the Great Vigil of Easter. Doctrinal instruction is clearly relevant and very important but at a deeper spiritual level the complete transformation of one’s whole life is the real issue. Hence this is not something undertaken in isolation but something which rightly occurs within the context of the community of faith into which the candidates are being drawn.
By its definition RCIA is about adults who have not been baptized: the use of the language of ‘initiation’ reminds us that we are in the first place dealing with people who are new to Christianity.
The reality of course is that often those who desire to become Catholic are already baptized and members of other Christian denominations. The RCIA structure is very useful for them too and, for example, all the adults received into full communion this Easter were already Christians.
Another category of people who often join the RCIA are those who have been baptized Catholic but for whatever reason have never been confirmed nor perhaps made their First Communion.
Finally the RCIA is very valuable even for Catholics who have been fully initiated (received all three Sacraments of initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) but have never experienced a genuine spiritual renewal in their lives. There are many people who for one reason or another have been “sacramentalized” but never “evangelized”
There is plenty of room on the RCIA programme starting in June for people from all these categories. We look forward to a dynamic new season and ask the prayers of all parishioners for the new candidates and for the RCIA team which will accompany them to the next Great Vigil.
Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.