Introduction to the Rite of Christian Initiation
RCIA is a process that enables catechumens to spend time with members of the community in a setting that is casual and informal. Like the Christians of the early Church, these people will learn the faith not only through structured teaching but also by witnessing the behavior of the community around them. The Scriptures say that people will know us by the love we show for them, and for one another. As the great St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel always, and if you must, use words”. In the RCIA process, we use many words. The words we use should always teach the Catholic faith.
To be a catechist in an RCIA program is a tremendous responsibility. As St. Paul says, “We are ambassadors of Christ” (2 Cor 5:20). Our attitudes will inevitably rub off on the new disciples: for better or for worse. If we demonstrate that we are faithful to the Lord, it will have a positive influence. If we demonstrate that we do not take Catholic teaching seriously, it will have a negative influence. We are the “front line” of the Church in the eyes of the RCIA candidates. For good or for bad, we represent the Catholic Church to these people. We have a duty to be faithful witnesses to authentic Church teaching and good examples of Christian discipleship.
A person takes the first step of conversion when a decision is made to answer the call of the Holy Spirit and a desire is voiced to follow Jesus Christ. This person may be drawn to the faith by hearing the Word of God or seeing the good witness of other believers. The Holy Spirit draws people to the faith in whatever way He sees fit. It is common for people to have misconceptions about Church teachings regarding faith, morals, the sacraments, and the practice of the Liturgy. Some people come to RCIA after being away from church for many years. They may have acquired volumes of false information from the media, co-workers or family members. They expect the RCIA to be a place where they can ask serious questions about the faith and become incorporated into the Parish community. We owe it to them to present the faith in a clear and unambiguous fashion.
Surely there is no such thing as a stupid question, but many times wrong answers are in abundance. We should never make it up as we go along. The last thing a person needs is an answer that does not represent Catholic teaching. We need to make sure that we do not inadvertently steer people in the wrong direction. Sometimes we need to give the theologically profound answer, “I don’t know”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses virtually every question a person may have. Pope John Paul II said, “The Catechism is a sure norm for teaching the faith”. If you are ever uncertain about a Catholic teaching, you can look it up in the Catechism! The Compendium of the Catechism is a more concise version that is well suited for use in RCIA.
In his Apostolic Exhortation “Catechesis in our Time”, Pope John Paul II uses this scripture in a similar context: Jesus said, “This teaching is not my own, but the Father who sent me”. (6) Every baptized person has a right to receive authentic Catholic instruction in the faith. The Pope goes on to say, “Unfaithfulness on some point to the integrity of the message means a dangerous weakening of Catechesis and putting at risk the results that Christ and the ecclesial community have a right to expect from it”. (17)
As faithful witnesses to new believers and as catechists of the Catholic Church, we must never knowingly teach dissent. Full acceptance of the Church’s teaching and humility are needed for the conversion of our hearts. We must never let our own flawed understandings influence the minds of new believers on their faith journey. Our only agenda must be evangelization, the salvation of souls, and the passing on of authentic Catholic catechesis. We must never knowingly misrepresent the teachings of the Catholic Church. It makes no difference how strongly we feel about a particular issue. This would be a sin against charity and a serious occasion of scandal.
In conclusion I would like to offer my congratulations on your decision to participate in the spiritual growth of God’s children. RCIA is a fulfilling ministry that bears much fruit. Always remember that apart from Christ, we can do nothing!
To stay strong as a good witness to the faith:
Believe that God loves you no matter what you have ever done. Don't get discouraged if you fall every now and then. Remember that Jesus fell three times on the way to accomplishing His goal, and He was God!
Go to the sacrament of reconciliation every so often even if you have not committed a mortal sin. If you believe that you have committed a mortal sin, go right away and don't let anyone tell you that you don't need to.
Acknowledge God in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight. Remember to forgive and you will be forgiven and love one another as Jesus loves you. Listen to the Godly voice in your head. If something seems like it might be a sin, it most likely is. Avoid the things and the situations that lead you to sin.
Make time to pray, read the Bible and the Catechism, and learn what the Church teaches. Read it for yourself and check everything you hear and see both inside and outside the Church. Be careful not to blindly accept the teachings and opinions of the world, which contradict what the faith teaches. They often taste like honey in your mouth but when you swallow them, they are like bitter poison.
Go to Mass every Sunday and receive the Eucharist with full confidence that you are receiving the real body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Know that Jesus freely died on the cross to pay for your sins. He wants nothing more than to forgive your sins if only you lay them at the foot of His cross with faith in His name.
How to Use this Course
The role of a catechist is to teach, be a resource person, a good witness, and a friend. People experience this journey of faith at their own pace. The time required to complete the RCIA process will vary with the individuals involved and the judgment of the Pastor. People come from different backgrounds and enter the program at different stages of life. Consideration must be given to an individual’s circumstance and accommodations should be made if possible. The catechumenate will be a source of renewal for the entire Parish.
This book was created to be a useful and practical guide for the RCIA process. Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are used to explain the Teachings of the faith. Reflection questions are provided so that these teachings can be applied to ordinary life experiences. I would highly recommend that each of the catechumens be given a Catholic Bible and a copy of the Catechism. The Scripture quotations in this volume are taken from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (RSV). Any Catholic version is acceptable for use in this process. Try to have everyone use the same version for the sake of convenience. Avoid using Protestant Bibles since they are missing seven books and sometimes contain footnotes that contradict Catholic teaching.
The first section of the book contains some general information regarding the RCIA process and schedule: the “nuts and bolts” of the process so to speak. This section should be reviewed with your pastor to insure that everything is organized in a manner that suits your individual parish community. There are always special circumstances and specific scheduling requirements that need to be addressed. I recommend customizing the program to accommodate these needs in advance of its start. This book is arranged by weekly topic. Look through the weekly topics and arrange a “game plan” for the entire liturgical year. Seek guidance from your pastor. He is probably more aware of the connections between the topics and the liturgical year than most lay people. They may be able to offer some great advice when setting up a schedule of topics.
The next section contains the weekly topics. This is where I believe the strength in this particular program lies. I would recommend handing out all the pages in each lesson to the entire group. If this seems like too much, the first page of each lesson can be used as a more concise handout. I believe in giving people reference material to take home and perhaps share with others who may be interested in the faith. There are many pages in the book that contain sections of the Bible, sections of the Catechism, and a variety of Church documents. The lessons should be read by the Catechists to increase their knowledge of the topics discussed. They also make great handouts for people who want to learn more about what the Church teaches. You are free to make copies of anything in this book for any type of distribution that you see fit. Don’t be shy about handing out information. I would recommend that each catechumen obtain a folder for the handouts. All the handouts are from sources within the Catholic Church. They are trustworthy and represent authentic Catholic teaching. As time goes on, your group will customize the program to suit the needs of your community. The following is a suggested plan that I believe will be an effective start for the group. God Bless you as you begin!
Suggested Weekly Plan:
(Allow 1 hour to 1 ½ hours)
Opening Prayer: Gather the group together and start with an opening prayer. Each topic includes an opening prayer but feel free to use any prayer that you like. Prayer is an essential part of any RCIA program.
Address Last Weeks Questions: Any questions that may have come up last week that were not adequately answered should be addressed now. Any handouts pertaining to the subject matter should also be handed out at this time.
Scripture Reading: The Scriptures should be read at this time. Try to encourage the catechumens to look up bible passages and to read them to the group. Do not limit yourself to the Scriptures that are included in the documents. It is highly recommended to reference the weekly Mass readings whenever possible.
Brief Teaching: The next step should be the introduction of the weekly topic. It should include an overview of Church teaching, and relate to Sacred Scripture. Each worksheet has a small explanation of the Scripture readings and is a good place to start the talk. The faithfulness and experience of the catechist are the critical factors in making this part of the session successful. There is also personal advice that I have written from my own experiences with catechetical ministry. The teaching should take about 20 minutes. Keep in mind that the better prepared you are, the better this section of the class with go!
Catechism of the Catholic Church: I cannot overemphasize the need to read the Catechism articles that are included with the book. The Church has synthesized its teachings in a brilliant manner and it would be a shame not to take advantage of her wisdom. It also gives the catechumens confidence in the universality of Catholic doctrine.
Reflection Questions: These questions are very general and are geared toward creating a wide-ranging discussion. Hopefully the catechumens tried to answer these questions at home before the session. They should take the time to read the handout and think about any areas they may have questions about. The individual experience of each person is a critical component of the process.
Handout Next Week’s Material: Worksheets should be handed out for next week’s session. The catechumens should be encouraged to fill out the reflection questions in a prayerful manner if they have the time. Needless to say, do not pressure anyone into doing “homework”. Some people really do not time and we should not lay an unnecessary burden on people.
Final Questions: Ask the catechumens if they have any questions and address them as thoroughly as time will allow. Please consult the Catechism for any difficult questions.
Closing Prayer: I recommend a common prayer such as the Our Father or the Hail Mary but any prayer will suffice. If time allows, everyone should include personal prayer requests at this time. It will foster a closer bond between the team and the catechumens.
Overview of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate:
This is a time when people first start their journey toward full initiation into the Catholic Church. It gives the opportunity to get acquainted with Gospel values and the Church community.
First Step: Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens:
This is a liturgical rite that usually varies on a Parish level. Candidates express their desire to enter into the Church community.
Period of Catechumenate:
This is a period of time when faith is growing and conversion is taking place. The team leaders must use this time to educate the catechumens in the doctrines of the Church regarding faith and morals. Prayers and blessings will accompany the entire team and God will reveal many avenues of grace to the participants.
Second Step: Rite of Election:
This is a liturgical rite by which the Church formally ratifies the catechumens’ readiness for the Sacraments of Initiation.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment:
This is a period of time during Lent when conversion and spiritual growth are stressed in the RCIA process. The scrutinies, presentations, and preparation rites on Holy Saturday mark this period of time.
Third step: Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation:
This is the liturgical rite, usually incorporated into the Easter Vigil, by which the elect receive the Sacraments of Initiation in the presence of the community.
Period of Post baptismal Catechesis or Mystogogy:
This period of time should lead to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the faith. This is also a time of full incorporation into the community. It is appropriate to discuss the possibility of entering the various ministries that are available in the Parish.
Go and Make Disciples
A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
28. We must evangelize because the Lord Jesus commanded us to do so. He gave the Church the unending task of evangelizing as a restless power, to stir and to stimulate all its actions until all nations have heard his Good News and until every person has become his disciple.
29. The Lord commanded us to evangelize because salvation is offered to every person in him. More than a holy figure or a prophet, Jesus is God's Word, God's "very imprint," the power and wisdom of God. He is our Savior. Becoming like us and accepting our human nature, he addresses in himself, in his death and resurrection, the brokenness of our lives. He suffers through our sin; he feels our pain; he knows the thirst of our death; he accepts the limits of our human life so that he might bring us beyond those limits. "He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him! . . ." Taking on our death as Savior, Jesus was raised to life. In Christ, all can come to know that the sin, the coldness, the indifference, the despair, and the doubt of our lives are overcome by God's taking on our human nature and leading us to new life. In him, and him alone, is the promise of resurrection and new life.
30. We evangelize because people must be brought to the salvation that Jesus the Lord offers in and through the Church. While we acknowledge that the grace of God is mysteriously present in all lives, people all too often resist this grace. They refuse change and repentance. We evangelize so that the salvation of Christ Jesus, which transforms our human lives even now, will bring as many as possible to the promised life of unending happiness in heaven.
31. Jesus commanded us to evangelize, too, in order to bring enlightenment and lift people from error. The Lord Jesus, "the way and the truth and the life," came to us as a teacher, opening for us the wisdom that not only leads to life eternal but also leads to a human fulfillment that reflects the dignity and mystery of our nature. Unless people know the grandeur for which they are made, they cannot reach fulfillment and their lives will be incomplete. Nor will they know that they are called into interpersonal union with God and with each other. The intimate union that Jesus revealed in his life, being one with the Father and rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, can envelop our lives. This is the union in which Jesus wishes all to share, a union whose realization brings great peace to people, families, societies, and the world. Evangelization opens us to Christ's wisdom and personal union with God and others.
32. The Lord gave us a message that is unique. All faiths are not merely different versions of the same thing. Knowing Christ Jesus and belonging to his Church are not the same as believing anything else and belonging to any other community. Pope John Paul II has pointed out, "While acknowledging that God loves all people and grants them the possibility of being saved (cf. 1 Tm 2:4), the Church believes that God has established Christ as the one mediator and that she herself has been established as the universal sacrament of salvation." The unique claim of our message does not negate the sincerity and faith of others; likewise, the sincerity and faith of others do not take away from the clarity and truth of our message. As Pope John Paul II reminds us, "It is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all humankind and the necessity of the Church for salvation. Both these truths help us to understand the one mystery of salvation."
33. Finally, the Lord gave us yet another reason to evangelize: our love for every person, whatever his or her situation, language, physical, mental, or social condition. Because we have experienced the love of Christ, we want to share it. The gifts God has given to us are not gifts for ourselves. Like the large catch of fish or the overflowing measure of flour, faith makes our hearts abound with a love-filled desire to bring all people to Jesus' Gospel and to the table of the Eucharist. As Jesus wanted to gather all Jerusalem, "as a hen gathers her young, so also do we want to gather all people into God's kingdom, proclaiming the Gospel even "to the ends of the earth."
Congregation for the Clergy
General Directory for Catechesis
Elements and criteria proper to adult catechesis
173. Adult catechesis concerns persons who have a right and a duty to bring to maturity the seed of faith sown in them by God. It is addressed to individuals who are charged to fulfill social responsibilities of various types and to those who are also prey to all kinds of changes and crises, sometimes profound. The faith of adults, therefore, must be continually enlightened, developed and protected, so that it may acquire that Christian wisdom which gives sense, unity, and hope to the many experiences of personal, social, and spiritual life. Adult catechesis requires the accurate identification of the typical characteristics of Christian adults. It must translate them into objectives and content, and determine certain constants of presentation. It must establish the most effective methodological approaches and choose formats and models. The role and identity of the catechists who work with adults and their formation—the people who are responsible for the catechesis of adults in the community—are vitally important.
174. Among the criteria which assure an authentic and effective adult catechesis, mention must be made of the following:
– attention to those to whom it is addressed, to their condition as adult men and women, requires taking account of their problems and experiences, their spiritual and cultural resources, with full respect for their differences;
– attention to the lay condition of adults, on whom Baptism confers the task of "seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's Will", and whom it calls to holiness;
– attention to the involvement of the community so that it may be a welcoming and supportive environment;
– attention to ensure systematic pastoral care of adults, with which liturgical formation and the service of charity have been integrated.
General and particular tasks of adult catechesis
175. So as to respond to the more profound needs of our time, adult catechesis must systematically propose the Christian faith in its entirety and in its authenticity, in accordance with the Church's understanding. It must give priority to the proclamation of salvation, drawing attention to the many difficulties, doubts, misunderstandings, prejudices and objections of today. It must introduce adults to a faith-filled reading of Sacred Scripture and the practice of prayer. A fundamental service to adult catechesis is given by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and by those adult catechisms based on it by the particular Churches. In particular, the tasks of adult catechesis are:
– to promote formation and development of life in the Risen Christ by adequate means: pedagogy of the sacraments, retreats, and spiritual direction...
– to educate toward a correct evaluation of the socio-cultural changes of our societies in the light of faith: thus the Christian community is assisted in discerning true values in our civilization, as well as its dangers, and in adopting appropriate attitudes;
– to clarify current religious and moral questions, that is, those questions which are encountered by the men and women of our time: for example, public and private morality with regard to social questions and the education of future generations;
– to clarify the relationship between temporal actions and ecclesial action, by demonstrating mutual distinctions and implications and thus due interaction; to this end, the social doctrine of the Church is an integral part of adult catechesis;
– to develop the rational foundations of the faith: that the right understanding of the faith and of the truths to be believed are in conformity with the demands of reason and the Gospel is always relevant; it is therefore necessary to promote effectively the pastoral aim of Christian thought and culture: this helps to overcome certain forms of fundamentalism as well as subjective and arbitrary interpretations;
– to encourage adults to assume responsibility for the Church's mission and to be able to give Christian witness in society:
The adult is assisted to discover, evaluate and activate what he has received by nature and grace, both in the Christian community and by living in human society; in this way, he will be able to overcome the dangers of standardization and of anonymity which are particularly dominant in some societies of today and which lead to loss of identity and lack of appreciation for the resources and qualities of the individual.
Particular forms of adult catechesis
176. Certain situations and circumstances require special forms of catechesis:
– catechesis for the Christian initiation or catechumenate of adults: this has its own express form in the RCIA;
– traditional forms of catechesis of the people of God, duly adapted to the liturgical year or in the extraordinary form of missions;
– the on-going catechesis of those who have a task of formation in the community: catechists and those involved in the lay apostolate;
– catechesis for use in particularly significant events in life, such as Marriage, the Baptism of children and the other sacraments of initiation, at critical times during youth, in sickness etc.: in such circumstances, people are disposed more than ever to seek out the true meaning of life;
– is for special events and experiences, such as beginning work, military service, emigration etc.: these are changes which can give rise to interior enrichment or bewilderment and in which the need of God's saving word should be emphasized;
– catechesis for the Christian use of leisure time, especially during holidays and travel…
Catholic RCIA Lessons
- Tom Bosco
- I live in Suffolk County NY located in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. I have been involved in Catechesis for 10 years and accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church with complete faith. Above all, I want to spread the Gospel of salvation through the teachings of the Church. The contents of this blog have been taken from my RCIA course entitled RCIA: The Way, the Truth, and the Life, available at www.lulu.com/tombosco
- Introduction to RCIA Process
- RCIA Nuts & Bolts
- Lesson 1 - Introductory Lesson
- Lesson 2 - The Call of the Disciple
- Lesson 3 - Who is God? The Trinity!
- Lesson 4 - The Bible is the Word of God
- Lesson 5 - The Liturgy of the Word
- Lesson 6 - The Liturgy of the Eucharist
- Lesson 7 - Lord, Teach Us to Pray
- Lesson 8 - The Catholic Church
- Lesson 9 - The Pope, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons...
- Lesson 10 - The Family is the Domestic Church
- Lesson 11 - Nothing is Impossible with God
- Lesson 12 - Creation and the Fall
- ▼ December (14)