April 3, 2017
For many RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) members, the program’s classes provide a way to not only learn about the Church and its teachings, but also to encounter the omnipotent love of God in amazing ways.
“I am happy to say that through the RCIA classes, I have had an opportunity to be exposed to the most beautiful love of Jesus, through the Catholic faith,” says Tricia Brown, a candidate who was received into the Catholic Church at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit last November. “Prior to taking the classes I had many preconceived views of Catholicism and the Catholic Church. My attendance at RCIA each week brought me to the realization that Catholicism would only mature my faith and bring me even closer to God.”
And, it's also a fantastic way to peer into the window of Catholicism, and prepare oneself to bring others to catch the beautiful view as well.
“Throughout the RCIA process, I was enlightened by the Church's teachings, and my desire to know and experience more of this sacred faith grew,” Tricia said. “I found myself longing to experience the grace of God through the Eucharist, and I saw that the Church's strong moral teachings nurture trust, service, and humility. My new-found faith has brought my family closer together as well. We are all learning about the Catholic faith together and enjoy exchanging new facts with each other each week. Attending Mass each week as a family gives my children stability.”
As Tricia shared, the RCIA experience also provides a firm foundation of community with the Body of Christ for the newly initiated.
“I am truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the RCIA classes. They opened the door to a world of blessings I may not have been able to experience in any other way. RCIA has also connected me with people who share the same values as I do, and support me in my walk with Christ.”
Generally speaking, the Church prescribes five “stages” or “periods of formation” for the catechumenal process: evangelization (or inquiry), pre-catechumenate, catechumenate, purification and enlightenment, and the neophyte year. The formation process is open to catechumens, or people who have not been baptized and typically have little-to-no faith formation. Those who would be called candidates, on the other hand, are people who have at least been validly baptized in a Christian denomination and likely have had some faith formation, but may also be uncatechized.”
The first period is that of evangelization—the basic delivery of the Gospel message and invitation to the inquirer to learn more and deepen their understanding of Christ. The second period is that of the pre-catechumenate during which inquirers show evidence of an initial conversion and intention to change their lives by entering into a relationship with God in Christ.
The catechumenate is the third period by which the participants are given pastoral guidance and formation, aimed at training them in the Christian life. The fourth period is that of purification and enlightenment, which, coinciding with Lent, prepares the catechumens to receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil. The neophyte year marks the fifth period, during which the newly baptized are given instruction on spiritual growth and enter more fully into the life and unity of the parish community. Normally, catechumens and candidates fulfill various stages of formation according to where they are at in their faith journey, under the guidance of their parish priest.
“What I hope those participating in our RCIA classes receive from attending is a deeper understanding of the love Christ has for them through the gift of our Catholic faith,” says Deb Martinek, Director of Faith Formation at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. “There have been inquirers who come from a very learned Christian background, but have read themselves into the doctrines of Catholicism and cannot turn away; some mistakenly tuned into Real Presence Radio and couldn’t stop listening until they desired to receive the sacraments; some have simply been encouraged by their friends to learn more about Catholicism and through the process of formation have come to love the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I try to meet them where they are at and answer any questions they have, and invite them to attend our classes to learn more.”
And, most importantly, in addition to learning about the teachings of the Church, the RCIA process helps catechumens and candidates discover the awesome power of God as He speaks intimately to their hearts.
“One time, I was asking a catechumen about their experience so far with the process, and they told me that they had felt a part of them had been missing, and they didn’t even realize it, but since attending RCIA and participating in Mass, they realized that whatever was missing before isn’t missing anymore,” Deb shared.
According to Julianna Cabell, a catechumen who will be fully initiated into the Catholic Church on Easter this year, Catholicism is appealing for what it is, and its wonder wins over the searching heart.
“What drew me towards becoming Catholic was the beauty and truth of Catholicism itself,” Julianna said. “Growing up, I didn't know there were even such things as sacraments. But now, I see that God has given us the sacraments to bring us closer to Him. I first started to understand that the Catholic Church and its teachings were true when I read John 6, and realized that the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist made sense. As I keep learning about the faith, I continue to see more and more of its truth and beauty.”
Along her journey, RCIA classes have helped Julianna to comprehend Catholic beliefs in a more profound way.
“Even though I had read about Catholicism on my own and knew I wanted to become Catholic before attending RCIA, I've enjoyed learning the teachings of the Church in a different, more in-depth format,” she said. “The classes have helped me grow to understand God's love and mercy. Also, being taught by people passionate about the faith makes me even more excited to become Catholic!”
Ultimately, RCIA members are not only to be cared for and prayed for, but they are also to be treasured. In a sense, they are one of the Church's greatest gifts because they are a continual reminder to us all of the extraordinary—and entirely undeniable—action of the Holy Spirit, radiantly alive in the Body of Christ today. They show us that Mother Church is the home of our hearts and souls, and that, tragically, many people live their entire lives without ever coming to the peaceful “home” that life-long Catholics can easily become too “used to.”
“I really love serving in the RCIA program because I get to know the people who are seeking to understand and embrace the great love that God has for them,” Deb shared. “To watch them grow in faith through the sacraments the Church offers is such a gift. It serves as a continual renewal of my own faith as I journey with them toward Christ.”