Over the past two years we have not had an RCIA process in our parish as there didn’t seem many who were interested in becoming a Catholic from among us. Last year we had one man who did complete his initiation into the Catholic Church through the RCIA held at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Whitby. This year, however, there have been many more people who have come forward expressing an interest in the Catholic faith – two men and five women. Of the seven of them, two have not been baptized and five have. Those who are not baptized are called Catechumens while those who have already been baptized in another Christian tradition are called Candidates. Each week we gather together as one group for catechesis which will move over time from the general idea of who God is to the specifics of the sacraments, prayer and life in the Church.
Since all of the seven members of our RCIA process have attended Mass for quite some time now we began with a tour of the church. While any Catholic may already be familiar with what they see at church each Sunday there is so much more about our faith to be learned through a look at the details of our own parish church of St. Leo the Great. Such things as why we dip our hands in Holy Water that is found only at the entrance of the church, why we make the sign of the cross, why we carry a crucifix in each Sunday which leads the procession to the altar – are just some of the questions leading to what we do and why we do it as Roman Catholics. Those who are looking at the Catholic Church from the outside are invited to learn about the external signs and symbols of the Church which manifest the faith that is internal to every Catholic.
Yet the RCIA journeys for those who are already baptized and those who aren’t are quite different one from another.
Those who are already baptized (Candidates) through water and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are already one with all who have been baptized and rightly called ‘Christians’. They bring with them the dignity of the children of God, though they are not members of the Catholic Church and have not, therefore, received Christ in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, have not been Confirmed in their initiation as Catholics and are not yet members of the Catholic Church. They have the Holy Spirit already dwelling within them as Christians and await the ‘fullness’ of initiation in the Church through Reception, Confirmation and Holy Communion.
Those who have not been baptized (Catechumens) are those who desire to have Christ’s life in them while already having received the promptings of God whom they feel and sense is calling them to consider life in the Catholic Church.
The unbaptized faithfully hear the living God proclaimed and Jesus Christ whom He has sent for the salvation of the world and gradually, through the Sunday celebration of the Mass they have already been attending and ongoing catechesis each week will choose to belong to Christ, become His follower and will ask to be baptized into life in Christ and the Church at the Easter Vigil. Yet, as Jesus said in John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, I chose you.” It is Christ who chooses us, blesses us with the gift of faith and makes our hearts desire Him.
Already now and in the coming months those who are unbaptized will discover through the RCIA process the God who loves them and has revealed Himself in the fullness of time in Jesus Christ. They will yearn for the waters of Baptism which will make them Christians and members of the Catholic Church and, at the Easter Vigil, when they will be baptized, they will subsequently become full members of the Church.
Both those who desire to be baptized and those who are already baptized will journey together toward Easter. At the Vigil of Easter both will arrive; the unbaptized at the font of Baptism and the baptized at the very doors of the heart of the Church. The unbaptized will arrive as Catechumens awaiting life in Christ while those who already bear the name and dignity of ‘Christian’ will await being received into the Catholic Church and the reception of the sacraments. Both, however, will leave the Easter Vigil full members of the Catholic Church having received Sacraments of Initiation. The unbaptized will receive Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist and those already baptized will first be Received into the Catholic Church and then Confirmed and receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
What the RCIA process does is all about the work of conversion which is common and necessary for every Christian. Those of us who are baptized and fully initiated grow to realize that there is an ongoing conversion of the mind and heart for which the seasons of the Church year discipline us. We need to be mindful of our need to come back to Christ again and again each year and every year of our lives.
PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR RCIA MEMBERS
The journey of those in our RCIA process is shared by all Christians – following Christ, seeking His will and making Him first. The importance of remembering them in your prayers every day is so beneficial to you and them as you simply ask God to lead and guide them and bless them with the gift of faith.
In parishes where there is a large team working with the members of the RCIA, they are dismissed each week to go and ponder the Word of God. In our parish, since I am a team of 1, they will remain with us, mindful of these words:
“Although you cannot yet
participate fully in the Lord’s Eucharist,
stay with us as a sign of our hope that
all God’s children will eat and drink with the Lord
and work with the Holy Spirit
to re-create the face of the earth.”