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Traveling the Path to Catholicism
Catholic Exchange.com ^ | 04-12-06 | Fr. William Saunders

Posted on 04/12/2006 9:37:35 AM PDT by Salvation

by Fr. William Saunders

Other Articles by Fr. William Saunders
Traveling the Path to Catholicism
04/12/06


Recently I saw a picture showing the Rite of Election at the cathedral. Would you please explain more about the Rite of Election and RCIA? When I was growing up, we did not have such a program.

The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is a formal program of catechetical instruction, ascetical practice (prayer and spirituality), and liturgies whereby adults — called catechumens — are formally admitted into the Church and receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation, and holy Eucharist. (The sacrament of penance is received later since baptism washes away all sin — original sin and actual sin.)

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council decreed, "The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be restored and brought into use at the discretion of the local ordinary. By this means the time of the catechumenate, which is intended as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time" (No. 64).

This mandate first calls to mind a "restoration" of something that one time existed in the Church. St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians mentioned that "the man instructed in the Word [i.e. a catechumen] should share all he has with his instructor" (6:6), indicating a formal preparation for entrance into the Church. St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165) in his first Apology described the catechumenate: "Those who are persuaded and believe in the truth of our teachings and sayings undertake to live them accordingly; they are taught to ask, with fasting, for the remission of their sins, we also praying and fasting with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water, and they are regenerated in the same way as we have been regenerated." Tertulian (d. c. 220) coined the title “catechumen” and reproached the pagans for not making a distinction between them and the "faithful." Remember that during this time, the Church was under persecution by the Roman Empire and was confronted with various heresies; therefore, the Church wanted a very formal, careful period of instruction to prevent the infiltration of both persecutors and heretics.

The catechumens themselves were distinguished between inquirers (audientes), those initially interested in the faith, and actual catechumens who had made an initial commitment to pursue the faith. The catechumenate involved several stages, each with a catechetical, ascetical and liturgical facet, and usually lasted three years. During this time, they could attend Mass through the Liturgy of the Word, but could not participate in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the end of this period, the catechumens were examined, not so much for their knowledge, but to determine whether they lived the faith devoutly and had a sincere conviction of faith. If the examination was favorable, the catechumen became a candidate for baptism, received further instruction and was baptized at the Easter Vigil Mass.

After the legalization of Christianity in 313, the catechumenate began to fall into disuse for various reasons. The fear of persecution was greatly lessened. Baptism of infants became the norm with adult baptism waning. Conversion of the barbarian invaders precluded any prolonged period of instruction (actually, Pope Gregory the Great [d. 604] mandated only a 40-day preparation period for these people). By the Middle Ages, the catechumenate had disappeared, with only traces remaining in the rites of baptism and formal reception into the Church.

Given this brief history, the Second Vatican Council saw the need to restore the formal catechumenate for adults. In 1972, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued a new rite, approved by Pope Paul VI. As in the early Church, RCIA is a gradual process that involves the whole community of the faithful. Not only does RCIA prepare individuals for entrance into the Church, it allows the members of the Church to renew their faith.

During the course of the RCIA program, the individual follows a spiritual journey of "steps" accomplished through defined periods punctuated with formal rites. The first period is the precatechumenate, when candidates inquire about the faith and receive evangelization. Hopefully, the person comes to that initial conversion and step of faith, aided by the grace of God. This period ends with the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens when the candidates publicly declare their intention to enter the Church.

This Rite of Acceptance then begins the Period of the Catechumenate, during which the catechumens receive catechetical, ascetical and liturgical training. Catechetical instruction is of the utmost importance: "This catechesis leads the catechumens not only to an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and precepts but also to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation in which they desire to participate" (RCIA, No. 75). During this time, the catechumens should undergo a conversion of mind and action, becoming acquainted with the teachings of the faith and acquiring a spirit of charity. The sponsors and parish community assist the catechumens by their example and support. At Sunday Mass, the catechumens receive special exorcisms, blessings and anointings following the homily; however, after the Liturgy of the Word, they leave the Church. The Catechumenate may extend over a prolonged period of time, even years if necessary.

The Rite of Election closes the Period of Catechumenate. This rite normally coincides with the first Sunday of Lent. At this rite, upon the testimony of sponsors and catechists and the catechumens' affirmation of their intention to join the Church, the Church makes its "election" of these catechumens to receive the sacraments of initiation. In the presence of the bishop (or his delegate), they inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect at the cathedral as a pledge of fidelity. Now the catechumens are called "the elect" or "the illuminandi" ("those who will be enlightened"). They now begin a Period of Purification and Enlightenment — the final, intense preparation for the reception of the sacraments of initiation. On the next five Sundays of Lent, three scrutinies (rites for self-searching and repentance) and the presentations of the Creed and Lord's Prayer take place. This period concludes with the celebration of the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.

After the Easter Vigil, the newly baptized and confirmed members of the Church (technically called neophytes) enter the Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy. The neophytes grow in their understanding of the mysteries of the faith and strengthen their bonding with the rest of the faithful. They should enter more fully into the life and unity of the Church. This period normally ends around Pentecost.

The RCIA is a spiritually moving process beneficial to the whole parish community. As we draw closer to the celebration of Easter, let us pray in particular for those elect who will be entering our holy Catholic Church this Easter.


Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).

(This article courtesy of the
Arlington Catholic Herald.)



TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Current Events; Eastern Religions; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Islam; Judaism; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Orthodox Christian; Other Christian; Other non-Christian; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Religion & Science; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; election; rcia; rites; scrutinies
Congratulations to all the new Catholics and converts who post regularly on FR.

May God bless you all abundantly. (And thank you for sharing your journey with us!

1 posted on 04/12/2006 9:37:37 AM PDT by Salvation
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To: jo kus

Ping!


2 posted on 04/12/2006 9:38:26 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: nickcarraway; sandyeggo; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; NYer; american colleen; Pyro7480; livius; ...
Catholic Discussion Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Discussion Ping List.

3 posted on 04/12/2006 9:39:35 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Please remove me from this ping list. I am no longer interested in learning anything more about Catholicism. Thank you.


4 posted on 04/12/2006 9:42:03 AM PDT by colorcountry (Don't bother me,.... I'm living happily ever after.)
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To: Salvation

I will be in full communion with the Holy church on Saturday and will be confirmed by hte Bishop on the following Friday.


5 posted on 04/12/2006 10:12:15 AM PDT by TXBSAFH (Proud Dad of Twins, What Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger!!!!!!)
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Ping to read later


6 posted on 04/12/2006 10:20:46 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (Colossians 4:5)
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To: Salvation

I'm grateful to be part of the RCIA Class of '06!


7 posted on 04/12/2006 10:48:17 AM PDT by TravisBickle (Are you talkin' to me?)
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To: TravisBickle

Me, too!


8 posted on 04/12/2006 10:58:23 AM PDT by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's and Jemian's sons and keep them strong.)
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To: TXBSAFH; Miss Marple

Welcome home BUMP!!


9 posted on 04/12/2006 10:59:21 AM PDT by kstewskis (The Gospel of McPain: thugs, murderers, and terrorists doing the jobs Americans just won't do!)
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To: TravisBickle

#9 is for you too, Travis!


10 posted on 04/12/2006 11:00:01 AM PDT by kstewskis (The Gospel of McPain: thugs, murderers, and terrorists doing the jobs Americans just won't do!)
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To: TXBSAFH; Miss Marple; TravisBickle
Welcome home,it's a beautiful place to be,despite the turbulence all around.
11 posted on 04/12/2006 11:13:34 AM PDT by saradippity
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To: kstewskis
(The Gospel of McPain:thugs,murderers,and terrorists doing the jobs Americans just won't do!)

Great tagline,does it come from you or something you read?

You know me,always seeking to reduce a million words or a thousand articles into one,succinct line that captures the essence of the debate in a nutshell and forces people to really think about bottom lines,I think you have accomplished that!

If you are seeking perfection (LOL) you might extend the McPain to include "and other like thinkers".

12 posted on 04/12/2006 11:28:02 AM PDT by saradippity
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To: saradippity
Thanks for the welcome.

The funny thing is, the turbulence doesn't seeem to bother me as much as it used to!

13 posted on 04/12/2006 11:30:29 AM PDT by TravisBickle (Are you talkin' to me?)
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To: TravisBickle

Me, either. I have found that I can take the long look at things, and no matter how aggravating things seem to be, I can accept them and move forward.


14 posted on 04/12/2006 11:34:35 AM PDT by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's and Jemian's sons and keep them strong.)
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To: TravisBickle
The funny thing is, the turbulence doesn't seeem to bother me as much as it used to!

Yes,I know what you mean. To me,it's like the Barque may rock around alot as it seeks to avoid swells and mines and winds but it will cut through it all,one way or another. And,I love our visible Captain!!

15 posted on 04/12/2006 11:57:27 AM PDT by saradippity
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To: Salvation

Happy Easter to everyone.


16 posted on 04/12/2006 12:39:06 PM PDT by Catholic Canadian (Formerly Ashamed Canadian - thank you Stephen Harper!)
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To: Miss Marple
Me, either. I have found that I can take the long look at things, and no matter how aggravating things seem to be, I can accept them and move forward.

It's called hope! :-) Am bringing the boyfriend back to the fold...he suggested that we do the 'seven church pilgrimage' tomorrow night!

A blessed Easter to all!

17 posted on 04/12/2006 12:58:06 PM PDT by LisaFab
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To: saradippity; Victoria Delsoul
Great tagline,does it come from you or something you read?

Actually, I believe I said it on a thread ripping McCain awhile back, and Victoria suggested I use it as a tagline! :)

18 posted on 04/12/2006 1:07:54 PM PDT by kstewskis (The Gospel of McPain: thugs, murderers, and terrorists doing the jobs Americans just won't do!)
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To: Salvation

One of the proudest moments in my life came in a recent conversation with a friend from Montana. He is finishing an RCIA program of study this Saturday. He told me that when they asked him who, if anyone,inspired him to become a Catholic he mentioned me. He did say others, but I was the only person he knew personally.


To all who know someone coming into the Church this Saturday evening ( my wife's 4th anniversary BTW )please make a point of welcoming that person. Jesus will thank you later.


19 posted on 04/12/2006 1:20:59 PM PDT by jmaroneps37 (Everyday brings a new reason to distrust Hillary Clinton.)
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To: Salvation
Thank YOU...........this Easter Vigil I will celebrate my
one year anniversary as a member of the Church.
20 posted on 04/12/2006 2:24:23 PM PDT by MamaLucci (Mutually assured destruction STILL keeps the Clinton administration criminals out of jail.)
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To: Salvation
Congratulations to all the new Catholics and converts who post regularly on FR. May God bless you all abundantly. (And thank you for sharing your journey with us!

The Holy Spirit seems to have impacted many of us this year. My wife and I are being confirmed Saturday. We've done our first Reconciliation and are experiencing a supernatural high.

21 posted on 04/12/2006 4:22:46 PM PDT by Coming Home (Some things just take 50 years to appreciate)
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To: Catholic Canadian

Would you like to be on the Catholic Ping List?

I do the Daily Readings, prayer requests, Saint of the Day, seasonal things and apologetics/ catechetics/prayer.

There are two Catholic ping lists. NYer usually posts news stories. Please contact her if you want to be on that list also.


22 posted on 04/12/2006 9:27:23 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: jmaroneps37

The same thing happened to me this last Sunday. The person who is being baptized didn't tell me herself, but her main support person in a small town told me that she said I was one of the people who inspired her to look into the Catholic faith.

I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when he told me that.

(Still have to get her a Catholic Answers Bible with all the apologetics in it!)


23 posted on 04/12/2006 9:30:01 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: MamaLucci

Congratulations, Mamma!


24 posted on 04/12/2006 9:30:25 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Coming Home

God bless both of you! Welcome home to the Full Communion of the Catholic Church!


25 posted on 04/12/2006 9:31:12 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: LisaFab

This is so exciting. Congratulations to your boyfriend.


26 posted on 04/12/2006 9:35:56 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
Thanks. Thanks also for all the good work you do on these threads. Can't always post but ALWAYS read every one!

A blessed Easter to all!

27 posted on 04/13/2006 7:11:40 AM PDT by LisaFab
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To: LisaFab

Thanks for coming on this thread -- and a Blessed Easter to you and your boyfriend.


28 posted on 04/13/2006 7:15:50 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation; All

Good morning! Thanks for the ping!


29 posted on 04/13/2006 7:33:09 AM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: trisham


Dear Trisham,

I pray and hope that you like the Homilies that I have been posting on several Threads that have been preached by Father Altier from 2001-2005.

I have posted quite a few for Holy Week. Check them out whenever you can.

In Christ,


30 posted on 04/13/2006 12:17:47 PM PDT by MILESJESU (Father Robert Altier is a True Soldier of Jesus Christ. Merciful Jesus Christ, I Trust in you.)
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To: Catholic Canadian; Miss Marple; TravisBickle


Dear Freepers in Christ, (Miss Marple and TravisBickle)

Welcome Home. Would you all be interested in being added to my Father Altier's Ping List for Homilies that he has preached from 2001-2005.

Father Robert Altier is a Holy and Orthodox Catholic Priest who has been unfortunately censored by the Archbishop of Minneapolis. Father Altier is famous for his talks on the "Fundamentals of Catholicism".

Have a Blessed and Holy Week.

In Christ,


31 posted on 04/13/2006 12:21:50 PM PDT by MILESJESU (Father Robert Altier is a True Soldier of Jesus Christ. Merciful Jesus Christ, I Trust in you.)
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To: SOLDIEROFJESUSCHRIST

Thank you. I will.


32 posted on 04/13/2006 1:09:23 PM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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