Padre Paul's Ponderings: RCIA Demystified

Padre Paul's Ponderings: RCIA Demystified

At Mass recently, you may have noticed at the 10:30 liturgy, the first few pews have

been reserved. We also had a special blessing during the first Sunday of Lent, and then

dismissals right after the homily for those who are involved in preparing for full reception

into the Catholic Church at Easter going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults


This weekend, we’ll have a special part at our 10:30 called the “scrutiny.” Though this is

what one of my seminary professors called our final exam, what the RCIA candidates

will be going through will be a bit less stressful. Basically it’s where a person preparing

for confirmation at the Easter Vigil makes a public declaration of their intentions and


Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that and RCIA as a whole. Our catechumens

(those to be baptized, confirmed and make their first Holy Communion) and candidates

(those who have been baptized but will make their first Communion and be confirmed)

have been preparing for quite some time for Easter. And helping them has been Lori

Hannasch who has been leading the program this year.

As we will have the scrutinies this weekend at our Mass, I thought it would be a good

time to explain RCIA and what it involves, as so many of us are baptized as infants and

go through faith formation as teens.

So, here’s what RCIA looks like and entails. This comes from the USCCB (United

States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website and is written by Jeannine Marino, a

progream specialist at the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis of the United

States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


For most parishes, Sunday Mass during Lent has been different as people called “the

elect” and “candidates” have been called forth to the altar. As the Easter Triduum

approaches, the Church prepares to welcome these participants in Rite of Christian

Initiation of Adults (RCIA) through the Sacraments of Initiation. RCIA is not only for

those seeking full initiation into the Church, RCIA involves the whole Christian


RCIA is mainly for two groups of people: the unbaptized and baptized Christians

seeking full communion with the Church. Some dioceses also include baptized but

uncatechized Catholics. For the unbaptized, RCIA prepares them to receive all three

Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Baptized Christians and

Catholics will receive Confirmation and/or the Eucharist.

Here are ten important steps in the RCIA process and their significance for the

participants and the entire Church:

1. Period of Evangelization: Through baptism every Catholic is called to preach the

Good News and share the gift of faith they received with the world; all are urged to invite

friends and family members to Mass. Sometimes this invitation inspires people to

consider the Catholic Church and RCIA.

2. Rite of Acceptance and Welcome: This marks the first time those in RCIA officially

assemble before the parish. After their initial conversion, they declare publicly their

intention to enter into a relationship with Christ and his Church. The parish commits to

praying for them. From this point on those seeking baptism are called catechumens,

and those seeking full communion with the Church are called candidates.

3. Celebration of the Word: After the Rite of Acceptance, the catechumens are usually

dismissed from Mass after the Liturgy of the Word to reflect more deeply on Scripture

and prepare themselves for their eventual participation in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

This dismissal is not meant to exclude those in RCIA from the Liturgy of the Eucharist,

but to help them and the parish joyfully build up anticipation of the Easter Sacraments.

4. Sending of the Catechumens and Candidates: Before the First Sunday of Lent, those

in RCIA are called before the parish, which prays for them and sends them forth to

present themselves to the bishop. They are presented to the bishop because he is the

chief pastor of the diocese and admits them to the Easter Sacraments on behalf of the

entire Church.

5. Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion: This rite is usually held on the

First Sunday of Lent and marks the catechumens and candidates’ final preparation for

the Easter Sacraments. They reaffirm their intention to join the Church. In the presence

of the bishop, the catechumens inscribe their name in the Book of the Elect. From this

point forward, the catechumens are called the elect.

6. Period of Purification and Enlightenment: This period begins with the Rite of Election

and is a season of intense spiritual preparation and reflection on the Paschal Mystery.

The elect and candidates are called to deepen their relationship with Christ, and the

parish community is called to increase their prayers and support of the elect and


7. Scrutinies: The Scrutinies are rites of conversion and repentance. They include

prayers of intercession and exorcism and are intended to deliver the elect from sin,

protect them from temptation and invite them closer to Christ, who is the living water,

the light of the world and the Resurrection and the Life. The three Scrutinies are

celebrated on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent.

8. Presentation of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer: After the first Scrutiny, those in RCIA

are entrusted with the Creed and after the third Scrutiny, the Lord’s Prayer. The Creed

professes the faith, and the Lord’s Prayer teaches believers to call upon the Father as

Christ did. At the Easter Vigil, those in RCIA will for the first time publicly profess the

Creed and participate in the Liturgy of the Eucharist to pray the Lord’s Prayer.

9. Easter Vigil: The “most blessed of all nights,” as proclaimed by the Exsultet, is the

night the Church joyfully anticipates Christ’s Resurrection. The elect receive all three

Sacraments of Initiation and candidates for full communion receive confirmation and/or

the Eucharist. For the first time, the elect and candidates are welcomed to the Lord’s

Table as full disciples of Christ.

10. Mystagogy: After receiving the Easter Sacraments, the neophytes (newly initiated)

continue their faith formation during the period of mystagogy (which means

“interpretation of mystery”). Mystagogy is the time of post-baptismal catechesis. It

typically lasts for one year. This time allows the neophytes to reflect on their experience

of the sacraments, Scripture, grow closer to Christ through the Eucharist and participate

more frequently in the parish. The parish community is called to mentor the neophytes

as they begin to live as Christian disciples and fulfill their baptismal vocation to



So as you can see, there’s a lot that goes into it. The Easter Triduum liturgies are my

favorites of the entire year, and it’s such an honor to celebrate the sacraments with

these people each year who like Moses approaching the burning bush, come to explore

and know God at a deeper level responding to the call to follow Him, and enter fully into

His Church. Please keep them in your prayers.

God bless,

Fr. Paul


Ashley Cridlebaugh –
14 yrs old
Grant Cridlebaugh –
16 yrs old
Jessica Drummer
Anna Lazo
Paige Maxson
Gabrielle (Ella) Pierce
Christina (Tina) Quy
Amy Whaley
Robert (Bob) Whaley
Samuel Cordoza – 14 yrs old
Sophia Cordoza – 10 yrs old
Charles Drummer – 20 mos old
Isabella Drummer – 11 yrs old
Jonathon (Jack) Drummer – 8 yrs old
Ari Paitich – 8 yrs old
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