Everyone’s spiritual life is different, yet our Lord calls all of us to be His disciple, each in a unique way. In the Church, some were born cradle Catholics, while others took a journey of discovery later in life. They responded to Jesus’ invitation to walk more closely with Him through the Catholic RCIA stages and completed a process of discovering and developing the basics of the faith. If you think the Lord may be calling you to take these steps, you have come to the right place!
Growing and maturing in your spiritual life can be challenging. The Catholic RCIA stages provide a great model for building a solid foundation upon which to build. That being said, you still may have many questions, such as:
- Where do I start?
- What are the stages of Initiation, and how many are there?
- What happens in each one – how is my progress measured?
The first thing to remember is don’t worry because the Catholic RCIA stages are a journey with the Lord. Jesus will be walking along beside you. This article will provide you with some Christ-centred advice. It will be helpful not only for the RCIA process but for deepening your spiritual life. After all, these are the building blocks upon which everything else rests.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
The first question almost everyone asks is: where do I start? It can look like a big project, so, as the adage says, you begin at the beginning. The program is a pilgrimage where the Lord calls you from where you are to a higher place – you are that guest he calls to the seat of honor at the banquet table.
For most adults seeking to join the Catholic Church or even the curious, the process begins with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA, as it is commonly known. Consisting of four distinct stages, it follows a straightforward and logical progression. The best part of the Catholic RCIA is that they are a good plan for developing the faith in those joining the Church and for everyone.
The Four Catholic RCIA Stages
- Purification and preparation
- Initiation & Mystagogy
If you are reading this article, there is a good chance you are in the inquiry phase already. In this time, you have begun to experience the promptings of the Holy Spirt, so you are curious and asking lots of questions – kicking the tires. You probably aren’t ready to jump in the pool yet, but you are sticking your toes in the water.
Once you have decided that the waters are warm enough and you are ready to join the Church, you move to the next phase – the Catechumenate. [This ancient word, used since the earliest days of the Church, designates the time when one is actively being trained to live as a disciple of the Lord and a member of His Church.] In this stage, you will learn the basics of the Catholic Faith and the practices of the Church.
Particularly during the season of Lent, before you enter the Church at Easter, you will undergo a period of more intense Purification and Preparation. It is a time meant to help intensify the flame of faith in your heart and to focus more intently on Jesus Christ. Typically, this is fostered by a series of Gospel meditations.
Finally, you will end your journey with Initiation at the Easter Vigil, and a new one will begin. At this Greatest of all Vigils, you will be welcomed into the Church and given those Sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist), which you have not already received.
Once you have partaken of the Sacraments, you now enter into a period called Mystagogy. It is a time when you will reflect on the great gifts in which you have just taken part and learn more about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is both prayerful reflections on the road you have walked and hopeful expectations for the good things to come.
Friendly Advice About The Catholic RCIA Stages
For most, if not all, the cornerstone of their life is faith, so you need to build wisely. Remember the Gospel story, do not be the man who built his house on sand, do not be that guy! Rather, build on the rock, so when the storms come, you will stand fast in your newfound belief in the Lord. Here are some helpful tips:
- Walk before you run – go slow and take things at your own pace. There is no race to finish the Catholic RCIA stages first, just do it well. You need to develop a solid understanding of the basic concepts. It will help you in the long run when facing challenges and, hopefully, keep you from discouragement.
- I cannot stress this enough, seek out sound (orthodox) teachers! Look for a teacher who is faithful to Church teachings in all things – this is your faith-life, there is no room for error.
- Like in the first point, go at your own pace. Until you are satisfied with your progress, there is no need to move on in the Catholic RCIA stages. Stay true to yourself. There can be many pressures to move to the next phase, not the least of which is the false assumption that you must be ready by Easter. It is more important to make a sound decision than to set a deadline for completing the Catholic RCIA stages.
An Recap of the Catholic RCIA stages
RCIA stage 1, Inquiry
Kicking the Tires: This is your initial stage. The main goal is to learn about Christianity, Jesus Christ, and His Church. You are looking to gain a deep enough understanding, so you can make a decision either way on whether to move forward. The final decision won’t come until you receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. [This stage is so important we have a separate page dedicated to it (RCIA Inquiry Stage) – be sure to check it out]
RCIA stage 2, Catechumenate
Learning: The seed of your faith has already begun to sprout. Now, you need to water it to make it grow. Stage 2 is a period of catechesis (instruction in the Faith) meant to draw you closer to the Lord, help you to lead a Christian life, and develop spirituality.
RCIA stage 3, Purification And Preparation
Hopeful Anticipation: You are in the home stretch now. This is the last phase before receiving the Sacrament of Christian Initiation at the Easter Vigil (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist). Stage 3 occurs during the Holy Season of Lent and intends to bring about a personal conversion in anticipation of Easter. To help in this process, the Church uses three beautiful passages from the Gospel of John called the Scrutinies.
RCIA stage 4, Initiation & Mystagogy
Reflection: After being welcomed into the Church at Easter, She does not just leave you by yourself. There is a final step to the catholic RCIA stages that will consist of focused instruction on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments. It will be focused on the source and summit of the life and faith of the Church, the Eucharist, designed to bring about a deep appreciation for it.
Finally, even if you are not in the program, the Catholic RCIA stages offer a paradigm for developing your spiritual life, from which we can all learn.
A Catholic’s Perspective hopes you enjoyed this introduction to the Catholic RCIA stages – please be sure to check out our other great content!