Most of us think of babies when we think of Baptism. Our faith and our Christian identity is something we take for granted. More and more people stop practicing their faith and are comfortable to believe in God and journey their own way trying their best to be good living Christian people.
Then we are taken by surprise when someone comes along and asks to be baptised into our church. We realize that our Christian identity is important and we come to understand the value of belonging to a community of believers.
The Rite of Christian Initiation is a process that accompanies a person who seeks or enquires about being baptized into our church. The person enquiring is invited to be accompanied by a group of people who are members of the parish community and have been trained in the process. The earliest stage of the journey is called the Stage of Enquiry or the Pre Catechumenate. During this stage the person enquiring is known as the Candidate.
For a period of weeks the candidate and the group who are known as the RCIA team meet and chat in an informal way about their faith and answer the candidates questions. Through this process the candidate reflects on what they hear, become part of the community meeting and getting to know people and discern if they wish to go forward to the next stage.
If the decision is made to move on to the next stage they are accepted formally into the church during the Liturgy witnessed by the community of faith who also promise to support the candidate with their prayers.
This is called the Rite of Acceptance. During this Rite the candidate is blessed with the sign of the cross on all the senses that they may hear, understand and speak the word of God. They are then presented with the Bible. The Word of God will be the main food for the next stage of the journey which is now known as the Catechumenate stage. Our candidate is now named a Catechumen.
The Catechuemate stage is the longest stage of the journey and concentrates on the Word of God. Each week the candidate will meet with the RCIA team and together they break open the Word of God from the Sunday Gospel, reflecting and sharing with each other where God is touching or speaking to them in their life. This offers a reflective space for growth in faith for the candidate to continue to discern if this is the right journey for them. This is not a journey to be rushed but one that invites the Catechumenate to experience the full Liturgical year with all its seasons. This stage will continue until the First week of Lent.