RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The Second Vatican Council in the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy called for a return to our roots. Specifically, it called for the restoration of the adult catechumenate. “Restoration”, why did it need to be restored, what happened to it? In the early church, 1st and 2nd centuries, there was no formal process of initiation in the church. Faith in Jesus Christ and in God as Father of Jesus Christ, conversion of life-style, and a genuine concern for the needy were the only requirements for baptism. For a number of reasons, in the 3rd century St Hippolytus of Rome found is necessary to write down and capture a more formalized initiation process. The original Greek works of his writings, Apostolic Tradition, are lost to time and circumstance but fragments from other translations do exist and document a PROCESS for “those who are newly brought forward to hear the Word..”, catechumens in Latin. This process would last three years…but there were exceptions because “…it is not the time that is judged, but the conduct.” The edict of Milan in 313 A.D. made Christianity an official religion recognized and protected under Roman Law. With that decree the ranks of Christianity swelled. People came in great numbers to be baptized for the most part through a catechumenal process. By 1000 A.D. Europe had basically become Christian and the use of the catechumenal process declined. Most people were now baptized into the church as infants, not pagan adults. For almost two millennium, the catechumenate did not function in any significant way. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Council Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, drew upon the Church’s history to revive the practice of the catechumenal process. Thus in Sacred Liturgy, paragraph 64, we read, “The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps, is to be restored…” In 1972, the Congregation for Divine Worship revised the rite of baptism of adults and forwarded a new rite for the Christian initiation for adults for approval to Pope (Saint) Paul VI. The process we use today is very similar to the process from the third century. And it is a PROCESS where discernment and decision drive the outcome not a timeline. So, if you know someone discerning initiation into the Catholic faith talk to them, encourage them, and send them to one of our clergy.
– Deacon Hoppe