1st Step

Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens

The Inquirers who wish to continue now move onto the next stage, which is known as the Period of the Catechumenate. The Inquirers who are not already baptized are welcomed to this next stage via the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. As they enter this Rite they are known as Candidates. As they leave this Rite they are now referred to as Catechumens.

Such rites may take place throughout the year, but most often take place during Advent and the month before it (October through December). By this time, Catechumens must have in mind someone who would be willing to “sponsor” them. The sponsors are usually practicing strict Catholics that the Catechumens know. The duties of a sponsor are to go with them through the various rites, and provide individual instruction about matters of faith.

This is a very significant step, so much so that for Catechumens (unbaptized): ”One who dies during the Catechumenate receives a Christian burial.”[47]
From the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

This is the first rite that takes place at the beginning of the general Sunday Mass in front of the parish community.

The outline of this Rite is as follows [Paragraphs 48 – 68]:

Receiving the Candidates

  • Greeting (often with the RCIA teacher knocking at the door of the church and asking the congregation to allow the Catechumens to enter)
  • Open Dialogue
  • Candidates First Acceptance of the Gospel
  • Affirmation by the Sponsors and the Assembly
  • Signing of the Candidates with the Cross:

– Signing of the Forehead
– [Signing of the Other Senses] – optional
– Concluding Prayer

  • Invitation to the Celebration of the Word of God

The mass then goes on as normal with: Liturgy of the Word

  • Instruction
  • Readings
  • Homily
  • [Presentation of a Bible] – optional
  • Intercessions for the Catechumens
  • Prayer over the Catechumens

At this point a new portion is added

  • Dismissal of the Catechumens

From this point until their baptisms, catechumens are dismissed after the liturgy of the word when they attend mass at the parish at which they had the rite of acceptance. This is to make the process feel more like it was in the early church, when Christian converts were dismissed before communion before their baptism, which often took years to prepare for, largely to make the communion more secret and more meaningful.

The Rite of Welcoming the Candidates

The Inquirers who have already been validly baptized in another Christian denomination, or baptized Catholic but not confirmed as a child, are welcomed to this next stage via the Rite of Welcoming the Candidates. They enter this Rite known as Candidates, and they are known by this title from now on. Their rite of acceptance often does not take place at the same time as the Catechumen’s rite of acceptance. The candidates’ rite generally takes place during Lent.

The outline of this Rite is as follows [416 – 433]:

Receiving the Candidates

  • Greeting
  • Opening Dialogue
  • Candidates’ Declaration Of Intent
  • Affirmation by the Sponsors and the Assembly
  • Signing of the Candidates with the Cross:

– Signing of the Forehead
– [Signing of the Other Senses] – optional
– Concluding Prayer

The mass then goes on as normal: Liturgy of the Word

  • Instruction
  • Readings
  • Homily
  • [Presentation of a Bible] – optional
  • Profession of Faith
  • General Intercessions

(At this point there is a special prayer over the candidates)

  • [Dismissal of the Assembly] – if the Eucharist is not to be celebrated

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Unlike Catechumens, candidates are never dismissed during the mass, whether or not they have already had First Eucharist.

The Combined Rite

Where there are both unbaptized and baptized Inquirers in a Parish there is the option of a combined Rite at this stage. This Rite is formally known as The (Combined) Celebration of the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and the Rite of Welcoming Baptized but Previously Uncatechized Adults Who are Preparing for Confirmation and/or Eucharist or Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church.

The outline of this Rite is as follows [507 – 529]:

Receiving the Candidates

  • Greeting
  • Opening Dialogue with Candidates for the Catechumenate and with the Candidates for Post-baptismal Catechesis
  • Catechumens’ First Acceptance of the Gospel
  • Candidates’ Declaration of Intent
  • Affirmation by the Sponsors and the Assembly
  • Signing of the Catechumens and of the Candidates with the Cross:

– Signing of the Forehead of the Catechumens
– [Signing of the Other Senses of the Catechumens] – optional
– Signing of the Forehead of the Candidates
– [Signing of the Other Senses of the Candidates] – optional
– Concluding Prayer

  • Invitation to the Celebration of the Word of God

Liturgy of the Word

  • Instruction
  • Readings
  • Homily
  • [Presentation of a Bible] – optional
  • Intercessions
  • Prayer over the Catechumens and Candidates
  • Dismissal of the Catechumens

Liturgy of the Eucharist

These Rites delineate the transition between the Period of Inquiry into the Period of the Catechumenate. The Rites take place when the members of the local Church are gathered together to celebrate Holy Mass.