Rites for those who have never been baptized.
RITE of ACCEPTANCE
In this rite, those who have never been baptized state their intention to respond to God's call to follow the way of Christ. The Church, in turn, accepts them into the Order of Catechumens (a Greek word meaning 'hearers'). "From this time on, the Church embraces the catechumens as its own, with a mother's love and concern. Joined to the Church, the catechumens are now part of the household of Christ, since the Church nourishes them with the word of God and sustains them by means of liturgical celebrations" (RCIA, 47).
As this rite begins, those who wish to enter the order of catechumens are received at the doors of the Church. An ancient dialogue follows. The priest, representing the entire Church, asks, "What do you ask of God's Church?" They respond: "Faith." "What does faith offer you?" "Eternal life." At the heart of this rite is the signing of the senses of the catechumens with the cross. Their forehead, ears, eyes, lips, heart, shoulders, hands, and feet are all marked with the sign of the Cross.
Each Sunday, the catechumens are dismissed following the homily at the 5:00 pm Sunday evening Mass. With a leader, they spend time in meditation and prayer on the readings of the day. This immersion in the word of God is a primary part of their preparation and formation.
"My friends, this community now sends you forth to reflect more deeply upon the word of God which you have shared with us today. Be assured of our loving support and prayers for you. We look forward to the day when you will share fully at the Lord's table. Go now in the peace of Christ."
RITE of ELECTION
After long months of formation and preparation, as the season of Lent begins, the catechumens gather with the Archbishop or Bishop with many other parishes. During this rite, the catechumens formally declare their wish to enter fully into the life of the Church through baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, and write their names in the Book of the Elect.
On the basis of the testimony of sponsors and catechists, the Archbishop or Bishop, representing the entire Church, admits the catechumens to the Easter sacraments of initiation: "I now declare you to be members of the Elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil. Now it is your duty, as it is ours, to be faithful to God and to strive courageously to reach the fullness of truth which your election opens up before you."
Celebrated on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent, the Scrutinies are intended to deliver the Elect from the power of sin, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Through prayers and ritual action, the Elect acknowledge their faults.
From one of the Scrutiny prayers: "Father of mercies... look with love on these Elect and fulfill their hopes; they have already experienced temptation and they acknowledge their faults. Lead them from darkness into your unfailing light, cleanse them from sin, let them know the joy of your peace, and guide them safely through life."
The SACRAMENTS of INITIATION
At the Easter Vigil, the Elect receive the sacraments of initiation--baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. By baptism, they are received into the royal priesthood of believers; by confirmation, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and share in the outpouring of grace that came upon the apostles at Pentecost. They then receive the Eucharist, sharing for the first time in the body and blood of Christ, the heavenly food that strengthens us to carry out Christ's work in our own time and place. For our Elect, the sacraments of initiation are not the end, but the beginning of new lives of faith and service.
Rites for those baptized in other Christian traditions
RITE of WELCOMING
This rite welcomes those baptized in other Christian traditions who are seeking to complete their Christian initiation through the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist--in other words, to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. The rite acknowledges that the candidates are already members of the Christian community through baptism. Now the Church surrounds them with special care and support as they prepare to be received into Full Communion.
"Father of mercy, we thank you for these your servants. You have already consecrated them in baptism and now you call them to the fullness of the Church's sacramental life: we praise you Lord, and we bless you."
RITE of RECEPTION into FULL COMMUNION
After careful preparation and prayer, the candidates are received into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church at the Sunday Mass, surrounded by the parish community. They make a solemn profession of faith. Then the priest, in the name of the entire Church, says to each one, "The Lord receives you into the Catholic Church. His loving kindness has led you here so that in the unity of the Holy Spirit you may have full communion with us in the faith that you have professed in the presence of His family."
At this time they are also confirmed and share in the Eucharist for the first time.