RCIA Rites - are they optional?

I have a few questions about the RCIA rites.

I am about to begin the program (we start in Jan. in our parish) and I’ve been doing my “homework” reading the Compendium and portions of the CCC that the Compendium raises questions on. Thanks to the WONDERFUL people here at CAF I have learned piles of information and am immensely grateful to all of you.

A little “background” here - I will be the only person in my RCIA class. This isn’t necessarily due to a “bad” program - more or less I live in a very rural community and there just aren’t that many of us!

I have been told by the RE’s at both parishes our priest cares for that he “doesn’t bother with the rites and formalities” for RCIA.

For some reason - this rubs me as VERY WRONG. Am I correct that this is a problem? And if so, should I request of our priest that I be given all of the rites?

Opinions solicited for a very lost woman without another parish to consider!

When I converted and came into the church 40+ years ago there was no such thing as RCIA.

My priest gave me one on one lessons for about a month. Then I went and got Baptised. I had never been Baptised before so there was no confession involved. The next day (Sunday) I received my first communion.

Now that I am attending an FSSP parish, our priest also gives one on one lessons. Not sure how long he gives instruction but I’m sure it is related to just how much the individual has learned and his/her attitude.

Thank you Corsair. Your words bring some peace to my heart.

A bit more explanation - I should have added this initially - my sincerest apologies.

I find it highly unlikely if this IS a “bad” thing that it’s being done with that knowledge (if it is a “bad” thing at all). The overall “vibe” they gave me was they were trying to make it “easier” on converts and are trying to be a friendly pair of parishes.

Our priest is VERY kind and wonderful. He’s blown me away with his overwhelming kindness and generous laughter. He’s been very concerned with getting everyone’s records, getting us “officially” into the church and our marriage Convalidated. We’re grateful to him for his patience and understanding about our rather “odd” family situation as well as his overall “It’s all going to be okay” demeanor.

TIA again to anyone who has input on this. I greatly appreciate all of your opinions and advice and am grateful for your taking your time to help me out. :slight_smile:

  1. RCIA is not required; the canons call for Can. 865 §1. For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.

§2. An adult in danger of death can be baptized if, having some knowledge of the principal truths of the faith, the person has manifested in any way at all the intention to receive baptism and promises to observe the commandments of the Christian religion. and Can. 889 §1. Every baptized person not yet confirmed and only such a person is capable of receiving confirmation.

§2. To receive confirmation licitly outside the danger of death requires that a person who has the use of reason be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises.

Key words are “instructed sufficiently” and “suitably instructed”…

  1. The RCIA program as promulgated is one option available to Roman Church pastors; the Eastern Churches and some Roman pastors and dioceses all use individual instruction by priests and/or deacons as the baseline.

  2. Many people going through the RCIA program in lukewarm parishes are not getting suitable instruction. While hard to quantify, it rests upon the quality of the instructors and their oversight by faithful clergy.

Quite literally, you are making much ado about nothing.

Thank you, Aramis.

First of all RCIA is not a program. It stands for The RIte of Christian Initiation of Adults. It speaks of the rites, which I don’t believe are optional. You are thinking of the instruction, which can take many forms. But, even according to the canon you quoted, they have to go “through the catechumenate,” which means participating in the rites. Sadly many priests see these as optional, unnecessary, a waste of time. Read the General Instruction for the RCIA and it will tell you what is required.

If the OP is already baptized, then a process that starts in January could easily be over for her in February depending on how catechized she already is. I shudder to think that they start RCIA in January and celebrate baptisms 2-3 months later at the Vigil. That seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

The canon does not say they have to “go through the catechumenate.” It says: “For an adult to be baptized, the person must … have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate.”

The catechumenate, strictly speaking, is not the rites involved in the RCIA. The catechumenate is “the time during which one is a catechumen.” To me (IANACL), this canon is speaking about the person’s spiritual development during the time they are a catechumen.

And if the OP is already baptized, RCIA is not necessary for her. Instruction in the faith, certainly, but not the baptism-oriented RCIA.

In order to be a catechume one has to go through the Rite of Acceptance, then there are rites that would admit them to Election, Scrutinies and finally full Initiation. They all are part of the Catechumenate.

Just for reference, providing my baptism records are available, I have been baptized. I understand, from those of you here, that that makes me a candidate and not a catechumen and the rules are very different.

That said, our small parish is still referring to my “program” as RCIA. I’m doing everything I can to learn as much as I can about Catholicism before it starts so I can ask intelligent questions and hopefully expedite the process by not coming in blind.

Thank you all very much for your assistance. I greatly appreciate it. :slight_smile:

I think in theory RCIA is a good program, but my experience with it has been overwhelmingly negative. I’m sure in an orthodox diocese it could be good, but it was sort of like a hippie, kumbaya fest. Didn’t really talk about the Faith so much, more just subjective faith “experiences” and the “faith journey”.

The thing is that ‘RCIA’ is just the rites involved. What each parish teaches its converts varies greatly and includes all different modes of teaching such as

  1. one on one with the priest;
  2. formal classroom lectures;
  3. learning on ones own with a few meetings with the pastor.

We’ve only has one catechumen in the 13 years I’ve been with this parish, a 10 year old girl. She studied for over a year and went through all the rites and was finally baptized, confirmed and received Communion at the Easter Vigil 6 years ago.

Other than that we’ve only had one person received into full communion and she was mostly instructed by a Sister who thinks gay marriage is fine, baptism doesn’t mean much more than being received into a community and it doesn’t matter if you don’t attend Mass on Sunday (she actually stated that to parents in baptismal preparation). So, I’m not surprised this convert is not at Mass most of the time.

The Code of Canon Law also has:
“Can. 846 §1. In celebrating the sacraments the liturgical books approved by competent authority are to be observed faithfully; accordingly, no one is to add, omit, or alter anything in them on one’s own authority.” (See vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2T.HTM ). So the idea that the liturgical book “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults” can be ignored for the sacraments of initiation is not following the Code of Canon Law.

A lot of information from this liturgical book is found in the RCIA introductions for England and Wales are at catholic-ew.org.uk/liturgy/Resources/Rites/RiteRitual.html#RCIA .

The RCIA book does permit considerable variation. From it:

307 Exceptional circumstances may arise in which the local bishop, in individual cases, can allow the use of a form of Christian initiation that is simpler than the usual, complete rite (see no. 34,4).
The bishop may permit this simpler form to consist in the abbreviated form of the rite (nos. 316-345) that is carried out in one celebration. Or he may permit an expansion of this abbreviated rite, so that there are celebrations not only of the sacraments of initiation but also of one or more of the rites belonging to the period of the catechumenate and to the period of purification and enlightenment (see nos. 308-311).”

The ceremony for this simpler form is then given in the book. Note that the USA paragraph numbers are different from the edition used for England and Wales. For example, n. 307 (above) is n. 331 in the USA edition, which is in The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, page 214.

If you are validly baptised you are a non-Catholic Christian who is a candidate for reception into full communion with the Catholic Church; you are not a convert. You should go through a process of catechesis, usually called instruction. You do not need to go through the catechumenate. You do not need to go through all the rites associated with RCIA.

As your instruction draws to a conclusion and the time for your reception approaches you will be required to go to confession. Your reception will be a liturgical rite, normally celebrated during Mass. You will be confirmed (unless you already have a valid confirmation in which case there is a formula of reception.) If it takes place during Mass you will receive your First Communion; otherwise you should go to Mass as soon as possible afterwards and receive First Communion.

I wish you well on your faith journey.

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