In the first part of the catechumenal process that I wrote a few weeks ago, I covered the first two stages—the periods of Precatechumenate and Catechumenate—of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).
The third stage of RCIA is the period of Purification and Enlightenment. It is a period for a more profound spiritual preparation, and occupies the ultimate preparation for the Easter celebration and the sacraments. The Elect take part to a spiritual recollection aiming at purifying their hearts and minds. The Church accomplishes this by means of scrutinies, penitential rite (for candidates, namely those who have already received Baptism), presentation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, and preparation rites. The scrutinies, which are celebrated solemnly on Sundays, have a twofold purpose: “revealing anything that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect, so that it may be healed, and revealing what is upright, strong, and holy, so that it may be strengthened.” (The Rites of the Catholic Church, 27)
The sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are celebrated at the end of this period during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. After the reception of these sacraments, the newly baptized and/or confirmed are now called ‘neophytes’. They have been incorporated into the Church, and have received the adoption as sons and daughters of God.
The last stage is the period of the Post Baptismal Catechesis, which is also called Mystagogy. This period lasts at least till Pentecost and consists in deepening the Christian experience, gaining spiritual fruit, and entering more closely into the life and unity of the community of the faithful. (Cf. Rites, par. 22) The neophytes share they experiences, and take part in the celebrations of the Eucharist with the Parish community. They may also take part in charitable works, and even become involved at the parish. Jesus Christ, before ascending into heaven, said to His disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20)
The Church continues to carry out this commission of Christ. The Rite of Christian Initiation which involves the whole Parish community, is one of the means by which the Church carries out Christ’s commission to make disciples of all nations. The Church presents us with a standard catechumenal process that ought to be followed by all the churches. However, the standard catechumenal process can be shortened, altered, and even skipped for pastoral necessity.