First and foremost, the RCIA is not a program; it is a process of conversion, by which adults are initiated into the Catholic Church, becoming full members of the faith community. As a process, it recognizes that conversion is a free gift from God that must be nurtured, supported, and allowed to grow with the help of the Spirit until the individual is ready to take the final step of professing his or her faith and becoming a Catholic.
Since this process or journey towards initiation involves the whole person, it takes into account that as persons we are intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual beings who must include all these aspects of self in our faith commitment.
The RCIA therefore provides for time of instruction in which the inquirer is concerned with learning the doctrinal content and the tradition of the Catholic Faith. But, beyond this, the person must also come to know and understand the practices of Catholicism-what we do when we gather to worship, how we live and act as Christians in the parish community, and how we do Christ's work in the world. Since faith and conversion involves more than just knowing and doing, it also calls for an internal change of heart and an ever deepening spiritual growth. The RCIA provides for this journey into a deeper relationship with God, of a growth and maturing of faith, through prayer and ritual that occurs when the individual is ready to take the next step towards initiation. This is celebrated in specific rites or ceremonies during a Sunday Mass so that the person feels the welcome and support of the parish he or she is seeking to join. Likewise, the candidate benefits as the community prays for his or her spiritual growth.
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