Who Benefits from RCIA?
This Fall, another season of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) will begin. I enjoy leading people in this process to enter the Catholic Church. I’d like describe three groups of people who benefit from RCIA.
The people who receive sacraments at the conclusion of RCIA benefit. At the Easter Vigil each year, those who have been preparing for either entry into the Catholic Church (these are called Catechumens) or to come into full communion with the Church (these previously baptized Christians are called Candidates) receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist). The benefits of RCIA are twofold. First, the Candidate or Catechumen receives intellectual formation. “How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14). RCIA is the systematic explanation of all that has been revealed by God for our benefit. We come to know Him, and in knowing Him, to love Him. This transition, from knowing to loving is the second benefit of RCIA. "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30; Deuteronomy 6:5). God knows our weaknesses and offers His help (called Grace) through the Sacraments to help us to grow in love of Him. RCIA helps Candidates and Catechumens to know and love God above all else.
Those who join RCIA often have a great effect on those around them. Many times, the immediate family and friends of Candidates and Catechumens will sense a call to re-kindle their relationship with God and even to join RCIA themselves. People respond to a person who is enthusiastic about their faith. In the book of Acts we see this very thing happening when Peter speaks to the people of Jerusalem at Pentecost.
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38)
Those in RCIA will naturally speak to their family and friends about their reasons for joining the Church and about what they have been learning. These words speak to people at a very deep level because God has put the desire for Him in everyone’s heart. RCIA benefits the family and friends of those in this formation process.
Lastly, those who support the Candidates and Catechumens in the RCIA process receive benefits. There is no better way to learn something than to try to teach it. RCIA instructors must understand the material and be ready for questions that they may be asked. Deepening their knowledge of the faith is a great benefit. Sponsors of those in RCIA also benefit. There is such pride in the sponsor’s candidate at the Easter Vigil and it is a grace to participate in the most beautiful liturgy of the year. Subsequently, seeing the new member of the Church again at Mass renews that connection; there is deep gratitude for the sponsor’s part in the process and the new member’s continued faithfulness and commitment.
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” (1 John 1:3-4)
-Deacon John Shearer